Review: Paul Nolan’s debut album “Dissolve”

Paul Nolan’s debut album, “Dissolve,” is a captivating musical trip that pushes the boundaries of sound and consciousness. Released by Microdose Music, a new label with an innovative approach to functional music, this album exhibits the power of music to transform. The label will be the first in the electronic music industry to produce music explicitly aimed at enhancing psychedelic therapy and promoting mental well-being, promising its conception to expand the field of therapeutic intervention. 

The seeds for the project were planted and propagated during the Wonderland Conference, an event in the US that unites researchers, practitioners, and investors from the psychedelic community. The result “Dissolve” is a personal masterpiece that explores themes of change, growth, and self-discovery. Nolan a highly respected DJ, music producer, audio engineer, and qualified sound therapist uses his skill set to fuse art and science by merging intricate soundscapes and sound therapy techniques, inviting his audience on a voyage of reflection and transcendence. 

Recorded in rural Wales the album’s immersive sonic backdrop taps into deep emotions and the human psyche from the very beginning. At turns both incredibly intimate and sonically expansive “Dissolve” challenges traditional ideas about music, seamlessly blending ethereal harmonies and organic textures whilst exploring the healing power of music. The sonic fingerprint is apparent from the lead track ‘Opening’ which melds the organic live instrumentation of Kalimbas and Gongs (Nolan does a walkthrough of the various instruments used during the project on his Instagram) with rich strings and emotive ambience. Tracks like ‘Leave This Place’, ‘The Tower’, and the almost Bladerunner-esque ‘Dissolve’ suck you deep into cavernous reverb and found sound territory that hints at the cinematic influences close to Nolan’s heart. Meanwhile, ‘Caged Bird’ features the poignant spoken word poetry of Hoppi Wimbush, seemingly an ode to personal metamorphosis and the need to heal from trauma it is a fitting centre point to the album.

The latter half of the album arcs upwards dotted with contemplative yet elevating melodic content and lush emotive synth lines. It is as if the listener is emerging from the darker caverns of the album’s middle section. The final track, the aptly titled ‘Emergence Of Light’ is a thing of beauty, a rare bird of a track enveloped around a slowly evolving lead that spirals gently as strings rise upwards to a fitting conclusion.

With growing awareness about the transformative effect of music on our nervous systems and mental well-being (not to mention an expanding market for functional music in terms of therapy and productivity), the album is a timely release and an important bridge between the worlds of electronic dance music and psychedelic therapies. The album works on many different levels, as an immersive and engaging piece of ambient electronica, a healing tool for sound therapy, or as a functional piece of music helpful in resetting the nervous system or aiding focus. It will be fascinating to see where the Microdose label goes with its next release and as such the album stands as one of Paul Nolan’s most personal and innovative pieces of work.

Available via Bandcamp here

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About the Author

Freelance journalist for the likes of Decoded Magazine, Make Your Transition and Trip Radio, Geraint Rees is a passionate advocate for the power of electronic music. Over recent years, he has produced music for the excellent Rhythm Cult imprint under his Acitone alias and his emotive Detroit influenced techno has found its way into the boxes of smart selectors from Just Her to Funk D’Void. In his free time, he is regularly found inhabiting a dark box known as ‘the studio’, rearing his band of unruly cats and fanatically supporting Spurs.