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V/A - Muting The Noise

Emerging from the Sonar Kollektiv label, Innervisions has made a big impact on house over the last 5 years or so, not least with co-founder Âme’s huge Rej EP. Whilst I would argue that some of the releases have erred on being on anodyne, the quality has remained relatively high.

Their second compilation album takes on a conceptual brief, all artists involved were asked to take the ambience of Tokyo as their inspiration after the label owners visited the city and were taken aback by the relative calm of the world’s largest conurbation. Like many in who remember the brief explosion of ambient rooms in the early 90’s, it seems they are keen to resurrect this particular branch of dance culture. The CD itself comes wrapped in burlap with a 60 page book - something of a collector’s item.

Whilst not exactly providing a telling insight into the ambience of Tokyo, this is an interesting compilation of tracks sequenced with care and has contributions from across the ambient spectrum, with the likes of old timers like Mark Pritchard and Terre Thaemlitz alongside Innervisions labelmate Henrik Schwarz, Japanese producers Koss and Tokyo Black Star, and one of the pioneers of the genre, Klaus Schulze.

Unfortunately for the label it’s the likes of Ame and Schwarz who provide the weakest tracks, the former’s “Doldrums” being just that, whereas the latter’s “Arthur”, all piano and bass, fails to go anywhere, although Stefan Goldmann rescues them a bit with a quirky experimental piece. Tokyo Black Star produce something that wouldn’t sound out of place on Mule Musiq or from fellow Japanese artist Force of Nature, but for all its scintillating cosmic approach it doesn’t quite hit home, and the Compost Records/Jazzanova-tinged vibe of Koss seems a little out of place.

It’s left to Nicolas Chaix aka I:Cube to produce the compilation’s highlight, a delicious 8 minute aquatic-sounding journey that recalls fellow contributor Schulze at his best, but with a thoroughly modern approach as beautiful strings wash over the mix. Alongside that Cologne’s Karma delights with “Kon Tiki”, a slow and assured journey accompanied by plucked guitars and bells that recall a Japanese influence, and finally Schulze, who has spent the last couple of decades seemingly wanting to destroy the legacy he built with a torrent of modern trance-ridden nonsense, delivers a trademark 18 minute epic, that whilst not showing any great progression from his glory years during the 70’s, demonstrates that he can still deliver the goods from time to time.

The wide range of tracks, from straight forward electronic ambience to some quirky experimentalism and more traditional sounds works as a whole, but some of them seem rather transparent in the light of closer inspection. It’s a curious compilation with several choice highlights yet fails to really satisfy beyond a few listens.

Toby Frith


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