Friday, April 16, 2004

Swamp the Glurp: Villalobos’s Boggy Sound

The Villalobos sound is swampy. His rhythms are wet with detritus- they glurp and build and constantly shift. There are always surprises, too. Grooves appear out of the mist and quiver with intensity- but it’s always surprisingly loose and smooth like David Byrne in that oversized suit. Rhythms are continuously being submerged into something murky. Bubbles of swamp gas constantly ooze up and pop into the mix.

It’s also crisp. The snare in Easy Lee is all snap and treble riding over a gently smudged bass drum. Beats that begin without edges suddenly come into spiky focus. At the 2:15 mark some watery percussion arrives and firmly establishes a groove. There are
always those surprises- splashes of rhythm, smudges of groove that seem to teeter between the randomized and the deliberate. Seemingly random sounds sputter, spit up and unobtrusively clang and twang. At times it sounds as though Villalobos actually sampled or carefully cut and pasted fragments of percussive elements created by using some brand of randomizing software and deliberately scattered them throughout the master mix.

There are subtle moments of dub.

His debut, Alcachofa, is by no means instantaneously gratifying. It reminds me of the first time I heard LFO’s Frequencies and was, at first, hugely disappointed that the remainder of the album wasn’t as immediately catchy as its title song, a huge club hit jacked up on the king of all bleep grooves and a devastating sub-bass. It’s what known as “a grower.” Despite those initial negative reactions you keep finding yourself drawn back to the album for another listen, another assessment. Eventually it becomes a classic.

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