On top of innumerable single and EP releases, Joel Mull released The Observer in 2007, an ambitiously overstuffed package of everything ranging from fussy minimal to throbbing techno to emotional orchestral overtures and meandering interludes. While it had a few flaws, it proved Mull an adventurous and restless producer, creating what was for better or worse an album's album.
In contrast, Sensory, released on Drumcode sister label Truesoul, is a dance floor album through-and-through. One of those albums loaded with long, extended jams that would normally seem like a chore to sit through. What Sensory lacks in techno-renaissance-man wares, however, is made up for in an unwavering intensity. Barring its opening and closing tracks, Sensory is a barrage of tightly coiled minimal techno, blessed with a ropy and malleable low end that bestows a persuasive and seductive body that so much minimal sorely lacks. Rather than venture too far outside of his comfort zone, Mull instead dots his tracks with vivid, hi-definition details that dip in and out of the surging liquid grooves.
The album feels like it's constantly shooting forward at maximum power, samples caught up in and twisted by the current. The forced-apart vocals of "Keep On" or the elastically snapping chords in "Smoke Room" are prime examples, elements that sound like they can barely keep up with their surroundings. Thriving on moments of clipped catharsis, the thrill comes with those tiny samples pulled to their breaking point. Sensory hits strongest in the middle with "Holographic," a full-throated peaktime anthem, wringing a muted chord motif through its relentless and choppy froth. All thud and physical impact, like most of the album it's almost transparent, occupying as little space as possible and turning "minimal" from an ill-fated trend into an ideology.
For all of this it's a surprisingly breezy and quick listen, even at 76 minutes. Maybe Mull has discovered the secret to subduing an audience lies in hitting them over the head as hard as possible. That being said, in its closing stretch Sensory does indulge in some introspection: where "Arriving" is mostly generic synth drone and jazzy electric piano tones, the title track closes the album in a naggingly uncertain wash of whooshes, plucked strings creating an uncomfortable contrast with the amorphous backdrop with each tug. They're nice reminders that Joel Mull can make music that isn't concerned solely with fist-pumping functionalism, but the detail-oriented and constantly shifting tracks that dominate Sensory are proof enough in the first place.
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Tracklist: Joel Mull - Sensory 01. Nagoya Bolero
02. Smoke Room
04. Keep On
05. Danny Boy
07. Kraut House
09. Novelty Theory
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