Smiles for miles, hours

Chilean techno muppet Ricardo Villalobos and friend

When the song was but a rumor, or at least in rough form, it clocked in at 44 minutes. At 36 minutes, a length that would require being spread over multiple platters, Ricardo Villalobos’ “Fizbeast” helps push techno further from its vinyl roots. I’m actually quite fond of the idea of constructing longer pieces and selling it as product. The challenge of staying interesting at length can be like holding one’s breath for bands. DJs obviously have technology that makes these protracted tunes nearly effortless, but requiring a sharp outlook on taste.

If you were to sit in a factory and let the sound of mechanization doing its work sweep over you, “Fizbeast” might sinc up eerily well. Emotionless ticking snare, its reverberating counter rhythms and a hissing hi-hat make for a Metal Machine Music with more AcidPro and less angst and volume. Villalobos makes use of stereo and volume to slide the polar rhythm into the left channel, and again counter it with a sunken whisper.

“Fizbeast” reminds me of Richie Hawtin’s clicky, micro machine tracks. Besides a subtle underpinning of bass tones, the most significant source of melody (if you want to call it that) is pitch modulation of counter rhythms, sounding almost as if they were getting closer or further away from your person. I can’t say it’s often I hear someone aurally imitating the sensation of shaking our heads, let alone in such a tenuous techno song. The absence of climax (replaced, interestingly enough by a reduction in elements, then rebuilding anew with new metallic crackles or moans) is just as fitting — there’s no room for climax, just continuation.

With that in mind, “Fizbeast” almost becomes ambient techno by the time it finally collapses, care of its length and straight-forward yet inconspicuous approach. But without any warmth, listeners become attached to the track’s existence because it’s become in a fond, Stockholdian way. What’s more, the listener needs quiet or quality headphones to hear the elements that make the goliath track worthwhile; unlike LCD Soundsytem’s own behemoth, it’d be difficult to sweat it out to “Fizbeast.”

As length has become in vogue, more and more DJ/producers have been playing bountiful uncut versions, then whittling tracks to trimmer final editions. Not everyone can pull it off. This concept is one Villalobos seems to be married to for the time being, and to date he’s stretched his creations in interesting ways. “Fizbeast” might be a bit sterile for some, or at least better suited for those who dip clicks&cuts into their house music. Though I have a healthy respect for this cyborg slothful experiment, I prefer Villalobos more melodic material, regardless of its length. Phil Sherbourne‘s brilliant monthly column has digested this phenomenon in a manner that is not only wise but lived in.


Audio: Ricardo Villalobos, “Fizbeast” (Playhouse)


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