In 2022, Danish label, Music For Dreams, celebrated 20 years in business. During those two decades the imprint has done a damn fine job of cornering the “chill out” market.
I first sat down to interview MFD’s founder, Kenneth Bager, back in 2013. I knew nothing about him. To be honest, I barely even knew the label. The only artist from their catalogue that I was really familiar with was Phil Mison’s Cantoma. We started going through a pre-prepared set of a standard “20 Questions”, and it quickly became clear that I was going to have to return to my drawing board, and do some decent research. I mean, I didn’t even realize that Kenneth was a DJ, when he’d been spinning, and remixing, records professionally since 1982. Initially securing a residency at Scandinavia’s then biggest club, Daddy’s, in Copenhagen, and then opening his own venue – which is now an institution – the COMA – Copenhagen Offers More Action – Club in 1988. The success of COMA birthed an eponymous imprint, which licensed music from the likes of FPI Project, The KLF, The Shamen, and Moby, and also landed Kenneth a nightly dance program on national radio. Something, I think, that he continues to do to this day.
Going on to play all over the world, Kenneth has an especially close relationship with Ibiza, having visited the island annually since the early `80s. During these visits he`s spun, and held residencies, pretty much everywhere, and in addition amassed a vast, enviable, archive of memorabilia, including an unrivaled collection of taped DJ sets, from the likes of Alfredo, Cesar de Melero, Jose Padilla, and DJ Pippi. Music For Dreams was established to directly reflect this passion that Kenneth has for The White Isle. Initially Music For Dreams was just a compilation CD, of the same name, curated by Kenneth in 1995, and directly inspired by Jose’s sunset soundtracking at San Antonio`s Cafe del Mar. The label issuing its first releases – compilation CDs – at the turn of the millennium, but finding its feet, some original music and some vinyl pressings, in end of 2001 / beginning of 2002.
We never managed to complete the interview, despite me frequently asking. I got the feeling that it had dawned on Kenneth that he has so many great stories, that he might be better off saving them for a book. There is, however, talk of picking it back up again.
Below is a list of my own Music For Dreams favourites, 20 tracks for 20 years. I’ve had to split it in 2, to prevent the piece from crashing the site, and make it quicker for you to load.
A percussive, dubby, flamenco, dusk dance-floor foray for Phil Mison’s Cantoma. Originally released on a 10” in 2001, then as a cornerstone of Phil`s debut LP in 2003. That album having gone to become a modern Balearic benchmark – so much new stuff strives to be “Cantoma-esque”. It also, in my opinion, defined a large part of Music For Dreams’ sound as the label moved forward.
Another Phil Mison project. This one slightly more focused on frugging, with a punchier production care of engineer Thomas Schulz. There are upbeat dedications to Phil’s friend, and White Isle legend, Geoff Smith aka DJ Sergio, who sadly passed in 2019. The single, Morning Lights, containing some cracking guitar from Jonas Krag, is a terrific tribute to William Pitt`s Balearic classic, City Lights.
From the No One Built This Moment album, released in 2009. Three promo 12s acted as vinyl samplers for the CD. I only have the final one, but everything on it is brilliant. The orchestral, beatless, and almost operatic, The Hope and Overture are breathtaking. The songs are all written by Sophie Barker, who also sings lead on two. Trust In Your Love, however, features the fragile vocals of Ane Brun. It`s a perfect accordion and pedal steel pop lament, all about letting go, and moving on.
I`m not sure that I can pick just one track from the catalogue of Danish guitarist Jacob Gurevitsch. I’ve loved everything of his that I’ve heard so far. 2018`s An Introduction cherry-picked material from Jacob`s, then, two albums onto vinyl for the first time. Lovers In Paris might be a good place to start.
This year’s Yellow Spaceship showcased beautiful vocal contributions from Alice Carreri and Concha Buika. Breathe, with Mark Linn, moves with a melancholic, introspective, gentle jazz swing, and sounds just like the sort of lost, forgotten, 80s pop album track, or b-side, that Jose would play.
Dub Tractor – Overheated Living Room
I’ve also got two picks from Anders Remmer’s Dub Tractor project. Overheated Living Room was first released on his sophomore album, An Evening With… , for Flex Records in 1996, but Music For Dreams reissued the track in 2007. A smokers delight of downtempo, hip / trip hop influenced techno, swooning strings and harpsichord-like keys, its hypnotic hook is like someone strumming a coiled spring.
Dub Tractor – Pull Dub
Music For Dreams then collected Anders’ work on the compilation, Hello Ambient Wash, before reissuing his long-player, Delay – an album of excellent, understated, melodic, Danish electronica from the turn of the millennium. A set of summery post-Basic Channel, post-Fennesz glitched and dubbed grooves, where something like Pull Dub, for example, seems to be floating through blue skies, above The Orb`s little fluffy clouds.
I’ve talked / written about this before but I’m a huge fan of Troels Hammer. His music mixes in the odd Balearic trope, but moves closer and closer toward modern classical. If he were on another more “serious” label, such as Deutsche Grammophon, I’m sure that he’d be mentioned in the same revered tones as composers, like Max Richter and Johann Johannsson. Totally cinematic, his sides recall the classic soundtracks that Jose would spin at sunset. Troels deserves to be much, much bigger.
A largely laidback set from White Isle legend, DJ Pippi, Bocadillos Variados is full of accordions, acoustic guitars, harps, swooning strings, and ever-present dub bass. The pieces play around with acid jazz, groundbeat, and reggae, salute Soul II Soul, and vamp on classics by Maze and Omar Lye-Fook. My favourite might be Cristal Palpita.
Pippi together with Willie Graff – his DJ & studio partner for some 15 years – in 2022 delivered their debut album, Follow Your Dreams. Featuring a host of huskily voiced female friends, Jacob Gurevitsch and Paco Fernandez on Spanish guitar, plus collaborations with multi-instrumentalists Reinhard “Rheinzand” Vanbergen and Rodrigo Sha, it`s a bit of an epic journey. The music travelling from sunset soundtracks, to Middle Eastern mid-tempo chuggers, to shiny, sparkly, mirror-balled disco dancers. Stopping off on the way to reimagine Art Of Noise`s Moments In Love, and pay tribute to Jose Padilla.