Ricardo Villalobos: Fabric 36

If you're reading this, chances are you're already familiar with Chilean/German DJ Ricardo Villalobos's work, and aware too of the universal acclaim his all-originals Fabric mix has received from various critical quarters. It challenges expectations immediately; one is immediately taken aback by how reservedly the 76-minute travelogue begins; in fact, it only truly kicks into gear with the arrival of track four, and, until then, it's pretty much all drums and percussion.

At the outset, cymbal shadings and snare flourishes in “Perc and Drums” suggest Max Roach giving his brushes a workout on the kit. The track flows into “Moongomery” where the techno and house elements slowly emerge and shape the mix into more familiar minimal dance-funk patterns. Animated by the snare's crack and a tight bass line, “Farenzer House” snaps the mix fully to attention, then leads it on to the spacey “M.Bassy.” Even when a piece gravitates towards a familiar genre (e.g., the spacey electro-funk of “Mecker”), there's a loose, rootless feel to the music, as it tries to wrest free of any stylistic chains that threaten to restrict it. Having said that, that loose feel is often contained by the steadying influence of the bass drum and the handclaps that help maintain the groove's lockstep formation.

Though the material is all previously unheard Villalobos material, some of the more unusual tracks are collaborations. The one with Jorge Gonzales, “4 Wheel Drive,” pushes the mix into a radical direction by adding robust vocal chants; however, the effect is modest compared to the audacious “Andruic & Japan,” Villalobos's twelve-minute collaboration with Andrew Gillings which features the ranting of an unidentified female vocalist alongside an army of Kodo drummers who hammer the mix with bursts of wooden percussion, arresting its momentum and briefly obliterating it altogether. Not surprisingly, at the nine-minute mark the groove re-appears, even stronger, and persists despite the drummers' attempt to derail it again. The Villalobos-Fumiya Tanaka cut, “Fumiyandric 2,” scrambles voices into unintelligibility before bleeding into the chirping vocal chant “Won't You Tell Me.” The arresting “Primer Encuentro Latino-Americano” pairs a taut groove with a celebratory stadium chant, before the mix grinds to a halt in “Chropuspel Zündung” with a scattershot rumble of blurred voices, electric piano, and beats. Villalobos's unique contribution to the Fabric series is a trippy, slowly intensifying mix that becomes progressively more psychotropic the longer it unfolds; in place of repeating song-like structures, there are meandering tributaries that diverge and regroup, and exotic rhythms that uncoil like snakes.

December 2007