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Album Review

What makes the Mungolian Jet Set's decadently overstuffed productions so sublimely engrossing — whether encountered individually, as they initially appeared, in piecemeal fashion, on 12"s and compilations over the past several years, or taken as a fluid whole on this gloriously epic trawl through their remix work to date — is not simply their bent for inspired, unmitigated lunacy, but the surprisingly artful way they manage to fold their far-reaching, campy, perversely unexpected, and downright goofy musical ideas into cogent and highly nuanced (albeit undeniably maximalist) compositional structures. Restraint might seem like a foreign concept to these guys — you can get a decent inkling of their comedic sensibilities by scanning the track list for grandiose remix titles and nutty monikers ("Pizzy Yelliott," the "16th Rebels of Mung") — but at least they know how to take their time. With a luxurious two hours to fill and track lengths hovering around and sometimes well beyond eight minutes, they've got plenty of it. So it's a good thing they pace themselves, always making sure to establish a sturdy groove (generally midtempo, disco-derived 4/4, with generous percussion layering) before heading off on their interstellar flights of fancy, and sometimes venturing through silky, synth-flecked space for minutes before introducing any overt oddness, frequently in the form of (nearly inevitable, but never predictable) vocals, which range from cartoonish to ethereal. There's even a stretch on the first disc which could plausibly be described as subdued, at least in relative terms, what with the dubby downtempo of "Big Smack and Flies," the darkly stirring ethno-lounge of "It Ain't Necessarily Evil," and a (somewhat failed, but still glorious) stab at minimal techno (infused with snatches of contemporary classical) on "Madre (Epics Part 2)." Of course, that's only after the tone-setting ritual incantation of mumbo-jumbo, the slow-building bewilderment of "Creepy" (the lone new, non-remix inclusion here, featuring both soothingly lush female harmonies and spooky, quivering, PiL-ish shrieking), and the utterly demented Bob Marley cover "Could You Be Loved" (notably this collection's briefest and looniest proper track, shoe-horning electro-funk, patois-pastiche hip-hop, acid house, and more into less than five minutes) — and before the dizzying cosmic heights of their back-to-back Lindstrøm tag teams.

Disc two may open with the blissfully beachy "Ocean 0304," but it wanders soon enough into stranger, dancier territory, highlighted by the delightfully absurd "Milano Model," which melds orchestral bombast, accordion gypsy stomp, "Drop It Like It's Hot"-style vocal percussion, and a deliciously wigged-out disco-funk climax. So yes, there's zaniness aplenty to be found here, but there's uncommon beauty as well, perhaps no more so than on the two closing cuts: the relatively straightforward Shortwave Set rework "Glitches 'n Bugs," which in this context feels refreshingly unambitious, marinated in sub-tropical exotica but with the original's pleasantly pedestrian pop choruses left largely untouched, and "Moon Song," a glittery take on the like-minded space-prog outfit They Came from the Stars I Saw Them which serves as one final epic, starry-eyed but resolutely earthbound. These more song-centered offerings, while still a decent distance from conventional, come across as loose, relaxed, and (impossibly) almost normal after the unbridled sonic extravagance that's come before, making for a fitting homecoming and come-down after an exhilarating, exhaustive, and expertly paced extraterrestrial journey. "Mungolia", wherever it may be (good money says it's somewhere in the vicinity of the KLF's Muu-Muu), is a fantastically fascinating spot, a can't-miss destination for all electro/eclecto-phile thrill seekers out there — and this sumptuous set has got everything you'll need to make the trip. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Biography

Formed: Oslo, Norway

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Spouting a cryptically convoluted cosmology that's equally as daffy and inscrutable as their genre-defying prog-disco concoctions, Norway's Mungolian Jet Set draw their aesthetic cues from extraterrestrials, shamanic mysticism, and medieval Eurasian warlords, and their musical ones from left-field jazz, schlock exotica, cheesy ambient trance, Balearic electronica, and points beyond. Essentially the warped brainchild of Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus, a DJ and turntablist who was active in the Norwegian...
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We Gave It All Away...And Now We Are Taking It Back, Mungolian Jetset
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