Tobias. - Street Knowledge

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  • Although it's been out of print for some time, "Street Knowledge," originally released on the Parisian label Logistic in 2006, hasn't exactly languished in obscurity. The lead track on Tobias Freund's debut EP under his Tobias. alias, it still gets played out. In fact, its crisp, analog house groove sounds as relevant now as it did four years ago, if not more so, given the past years' turn from minimal techno to deep (at least in name) house. "Street Knowledge" straddles both worlds, with its quickstep 808 hi-hats, plunging chord stabs and, of course, its eponymous vocal sample. For better or for worse, that spoken-word bit was especially prescient, given the current glut of productions that rely on African-American-accented voiceovers for their recognition factor. In the case of this track, though, its greatest asset is its bassline, a tirelessly bubbling arpeggio that does more to carry the track than any sample could. It just keeps tumbling upwards, bar after bar, rich and resonant and entirely analog, with a Goldilocks approach to filtering: not too much, not too little, but just right. The drum programming is impeccable, with carefully syncopated snares and rimshots pushing the rhythm relentlessly forward. Ricardo Villalobos' mix sounds a lot like you might expect it to, at least given Villalobos' remix work of the past couple of years. He's faithful to the track's signature elements, retaining both the vocal and the chord stabs. In fact, he makes them the focus of the track: where Tobias. used them to dramatic effect, Villalobos turns the chords into cornerstones of the groove and lets the vocals anchor every four-bar phrase. Having erased the bassline entirely, the rest is all hiccup and squiggle and chirp, with filters wrapping around drum sounds like sticky tentacles. Like all things Ricardo, it only opens up when it's heard loud on proper speakers, but it's worth the time when you do. It takes a while to realize how tricky the rhythm is: how the kicks, claps and hi-hats slip from their usual positions and spend 12 minutes cycling each other endlessly and warily, like stray cats, fighting over the downbeat. Given Freund's own tendency to switch up the pulse as he programs his 808 in real time, it's a fitting course to have taken, and a reminder that there's a method behind Villalobos' meandering.
  • Tracklist
      A Street Knowledge B Street Knowledge (Ricardo Villalobos Remix)