Pull up a cloud, lie back and enjoy. Slow, unchanging music forms a warm, resonant sound ideal for relaxation. “…an excellent addition to one’s nightly sleep regimen.” — Dr. William Dement, Director, Stanford Sleep Disorders and Research Center and Professor of Sleep and Dreams at Stanford University.
Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep
As a general rule, I believe that meditation or contemplative prayer are best practiced in silence — which means no TV blaring in the background, no MP3 player churning out sound, no computer or stereo making noise within earshot. Even using a so-called white noise machine is, to me, at best a necessary evil: perhaps required to mask the normal distracting sounds of children playing or whatever else might be happening in an adjacent room or apartment: but far less desirable than the pure absence (or near absence) of aural stimulation that only silence embodies.
So with that in mind, perhaps it is a bit ironic that in this post I am going to praise an album of ambient music called Meditation. But I am not recommending this album for use while you are meditating. Rather, this is perfect music for the other 15 or so hours that you are awake each day. This most recent offering from the ambient music maestro Chuck Wild (who records under the name “Liquid Mind”) is one of the loveliest recordings of deeply introspective, truly relaxing, and — most important of all — serenely beautiful music that I’ve come across in quite a while.
But first, a disclaimer: I’ve been a fan of Liquid Mind for over a decade now. I first encountered Chuck Wild’s unique ability to create truly expansive and profoundly peaceful music when I was working for a music distributor. In my position there as a new age music buyer, I listened to ambient music all day long — and yes, much of it lives up to its stereotype of being bland, boring, and self-indulgent. If the stereotypes point to how forgettable most new age music is, they also indicate how difficult it is for musicians to create truly good, artistic, and distinctive ambient recordings. Over the years I’ve collected maybe a handful of ambient albums that bear repeated listening: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, Laraaji’s Day of Radiance, or Bruce & Brian Becvar’s The Magic of Healing Music. These are all albums that live up to Eno’s definition of creative ambient music: music that is “able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular.”
Liquid Mind’s music belongs on any select list of must-have ambient albums — and while I think the newest album is arguably the best, the entire Liquid Mind catalogue is worth exploring. Among the previous Liquid Mind albums, I particularly love Unity, and Spirit — in fact, the track “Through My Eyes” from Liquid Mind VI: Spirit was used in several videos featuring me.
But today I want to focus on Liquid Mind X: Meditation. Comprising six tracks with a combined length of just over an hour, this musical suite can be the perfect soundtrack for massage, reading, quiet conversation, or mealtime. But I think what separates out truly creative ambient music from run-of-the-mill new age recordings is that it makes an authentic musical statement, far more than just functioning as a kind of soothing soundtrack for busy lives. This is certainly the case for Liquid Mind X: Meditation. This album speaks of spaciousness, openness, and letting go. The first track, “In Fields of Peace,” creates a soundscape of unhurried presence, with a gradual unfolding of atmospheric chords, its cadence slower than the rhythm of deep, relaxed breathing. This leads into the title track, beginning with a sonic texture reminiscent of Tibetan chanting before opening into a calm melody that evokes the openness of a mind lulled into silence by a deep contemplative experience. “In the Silence of My Soul” and “When Time Slows” continue this sonic journey. The third track evokes a sense of transcendence, while the fourth simply seems to deepen the overall sense of unhurried presence. “Soft Focus,” perhaps the most subtly dynamic of the six tracks, reminds me of the whispering cognitive activity that lurks at the heart of even the most deeply relaxing meditative experience. The album closes with “The Joy of Quiet,” a coda to the suite that echoes the opening track with a slightly more invigorating melody: the meditation is ending, leaving one refreshed and ready to engage with the hustle and bustle of life.
Writing about ambient music is probably the next hardest thing to actually creating it well, and so I am conscious that my words really do not begin to capture the sense of wide-open loveliness that this music embodies. So I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself.
The warning not to drive on the label really isn't meant to be a joke. Chuck Wild seems to know a lot about music meant to put you to sleep, in a good way, and puts it on display here. As cabin fever gives way to warm weather in most places, this is a timely cocoon to step into for a while as the transition goes forth and you get ready for the next stage. A good night sleep is always a good start although mostly taken for granted. There's probably more research in this music than we realize, but it's great stuff to wind down to.
Complete with the warning that it may cause drowsiness, Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep (Real Music), by composer Chuck Wild, sets the scene for a visit to dreamland. An advocate for using ultra-slow music in healing settings, Wild has created a perfect compilation to help clients let go and unwind. Use caution, however, as this soothing soundtrack may just inspire your clients to sleep straight through their treatments.
One problem reviewing this CD presents is that it's an album expressly aimed at helping you get to sleep, so is critiquing it simply a matter of "Well, did it put me to sleep?" or is a more analytical approach warranted? I'll address the former later in the review. For now, onward!
This being the eighth release in the Liquid Mind series, of course musical similarities to previous recordings do exist. However, if one listens intently, subtle but definite and discernible evolutions in the overt electronics Wild adds to the mix, his sampled instruments, and the melodic components which make up the tracks are all in evidence. Still, I'd be remiss if I said that Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep was a drastic departure from previous LM CDs. Wild has not overhauled his modus operandi of soothing melodies, lush orchestrations of strings and chorals, and long stretched out odes to serenity and peace.
All that being said ...Sleep is another winner from this dedicated artist. His obvious sincerity in crafting music which is undeniably positive and calming wins a lot of points from me, since its inconceivable to knock a person who is dedicated to making a significant impact on healing the minds, souls, and bodies of his fellow humans.
Night Light features lush strings, chorals, washes and some gently blooping synth tones like twinkling lights in the background. Moments of Grace shifts into a lower key mode with slow choral waves, broad expansive washes, soothing orchestral woodwinds and more overt electronic effects deep in the mix. The piece is more neo-classical in character than the album opener. Journey to Peace moves rich chorals to the forefront with the addition of occasional strings along with a beautiful solo oboe.
Played at low volumes, this is probably ideal music for relaxing and (hopefully) while going to sleep. On the other hand, it's not what I would listen to personally, as I prefer either environmental sounds or something more minimal with less overt melody. If you have the previous Liquid Mind releases, while this one doesn’t break any new ground, it stands on equal footing with the first seven in the series when judged on its own merits. For those who are new to Chuck Wild's serene soothing soundscapes, the album would be an excellent place to start.
I listened to Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep and found it very relaxing and sleep inducing! We have put the CD on our recommended list for patients.
Music in the Liquid Mind series changes little from one recording to the next — good news for contented fans of the long-running bliss-out series created by keyboardist/composer Chuck Wild. The former Missing Persons keyboardist and studio colleague of famed producer Ken Scott (David Bowie, Supertramp) has evolved into a premier space-music specialist whose relaxing, gentle soundscapes artfully evoke the softer side of the cosmos. His eighth Liquid Mind installment, subtitled Sleep, is a lovely, slo-mo spacewalk through serene, gravity-free realms that consistently yields a sustained sense of well-being and calm. Deserving of a spot at the head table with ambient music's most sophisticated sound designers, Wild creates slowly unfolding, universe-at-rest textures using few of the supplemental sonic dimensions (space winds, angelic voices) often employed by fellow stargazers Jonn Serrie and Jon Jenkins. And he sidesteps the small dramas and mysterious fractals that sometimes add a hint of uncertainty to the otherwise like-minded works of Brian Eno or Harold Budd. Happily, you'll hear no new-agey crystal bowls or plucked harps, either; just a warm, resonant, faintly classical glow skillfully designed for relaxation and peace. Pull up a cloud, lie back, and enjoy.