Jungle Fever


It’s hard to not make a “living la vida loca” joke when discussing Chilean ex-pat DJ-producer Ricardo Villalobos—even the man himself uses the alias Ric y Martin occasionally. Though situated in Deutschland, you’d be hard-pressed to find the chilly and austere Teutonic climate in Villalobos’s humid productions, where house’s strict 4/4 latticework is overrun with untamed verdure more common in Southern Hemisphere rainforests.

The twelves he cut for Frisbee in the late ’90s, collected now on a single disc as Salvador, pound straight ahead, yet anticipate the groggy, proggy expansions to come. Perhaps motoring a love boat toward Ibiza, the bass throbs and kicks are motion-of-the-ocean immense, but Villalobos mindfully counterbalances with smaller sounds: chattering high-hats temper “Tempura,” while a hoary whisper cuts through “Logohitz,” partially digested bits of Cubano fanfare blare through his Señor Coconut remix, and eddying piccolos offset, then bolster, the anthemic “Que Belle Epoque 2006.”

Alien orchids are in bloom on the cover of Achso, a recent EP that continually distends, mutates, and grows like a particularly hairy Swamp Thing. Entangling runners stem from every drum hit on “Erso.” Once-direct house beats now ripple and slush. A languid ribbon of e-bowed guitar snakes through “Sieso” two minutes before a beat ever emerges. Cymbals squawk and human throats get cleared in the foliage, while death-ray pulses of bass blast through the vines. It’s a rare producer that can juggle more than one texture or beat at a time, but Villalobos, having already proved that he can reduce, now makes his work verdant and dense. Never busy or cluttered sounding, all noises, squelches, and drum patter(n)s coexist more like an ecosystem. Second-half tracks like “Duso” chirp and tweet like R2D2 mating calls in Yoda’s bog, while “Ichso” whirs as sliding doors or glass elevators do. But dancefloors are sweaty, primeval places, and such sleek glissades never mask the gloppy, swampy undercurrents that burble below and continually evolve. Call it Intelligent Designer Music.