September 21, 2007

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36

Fabric 36—announced years ago—has become the venerated mix series’ most anticipated disc. But in the announcement, Ricardo slipped in that he “prefers for it to be treated like a normal mix CD, with no hype.” Sure. Right. But, then again, take a quick listen to it: because despite the inevitable hype and a cover only a goth could love, Fabric 36 sounds almost carefree enough to actually live up to his modest hopes.

There’s been no lack of swipes at Ricardo Villalobos’ self-indulgence (cue this review’s gratuitous mention of Fizheuer Zieheuer), but Villalobos may be trying to save “self-indulgence” from derogatory connotations one release at a time. In his latest, what’s difficult to miss isn’t that he scraps the DJ mix as an outpouring of free publicity (for other artists) but that the mix is the rare modern entity that forces you to listen to an album as a whole. Fabric 36 has highlights but no singles—a series of tracks with only one order. And as imposing as that sounds, it only becomes an obvious fact when you try to listen to parts outside the mix itself.

Thankfully, it’s easy to get lost in the actual mix of the CD. There’s a lightness of touch throughout, leaving sections where Villalobos can transition from the introductory yelps of “Farenzer House” into the taut bass stabs of “Mecker” without batting an eye. In the midst of that section, there’s also a nudging synthpad that fleshes itself out five minutes later in the anthemic pop-rush of “4 Wheel Drive.” With Fabric 36, Villalobos has refined the volatile tangents of “Achso”—tracks are just as rambunctious and twisting, but also ebb with a purpose and destination.

That’s also a pretty apt description for this year’s earlier “album-mix” from False. But 2007, despite its breadth of textures, sounds one-note compared to the variety of rhythm and idiosyncrasies here. If 2007 was busy stumbling and scraping itself on concrete sidewalks, then Fabric 36 is a drunken party-host that introduces herself as “Moist.” And she’s not alone on the album’s centerpiece, “Andruic & Japan.” Accompanied by a personal Japanese drummer who blows his nose through a harmonica, she spouts anecdotes (about marriage, dead chickens, etc.) to either invisible guests or to herself—it depends on how demented you think she is.

Either way, she, like Villalobos, doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously here. Ricardo doesn’t ham it up on Fabric 36, but with tracks like the joyful splinter of “You Won’t Tell Me” and the celebratory finale of “Premier Encuentro Latino-Americano,” he sounds all but ready to throw away his cultivated mystique for something a little more pleasurable. And I’m still ready to indulge him a little more.

Fabric / FABRIC 71
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


September 7, 2007

Beatzcast #47: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music…

Tracklist
01: Johan Agebjorn feat. Sally Shapiro - Spacer Woman From Mars [buy]
02: Basteroid - Error Del Disco [buy]
03: Tensnake - White Dog [buy]
04: Staffan Linzatti - Quibble (Efdemin Remix) [buy]
05: The Viewers - Blank Images [buy]
06: Samim - Heater (Claude Von Stroke Mix) [buy]
07: Solomun - Jungle River Cruise [buy]
08: Innersphere - Phunk (Ricardo Villalobos Remix) [buy]

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August 8, 2007

Argenis Brito - Micro Mundo

Chileans must have techno intravenously injected in their blood from birth. The Chilean-gone-techno-superstar not only accounts for instant deities like Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, but has also been a cliché going on five years strong. You might remember Argenis Brito’s contributions to the Chilean project Monne Automne, and it’s frequently brilliant album Introducing Light and Sound. So the prospect of Brito coming out with his debut album on Chilean ex-pat label Cadenza doesn’t sound surprising at all. Which might be the biggest detriment to Micro Mundo – its mythology overshadows an album that’s too modest to be noteworthy otherwise.

It won’t be too long before the wrinkles of warm bass that adorn tracks like “Disconet” and “Amplified” will be forever lost among the sea of German minimal techno. There’s also many cuts like “Sensorial”, which is something that could provide a nice bridge mid-set, but for the life of me, I can’t hum the main motif even though I’ve heard it at least 20 times. This sound-over-substance quality hides the few small surprises collected herein, like “Cepe”, an accomplished and laidback production that starts to build towards a climax when the bare bass and hi-hats swirl into an unexpected spoken vocal. A similar resonant effect can be heard on “Espejismo”, but for an album that never wavers and is never quantifiably bad, such highlights feel underwhelming on the whole. With Micro Mundo’s highs never too far away from its lows, the Chilean techno drug is no longer as potent as it used to be.

Cadenza / CADENZA 16
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 31, 2007

Italoboyz - Viktor Casanova

There’s nothing like the sight of crisp tuxes and sleep-deprived ravers rubbing elbows. With a taciturn twirl, Shut Up and Dance! Updated dotted the first lines between high-art and minimalism a month ago. Composed as a soundtrack for the esteemed Berlin Staatsballet, the compilation’s seriousness was momentarily punctured by the stumbling detour de force of Luciano’s “Drunken Ballet.” And now that we’ve come across the first response of high-art digested by a minimal-machine (and fueled on clicks and cuts), there are surprisingly few hiccups in Italoboyz’s “Viktor Casanova.”

Instead, we’re introduced by the lull and hum of a soft-focus Ingrid Bergman conjuring “As Time Goes By.” It’s a sample so bleeding obvious and ghostly that it can’t help to be unsettling. Which, according to a choice pull-quote by Ricardo Villalobos, shows the most important thing about a good track is the idea behind it – something I’ll tentatively agree with. Especially since Villalobos’ recent work is a perfect opposite of “Viktor Casanova.”

So I’ll enjoy the sights of “fucked up girls trying to imitate the opera singer“ as much as hearing the minimal percussion which delicately avoids overshadowing or under-lighting the track’s main attraction. But what I enjoy most is that “Viktor Casanova” can be as earnest or glib as you want and still be incredible. On the remix front, Samim’s pleasant retooling come with a nagging sense of being superfluous, while Lee Curtiss’ radical and dark mix flourishes under the weight of the original’s instantly iconic composition.

Mothership / MSHIP 001
[Listen]
[Nate DeYoung]


July 26, 2007

Social Being - Free Your Mind

A few weeks ago I reviewed a DJ Harvey remix of Michoacan with a very swampy, swirling, early-Funkadelic feel to it. This time, these “Social Beings” (aka Ricardo Villalobos and Jay Haze) have gone the whole hog and plonked Eddie Hazel’s amazing solo from “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” right onto their EP.

I tried doing this myself, years ago. If you haven’t heard the song, you should – I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music, well, ever. Full stop (or “period” as Americans say). So I got the solo and I chopped it in an editing program, and then I fiddled with it in Audiomulch for a few hours. No matter which way I mangled it, it was almost totally destroyed by the fiddling. It really wanted to be left alone. It didn’t want to be part of my silly loop orchestra. Nor did I.

I get the feeling that Jay & Ricardo realised this themselves, somewhere along the way. Villalobos has been sampling a lot lately, from his Floyd-cribbing number “Frank and Hennes” on that Bruchstuecke compilation a few years back to Fizheuer, the original version being found by some nerd and quickly blogged. With Fizheuer, Villalobos put the sample front and centre, making those horns rise out of the system like a revelation to machine-tired ears. But here, Hazel’s licks (and even the huge stream of feedback) are kept in the background, mostly unedited, in a gesture which seems to realise that the integrity of the original is best left alone. As it is, the guitar part is like a memory, like the raw acoustic riffs struggling against the walls of digital feedback in Fennesz’ Endless Summer.

Rhythmically, this is the straightest thing that both artists have released in a while; Haze’s influence recalls Villalobos to “808 the Bassqueen”-era patterns, and that ain’t no bad vibe. I’m tempted to think, in six months hence, Haze will brag in an interview that he wrote the whole thing (just like he did to Samim after the Fuckpony album). But hey, maybe he did for all I know. Anyhow, this EP is not quite the success it could be, given the confluence of talent and source material it marshals. All the same, it’s a very worthy, useful, and blissful track for the wrong side of the morning.

Tuning Spork / TSXTRA 001EP
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


July 6, 2007

Beatzcast #40: Crambe Repetita

Mixes2007

Stylus editor Todd Burns presents a mix of electronic music featuring new music from Ricardo Villalobos and Jay Haze, Luciano, Get Physical, and My Best Friend…

Tracklist
01: Piemont - Sick Certificate [buy]
02: Riley Reinhold - Lights in My Eyes (Patrice Bäumel Mokum Rmx) [buy]
03: Kollektiv Turmstrasse - Grillen Im Park [buy]
04: Gluhen 4 - The World Of… [buy]
05: Kramer - Sonne Ist Da [buy]
06: Social Being - Free Your Mind [buy]
07: Luciano - Back to Front [buy]
08: Half Hawaii - Mir Nichts [buy]
09: Phonique feat. Erlend Oye - Casualties [buy]

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June 22, 2007

Charts: June 22 2007

Mallory O’Donnell

The Nick Straker Band - The Nick Straker Band [Prelude]
William Strickland - An Electronic Visit to the Zoo and Sound Hypnosis [Spectrum]
Tiefschwarz - Black Music [Souvenir]
Ack By Panel - Base Filmtab EP [Greystate]
Bonde Do Role - Office Boy [Mad Decent]
Grand National - By The Time I Get Home… [Domino]
Third World - One More Time [Columbia]
Ricardo Villalobos - 1ş Encuentro Latinoamericano de la Soledad [White]
Justice - D.A.N.C.E. [Ed Banger]
Bohemia - All The Way [Discos de Tinga]

Michael F. Gill

Alton Miller - Souls Like Mine (R2)
Canvas - The Cat (Rebelone)
Keith Worthy - shelovesmenot [Mental Deepstrumental] (Aesthetic Audio)
Syncom Data - Beyond The Stars (Legowelt Remix) (SD Records)
Paul Birken - Numbskull (Communique Records)
Studio - Radio Edit [Information]
Alicia Myers - I Want To Thank You [MCA]
Marek Bilinski - Po Drugiej Stronie Swiata [Polton/Digiton)
Wish feat. La-Rita Gaskin - Nice and Soft (Downtown Version) [Perspective Records]
Kat Mandu - Super Lady (Manhattan Formula)


March 2, 2007

Benjamin Fehr/FFWD - Truth & Consequences Remix EP

I will confess right off the bat: not only have I never heard the original versions of the two tracks remixed here, I’ve never even heard of Benjamin Fehr or his alias as FFWD (the sleeve lists both, so who knows exactly how he wants to be billed now?) But a Ricardo Villalobos remix of Barry Manilow would likely get me to at least sit still and listen for the requisite 10 to 17 minutes, so why not give this a shot too? Sure enough, the mad Chilean beats are still jackin’ and the noises and samples and filtered vocals and warm rub-a-dub bass hum create a suitably fun and funky track, but it all feels a bit skeletal, almost as if he didn’t care much for the original track and merely stuck the elements into his mental blender and spit this out, fully formed.

There aren’t enough of those sharp left turns or totally jaw-dropping/sublime moments he’s known for, and they are missed (although one big keyboard stab near the end comes close). Still, if this is Villalobos on autopilot (and it sounds like it is), the man is probably shitting out solid gold eggs as I write this. Oh yeah, and Falko Brocksieper turns in a mix on the flip. It’s built up on this sort of unpleasant grunting sample, a looped “fuck you, fuck me” vocal clip, and some routine chugging beatwork. Not bad, but nothing to make you stop from flipping the record over and playing the Villalobos mix again looking for little bits you might have missed either.

Catenaccio / CCCO 06
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


February 23, 2007

Luciano - No Model No Tool

Lucien “Luciano” Nicolet’s Cadenza label is an exemplar of long-playing minimalism. Like Mathew Jonson’s eternal arpeggios or Ricardo Villalobos’ endlessly bending squiggles, Luciano records can be mixed in and/or left low in the layers for six, seven, even eight minutes, without having to worry about “the chorus” or the rhythm shifting phase. So although they do bear close scrutiny as complete compositions on their own right, much of Luciano’s work is already a “tool” in the hands of a creative DJ. But No Model No Tool is three clicks further down the line of least variation. This new release, the first in a planned series of self-confessed tools, is both an artistic statement (”When only the least will do”) and a tacit admission that DJing itself has changed, and that there is an emerging market for nothing more than the individual sounds-the sonic equivalent of selling Lego blocks, I guess.

No Model consists of two long rhythmic pieces, one metallic, the other rubbery; five “atmospheres” consisting of vocal loops, spooky pads and alien atmospheres; and one long pop ambient-esque piece with KLF-style sheep baas and an orchestra recording a David Lynch soundtrack in the hallway. There’s enormous scope for these tools, especially harnessing the immediate capabilities of more recent CD-J players, so from that perspective, No Model is worth considering. But the funny thing is (and maybe I’ve really been listening to too much “too little”) that this is actually a really satisfying listening experience. Barring “Tonneres,” which sounds like a tweaked-out Arthur Russell track, the tools flow along nicely and work especially well at pasting over the cracks in the silence that threaten to distract you from what you?re concentrating on. Curiouser and Curiouser.

Cadenza Split Composition / CSC001
[Listen]
[Peter Chambers]


February 9, 2007

Depeche Mode - Remixes

Depeche Mode have always been at the forefront of the remix game, historically lining up a who’s who of dance music producers to rework their electronic pop into lots of interesting shapes and sizes, occasionally to devastatingly brilliant effect. This limited edition, stunningly packaged gatefold double-pack was released to coincide with the band’s latest Best Of, Vol. 1 collection, bearing similar cover art and reworkings of tracks from the collection. While the promo CD version of this release contained eight tracks—including Ricardo Villalobos’ stunning take on “The Sinner In Me”—the actual commercial release only includes four. One can assume that when Best Of, Vol. 2 eventually surfaces, those remaining four mixes will be given a similar release treatment, especially considering that the Villalobos mix is already widely bootlegged on vinyl and changing hands for ludicrous amounts on eBay.

As far as what is on offer here, while nothing is as downright fantastical as Villalobos’ take, there is plenty to excite Mode fans and DJs alike. Boys Noize take on “Personal Jesus” and wisely maintain the pulpit stomping feel of the original while adding an extended noise/loop intro and throbbing analog synth riffs to replace the original’s guitars. Digitalism’s take on “Never Let Me Down Again” is a crunching analog affair that bears more resemblance to Mute labelmates Nitzer Ebb than the cyclical, driving original. Oliver Huntemann and Stephan Bodzin’s dub version of “Everything Counts” is a floor filler in the making, fusing key melodic phrases of the original into an updated tech-house template, while Underground Resistance’s DJ 3000 transforms “People Are People” into a latin-infused monster in the aggressive, relentless UR techno style. With the limited nature and collector-targeted packaging on this release, it may not be aimed at DJs who are just going to beat the hell out of it in their crates, but if you can get over the price tag (and find a copy!), there’s plenty here to spice up a set of any style, presuming of course that vocals don’t bother you.

MUTE / L12 BONG 39
[Listen]
[Todd Hutlock]


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