Ricardo Villalobos: Dependent and Happy CD (Perlon)
As sometimes is the case, Perlon’s issue of Villalobos’s latest varies from format to format. On vinyl, it’s a staggering 5 plates of singular tracks, while on CD 11 tracks are mixed into one another continuously. Villalobos has always been a slippery one as far as describing his music and even how I’ve perceived it as a listener. His earliest tracks are more purely functional and hook-based, but for the last ten years or so he’s been exploring the outer limits of dance music, often indulging playtimes of over 20 minutes for a single track, giving his productions plenty of room to wander. But despite the perhaps stoned detailing that causes such elaborate sprawls, his hand is steady and careful throughout, with a keen sense of quality control that can often be dodgy on full-length albums of this sort. Like most subtle music, this takes time to sink in, and for its grooves to bubble to the surface and its details to resonate. I’ve played it probably a half a dozen times start to finish and it’s only just starting to jell in my mind as something not only memorable but truly compelling. Villalobos’s tracks are so meandering and elusive that it can be a task to articulate what it is about them that sets them in a category unto themselves. Maybe it’s the so-simple-it’s-disarming melodic “refrain” of “Zuipox,” or the weird vocal repetition of “Put Your Lips.” Maybe it’s the strange clipped reverb that punctuates non-snare strikes throughout the album. Perhaps the ghostly moaning pads of “Ferenc” or the urgent, wriggling bassline of “Grumax?” Whether a track here is five minutes long (on the short side) or twelve, rest assured that every detail is in its proper, weird place. That it’s a continuous mix adds a feeling of perpetual motion — simultaneously always moving yet never quite going anywhere except inward.