You know how it is: you’re scouring through old records and you chance upon a 1980 album put out by a traditional Yugoslavian group called Ansambl Bakije Bakića; you sample one of their songs for your 37-minute minimalist techno workout; next thing you know, their cheerful brass fanfare is blasting out of the PA in every happening club.
Well, if you’re a pioneer like Ricardo Villalobos, it’ll be a familiar story, and you’ll probably have dined out on it numerous times.
I’m not enough of a 3AM hedonist to picture myself dancing to “Fizheuer Zieheuer“, or even its sparser cousin “Fizbeast”, but I think I’m just about cerebral enough to enjoy it as a piece of music. From maybe three elements, Villalobos sculpts an subtly shifting work: the primary snippet of brass; a solitary horn figure; an endlessly tinkered-with boom-tick beat. The piece is endlessly joyful—a victory march totally untinged with the familiar regrets of war.
Look at that artwork: an unrelentingly graphic cutaway of the human head, displaying every layer of inner working. Tissue and muscle, nerve, vessel and bone—these are the anatomical equivalents of the fragments that combine to form the piece. Alone, insignificant; together, unimpeachable. You can swear at Villalobos for being frustrating or oblique—a track this long and static takes serious balls, after all—but you can’t argue about whether it achieves the end goal. As Four Tet names a track on his Everything Ecstatic album a year earlier, it puts a “Smile Around the Face”.
Villalobos exposes the method to his madness, and all it turns out to be is some sneaky filtering and delay which, when applied to these everyday ingredients, gives rise to an amorphous creation. Yes, the choice of sample is astute— you should listen to the source material, “Pobjednički Čoček”, in its complete state, to see how craftily he repurposes such a fleeting moment of joy—but this is no tapestry of disparate elements. Instead, it is a twenty-first century refashioning of the beating retreat: something straightforward and accessible from which we can all derive some pleasure.