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In rotation: Ricardo Villalobos' mesmerizing 'Dependent & Happy'

October 13, 2012|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • The cover of Ricardo Villalobos' new full length, "Dependent and Happy."
The cover of Ricardo Villalobos' new full length, "Dependent… (Perlon Records )

By definition, electronic dance music’s focus is on the primal pleasures of the body. Its main thrust, so to speak, is to prompt physicality through rhythm.

And then there’s Ricardo Villalobos, one of the most innovative producers making beats today. His new album, “Dependent and Happy,” focuses as much on communion with the head as with the booty. Born in Chile, he and his family relocated to Germany, where he connected with Berlin’s fertile minimalist techno movement. Since his first releases in the mid-’90s, Villalobos has crafted vast, long pieces whose repetition as much suggests modern composers like Steve Reich, La Monte Young and Philip Glass as they do beat music.

This is, after all, a man who released a 42-minute track called “Fizheuer Zieheuer,” a piece that travels at a steady, thumpy pace for the duration but whose movement over that time feels as gradual and alluring as a sunset. Much of “Dependent and Happy” feels the same: music created by a hypnotist who fills the nooks and crannies of his rhythms with weird noises, human- and machine-generated. On “I’m Counting,” the composer quickly dives into a groove whose signature voice is a sample of a man reciting numbers at random. “Koito” is a bubbly 12-minute mantra that sounds as if it was recorded in Neptune’s lair.

If you’re not a fan of repetition, “Dependent and Happy” will torture you. It’s relentless, and its beauty comes not from the nonstop four-on-the-floor pound of its bass drum but from the many intricate patterns and wildly inventive layers of noise and melody he weaves in. This is music with a deep, profound appreciation of the mathematics of frequency and rhythm, its humanity conveyed through musical equations packed with drama.

Ricardo Villalobos
“Dependent and Happy”
(Perlon Records)

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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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