By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Bravo (Bpitch Control)
The Chilean-born producer Ricardo Villalobos immigrated early in life to Germany, a locale with a long history of electronic composition. It is impossible to ignore that influence when dissecting the hallmarks of his sound: The stark, angular distortions he creates are a sonic homage to the visually driven German expressionist period, as well as a product of the technological musical (r)evolution produced by everyone from Kraftwerk to the stars on the modern-day Kompakt record label, the latter often known for valuing unfolding ambience over overt momentum.
With his third album, Alcachofa (Artichoke in Spanish), Villalobos has drafted a study of plaintive percussion and murky melodies. Tracks such as "Easy Lee" and "What You Say," both featuring a heavy pixelized vocoder, are like a romance between a heart monitor and a radiation counter -- one steady but prone to impulsive fits, the other a twitter of clicking outbursts interspersed with introspective silence.
Villalobos's beats are Teutonic tundra. Their textures are springy yet firm, and their patterns hold a frostbitten methodology, like snowshoes trudging over a bed of freshly fallen powder. There is a sense of muted inertia to Alcachofa in its concentration on nuance, and the album is best likened to its namesake: spiky, sinewy, layered, and best when given time to marinate. Its nine songs -- an average of eight minutes each -- are only truly effective as elements of a greater whole.
In contrast, German native Sascha Funke's Bravo comes from a school of study surrounding the "Schaffelfieber," or "shuffle beat," which incorporates elements of Seventies glam and Eighties New Wave into techno's gait. He cut his teeth by making tracks for Kompakt but has since moved to Bpitch, home to rampaging electro epics, relatively speaking, by Ellen Allien and Smash TV.
While Bravo relies neither on "Schaffelfieber" nor on the melancholic miasma of Funke's former home, the album does snugly fall in between the two sensibilities, offering both brittle cackle and crackle and mellifluous throb. "Strassentanz" ("Street Dance") weaves, bobs, and blurts with traffic, pedestrians, and blinking lights engaged in an aural ballet. "Quiet Please," "Soso," and the title track bridge the mecho-menace of plodding post-Detroit kick drums with gummy, progressive rumbles and uncluttered clap/snap.
Both artists embody an insistent pulse, like defibrillators applying a controlled electric current to reinvigorate wiry minimalism.