While I enjoyed his Alcochofa release, there was something about Ricardo Villalobos' recent Fizheuer Zieheuer EP that completely drove me nuts. It was an exercise in minimalism (two tracks that stretched over thirty-five minutes apiece and contained very little in the way of dynamics) that ranged to the completely extreme side of things, and plain and simple it annoyed me as more of a "cult of personality" release than something I'd ever want to hear again. But that's sort of Villalobos, too. He's gained a huge following of fans that follow his every move, and likely annoyed nearly as many at the same time.
When I first saw the tracklisting for Fabric 36, (where every single track is a new Villalobos production), I again had a bit of a narcissism twinge, and wondered if he was going to pull another exercise in the extremes simply because he could (as people had been clamoring him to do a Fabric mix for ages). For the first couple tracks, this mix even tried my patience on first listen, but honestly it opens up so much about halfway through that you'd have to have a seriously weak pulse to not be affected.
As with a lot of his other work, he eases into things in a seriously slow way. The first couple tracks, like "Groove 1880" and "Perc And Drums" are little more than heavily gated and clipped percussive elements that slowly form into something a little more solid. About four tracks in, some subtle melodies and bass start working things over, but the hammer really comes down on the killer "4 Wheel Drive," a slamming tech-house piece that features tripped-out vocals from Jorge Gonzalez and slurpy rhythms that shoot straight for the hips.
From there out, it's alternately good and downright stunning, never lapsing into anything less than interesting. The twelve-minute "Andruic & Japan" follows a more hollowed-out, sparse piece, and might be one of the more overt things that Villalobos has ever done, with more wigged-out vocals courtesy of Andrew Gillings and massive drum fills that bang and rattle over the minimal techno backdrop. "Premier Encuentro Latino-Americano" finds Villalobos reworking (or rebuilding, or something) a track of the same name by Los Jaivas and Manduka, and he again blends more primal drums and vocals into his relentless beat backdrops almost seamlessly. With the two songs, Villalobos proves it's possible to be both primal and futuristic at the same time, moving worlds away from his almost hermetic previous work.
Because all the tracks have been custom-built by one person, Fabric 36 has to be one of the best releases in the series in terms of overall flow. It starts out stripped-down, then builds to a huge high before peeling back a few layers and then piling things on again before melting down to a gorgeous close. Based on the variety of sounds on the release, it's kind of hard to tell which direction Villalobos will go in next, but it proves he hasn't painted himself into a corner one bit. Essential for dance music fans.