By Rick Shithouse
The epic journey of LA Dreams into the synthual realms of emotionally driven 80s inspired synth music continues in 2014 with the release of his new album Insomnia. Can you believe this is LA Dreams eighth full length album for the year? Eight. That's something amazing right there in itself. But that this record is easily one of his best for the year, indeed ever thus far, is even more astounding.
LA Dreams seems to hit a new high point with every second album he releases and Insomnia continues that trend from the last album of his that really blew me away. I find it interesting how I approach each LA Dreams new album now, and it's certainly unlike how I approach any other producer's work. I always, without failure, start looking for differences. Different sounds, atmospheres, emotions, motifs as my fear of LA Dreams running out of ideas and recycling things is something I'm very scared of. Then the music begins, and again without failure, everything is all of sudden fresh, new and vibrant; removing all doubts in a flash of neon synth magic. The seemingly infinite well from which LA Dreams' muse springs from is hugely apparent throughout Insomnia.
I think the one main area that LA Dreams really delves deeper on every record is the emotional relationship he has to the music. It's always been there, it's always been front and centre to the experience, but on Insomnia I feel a new emotionally intimacy within the tracks. Like an understanding is achieved, a concept of true love and beauty is now explored deeply beyond the puppy-love attractions. That's not to say LA Dreams' previous records were shallow, not at all. What I'm saying is the depth to the pieces goes much, much deeper than before and the music resonates with new found understanding.
Because of the sheer volume of LA Dreams music I've been lucky enough to enjoy over the last couple of years I feel I've gotten to know the artist via his music and establish an understanding of what his music means and its place in his life as well as in mine. That's what makes his music so special to me I think, in some way I feel that with LA Dreams the same kind of kinship long-term fans have with bands/performers they've followed for decades.
The music speaks to them and it is part of their life; a constant that they use as the soundtrack to their lives through many different phases of their lives and lives of those creating the music. On a smaller scale I feel this with LA Dreams music. I feel that it speaks to me directly and gives me those magic feelings time and time again. With each new record it is a new journey into possibilities, familiarities and new anthems to my own life.
Across Insomnia LA Dreams explores all these things and more and creates lasting connections to the future, past and present along the way. The opening pieces really set an incredible scene as the production on this album seems to broaden its range and become even more lustrous. The first track, 'Insomnia' does this with a huge drum track and synths that stretch out into infinity before your very eyes as the drama of the epic refrain casts a timeless spell. The big sounds don't deny any intimacy of the melodies however as the subtle nuances are conveyed with lovingly crafted detail.
LA Dreams' flair for the dramatic gives way to jubilant 80s positivity on the second track 'Reaching For A Shooting Star'. The inspirational nature of this music is embodied in the lead melody and then goes into montage-madness overdrive throughout the successive chapters. You've just got to hand it to LA Dreams for really making 80s style melodies come to life in so many of his tracks, a life full of hope and dreams, a life that begins in the 80s and never ends.
The balance between the intimate and dramatic is done ever so well on Insomnia as the album swings from one extreme to the other with incredible dexterity. The OutRun breakneck drama of 'Feel The Burn' ensures that energy levels are peaking in the red zone from go to whoa. The pieces of this track assemble into an awesome gleaming chrome metal thunderbolt of 80s energies; striking with precision and force along a slick, black highway into the future.
There are a few really, really stand out tracks on Insomnia. By 'stand out' I mean stand out. Period. Not just on this album, not just in music by LA Dreams but stand out from all 80s inspired synth music. On 'Made A Wish' LA Dreams creates one of my favourite pieces of new 80s sounds thus far. The absolute simplicity of this track and its tremendous emotional context wash over me like an electric ocean of warm champagne. The music is felt as much as it is heard and LA Dreams mastery of the melodic structure gives the music a beautiful life of its own. Every time I listen to this record I need to experience this three to four times in a row before I can possibly move on to the next piece. If you have an 80s musical soul it will glow deeply within you throughout this genuinely enlightening piece of music.
'Taken Under' swerves out of the tenderness of the previous chapter and takes the LA Dreams sounds into funkier back alleys under the cover darkness. The flow of the energy is tidally immense and the lure of adventure in the streets of the city becomes something neither of us can resist. The joyride orchestrated by LA Dreams will take you into a night you'll never forget.
The scope of synthscapes are widened in LA Dreams' totally kick arse take on Ninja Synth with fragrantly inquisitive 'China Sundown'. The colours swelter amid a blurred horizon, instruments bring a cool clarity to the scene with the soothing beauty of the synth flutes luring you into an absolutely amazing bass guitar driven break down. The groove is cut at the perfect angle to enhance the asiatic ambience while rockin to beat of western drum. East meets West and the the combination of sounds is blended to perfection.
One thing that I always love to muse over, with instrumental music in general, is how the title of the track relates to the music itself. Sometimes it's of a very obvious nature; sometimes it only seems that way. With 'The Weekend' LA Dreams creates in my mind the magical hour of late Friday afternoon when the promise of the weekend seems incalculable with possibilities. The anticipation of those next forty eight hours becomes so exciting and this track is like the ultimate soundtrack to making those totally rockin plans. Whether they happen or not is a different story; but right now none of that matters it's all about possibilities and so is this inspirational track.
LA Dreams is getting in the habit of finishing albums with flourishes of new ideas that break from the themes explored on the rest of the album and Insomnia is no exception. The synthscape is classed up to the max with luxurious piano details sparkling in seas of synthual auras. The bassline is certainly pushing the action towards the bedroom as a sensuality emerges and 'Things Get Lost'.
Let's hope they find them in the morning.
LA Dreams presents the Insomnia album on his Bandcamp page here in all popular digital formats. For me this is the tightest and most focused LA Dreams album this year. The emotional depth is explored with absolute honesty and clarity through every piece and the stories in every track feel keenly developed with the goal to maximise the intensity of every element; allowing nothing to be lost or any passage to become superfluous.
Insomnia is as good as LA Dreams has ever been and this album, be it from any artist, would be a huge achievement but given the clearly ridiculous work rate of LA Dreams it becomes even more amazing. Like I've said on Synthetix.FM many times before (and I hope many more times in the future) LA Dreams exemplifies so much of what I love about 80s inspired synth music and his Insomnia album is a definitive Synthetix Reference Experience in what this music is all about.