Thé Au Harem d'Archimède

by: Ricardo Villalobos

Two full-lengths in as many years, after a decade of nothing but singles -- as strange as it is, Ricardo Villalobos seems to have found his true calling as an album artist. Thé au Harem d'Archimède follows Alcachofa as another unified set of tracks that's equally adaptable to private and public settings. Horrifying preconceived ideas be damned, Villalobos' work continues to sound more and more like everlasting percussion jams that have been edited to fit the vinyl and CD formats. Granted, we are still talking about minimalist electronic music -- and not a circle of tripping, half-naked crusties playing bongos with their eyes rolled into the backs of their heads. To give you some idea of how much Villalobos has opened it up, go straight to "Théorème d'Archimède." The track doesn't get danceable until four minutes in, after a succession of distant-sounding gusts of wind, chirping birds, circular guitars, tribal drums and knocking bells, and an unmistakeable reference to Pink Floyd's "A Saucerful of Secrets" -- a fleeting sequence of rolling toms and splashes of random tinny percussion objects! -- appears around the three-minute mark. (See also: "Frank and Hennes," from a compilation called Music for Children, which lifts the same band's "Fearless.") The album doesn't have an "Easy Lee" or a "Dexter," a prominent monstrous track that sticks out from the remainder; rather than capitalize on the success of the former, Villalobos seems to have shied away from making anything that could be seen as the least bit gimmicky or hook-reliant. He's perfectly content with forming luscious, pensively roiling, ten-minute grooves that double as some of the most organic-sounding electronic productions imaginable. If there's one must-hear track, it's "Hireklon." All patterns of percussion, save for the bumping tubs of bass thrum, could come from folk-dancing marionettes. The splats of harpsichord-like acoustic guitar seem wind-generated, or played by a practicing musician who's having trouble maintaining her balance on a wobbly hammock. If this is the dawn of progressive microhouse, bring on the Mellotrons, floating pigs, prowling Tarkuses, and vegetable costumes. ~ Andy Kellman

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