Toronto-based composer Nick Storring creates music that embodies different atmospheres, instrumentations, and styles, often forming unusual pairings. With My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell, he turns to celebrated jazz singer Roberta Flack for inspiration. Sonically, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find a clear comparison of the two. My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell’s world is a melodramatic ambient fantasy, and Roberta Flack’s music is based in traditional song forms. But Storring finds his most direct inspiration in her lyrics, using them for song titles. My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell‘s enthralling ambient pieces use overdubbing to form immersive layers of melody and harmony, finding another common ground in Flack’s penchant for all-encompassing atmospheres.
Each piece on the record weaves inspirations from a range of musical traditions; the sounds of soft jazz can be heard amongst harsh noise and winding piano. While atmospheric sound has been central to Storrings’ musical output, My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell pivots in a new direction. Previous records, like 2019’s Qualms, comprise a darker, idiosyncratic sound, while My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell is made of a richer, more optimistic sense of mystery. “Tides That Defeat Identity,” the opening track of the record, sets the stage for this thematic landscape with a pulsing twinkle that bursts into a full-bodied melody. The sound is transportive and reminiscent of a spa: the delicate, undulating melody feels like water slowly trickling in a rocky cove.
Throughout the album, Storrings stacks textural melodies on top of each other to create depth, meticulously recording each layer on his own. The result is at times captivating, but at other times mired by the complexity. The stylistic shifts in “Now Neither One Of Us Is Breaking,” for example, have potential for intrigue, but the move from a melodramatic, jazzy ode into a dissonant buzz feels jarring rather than hypnotic.
With “What A Made Up Mind Can Do,” however, drastic shifts in texture and melody prove delightful. The piece begins in a dark, dissonant world of clanging tins and strumming guitars, only to eventually burst into a funky bass line peppered with dissonance. Eventually, it morphs into yet another thematic line of off-kilter beats and horn calls that call to mind Stravinsky. Here, the atmosphere is its most intricate, providing new ways of listening around each entrance of a new style.
My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell succeeds in its ascension to a quirky, dream-filled landscape of ambient sound. The core feeling of the album is exploration: complex textures and ever-changing melodies consistently surprise. While its melodrama is at times overbearing, the record never loses its compelling sense of wonder, whisking us away to a surrealist fantasy realm as we listen.