The Ricardo Villalobos / Samuel Rohrer partnership has yielded increasingly interesting results over the past few years, with the former’s remixes of the latter’s trio Ambiq being supplemented by further reinterpretations of Rohrer’s solo work and live meetings at select events like Berlin’s Funkhaus and Radialsystem V. As should be the case with any strong collaboration, this partnership has been based on mutual challenge rather than compromise, seeing each participant shuttle key technical and emotive aspects of the other’s work to previously unexpected places.
Those who have been closely following this relationship will notice a definite sense of continuity between previous outings and the new collaborative release entitled MICROGESTURES. As with those earlier Villalobos / Rohrer pairings, these four new pieces are defined by a special quality of being many things that once: that is to say, depending on the listener’s own level of focus, these can feel very tightly constructed and disciplined, or playful and freely wandering. That the tracks are equally engaging regardless of one’s chosen listening “mode” is a testament to the level of thought put into them; you could almost imagine the creators poring over some elaborate sketched set of architectural blueprints rather than coolly monitoring the usual multi-track editing software.
Altogether the music here is firmly a-melodic and percussive, but within these deliberate limitations there is still a greater variety of individual sounds than most would bother with. Each track is its own observatory of micro gestures clustering together into a dense communicative fog or a sort of robotic sound swarm. Yet while all these tracks are variations on that theme, each one has its own character and, consequently, its own rewards in terms of the exact sectors of the imagination that it activates.
Take for example “Cochlea” and its twin “Helix,” on which the magnetizing, busy layers of percussion are tempered with mischievously disruptive blossoming of digital noise, as well as sampled radio communications (which again bring us back to the idea of listeners’ attentiveness changing the meaning of this music – these curious transmissions can either be taken as a purely aesthetic element or as something to be actively decoded). Club-oriented elements are also not absent from this suite, particularly on “Incus” with its traditional sequenced baseline, crisp synthetic trap, and hats, and dizzily sliding set of bell-like tones laid on top?
Yet this track, too, is powered as much by its restless desire to deviate as by its rhythmic consistency: throughout the eleven-minute running time, a mass of ambiguous and restless machine sounds build a parallel narrative and will maybe prompt the occasional glance over the shoulder as they seem to be taking on their own life. “Lobule” rounds out the program with the most rhythmically eventful sound set off the five. What this all adds up to is a confident music which builds that quality from its faith in possibilities rather than firm conclusions: it’s an inspiring addition to both the musical landscape and reality in general.