SMAIBLUE - Lunar Dreams - Stereo Stickman

SMAIBLUE Lunar Dreams


An ambient and moody collection of ruminative explorations. Lunar Dreams is occupying a space very much its own and, when not busy chilling me out and carving out an unconventional furrow in the soundscape, is generous enough to take me by the hand and lead me to the road sonically less traveled – at least by me!

The title and opening track is, bravely, the most challenging here. The melody chosen for the lyric keeps hitting a certain harsh note that really jars, but it’s clearly deliberate, as it keeps being hit! The backing track, however, creates the blueprint for what’s to come…

Up next is Cave With No Name, which has to be one of the most aptly-titled pieces ever. Its spacious nature soaked into my very bones and I genuinely got lost in its glassy, spacious zone. It leads into the enigmatically-named RCA. Named after the label? Both pieces exist in a bubble of their own making. RCA, however, has a vastly more linear approach with strings of melody on a haunted piano – and is that some whale song going on in the background? I think so…

Sonically, With Family (a very right-now title, if ever I saw one!) sounded immediately familiar to me. It’s painting from a palette that will be recognised by anyone who is a fan of The Blue Nile. I kept expecting the crisp capture of Paul Buchanan’s impassioned vocal to enter at any moment. Sounding like a blend of piano and brass (rather like the synthetic amalgams of sound that TBN make) this is a trip around a reverb chamber in an adjacent room. There were moments where I felt I wanted to hear the crisp tap of an 808 or similar to cut through the muffled wash of warmth that the melodies and chords were crafting, but I guess that might have diminished the experience… 

Waterfront Revolving Restaurant is a title which does some of the heavy lifting for us listeners. Having that title (and therefore image) as an idea to focus on is actually a neat way into the soundscape. The signature sound in this piece, apart from the glassy drones that are pinning down the root notes, is something that sounds like a heavily processed guitar.

Next we have a more enigmatic title: West. The backdrop of pads here sounds a little more organic. We still have something that sounds like it might be being strummed as the lead sound, but the pads sound like they might have been captured by placing microphones in the afore-listened Cave With No Name!

There’s a liberating simplicity that is at the heart of all of these instrumental creations. The ambience does the business with regard to generating thought-provoking moments.

Petrichor is the first title with vocals since the title-track. It’s slightly shocking to have a crisper instrument in the shape of the vocal. Insistent triplets on the piano provide the backing for a tumble of softly-sung lyrics: ‘how much is a progress, how much is a start ’ I have no idea, but this kind of metaphysical musing suits this album perfectly.

About three quarters of the way through, the voice splits schizophrenically and is sent hard left and right to create a swirl of questions – probably the most agitated the album gets. It’s still pretty psychedelic and chilled out, though.

Shabu-Shabu in Nagoya is sparse in comparison, spartan and measured. A solo piano, prodded and stroked and coaxed into beautiful shapes. Really quite lovely and totally relaxing.

We end with more vocals on SMAIBLUE’s Reprise and more The Blue Nile-style sound-sculpting. ‘I love you, my lost love / Because I don’t expect anything in return’ goes the mournful lyric, as well as referencing motorcycle trips and individual members of Radiohead! To say that this is a curve-ball right at the end is an understatement. Highly personal and idiosyncratic lyrics permeate the whole song.

Mainly instrumental, then, and a love letter to the employment of adding reverb to sound, this album represents huge trips of introspection and simple melodic and tonal exploration – marking it out as something of a one-off. The fact that it all kind of hangs together as one concept is surprising, but it definitely does.

The capture of sounds feels very homespun – and this is particularly so in the capture of the vocals. But it also makes the collection a very human one, and unlike anything I’ve sat down to listen to before. Lunar Dreams, indeed, as opposed to my regular earthly ones.

Find & follow SMAIBLUE on Bandcamp.

Chris Porter


As well as writing about music, Chris Porter is a songwriter, singer, producer & vocal coach. He has written for all manner of international artists, including Dagny, Dzeko, and hit the No.1 spot with Thailand’s Singto Numchok. His music has had thousands of placements on film, TV & radio all around the globe.

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