Ricardo Villalobos: Dependent And Happy (CD, Perlon, September 2012)

I formed a strange idea once that Ricardo Villalobos is turning into the György Ligeti of minimal house, creating music at once desperately fragile and thoroughly confident, rejecting the usual structures but ruthlessly committed to their own strangely alien rule-set. Then I got over myself. Still, I think it’s fair to say Herr Doktor V has, for a number of years, been setting a pretty unique course, way out in the deep ocean, with mainstream dance music a distant speck on the horizon. Of course, as far as I know, Ligeti never put his voice through a process which made him sound like a deranged Japanese woman and moaned “I’m moist” at his collaborator, as Villalobos did to Andrew Gillings on a particularly strange track on his all-original-material Fabric 36 mix. Gillings doesn’t appear to have been too traumatized by this experience, as he’s back here, along with a number of other collaborators — most significantly Max Loderbauer, co-mangler of the ECM back catalogue and Conrad Schnitzler’s Zug. We pretty much know what to expect: an intricate assemblage of unidentifiable noises, just barely staying in touch with a thin and twisted 4/4 shuffle, punctuated by abrupt clatters and parps of passing traffic, and occasionally accompanied by frankly peculiar processed vocals. Oh, and a chair solo, performed by a man who may or may not be an HR consultant, I’m not quite sure. But he has been honing his art, and the time away on the remix projects with Loderbauer seems to have done him some good: I think this is his best solo(-ish) material in years, possibly since 2006’s Salvador. Not that anything here is as obviously accessible as Dexter or, er, that Señor Coconut remix. But he seems to have found a way to take this ultra-abstracted sound and make it oddly catchy. What’s more, there is an emotional warmth here which has been missing from some of his late-noughties work. The more I listen to this, the more rewarding I find it.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Minimal/Tech House.

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