Monday, October 29, 2012

Ricardo Villalobos, "Dependent and Happy"

I've spent a few hours with Ricardo Villalobos' newest album.  First I listened to it all the way through while scrolling through news and sports articles on the internet.  It was a bunch of fluffy, light reading that didn't require a lot of concentration, and the music was a perfect backdrop to that because it doesn't require a lot of energy to absorb it.  Villalobos doesn't usually inspire deep listening, if you want to, the music can just be there, as bland and unnoticeable as elevator music in the supermarket if that's the way you want to approach it.

Later on I went back and listened to it more closely.  None of its twelve mostly lengthy tracks jump out at you, they don't suddenly take off like "Ichso" does about three minutes in, for instance.  But that's OK because nobody ever accused "Alcohofa" of "taking off" either.

Closer listening reveals all sorts of interesting details bubbling below the surface, which of course is typical for Villalobos' music.  There are countless little snippets of percussion and voice, sometimes featured as a blissed out melody cruising alongside the steady, insistent beat, and sometimes chopped up into nearly infinitesimal bits.  I'm partial to the odd, circular synth melodies on "Zuipox" because they sound exactly like something that would have appeared on a mid-90's Autechre album, but then again, I would be.  The closing track, "Ferenc", stakes one of the more muscular beats on the album to an eerie ambient hum, all of which would have been very much at home on a 90's Warp Records release (most likely the Polygon Window album).

But too much of "Dependent and Happy" is basically just there, coasting by in one long and drowsy 100-minute techno suite.  Villalobos rarely hesitates to do in ten minutes what can be done in five, and it's only on aforementioned tracks like "Zuipox" (which transforms itself halfway through) and "Ferenc" (which is short enough to not overstay its welcom) that he offers any surprises that don't require a great deal of patience to appreciate.  This is the kind of album whose tracks I would frequently skip if they randomly came up on a playlist, because there are only so many ten minute minimal techno tracks you can sit through before you start looking for something more hook-filled to entertain you and hold your attention.  

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