Villalobos
Alcachofa
Playhouse
2003
A

on first listen it merely sounds odd. Not much like the other house records that are coming out these days, certainly. It's as though the entire thing has been recorded in a water tank- the bass never hits as hard as it conceivably should and the preponderance of effects placed on sounds, more often than not, are incredibly aqueous in feel. But it's after a few listens that it becomes apparent that, yes, this is odd- and, yes, it is wonderful. Ricardo Villalobos has released a gem, but more specifically, a gem in 3-D. You see, most dance records are linear- they follow a certain path in which disruptions are common and useful. These are records for the mix, easily manipulated, easily mutable for DJs to cut and distort. Now, most of the tracks on Alcachofa are most easily danceable- and even ready for the mix. Villalobos proved this himself, using "Dexter" as the centerpiece for his recent mix Taka Taka. But, at the same time, the music contained here is defiantly unstoppable- that is, there is so much going on in outside of the linear narrative of the track that it gives each moment an added momentum. If that sounds convoluted, it should. It's exactly what this record does- and is.


That is to say, more than anything Villalobos' success here is being able to control both the big and the small picture. Each track is a normal length for a dance track- eight to ten minutes- and they each have introductions, middle passages, conclusions and sometimes, when we get lucky, surprise twist endings. Everything is in its right place- a normal conversation can be made around these sorts of constraints. This is what sets Villalobos apart from the IDM crowd, say. But what moves him away from the strict territories of house is the detail. Each measure is a singular construction of utter precision- every single moment makes sense overall and seems normal- but there are slight things askew. Like someone has been inside the track and moved this snare over here and Villalobos is constantly moving things around to get them all back into place, but never can quite get everything exactly right (a good thing).


Examples? There all over the place, of course. "Waiworinao" uses a jaunty guitar melody as its basis- using a large portion of the introduction to go through slight permutations and to allow a smattering of production touches to reach beneath the surface. The delight comes in what sounds like steel drums taking up the counter-melody of the guitar halfway through its duration and its eventual ending as a bounce-driven stomp. PIMP indeed.


The most easily built for the dancefloor, perhaps, is "what you say is more than I can I say" which features Villalobos on vocal duties, intoning the title of the track over a gloop-laden bass bed and a booming house beat. But it's in "Dexter" and "Fool Garden (Black Conga)" that we have our highlights. The former extending a forlorn melodic statement to the reaches of its endurance and the latter bringing the listener back to possibility in the final glorious coda of tinkled synth notes falling on top of one another unable to stop forcing themselves to the level of audibility. As the song fades out, you hear the melody going ever higher into the stratosphere. Reaching. Reaching.


No fade outs needed, Ricardo. You obviously got it.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-04
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