Posted on Oct 23rd 2007 08:55 pm
15 Tracks. 74mins13secs
It’s funny to see Ricardo Villalobos as a superstar DJ. Listening to one of Villalobos’s live sets (such as the half-hour live at Fabric mix that was released to radios in advance of this release), there are no bangers, no sudden beat drops, no satisfying moments where it all comes together. Villalobos’s music fits on the dance floor, but it can also soundtrack life’s more contemplative moments, and tends to reward the listener who can pay special attention to its subtle changes.
And, subtle change is the name of the game on Fabric 36. Instead of releasing a mix primarily of others people’s tracks, as every other DJ has done for the Fabric series, Villalobos mixed a set composed entirely of new, original material. As Villalobos has pointed out, however, Fabric 36 is still very much a DJ mix, and not like his other artist albums. The result is a canonical demonstration of his incredible talent.
In true minimal fashion, the mix builds slowly over the first few tracks. Opener Groove 1880 is a simple series of clicks and tics, gradually joined by a polyrhythmic pattern on the self-explanatory Perc and Drums. Villalobos’s brilliant drum and percussion programming is front and center here; the latter half of Perc introduces a jazzy breakdown, while short delays and phased tom-toms frame the playful melody of Mecker. The minutiae of the percussion provides a pretty solid marker for track changes, as a new set of handclaps or tinny, squelchy cymbals, like signposts on a long highway, inform of the listener of the chronological progress of the piece.
Another trademark Villalobos sound, the unsettling, wobbly vocal, makes several appearances here. First popping up in the accented reminiscing over 4 Wheel Drive, such vocals certainly set an esoteric mood, as collaborator Jorge Gonzalez declares, “confusion is next to happiness.” Later, the female vocals on Adruic & Japan veer between domineering commands and slightly out of tune singsong pleas of “won’t you tell me all about it?” before boiling into an excited rush, exclaiming that “Japanese drummers don’t want to stop!” while pounding taiko percussion and chants thunder into the mix. At times somber and at others absurd, the vocalists are well-placed tour guides through Villalobos’ sonic journey.
As is characteristic of Villalobos, there is no obvious climax here. Each track has its own moments, but the album is better digested as one long, groovy piece of top-notch house. At the end of it all, the set sounds like it could go on for far longer than the seventy four minute that the CD allows. Until they’re faded out, the siren like, reverberated gasps of closer Chropuspel Zündung sound as though they could easily be setting up to segue into another steadily rolling excursion. It’s to Villalobos’ credit that, at the end of Fabric 36, the listener is left wanting more.
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