May 21, 2007

Shackleton - Blood On My Hands (Villalobos Remix)

Even when I see the towers fall…fall…it’s difficult to see, to breathe, for all the smoke and dust. I have this feeling with Villalobos’ remixes these days: rumours that they’re about to drop induce the mental equivalent of wheezing. It was the same being a latecomer to Reservoir Dogs and Bladerunner, the demand to find genius at play was inversely proportional to the ability to “just enjoy” the works after so much praise had preceded them. It’s the hype, your honour, and this asthmatic boy doth breathily protest.

The personal irony then (or not) was the elemental force of Villalobos’ remix of Beck’s “Cellphone’s Dead”. Unhyped by friends, unanticipated by me, it sighed, kicked, and sung its way right out of my loudspeakers and into the quiet parts of my heart. It might be one of the best house tracks I’ve ever heard. Might be. I set the Beck remix up as a counterpoint against the two “smoke machines” : the hype and the structure. “Cellphone’s Dead” is a beautifully composed track designed to unfold over its long minutes, with every refrain changing its relationship through repetition and emphasis. It’s like a blueprint for how to do groove music, and it feels like it’s composed to do so.

“Blood on my Hands”, like Fizheuer, is nothing like this. Both tracks, similar in scope and sound, play with (as far as I can gather) an effects processor called the Eventide H3000, producing slowly modulating drum sounds that shift timbre and seem to push and pull into each other, creating (especially at high volumes) beguiling tricks of the ear and sending dancefloors into paroxysms of addled ecstasy. They’re tools, likely written by Villalobos solely for himself, to be layered under other tracks and to fade through other mixes in his inimitable DJ style. I imagine him, off his guts after a long weekend of after-after parties, eyes rolling – mental hours spent in the studio with a buzzing whirl of falling drums.

The wonder of these tracks is twofold then: that they’re the audible traces of a private musical process; that they’re unfinished, more like snatches of an almost unending work made from hours of tweaking, of getting deep inside your groove, out of your head. Simply by releasing them as such, Villalobos has innovated – like Andy Warhol’s eight hour long films of people sleeping, “Blood on my Hands” questions the presuppositions and re-frames the possibility of what a piece of music is, how it’s structured, what it does, and what it’s for – at once process, instrument, and product. And there is a unique piece of music in here – it emerges in the plateaus, the retreats and the attacks of the effected drums, it rushes up through Shackleton’s fantastic lyrics (and how many groove-based tracks have even good lyrics), it drops past you with the atmosphere of apocalypse conjured by the image of the falling towers. It’s a ridiculous criticism to say that “it’s too long”, or that “it’s not a track” – these are two other undeniable qualities that make this work so exemplary, just as they point out its limitations. “Blood on my Hands” might not be a beautiful piece of music like “Cellphone’s Dead” is, but it is undiminished as an artistic statement for all that. As Brian Eno once noted, new forms of music necessitate new ways of listening. So it is here.

Skull Disco / Skull 007
[Peter Chambers]

1 Comment »

  1. […] Here’s a two part minimal house/techno selection including first and foremost the evilest track of 2007, a 10 minute non-breather remix by Ricardo Villalobos which will leave you gasping for breath. Released on Skull Disco. The second track is a remix by the notorious Moritz von Oswald (better known as Maurizio, founder of Basic Channel or lately one half of Rhyhtm & Sound) to Tony Allen! Yes, that Tony Allen, the world-renowned drummer who’s probably most famous for shaping afrobeat with Fela Kuti. Moritz von Oswald has created a stripped down dubby mix with lush pads to percussion by Allen and African vocals through this 10 minute progression. Released on Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon Records. […]

    -- Minimalia June Part 1 » undomondo

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