Tokyo's Mule Musiq has been quietly churning out experimental electronic music to discerning ears for five years now. To mark the anniversary, label founder Toshiya Kawasaki championed Enjoy the Silence Vol. 1, a 12-track ambient compilation. With exclusive tracks from some electronic music heavyweights, the album will be an introduction to Mule for many non-Japanese listeners.
Enjoy the Silence is an apt title for music that is, indeed, often just a few decibels away from silence. Featherweight tones and wide open spaces fill up the 70-plus minutes on the album, with drum and bass nearly nonexistent. (Think ambient in the realm of late 1970s Brian Eno.) However, just as great hip-hop is more than killer beats, great ambient is more than soft atmospherics.
Electronic music heavyweights DJ Koze, Lawrence, and DJ Sprinkles aren't primarily known for their ambient releases, so the incongruity adds to the improvisatory attitude on the album. DJ Sprinkles' "Music Is Controllable Desire You Can Own," reminisces on the golden age of the New York house scene. It sounded wonderful on his release, Midtown 120 Blues, but it feels out of place on Enjoy the Silence.
The appearance of Kompakt regular Hiroshi Watanabe (a.k.a. Kaito) makes obvious the comparisons to the German label's long-running Pop Ambient series (i.e. expect a Vol. 2 next year). Kompakt distributes many Mule releases for western markets. But Enjoy the Silence has much to learn before capturing the range of texture of Pop Ambient.
Another Kompakt regular, DJ Koze, has one of the more experimental tracks on "Lords of Panama Rendered," a quirky sound collage of drills, fuzzy rhythm patters and supermarket-checkout-counter beeps. Post-techno scion and ~scape label leader Jan Jelinek makes a rare appearance with "Stripped to Realmode," a loop-laden drone.
If only more tracks were as ambitious as Minilogue's "In the Smoke We All Become Birds." Dense, oceanic washes and subtle bird chirps roll over and over while submerged bass rumbles underneath. This is ambient that demands several listens, and the kind of track Mule should look harder for on Enjoy the Silence Vol. 2.