Ricardo Tobar: Treillis

Imagine Boards of Canada recast as a techno outfit and you might end up with something similar to Ricardo Tobar's Treillis. Dotted with techno cuts as wonky as they are woozy, the Chile-born and Paris-based producer's hour-long debut album is an at times rhythmically off-kilter beast, a detail that perhaps can be explained by his use of antiquated drum machines, analog equipment, and old samples on the album. Such choices translate into a rather noise-encrusted and grime-laden sound that puts some distance between Tobar's tunes (which previously appeared on Border Community, Traum Schallplatten, and In Paradisum) and the polished digital tracks other producers release.

If anything, the opening track, “Sleepy,” makes the Boards of Canada connection almost impossible to ignore, given the beatless overture's focus on warped analog synth tone-shifting (a similar wooziness pervades the penultimate “Back Home”). As if designed to establish the album's Boards of Canada-meets-techno vibe, the woozy quality of the intro bleeds into the second cut, “Organza,” which overlays a generally steady locomotive pulse with rainbow showers of synth patterns and, later, a delectably throbbing bass line. Wonky drum machine rhythms then fall in and out of sync during “Garden” before a tambourine surfaces to establish a reliable frame of reference; adding to the weirdness, the acid-drenched cut at times feels as if it's about to be irretrievably sucked into a black hole, but then just as abruptly pulls itself back from the brink before vanishing.

Peel back the layers of soot and grime and you can hear “Hundreds” and “Mirror” riffing on tripped-out trance-techno (the latter even featuring an “or trippin'” vocal loop), while “Straight Line in the Water” grounds an atmospheric melodicism reminiscent of Boards of Canada with a dirt-covered shuffle. Things move into a slightly different direction when sequencer patterns inject “Otte's Denial” with energy and vitality, while at the same time being careful to not compromise the album's overall style. The bucolic and the beastly repeatedly collide in Tobar's swaggering tracks, never more explicitly than when “Essen” juxtaposes twittering birds and a growling rhythm effect. In essence, Treillis offers a not unwelcome alternative to in-the-box techno that's so perfectly programmed it verges on inhuman. Certainly there should be room enough for Tobar's noisier take on the form, especially for those who like their techno with a bit of dirt under its fingernails.

November 2013