Ricardo Villalobos, Vasco EP Part 1


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Far be it from me to challenge the stated aspirations of Ricardo Villalobos, but I find myself increasingly skeptical of his search “for the perfect club track” with each of his new releases. Which isn’t to say his tracks don’t stir dancers to hollering peaks; one needs only to witness the sweaty carnage his recent “Enfants (Chant)” or famed “Blood On My Hands” remix can unleash when deftly applied to disprove that notion.

Rather, it seems the club has become more of a consequence of his heavily rhythmic music rather than the principle, with pure aural artisanship increasingly moving to the forefront of his explorations. Fabric 36, his mix-as-album-as-performance concept, was completely comfortable letting the beat fall to the wayside of a dinner scene and Japanese kodo drumming between long, richly textured rhythm slates (more fully surveyed on Sei Es Drum). His expansive “Fizheuer Zieheuer” likewise got jaws flapping in 2006 by pushing the limits of counter-rhythms and a singular horn riff, though it could be a smart tool in the right hands. In keeping with the trend, the Perlon-released Vasco EP Part 1 (which will also see release on CD after “Part 2” arrives) is filigreed with microscopic texture and kernels of tone color; its chances of reaching the dance floor, however, are relatively slim.

The brunt force of a club sound system would run roughshod over the delicate “Minimoonstar” and allow only the most outspoken passages of “Electonic Water” to poke through. Rather than simply introduce his melodies, Villalobos insinuates their presence in rhythms’ timbre; so with a decent pair of headphones the burbling tones of “Minimoonstar” take on a greater depth, shifting restlessly among the ride cymbal splashes and clockwork ticks. Even still, a handful of sharper plucked notes do perforate the endearing pads welling up halfway through. Villalobos modifies the method for “Electonic Water,” whose rippling melodies largely stay submerged, only occasionally rearing their heads to roar with blistering intensity at passersby. Thick with the irregular rhythms of a hypnotic cowbell, muffled walking bass and a fiercely slapped belt (or some approximation) and riddled with ear-piercing sparks, “Electonic Water” conjures a daunting swamp alive with robots instead of animals. To my ears, it’s also some of Villalobos’ most nuanced and beautiful work to date.

As if that wasn’t enough, the 2×12″ also features remixes from Skull Disco wunderkind, Shackleton, and wonky Rush Hour Recordings artist, San Proper. The reciprocal pairing of Shackleton and Villalobos was overdo and pays off nicely as the former envisions “Minimoonstar” through a stark percussive lens. Dappled by a flurry of hand claps hitting as if rain drops on a windowpane, the masterfully crafted tune twists and rustles through a patchwork of intensifying claps, snares, cymbals, leaving its vaporous tone color as mere spectral wallpaper. San Proper’s “Electonic Water” remix is more lively, building palm-muted guitar strums on a plugged-in version of the original rhythmic ribcage, but its dulled tonal palate struggles to keep my interest.

Ricardo Villalobos is often asked to describe his perfect concept club, which he’s detailed as an open air womb, whose carefully tailored sound system keeps the tunes inside without shaking the neighbors’ belongings. To me, he might as well have have described his headphone-encased headspace. It’s fitting, then, that his productions increasingly require personal magnification to absorb all the nuance in which they’re drenched. Vasco EP Part 1, with its sumptuous originals and remixes, suggest Villalobos’ stated aim is true, so long as your definition of “club” is as flexible as his music. Bring on Part 2.

abraham  on July 7, 2008 at 8:49 AM

your descriptions of these tracks are dead on, but I think you might be underestimating their use in a club. electric water, like enfants(tambours) (which I think is a vastly superior to chants, but thats besides the point) in the hands of a DJ with a good ear for the mix can be deployed under a lot of tracks to embellish and imbide within them villalobos’s organic rythmic feel.

littlewhiteearbuds  on July 7, 2008 at 8:55 AM

I definitely hear what you’re saying, even if “Electronic Water” has a complicated rhythm perhaps too unwieldy for a proper mix.

Above all, I think they would merely be sparklers on a float instead of heard as the main act in all their nuanced glory. Perhaps the plight of a tool, but I feel like these tunes deserve more than that.

abraham  on July 7, 2008 at 12:23 PM

it’s interesting you say that, and I totally know what you mean. I really feel these tracks can stand alone in their own way which the sei es stuff definitely can’t, but there is something else about them that I really can’t put my finger on, they aren’t tools, and they don’t bump hard enough to be deep in a set

I think electronic water specifically is a really versatile track in its own weird way, can I send you a micro-mix that uses the track in two different ways? what email should I hit up?

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