Villalobos: Alcachofa (Playhouse)
By Marcus Scott
Native Chiliean Ricardo Villalobos has recieved rapturous praise for his debut album 'Alcachofa' - from such techno luminaries as Richie Hawtin.
Quite rightly so, this debut album shows a real talent at work and a character all of it's own. It all starts with the quality of Villalobos's sounds. taut elastic rhythms and thick molasses squelches, warm blocks of sound and tight loops. The album has a strong, almost synathesic contrast between cold and warm sounds throughout, making it feel very earthy.
From the beginning, the vocoder and minimal drum track of 'Easy Lee', it's clear this is going to be an absorbing listen. It's on 'Waiworinao' though with it's sunny bass guitar, seagull loops and drums that Villalobus really lets the exuberant Latin influences shine through, it sounds like the perfect music for dancing with beautiful sunkissed girls on a moonlit beach.
Amazingly it just get's better from there, 'What You Say Is More Than I Can Say' clever use of the timbres of Chilean instruments combined with a slurring sleepy vocoder melody make for a woozy and hypnotic treat - possibly the least annoying use of a vocoder ever on a modern track as well!
There are so many highlights on this album it's hard to point out a favorite, but the achingly beautiful nostalgia of 'Dexter' will tear your heart out. Villalobos wears his shiny pop heart on his sleeve throughout the album but it's moments like this, with a beautiful haunting melody, that remind me of a more artful and sensitve Latin American version of Robert Miles "Children". That's not an insult, because I know dear reader, you can remember the track from beginning to end.
All in all this is a fantastic and upbeat start to what promises to be a great year of music. Treat yourself.
"Still my favourite release by the notorious artist. Later records might have reflected his more expansive and hallucinatory interpretation of house music. But this was as close to pop as he ever got."