- With the success of Kompakt's seminal Pop Ambient series and renewed interest in ambient's soothing, breakfast-in-bed charms, several dance labels are now trying their hands at electronic music's fleecier side. Following Innervisions' excellent Muting the Noise last year comes Japanese label Mule Electronic's Enjoy the Silence. Having forged a niche for itself over the last five years as Mule Musiq's contemplative star-watcher's sibling with standout releases from mainstays like Minilogue, Lawrence and DJ Sprinkles, the label often works the downier, ambient-house turf of labels like Traum and liebe*detail. Released to celebrate the label's fifth anniversary, Enjoy the Silence, then, is a pretty natural distillation of that sound taken to its softest extremes.
A quick peek at the tracklist reveals not only an A-list set of Mule's past contributors but of modern dance music heavies in general. Minilogue devoted roughly half of their debut full-length Animals last year to ambient music, so it shouldn't surprise that their "In the Smoke We All Became Birds" is one of the collection's highlights. Following an intro of hazy, swirling drones and dim, distant bird trills, the Swedish duo clear the air a little bit, grounding it with stuttering, serpentine rhythmic effects and an eerie sample of a tribal call like a forest yodel. Hamburg's Benjamin Brunn turns in another stellar creation of spacious, sputtering house with "Approaching India"—quiet twitchy bits of static and a sitar struck in rhythmic twanging intervals—while former Orb member and 3MBer Thomas Fehlmann's "Scheben" sounds almost queasy and seasick, his thick symphonics layered beneath a surface film of piano pings and drone ripples.
Often though, Enjoy the Silence revels in a kind of illusory grace, creating lilting moodscapes out of elements in sly conflict. ~scape's Jan Jelinek has a talent for removing the chaos from disorder; he turns ringing, quick-eclipsed tones and pulses of noise into dense, cerebral tracks that still maintain a loose narrative structure. "Stripped to Realmode" is no exception: a series of rapid-fire tonal shifts, like a tipped-over bowl trying to regain balance, and more languorous, open-ended moments of dissonance. Not surprisingly, DJ Koze brings the bizarre. "Lords of Panama Rendered" filters cash register beeps into warbling waves of sound and mangled vocal samples. Koze plays games with its tempo, speeding into small clashes of sound, braking to allow its more disorienting moments catatonic sway.
One of the two non-exclusives on display (Lawrence's "Sunrise" pops up as the B2 on the Jill EP), DJ Sprinkles' "Music is Controllable Desire You Can Own" from his magnificent Midtown 120 Blues LP on Mule Musiq, feels right at home: a late-morning smear of repetitious piano, breathy flute and several samples half-buried in the mix. Though not all of Enjoy the Silence evades ambient's tendency, at its worst, to sink into mere wallpapering—label mainstay Koss' "Endless Flight" stalls somewhere between too-stately funeral music and stuffy cinematism, and both Vince Watson's "Serenity" and Takuwan Aika's "Laiva" settle for mere pleasantry—much of the record actually lives up to the reputations of its contributors. Now that Innervisions' has plans for a second edition of Muting the Noise, hopefully Mule will follow suit and keep the free of thought, flat-on-back coming.
01. Koss - Endless Flight
02. Strategy - After Momeraths
03. Benjamin Brunn - Approaching India
04. Thomas Fehlmann - Scheiben
05. Minilogue - In The Smoke We All Became Birds
06. Jan Jelinek - Stripped To Realmode
07. DJ Koze - Lords Of Panama Rendered
08. Lawrence - Sunrise
09. DJ Sprinkles - Music Is Controllable Desire You Can Own
10. Hiroshi Watanabe - A Source Of Light
11. Vince Watson - Serenity
12. Takuwan - Ambience