When approached with the task of reviewing new-age music, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. The genre is ultimately fairly alien to me, but when I got to thinking about it, I realized how many of the genres I now consider favorites used to be unknown to me. Chris Cornelius’ work was unknown to me, but after digging around in his history for a while, I felt as though I knew the man at least in passing enough to gauge a personal reaction to his music. One of his newest projects, the at-times-impenetrable A New Dream, was the target and I had every intention of letting the album wash over me like a nice bath. To my surprise, it did all this and more.
A New Dream begins with “In the Heart,” which slowly nudges trepidatious listeners into the world of what Cornelius describes as “high vibration” music. It’s gentle, ambient, and accessible enough to welcome new ears to the space while forging ahead for this specific project. A New Dream is a compilation of previous Cornelius tracks, so those familiar with his discography might have a stronger grasp on the tracklist, and those unfamiliar should feel at ease knowing the tracklisting is a “best of” situation, where the sequencing and track selections have been vetted by the artist and fans.
“Soul Cultures” speeds things up a bit and the energy remains high as “Organia” keeps the tempo up; the introduction of guitar feels welcome, and yet out of place at first — the song ends up being an album highlight because of the sharp production and overall energy. “Vital Expressions” and “Gaia” amp up the “far-out” meter beyond the realm of normalcy, but listeners should remain steadfast as the project continues forging its way through a wide array of sounds and experimental musical locales. “In Rhythm” rewards the persistent with a near-traditional dance track; if there was a radio presence for meditative new-age, this track would be in the running for lead single.
“Introspection” and “Spring Savory” stand out as album highlights, with the latter evolving into an entirely electronic presence within the album’s eclectic production; one of Cornelius’ past projects included making an album of ringtones, and the “Spring Savory” was a particular standout for the criteria with its synth-driven melody. “Cornu” taps into sitar-driven melodies, unexpectedly offering up one of the more catchy tunes on A New Dream as it grows in scope over its runtime.
“Surrender to Hope” and “Bhakti Passion” culminate as the lead-in to the album’s finale, title track “A New Dream,” and the dyad of the two tracks showcase everything that the final song will base itself off of. There’s a great cyclical nature to A New Dream that fans of album sequencing will be happy to incorporate into repeat listenings, and the theme of cycles feels true to this project in particular. For fans old and fans new, A New Dream deserves a place in the “now listening” queue. The way its twelve tracks can potentially shift your day or change your path is worth a gander, and your musical journey will only grow stronger from it. I didn’t know what to expect and now I’m going further down the Chris Cornelius rabbit hole, intrigued and enamored.