Various Artists

Seeking Serenity

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As the perceived increase in everyday stresses and the ongoing chaos of life helped holistic pursuits like yoga and massage enter the mainstream, so in turn did a nation of worriers need even more music to sooth their mental and physical anguish. This clamor has caused a glut of new age and contemporary instrumental compilations designed for relaxation or any offshoot thereof, from contemplative meditation to drinking red wine. Nicholas Gunn's Gemini Sun imprint enters the fray with Seeking Serenity, where the "rhythms and melodies will help you to unwind and reconnect with your inner self." That may be true, but the set is also a clever advertisement for the label. Still, Serenity does a pretty good job, considering the extensive field of competition. It features music from Gunn himself (the title track comes from his strong 2003 effort Journey to Yellowstone), his wife and fellow musician Cheryl Gunn, and Gemini Sun artists Mars Lasar and Loren Gold. Lasar's material stands out with its consistently interesting blend of electronic processing, wildlife samples, and ethnic instrumentation. While the prominent percussion of "Seventh Journey" is a welcome departure from its tame surroundings, it's his ethereal "Inseparable Universe" that really catches the ear. Other highlights include the gently insistent Cheryl Gunn piano and synth piece "Beyond the Blue," and Nicholas Gunn's misty, Native American-influenced "Return to the Grand Canyon." There's no guarantee that Seeking Serenity will sooth your soul or clear up the mental malaise caused by urban cacophony. But it's a valiant attempt, and is, at the very least, a strong candidate for napping music.

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