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Taka Taka

Cocoon Recordings

ith Alcachofa, Ricardo Villalobos created a beast of a record. That indefinable dub and house creation showcased Villalobos’ innate understanding of dynamics- something that raises him above many of his fellow minimal house peers, and because of this, I’d suggest we prepare for the next records in “microhouse” to be less overtly influenced by Jan Jelinek’s latest jazz sketches, and more reflective of Villalobos’ polyrhythmic adventures in drumming.

And while his latest mix, Taka Taka, was released a couple months before Alcachofa, there’s no reason to separate the two releases from one another. Villalobos’ crystallization of a certain sound and feeling with both creates a symbiotic relationship between the two – Taka Taka, being the DJed mix version of the two. The album begins with a synth reminiscent of Kraftwerk (a la Trans Europa Express’ “Europa Endlos”). This synth in Jos Vermeiren’s “Atomium” possesses a closer affinity to the classics of electronic music than most microhouse records have exhibited recently. In fact, Taka Taka feels practically like a new warped direction for Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). With IDM considered all but dead, “Atomium” mixes together a vibrant Kraftwerkian cousin to Boards of Canada’s bare “Zoetrope.”

These melodies are underpinned with the typical 4/4 drum beat, but one that approaches the expanse of dub from a completely unexpected path. The culmination of this organic/electronic drumming tension appears on Brothers' Vibes' “Manos Libre,” where a bongo drum completes a session with a house beat. The bongo dances with a surprising playfulness given the repetitious nature of House, easily making its presence known in the mix despite its lack of prominence within the levels.

Another high-mark appears when Villalobos first kicks Taka Taka into gear with John Shananigans’ “Charlie’s on the Dancefloor.” The following contribution from Jabberjaw, “I Speak for Some of That,” carries such a blissful indifference that when merged with Shananigans’s earlier bluesy vocals, a curious balance is established. These balances between melancholy and bliss show up again on Alcachofa, exemplifying Villalobos’ ability to toggle contrasting emotions easily and expertly.

The few missteps on Taka Taka occur when the minimalist production is replaced in favor of over-the-top productions like “That Track by Cat”. With a bare bones approach, however, Villalobos allows the sequence between “Squirrel Bait” and “You Wouldn’t” to flow naturally into the Alcachofa stand-out “Dexter.” Excluding the late Luciano entry, Taka Taka ends rather anti-climatically, as the saccharine synth tying the last three songs doesn’t adequately release the tension running through the rest of the mix. I could see Cameron Crowe inserting the end of this mix over the credits of his next Tom Cruise vehicle.

However, these are relatively small qualms. Ricardo Villalobos proves quite able to not only propel the mix, but also has a keen ear for a wide variety of developments within House, employing them in a variety of ways here. Villalobos’ ability to stamp this collection with a well-developed style despite the disparity of tracks keeps this release as something to come back to, time and time again. Furthermore, even though I’m not familiar with many of the artists, I enjoyed enough of these tracks to search them out singly – a sign of a good mix.

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2003-12-03

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