- It's been said that Ricardo Villalobos has a pair of studio monitors worth sixty grand. Not living next door, I’m happy that he’s invested in state-of-the-art speakers—because, if Vasco EP Part 1 is any indication, they’ve enabled him to feel further into the groove than ever before, and what’s inside are beautiful ghosts. The EP begins with ‘Electronic Water’, which prods your ears with some sine bass stabs, bracketing a groove that gathers momentum with cow bells, as well as clicks and clipped layers of percussion. Fans will know the score—your typical ‘noodling soup’ of sounds from somewhere inside the lapping treadwater of the lad’s grey matter.
But then a rising bassline melody lifts the groove out of neutral, sending it slowly into an unanticipated open space, and now we’re somewhere lightly trodden. The composition moves gradually and deliberately until around the ninth minute, where a second groove—which would make a killer loop tool—winds things back into another lock. San Proper’s mix of ‘Electronic Water’ begins like a Matt John track, with the tunnel-thrown drum samples making a big, psychedelic swirl out of the original’s arid sparseness. The overall effect is to generate a busy, noisy wall of sound returning from the fling of things with a bass lick from the original that grounds you for a second, only to fling you back into the spring tank. If the release were to stop there, we’d be dealing with a middling Villalobos EP. But it doesn’t…
It’s ‘Minimoonstar’ that’s the real treat for these ears, in both versions. Villalobos’ original opens in a field of looped, stretched drums that create an almost pop ambient ambience, but there’s something on the horizon, and the groove’s dragging it (and you) in. For a moment you’re led into an almost conventional house groove, but then a chorus of eerie synth voices pop in and, before you know it, the track has swerved into something that nothing in the first few bars even hinted at. As the beat soldiers on, it's haunted by the machine choir which lifts it up somewhere far away from convention and dancefloor. Now you’re right at the starflung margins of what could still be house—‘Minimoonstar’ is the closing track for a dance party under the Aurora Borealis. Is this a musical enaction of house music’s evanescence, or the indicator of something new and wonderful only just beginning? Perhaps, as Shackleton (on another amazing examplar of such dissipative percussions) says, ‘Death Is Not Final’. In any case, ‘Minimoonstar’ is one of the best things I’ve heard all year—and then Shackleton comes along for the double KO.
Hearing the rising producer’s beatcraft right next to RV’s reminds you how thoroughly bent and strange the rhythms you were just listening to were: Shackleton’s are (relatively speaking) very straight sounding, even though they’re made from popping hand claps under heavy flanges and what could well be a pair of large, metallic scissors positioned in disturbing proximity to your head/phone/cable. Beneath all these clippy snippets is a gentle kick that marks time until a softer four-to-floor comes in, sending it all forward into… doom? Bliss? Something between the two. Between this returned favour and Ricardo’s previous mix for Shackleton, the duo have managed to elevate ‘dance music’ into something strange, unsettling, startling, and wonderful.
B Minimoonstar (Shackleton Remix)
C Electonic Water
D Electonic Water (San Proper's 'It Ate My Quarter' Mix)