Ricardo Villalobos

Alcachofa

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It's wholly appropriate that this album is titled Alcachofa (Spanish-to-English translation: artichoke). If the kind of vivid house you hear blaring in the hip clothing store is an apple, giving the mouth an instant burst of flavor the moment the teeth puncture its skin, then the microhouse of Ricardo Villalobos is more like an artichoke -- a more subtle fruit that's consumed by peeling off its fleshy leaves and delicately skimming the pulp off the inner surface. Out of all the microhouse producers, Villalobos is the one who has thrived the most on skeletal structures and the slight but all-important subtleties that accompany them. That continues here, with burbling, spacious constructs swarming all throughout your headspace. The best example of his rank as a supreme sound designer is the opening "Easy Lee," the faintly claustrophobic ten-minute opener. The manner in which the pattering percussion and queasy vocal refrain are treated is likely to make you feel as if you're being held in a sac that stores some sort of viscous fluid. Unlike most house, there isn't a great sense of redemption, spirituality, or joy in Villalobos' productions. In fact, the overriding moods are slightly nervous and pensive more than anything else, despite the elongated grooves and absence of agitations. And while these tracks fall in line with the remainder of his discography, as tracks that are destined to be caned during DJ sets, they are also more likely to be utilized in home-listening settings. Villalobos could've easily thrown together a compilation of previously vinyl-only highlights -- from releases on Perlon, Playhouse, Lo-Fi Stereo, Frisbee Tracks, and others -- that would've made for one of the best dance full-lengths of 2003. Instead, he came up with this almost entirely new set, and the result is exactly the same. He is in complete control of his machines at all times, and he makes them do strange things that no one else can.

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