There’s a young Barcelonan called John Talabot, who’s making waves in techno like he’s our generation’s Ricardo Villalobos. Well, he’s not nearly so minimalist, but there’s certainly an economy to his production style that gives his work a capacious quality. His début, the conclusively-titled ƒIN, explores a diverse range of styles, flirting with chillwave and glo-fi (two genres I usually think pale in comparison to their illustrious forebear, Panda Bear) but also reaching far-out places that evoke comparison with someone like Floating Points.
“Journeys”, which features a guest turn at the microphone from Ekhi, takes the Panda Bear connection a step further—not only are the vocals a facsimile of Noah Lennox’s, but the music has a bouncy, carnivalesque feel reminiscent of Animal Collective. Opening track “Depak Ine” (see above), meanwhile, is more expansive, with a combination of croaking frogs and intergalactic rhythms that’s part Gang Gang Dance, part Matthew Dear. Elsewhere, things are geared more explicitly at the 2AM dancefloor, with “When The Past Was Present” giving off a Balearic headrush, and the closing track “So Will Be Now…” riding along squirming acid house bass, rather like The Rapture’s “Olio” back in 2003.
The range displayed on ƒIN makes it a sometimes disjointed listen; however, it’s to Talabot’s credit that it sounds even half as self-contained. Taken individually, his tracks bear traces of specialness that we associate with someone who is surely going to hit the big-time pretty soon. Prophetic listening is advised.
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.