Manu Zain, one of Silk Music’s most prolific purveyors of chillout and downtempo music over the past decade, now presents the exceedingly moving “Dreaming Of Better Days” EP. A four-track affair, the release title reflects our collective wish to escape prolonged social isolation and freely connect with one another, once again. This breathtaking EP includes an unmixed version of “Pure,” which Tom Fall selected as the opener of his recent “Silk Music Showcase 07” mix.
Manu Zain’s latest EP kicks off with the soulful and harmonious chillout tune “Yo Soy” (translation: “I Am”). In the early going, delicate pads and gentle strings are soon met by a chilled, yet steady downtempo groove. A stirring central piano theme arrives shortly thereafter and is soon enveloped by a euphonious array of lush pad layers, which swirl overhead. Suddenly, in the main breakdown, the groove drops out, and a much more pensive, disquieting lead synth theme comes to the fore of the arrangement. This anxious moment of reflection sets up an especially poignant final movement of the arrangement, in which the life-affirming themes from the song’s buildup seem to vanquish the prior feelings of insecurity and doubt.
The second track on the EP, “Two,” is a brooding piece, which centers on a variety of hypnotic, bell-tinged synths and arpeggios. The suspenseful buildup ultimately leads to the revelation of an exceedingly beautiful new melody line in the main breakdown. In the song’s final minutes, the main groove, including an echoing snare drum, returns to the arrangement for one last heartrending sequence.
The release title cut finds Manu Zain in vintage form: a variety of cheerful melody lines imbue an otherwise melancholic and wistful soundscape. Sweeping string and piano motifs, soaring above a gentle, steady rhythm section, further reinforce the nostalgic qualities of the soundscape. Throughout the arrangement, the melodies continue to evolve, seemingly implying that the veteran composer has just undergone a period of spiritual rebirth.
Manu Zain’s closing track on his “Dreaming Of Better Days” EP is the infinitely tender and poignant “Pure.” In the opening seconds of the arrangement, a mesmerizing, broken-beat groove is joined by a constellation of blissful arpeggios. Soon thereafter, the listener is treated to the song’s central piano theme, which proves heartbreakingly beautiful. As the song progresses, the stirring piano melodies continue to float atop the plodding beats, as if to suggest that hope can still be found in the darkest recesses of the psyche. In a time of great existential crisis, Manu has touched our souls with an EP that delivers the promise of a better tomorrow.