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Ricardo Villalobos - Dependent and Happy

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Artist: Ricardo Villalobos

Album: Dependent and Happy

Label: Perlon

Review date: Sep. 24, 2012

The last few years have found Ricardo Villalobos peeling back the layers of his plinky techno to mixed reactions. What he uncovered on Vasco and subsequently alongside Max Loderbauer wasn’t to everyone’s taste, as the mammoth Re: ECM required even more patience than the beat marathons listeners were already accustomed to, and it wasn’t clear if they managed to pay it all off. That sonic questing away from techno has resulted in a Villalobos album, Dependent and Happy, that is unexpectedly outgoing without relenting on the difficulty or anal attention to detail that his fans savor.

This nearly 80-minute album, issued on three 12”s, is even less tracky and more enveloping than much of Villalobos’s prior solo work. From end to end, this album feels like the moment in the middle of a good mix where any sense of up and down, arrival and exit, is blurred into a sweaty, human mass. Villalobos’s arsenal of hollow percussion holds the stew together, and the contrast between clarity and muddiness is what allows the album to connect viscerally without feeling like he’s putting his personal evolution on hold. If Villalobos of late has been approaching sound like it’s molecular gastronomy, whipping up ineffable foams and insane reductions that leave some enthralled and others unsatisfied, Dependent and Happy is astronaut food: a complete club experience produced in a sterile laboratory setting. A compressed morsel activated by your saliva.

Viewed from afar, the first two of these 11 tracks seem as exacting and pared-down as Thé Au Harem d’Archimède, a kind of airless, morphing plateau of microhouse jacking. But “Grumax” brings an injection of foreal funk to the meticulous programming. In typical Villalobos fashion, it fucks with you; the bassline flaps and knocks around of its own accord like an unmounted engine while insect-like FX screech down from the rafters, but the cacophony only adds to the irresistible momentum. By the fifth track, “I’m Counting,” he’s worked up something like a straight-up corker, whose coiled energy unspools in the jazzy snare rolls on “Put Your Lips.”

But writing about this music in terms of particular sounds is like writing about a Gerhard Richter exhibition in terms of brushstrokes. There’s no end to the music-lover shit dude pulls off here, as if every single snare hit, not to mention the billion other novel sounds he uses and tosses away like garbage, has been managed down to the last detail, and yet considered in terms of the whole, exercising the kind of talent that doesn’t have to choose between forest and trees. Did listening to a bunch of ECM records make him this good or was I seriously spaced out? Frankly, this may be the first time Villalobos makes sense to a lot of listeners who have been reading about how he’s some kind of guru for years. (That Shackleton remix was sick though.) Maybe people with better audio equipment or a more jaded approach to electronic music have been enjoying him this much all along, but the remaining 47 percent are in for a surprise.

By Brandon Bussolini

Other Reviews of Ricardo Villalobos

Thé Au Harem d’Archimède

Fabric 36: Ricardo Villalobos


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