Review: The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2

One of the revelations of operating in the world of netlabels was when I realised there is no huge gulf between the big name successful acts and the independent artists; there is quality to be found at every level of fame and accomplishment, you just need to know where to look.

I mention this because Studio 4632 know exactly where to look. Concentrating on electronic and ambient music, Candy L and Studio 4632 continually release music of the highest quality; this particular album, The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2, whilst not strictly limited to artists from the Studio 4632 stable, maintains this tradition. You would be hard-pushed to find a better collection of electronic/ambient music, regardless of label or budget.

When discussing this album it’s worth noting that there are a number of styles and genres contained here; if electronic music suggests ethereal ambient soundscapes washing over you, there’s much more to this compilation. Indeed Candy has sequenced the tracks with great care such that tracks of similar style and tempo are grouped together and the listener is gently transitioned between the various genres.  The album starts with the contemporary uptempo music of Altocirrus and the positively danceable sounds of Globotom. Thaneco’s ‘Temple IV’ features a playful bassline accompanied by swirling, bubbling synths, building into very satisfying piece. Mixtaped Monk, who follows, delivers one of few guitar-based tracks on the album, the heavy yet haunting post-rock ‘Sense in Sensation’.

As we move out of the uptempo tracks, Glenn Sogge’s ‘Insert Modul 30ED3 Here’ is an exquisitely atmospheric piece, slightly melancholy and despite the hi-tech connotations of the title I felt something ghostly about it. A ghost in the machine perhaps. Another highlight for me is Jaime Munarriz’s delightfully textured ‘Blind Line in Nairoby’,  which changes as it progresses, taking the listener on a journey through a changing landscape. The track that follows, ‘So Little Time’ by Cousin Silas, is achingly beautiful, built on bell-like synths and ornamented with Silas’ trademark crystalline guitar and piano figures. Earthborn Visions’  ‘Kaumendert’ follows, starting with a vaguely ominous asymmetric bass line; additional layers appear as the track progress which help to soothe the sense of foreboding, but it’s a fantastically clever, unsettling piece.

The track from Kellerkind Berlin, as the name suggests, contains many delicious references to the Berlin School of synthesizer music; unusually it also contains a waltz sequence, and even more unusually it succeeds brilliantly, with a natural, deft and airy approach.

Probably my favourite piece on the album is the haunting ‘Journey’s Least Travelled Path Never Ends’ by Playman 54  (Colin Blake). This beautiful piece is centred around Colin’s dreamy, melancholic piano, with synth pads that have the effect of making the listener immediately nostalgic. In a previous review I likened Colin’s work to that of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; this is music of the very highest order and deserves a far wider audience.

There are a couple of beautiful tracks featuring the late Wolfgang Gsell, himself a frequent presence on Modul 303. Both tracks are collaborations, firstly with Lutz Thuns and then Martin Neuhold. Both are joyful, uplifting pieces that feel to me like celebrations of life and nature.

The album closes as strongly as it opened with the cosmic sound of Tim Kays, the playful fairytale soundtrack of EternalKeys and the striking words and music Allen Pitt’s majestic musical poem, ‘Albion’.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone interested in exploring the output of Studio 4632, the broadcasts of Modul 303 or just top quality electronic instrumental music. There’s a minimum $3 price tag on the album but I’d suggest you should really pay north of $10 as this is a genuinely superb album.

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