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Ricardo Villalobos - Vasco

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Artist: Ricardo Villalobos

Album: Vasco

Label: Perlon

Review date: Nov. 26, 2008

Earlier this year, Chilean-German producer Ricardo Villalobos released a double 12” pack on Perlon, followed up by another 12” EP. Generous as it was (and collected together now on CD as Vasco), its sum tracks (and attendant remixes from Shackleton, San Proper, and Baby Ford) were the first Villalobos productions in many a moon to leave me, strangely enough, underwhelmed. Stretching from my first encounter with the man, his “808 the Bass Queen” (as reissued by Lo-Fi Stereo in 2003), it had been a considerable run by the one of the most remarkable musicians in the 21st century, a stretch that included “Easy Lee” and “Dexter” on through Achso and the epochal Fizheuer Zieheuer 37-minute single, up to last year’s Fabric mix. (OK, so “What’s Wrong My Friends” wasn’t exactly seismic, but still…)

Not that the man himself had changed it up much (if anything, it’s the listener who changes), but suddenly, it didn’t feel crucial. Take “Minimoonstar,” which comprises slightly less than half of the album’s 60-plus minutes. Its attendant components – conversational hi-hats, live drum hits, Chick Corea keyboard filigrees, a gentle shimmering drone that darkens like a mood ring, amoebic slushes, plate-shaking bass tones – all feel less like some evolutionary holistic entity and more random, a mere summation of parts. Whereas similarly noodling, creeping, growing efforts reached peaks and pay-offs, “Minimoonstar” feels like the antithesis of such growth, ultimately meaningless.

Villalobos’s closed systems, left to flutter where they may, don’t always fall flat. The gentle intrusion of a French woman’s voice throughout Vasco’s stand-out track “Skinfummel” is entrancing (and, surprisingly, a CD exclusive). But as acausal and cul-de-sac-sounding as these components feel here, perhaps this could be considered Villalobos’s first entry into a new genre. Call it Dance Music for Airports.

By Tad Abney

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