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Vilod:
Safe In Harbour (Perlon)

Do
you ever put on a record for the first time, and within a minute or
two it’s startled you for its uniqueness or ingenuity? Safe in
Harbour
is such an album for this listener. Perlon continues its
slightly maddening policy of physical releases only (no digital
versions of anything) so this one is for the CD or vinyl fans out
there, but rest assured it is worth your time. Vilod is a shorthand
for Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer, but fans of those artists’
work in the minimal techno genre might be thrown off by the more
downtempo, jazz-infused approach they’ve taken on Safe in Harbour.
The music herein is much closer to the woozy, dub-inflected jams of
Moritz Von Oswald Trio, of which Loderbauer is a member, or to their
production experiments remixing the ECM catalogue. The music the duo
have created here is a seamless fusion of live drumming, effects,
sequencing, and sampling, and it started off with “Modern Hit
Midget,” as disorienting a cut as any. It’s a smart opener,
subverting expectations with a languid downtempo groove and
skittering digital glitchery. Spoken samples from a jazz recording
are twitchy and affected, lending its own curious flavor of nausea to
the mix, and it’s effective. It literally takes jazz and pushes it
out of context to the fringes of electronic dance music. Its steady
downtempo beat never really lets up, but the details in and around it
are many. It’s the most overt nod to the genre that’s at least in
part inspired the duo; the next cut continues in that slower tempo
but Loderbauer’s drumming is more obvious, and open-ended electric
piano chords give it a distinctly different flavor. It’s hard to not
also draw jazz comparisons if only by virtue of instrumentation, but
once again, the amount of detail and variation and improvisation
within their framework lends it a different finish. That contrast of
electronics, drumming, and electric piano continues across most of
Safe In Harbour, but the tracks become more varied as it progresses.
Elsewhere, they harness the slow groove and infuse it with a sort of
nerdy dub flavor, with syncopated chords and a steady pulse.

“Mulpft”
feels like one of their downtempo cuts converted to double time,
moving at a much faster clip but still resisting the urge to add
direct techno conventions; it’s still lacking in much of a bass kick,
at least in the traditional dance music way. Instead it’s all light
hihats and rides, tiny snare fills and details, and a steady, glitchy
metronome keeping time. This same approach of fast-slow contrast and
busy detailing appears on “Zero,” though its bending upright bass
pattern also lends it a bit of jazz nostalgia. But while the entire
album is satisfying and curious, they really soar with the most
sprawling cuts. “Beefdes” is all improvisation, with Villalobos’s
bulbous basslines bouncing around Loderbauer’s drumming in a way that
feels truly immersive and symbiotic. It’s weird, but not difficult —
there is an accessibility to their sprawling excursions that renders
the music far more palatable than it could be. Perhaps it’s helpful
to have an appreciation of jazz’s structures, improvisational
tendencies, and history, but I still find even their weirder cuts
here to be as or more accessible than Villalobos’s more indulgent
techno experiments. Closer “Surmansky Blow” feels like the
convergence of many ideas that appear throughout the album, including
a chunky downtempo breakbeat that would make Gescom envious, loads of
fine details that range from delicate to mangled, and a subtle,
reversed accompaniment of what was presumably at one point that same
delicate electric piano heard elsewhere. As far as leftfield albums
from techno producers go (though admittedly I cringe at reducing
either artist’s reputation to so simple a description), Perlon has
gotten it right. The two have a distinct voice as a duo that feels
significant and new and weird and inspiring all at once. Highly
recommended.

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