reviewed by Cissy Suen
Inspired by his time in the UK and the industrial city of Hamilton comes Benjamin Muñoz and his Dear Ennui EP. Ennui is a state of restless boredom, an existential condition without end. “…[T]here is no meaning to life, unless one chooses otherwise”, describes Muñoz. Yet this seemingly meaningless situation has given life to the multi-layered electronic jazz-funk EP that has a new element to impress with every listen.
The EP begins with the jazzy soft murmurs of “Dear Ennui”, the title track of the EP. With a graceful piano movement set to wait futilely for Godot. This pointlessness of ennui is further illustrated by the dichotomous bass hums and tenor melodies of Muñoz’s own voice with the female tone, “the personification of ennui”, that enters two thirds into the song. In fact, the cover of the EP is an artist’s rendition of this female character, of whom threads the theme between tracks.
The eclectic beats roll us into the soothing synth land of “Nina, Dai Suki” – Nina, I love you in Japanese. This particular track reflects Munoz’s mix of eastern and western influences. The Japanese extension comes predominates from anime such as Cowboy Bepop which touch upon the theme of ennui in a comical manner. Meanwhile the American influence of Munoz’s love for Nina Simone and her work can not only be heard as the brass sections re-enter the EP, but in the title of the track itself. The ethereal sounds transport to another dimension of elevator encounters.
“Anchors” begins with a heavily patterned beat and an ominous sequence of keys. We’re discussing the more philosophically devastating aspects of ennui as the lovely jingle of its voice taunts us in the midst of our boredom. Munoz keeps his jazz influences with the employment of a lovely trombone and yet again, masterfully frames his melodies against an artful array of interesting and eclectic samples.
We end off the EP with “The Bonds that Fail Us” – a hauntingly delicate track that reminds listeners that ennui is a state that will always persist. The drum patterns are reminiscent of Burial’s works, the vocals of Four Tet’s most recent Morning/Evening EP, and its spirit of Porter Robinson’s hope for human culture and love. Though boredom is bound to be doom, it can be optimized and made into efficient use – as Munoz has done in these four stunning tracks.
Mastered by Michael Keire at Threshold Studio in Hamilton, Dear Ennui is an elegant and mature collection of pieces that has not only impressed me, but made me fall in love with the young producer’s work. What other parts of the world will be artfully projected and cast into Munoz’s spell?
Top Track: “Anchors”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*