Genre: New Age
01 Essence of Dreams
02 Dancing in The Mist
04 One Autumn Day
05 Secret Sanctuary
06 Heart of Andalucia
07 Midsummer Twilight
10 In The Light of Day
I remember having an argument with a colleague who said that Nora Jones - one of the most insipid artists in the jazz world - wrote little more than 'background music'. It seemed that this would be the last thing an artist would want to hear as they whiled away their time at great length, putting thought and emotion into their compositions. But looking back, it makes sense to me that some of her numbers would be used as filler for schmoozy parties, nudging its way into the lulls of conversation on last week's squash game, the property ladder and cushions. Nora Jones is pistachio music - songs to nibble nuts, vol-au-vent and other entrées to whilst waving about a glass of cut-price champagne - whereas Catherine Duc creates the kind of music you'd find playing in the background at a marginally classy Chinese restaurant. You know, one with a carpet.
I'll be blunt and admit that my knowledge of the new age genre is mostly restricted to what's piped through the speakers whilst browsing tarot emporia, and what my dad used to play in the car on the way to the Peacocks shopping centre in Woking. Many a time on a journey we'd be honoured with the strains of "Manifestation of the Pyramids" or "From Another Sky" (which has now been re-released under the humiliating rebranding of "Bathtime Bliss"). Catherine Duc's début, Visions and Dreams, is very similar to these kinds of ambient/new age creations but it's not quite as cheesy as I was expecting. In fact, I even found myself enjoying parts of it.
Visions and Dreams can hardly be described as a demanding piece for the listener. The ten tracks and forty minutes which comprise its length are filled with mellow, washing synth chords, slow tempos and simple violin melodies. Catherine's main inspirations are apparently Enya and Enigma and this really shows on the record, especially on tracks like Incense and Evocation, which could have come straight off Enigma's first album, MCMXC AD. The rest of Visions and Dreams presents itself as a slightly tamer version of these bands, being far more focussed on lusher, minimal ambience than the sometimes dance-inducing rhythms of Era and Delirium.
There may be moments when things get a little dull and naff, but then, this is new age music. You can't listen to an album all the way through or gaze at the track names without feeling at least slightly ill, so some kudos must be given to Catherine for not laying the cheese on too heavily, which is always a danger. Because of her Asian heritage there is a nice Eastern flavour to a lot of the melodies and much of the album feels like something you'd find a guzheng player coming out with along the streets of Covent Garden, or even the markets in Seoul.
Visions and Dreams could therefore be a tool to conjure up reveries - or play during them. Catherine makes the point that people can contact her if interested in licensing her music for soundtracks, so I may well have found a composer who's willing for her tunes to be used purely as background music. If your taste is slanted towards the ethereal genre you may find some of this stuff to your liking, or you may run away in terror at the sheer sugary ambience of the record. However, those in the former category will find this is the kind of thing that suits the foundation of a daydream, or indeed the background of a dinner party. You can masticate over those olive and feta salads to your hearts' delight, and this is one artist who wouldn't be offended.