Mule Musiq is a label that consistently delivers top-quality music across a wide range of styles and genres. Although they all differ stylistically, there’s a distinct vibe that seems to run throughout. It’s hard to quite put a finger on what that is, but it’s also hard to deny its existence.
Perhaps it is the family-like vibe put forth from the label—a close-knit roster of artists continually return to the label, DJ Sprinkles and Kuniyuki Takahashi to name just two. Or maybe it’s the emotionally-rich quality of the records presented; from Petre Inspirescu’s beautiful LP Vin Ploile—which notably took the top spot in our annual best album list—to White co-founder Oskar Offermann’s raw and swinging Le Grand To Do and the birth of Fred P’s FP-Oner project, there’s an almost unrivaled quality to the A&Ring done by the Tokyo-based imprint (with those three released in 2015 alone). Not slowing down a bit in 2016, the label has already announced 6, the follow up the FP-Oner’s 5 and the second in the trilogy, as well as Lawrence’s long-player, Yoyogi Park.
Following on from 2009’s Until Then, Goodbye, and 2014’s ambient A Day In The Life, Yoyogi Park is the final instalment in a trilogy in collaboration with artist Stefan Marx—who also contributes the artwork to Smallville Records, another regular home for Lawrence. It’s by far the most dancefloor focused of the three records, though it’s a dancefloor record with ambient soul, much like the majority of Lawrence’s work.
As is the case with its namesake, the album’s true beauty is in its intricate subtleties, gorgeous elements that seem to hide themselves at first glance—or first listen in this case. Both “Tensui” and “Ava” use this effect brilliantly. The two pensive cuts layer various overlapping pads, faintly streaming in and out of the tracks percussion, like a light wind would through trees. Couple this with the field recordings that are sprinkled throughout the release and it creates a depth that feels like a real-world, although quite alien, environment. Lawrence’s pad work and melodic flourishes are some of the best in house music and Yoyogi Park once again cements that status—the jazz-like stabs that intermittently hit over the top of a cascading melody in “Blue Mountain” are achingly beautiful, much like the chords in “Nightlife.”
Offsetting this subtle beauty is the omnipresent bass, which underpins nearly every cut on the album. From the heavy sub-bass of opening cut, “Marble Star,” to the groove-filled bassline of “Simmer,” there’s more than enough bass weight to to satisfy any dancefloor.
The album reaches a driving pinnacle at “Clouds and Arrows,” which, like its title, is both ethereal and slicing—a perfect concoction of driving low-end thud and floating atmospheres. “Joy Ride” and “Illuminated” are fitting closers: The former employs a rasping bassline throughout, with pads that sound drenched in water, while the latter is a darker, syncopated ride into the depths of Lawrence’s sound.
On its own, Yoyogi Park is a highly engrossing record of dream-like dancefloor sounds, but when sat next to Until Then, Goodbye and A Day In The Life, it’s an intelligent melding of its predecessors and exemplary final chapter.
Yoyogi Park is out now, and can be picked up at Juno.
01. Marble Star
02. Nowhere Is A Place
06. Blue Mountain
08. Clouds And Arrows
09. Joy Ride