Various Artists: Green & Blue: Loco Dice & Ricardo Villalobos In The Mix
If you can't make it to the Waldschwimmbad Obertshausen in September for this year's Green & Blue festival, listening to this disc may be the next best thing.
Green & Blue is the name of an open-air dance festival that's held at the end of the summer each year at Waldschwimmbad Obertshausen. There are a number of DJs, two stages (the Green and the Blue), and a Love Parade-like sense of celebration, apparently. Green trees, blue pools, you know. Ricardo Villalobos has been a resident there for the past few years, and Cocoon, perhaps attempting to take advantage of that DJ's suddenly widened appeal, has put out a compilation featuring his and another DJ's (Loco Dice) set from last year's event. It's a live summer breeze of a double-disc set, ditching studied explorations of minimal sound in favor of a clubber-friendly brand of atmospheric tech house.
From the photographs in the CD booklet, this festival looks like a German Miami or land-bound Ibiza, a wide-sky swimming pool and lawn with thousands of German punters in muscle shirts, colored sunglasses, and bikinis. You get the picture -- point is, the music here illustrates pretty impressively what we mean when we talk about tailoring music to a crowd, mixing it up per the atmosphere, and so on. It's more obvious a departure for Villalobos, whose minimalism has garnered almost as much praise as the guy's thin frame can bear, but both DJs embrace the same feeling, the same vibe.
Green – Loco Dice In The Mix
Loco Dice describes his sound as "chunky" in the press materials, and while the adjective isn't accurate 100% of the time, it's a fair descriptor of Loco Dice's sound. The Tunisian-born German native has largely left behind a hip-hop career that gave him a big name back home and support for major acts like Usher, Snoop, Ice Cube, etc. You might be hearing more of his name in the future, since he's begun to crack dates at major clubs in the US, and his bass-driven house sound is conventional and popular. The kind of euphoric house that Ibiza loves.
Here, Dice shows a little subtlety, a little tackiness, and a desire to give the crowd a good time that is what DJing an open-air festival is all about. Bucci/Pink Elln's "Listen To Eddy" kicks things off with a funky but relaxed mid-tempo vibe, something that is constant in this summer afternoon mix; small extraneous sounds add character to the track as it progresses, an effective warm-up.
As with any set, there are ebbs and flows, but this easy-going character is the most defining characteristic. A handclap-rhythm and repetitive glockenspiel pitter-patter drives "Las Velas No Arden" forward; DJ Red's "Rame" has more of a rave-style stuttered electro beat, syncopating at fast speed in a kind of perpetual motion; Loude's "Futurist" best typifies that "chunkiness" with an electro-tinged funky house feel, twisting off key at the end in a really satisfying way. The highlight is "Determination" by Nima Gorji, with its slight-clipped male spoken word vocal, the slowly taking over synth hits becoming small-scale aquatic noises with the space of Nitin Sawhney.
Blue - Ricardo Villalobos In The Mix
If Ricardo Villalobos has become one of electronic music's mathematicians, systematically deconstructing and reconstructing beats and patterns to form intricate webs and layers of almost-there sound, Blue doesn't show it. His DJ set comes across here not as studied as you might expect -- though the DJ does manage to slip in a few of his characteristic abstractions along the way.
From the beginning, when Delano Smith's "Detox" opens all deep and funky (with a ringing telephone over the top), it's clear -- Villalobos is in a crowd-pleasing mood. Kids in the Street's "Keep On Turning Around" is almost commercial enough to be a brother track to Moloko, though it's turned out undeniably club; "Styleways" is all negative space -- tiny beat, aquatic echoes, the occasional rattle of a drum-skin; Sasse's cheeky "Do Robots Have Soul?" is a highlight, all spaced-out synth squiggles and an echoing cymbal hit, a synth melody that wanders around like a question (the question indeed of the title).
The bits of abstraction wander casually in (I guess that's a testament to the DJ's quality), and generally build out of it -- Robag Whrume's "Wortkabular" and Guido Schneider's "Earth Browser" the best examples. The mix is summed up by John Tejada's "Infected", the kind of mainstream/in vogue microhouse you'd hear in a club in NYC or Chicago, but still a quality track with a fuzzy static-motif and a building incorporation of swooping electro bits and pieces.
This is one of those experiential compilation CDs -- the kind that are infinitely more meaningful when directly associated with the experience of being at that festival. But two quality DJs, a carefree attitude, and some quality tracks add up to a generally good time for all. If you can't make it to the Obertshausen in September for this year's Green & Blue, listening to this disc may be the next best thing.