DAVID WAHLER, Mosaic
Sometimes, the Universe just knows. In the midst of a trying day or week, with real and probably imagined work and personal stresses piling up without seeming end, the gift comes and allows you a few moments, maybe even an hour of immersion, transcendence, escape. That’s exactly where I was when a friend introduced me to David Wahler’s sparkling, delicately rendered and deeply ethereal new collection Mosaic. I just wanted to stop in for a single moment to help clear my head. I turned on the mystical, exotic title track and immediately flashed back to the beautiful Narada and Higher Octave albums that made me a new age fan in the 90s.
In the midst of feeling the song’s tender liquid hypnosis, I started overthinking. Was the multi-talented composer, pianist and synthesist creating those distant woodwinds and spiritually uplifting choral sounds with real instruments and voices or did he fashion them electronically? Did it matter? I felt embraced by all these refreshing textures. I loved “Mosaic” so much I put it on repeat and listened numerous times, closing my eyes and letting it take me on a trippy sojourn of my own choosing. Mixing memory and fantasy, I thought of the gorgeous natural landscapes I’ve seen and long to take in – such a pleasant diversion from the tasks of the day.
Then I willed myself to snap out of it so I could learn more about this Wahler guy. I would get back to the album and listen to more tracks, but first I just needed to know. I was pleased to read that he is one of the many musicians I have encountered who start out life pursuing their art, then find their fortune and hopefully an alternate creative outlet in another field before circling back and finding an opportunity to share their first love. He studied classical music and worked as a musical director off Broadway before switching gears, earning a design degree and pursuing a successful career as an interior designer. He also owned retail shops in his hometown of Chicago, Boulder, San Diego and Palm Springs.
When he returned to making music, his career took off in a major way – as if listeners were wondering where he had been all their lives. His first album Antiquus (2009) set a record for highest charting debut album on the Zone Music Reporter chart. A Star Danced won ZMR’s Best Relaxation/Meditation album of 2010, and his 2015 Spiritus was nominated in the same category. ZMR is the vehicle driving new age stardom in this era. The industry is recognizing what anyone who listens to Wahler’s graceful synthesis of sounds will be feeling. He is the go to guy for chilling out and, when we need it, that clear headed healing.
Learning all this was impressive but would only mean something personal to me if the rest of Mosaic penetrated as deeply as the title track did. I’m delighted to say it delivered quite powerfully. I set aside an hour, prepared for the longer journey by listening again to the opening title cut, took a few deep breaths and set my intention to become one with Wahler’s multitude of vibes so I could let my thoughts and emotions drift off. I didn’t pay attention to individual titles as I dipped further into what felt like a bubbling but soothing musical mineral bath.
Later I listened in detail and paid attention to individual titles so I could expound on the album track by track.
Elements of “Afterain” reminded me of the calm moments of Michael Gettel’s 1992 masterpiece “River Run” – a much needed moment of respite, holding on to something solid but slippery while surrounded by water. I felt the crystalline drops, the mysterious moods and gossamer elegance, the deeply massaging flow. “A Promise To Keep” is the collection’s first acoustic piano driven piece, reminding me of the great works of David Lanz and Kevin Kern. It’s a soft-spoken meditation balancing trance-inducing low end chords and wistful melodies in the higher register, surrounded by a subtle synth ambience. That piece and the slow, easy flowing melody reminding us that we are “Heading Home” are classic-styled new age piano at its most engaging and thought provoking.
On a personal level, “Child of The Universe” can be enjoyed as a a dreamy, sensual swim through levitational ambience, a soulful flute melody and the angelic voices (courtesy of The Pacific Boy Choir) you might find in otherworldly realms. If you dare to think deeper, however, the track may cause you to ponder the role each of us can play in fulfilling the obligation inherent in the song title. It can spark a meditation on, what exactly do each of us contribute and how can we do our part to make this more than simply a world we can tolerate?
Wahler is at his most comforting and meditational on “August Cloud,” a full on dive into a murky swirl of slow, methodical synth and lighthearted piano passages that somehow gives way to fresh clarity, and “Fou d’amour” (which translates to “Crazy in Love”), a powerfully atmospheric expression of sensuality and romance. The harp flavors and happy bird songs throughout the sonic dreamcatcher “Elysian Dawn” prepare our hearts for heaven, and the operatic voice of an angel emerges at one point to bring our hearts home – if only temporarily. (Yes we have to wake up and get back to work at some point!)
Wahler’s titles can help listeners with the visuals, as in the globally conscious, gently whimsical, decidedly Asian flavored, “Sakura,” which is a Japanese cherry blossom, and “Lone Sky Night,” whose blend of synth melody, piano harmony and lush atmosphere is perfect soundtrack music for taking in the vastness of the cosmos. The artist closes with a question: “Why?” – so naturally, the tune is deeply moody and contemplative, offering no easy answers but an expansive amount of time for some deep mind bending.
The friend who gifted Wahler to me told me there is a campaign happening to curate Spotify playlists featuring songs from Mosaic under the SounDecor brand – a vibe that blends his musical and design worlds seamlessly. This sounds intriguing and is way to fuse music with incredible decorative images. But even without that cool tie-in, Wahler’s music creates a richly textured soundscape that invites stunning images of nature and deep space float beautifully through the mind as it works its calming magic – sometimes on the exact day the Universe knows we need it.