REVIEW: Benjamin Muñoz - Dear Ennui


Kelly Kirwan

Benjamin Muñoz’s latest EP has an echoing quality; a tableau of tinkering sounds, soft metallic clanging, and delicate piano accents reverberating in what we sense is an otherwise sparse and open backdrop. These are beats that meet misshapenly; flooding the medium they’ve been given in each and every direction. We’re so used to following a logical path and development when it comes to chord progressions, hooks and their subsequent bridges, that Muñoz’s music jolts us with its side-step of a more popular structure. It’s a controlled chaos that he’s bottled, as if each track were a slight opening of Pandora’s Box, letting a little pandemonium slip through and interact with our gentler surroundings—in a 2 step inspired format. It’s a marriage of light and dark, disorder with an ivory-key rudder, and of course our versions of masculine and feminine. 

Take the cover for Dear Ennui, an anime spin-off whose portrait is in fact our highlighted artist, reimagined as a feminine version of himself in this signature Japanese style. It’s a parallel that not only represents a facet of Muñoz, but the ethos which drove his latest project and its titular track. Dear Ennui was largely inspired from the anime series Cowboy Bepob, which made Muñoz’s mind light up with twitchy disjointed beats that come across as a kind of pleasing morse code from the future—that have perhaps gone slightly haywire in the process of transmission. 

Dear Ennui begins with a kind of middle-ground cacophony, which drudges up vague resemblances to Nearly Oratorio’s track Occlude—as if it were a cousin whose lineage split into the UK garage, warehouse electronic campground. We hear snippets of vocals both from Muñoz and a feminine counterpart as the piano sets in, and it feels both rooted in the past and like a series of crossed signals in the present. Muñoz revealed that the feminine vocals are meant to be the personification of Ennui itself, and so the song plays a conversation in Muñoz’s mind—the tumult that comes with that creeping sense of listlessness, or to paraphrase his words, a kind of “spiritual boredom.” 

Then there’s Anchors, which intermingles a low brassy horn with its percussion and vague background notes of high squeaks—as if a record was quickly cut off before it could skip. Again, we have the male-female vocals in conversation with each other in the background, rising and falling gently against Muñoz’s hodgepodge melody. The trombone-esque detailing gives Anchors a rich weight—it fills the negative space that otherwise plays a part in Muñoz’s other tracks. Trying to catch the lyrics in Muñoz’s tracks is slightly difficult, as they're as effervescent as water slipping through cupped fingers. They’re like scattered thoughts, scampering through the synapses of Muñoz’s mind, come and gone in a moment. Because, at its core, Dear Ennui is a mix of the visceral and the conceptual—venues that rely on feeling and the abstract. They thrive on the experience, not the constraints of rational explanation.