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Review: Ricardo & Raresh @ Cocoon

Cocoon's long standing master of ceremonies on the terrace was joined by, his quasi-protégé, Raresh last week. Here's the lowdown.....

First up, it should be said that Cocoon are having, yet again, a tremendous season. Even through the last years when everywhere took a hit, Cocoon still managed to increase in popularity and with the renewed positivity on the island in 2010, their Party Animals Monday night has surged on yet again. Those occasional sell-outs of the last couple of years have become almost a weekly occurrence during peak season this year.

And why would you be surprised, with Sven the staple, Richie Hawtin as popular as ever and Loco Dice's stock now at astronomical levels, it really is like men against boys sometimes when comparing what Cocoon have got to offer. Where Ricardo is concerned it's not always so straight forward. Thrilling and confusing the crowd, sometimes in equal measures, has become as much a trait of his recently as the legend that proceeds him. Let's be honest, Ricardo Villalobos is generally accepted as the most important techno producer of the last 10 years and certainly the most influential.

Yet, there have been times when Ricardo has lost the crowd, accustomed to the imminent bass boom typical of a Dice set perhaps or just not prepared to go as "out there" as Ricardo....(not many would!!). It's been mentioned to me more than once how Ricardo would often say before a set "today we make the crowd do this" or "tonight, the crowd won't put their hands in the air", depending on his mood and where he wants to go. Saying is one thing, pulling it off is another and immediately reminds us of how Larry Levan was notorious for doing the same; making certain people in a certain part of the club dance or react in a certain way. A rare ability indeed, though nobody can really question the talent of either Larry Levan or Ricardo Villalobos.

Pairing up with Raresh, I feel, gives Ricardo the kick up the ass he sometimes need in order to not get too 'weird'. It keeps him on his toes basically and means there is absolutely zero tolerance for self-indulgence and this is how it was on this particular night. Subsequently, people have always asked the same things, "How was Ricardo?", "What was he playing?" and "What did it sound like?". Well here's the best way I can describe it.

Ricardo played predominantly two things. Firstly, it was solid house music; 4/4, percussive, quite groovy, totally danceable. He's been playing Johnny D's latest track Love Me or Leave Me recently, this is a perfect example of how the early part of Ricardo's set sounded. (And incidentally how he sounded when he earlier played b2b with Zip as a surprise guest at dc10). There were older tracks too like Make Some Noise by Boo Williams, the classic Chicago house sound.

Johnny D - Love Me or Leave Me (Cécille Records 2010)

Boo Williams - Make Some Noise (Relief Records 1996)

The second sound that completely dominated the middle part of his set with Raresh was acid house. Classic, underground, old skool, acid house. It sounded amazing, kind of like you always wished you could have heard Shoom or Phuture as was but any modern recreations just sound corny and outdated. This didn't, it worked beautifully. The first half of French Kiss by Lil Louis peppered the night without the full track ever being played.

Lil Louis - French Kiss (Diamond/FFRR 1989)

As usual, you got used to expecting the unexpecting. Just as you wanted the bass to smash the room up, the bass would be filtered out and some trippy shit entered proceedings and there were plenty of warped, ambient moments. At times you actually felt like you're in the middle of a Dali painting, that's how surreal it was. I'm thinking a cross between Blood on My Hands and Fizheuer Zieheuer, really fucked up stuff that you could do little else put rock your head side to side to and get on the magic carpet. Raresh for his part just kept on teeing them up for Ricardo, sometimes taking the vibe further, sometimes (usually) keeping RV in check. There aren't many who can say they are on the same wavelength as the Chilean born star, the Romanian can.

Shackleton - Blood on My Hands (Ricardo Apocalypse Now Mix) (Skull Disco 2007)

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Ricardo Villalobos - Fizheuer Zieheuer (Playhouse 2007)

Towards the end, and my only criticism, is that the rhythm and beat gave way too much to the ambient, tripped out stuff. But hey, if you're gonna get weird, what better time than 7am on the Amnesia Terrace!

Ricardo has come in for a fair amount of criticism across the scene, not just from people who don't "get him" but from fans who are bored of his ethereal journeys and his seeming ignorance of what the crowd is doing or wants. But that is just Ricardo, that is why we're talking about him right now and that's what makes him interesting. He's actually always been an enigma and it says a lot more about dance music culture that people have somehow grown to expect the obvious simply because of his popularity and success. Actually, it is the fact it has never been obvious with him, yet he has still gained such a reputation, which separates him from his peers.

Make no mistake, if you like your music, Ricardo at Cocoon is an essential experience.

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