Posted on Jun 8th 2011 01:48 am

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Ricardo Villalobos/Max Loderbauer: Re: ECM

EMC Records 2011
17 Tracks. 134mins27secs

Amazon UK: CD US: CD

Convincing ECM mastermind Manfred Eicher of the validity of letting Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer, known primarily for their involvement with linear minimal techno, loose in the ECM catalogue, one of the most aesthetically consistent catalogues there is, was probably never going to be a given, but the pair got his support early on after he visited them in their Berlin studio as they were just beginning working on the project.

What the pair propose here are not so much remixes as entirely new contextualisations of sonic spaces. Each of the pieces presented is based on segments of a particular work lifted from the vast ECM catalogue, but Villalobos and Loderbauer essentially create new compositions out of the raw material at their disposition. Those familiar with the label will recognise fragments of works old and new by the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, Miroslav Vitous, Alexander Knaifel, Arvo Pärt, Louis Sclavis or Bennie Maupin. Working beyond the boundaries of jazz and classical, the two create pieces which, while often as minimal and bare as their respective work, also echoes the particular aesthetic of the label. Villalobos and Loderbauer assemble intricate sound formations and hypnotic rhythmic patterns which have very little to do with their usual work, apart for the minimalist approach. Using their sound sources almost as if they were instruments, they are careful to never overlay their compositions with too many elements, keeping instead to just a few.

This re-conditioning process takes on a singular aspect with the pieces using vocal components. The stunning Reblazhenstva combines a gentle percussive loop and pulsating bass line, punctuated by occasional stabs of cello, with melancholic violin and choral motifs to create a piece which is at once deeply contemplative and hypnotic. On Retikhiy, the pair recontextualise the Eastern European harmonies of Uzbek composer Alexander Knaifel’s Svete Tikhiy into a sobering abstract haunting choir. Later, they develop this much further as they use segments of Knaifel’s Amicta Sole, placing Tatiana Melentieva’s voice at the centre of the composition and building extremely sparse walls of orchestral textures around it. It is as if they orchestrated silences as well as instruments here, and they manage to create a rather epic piece from an extremely restraint sound pool. The pair reach an entirely different ethereal level on the spooky Rekondakion, where they rework Arvo Pärt’s Kondation, part of the Estonian composer’s seminal Kanon Pokajanen. There is a level of intensity here which is obtained by pushing the vocals toward the back and constantly altering them, while surrounding them with deep vocal drones.

The pair take more liberties with instrumental pieces, retaining some of the original themes, as demonstrated on the two opening tracks, sourced from two different Christian Wallumrød Ensemble albums, while at others, they distort their components beyond recognition and use them to build something entirely new. This is the case with Retimeless, where only the most minute fragments of guitar remain identifiable from John Abercrombie’s original. Equally, Reemergence is an extremely abstract and complex piece ridden with distorted noises which piano and bass struggle to overcome. Villalobos and Loderbauer at times opt for more settled grounds and build on delicate rhythmic structures, from the ethnic theme of Reannounce to the more complex, rich and hectic drum sequence on Rensenada or the kaleidoscopic miniature groove of closing piece Redetach, once again sourced from Christian Wallumrød Ensemble’s exquisite Fabula Suite Lugano, the main source for this project. Elsewhere, the pair retreat into much more introspective set ups, from the haunting processed violin on Requote and the dreamy effervescence of Replob to the austere minimalism of Rebird.

Very few record labels have promoted a same aesthetic across genres as different as classical, jazz or folk music as ECM have over the last forty years. While re-imagining a tiny part of this catalogue, the work created by Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer is extremely respectful of the label’s heritage, yet they are not archeologists here, but rather facilitators of a visionary approach which manages to remain extremely close to that of Manfred Eicher.


ECM Records
Amazon UK: CD US: CD

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