Live Review: Ricardo Villalobos at Fabric


Some nights need a little time to mull over and think about before you can really come to grips with why it was you had such a good time. You know you’re enjoying every moment while you’re there, but it takes some time to process. This was not such a night. When you’re listening to the selections of Ricardo Villabos, you know precisely why your dancing has evolved into something so raucous and joyful, it has only previously been seen on documentary footage of celebratory occasions among exotic tribes.

If we start from the beginning, the queue was the longest I have seen at Fabric since their 15th birthday a few months ago. Perhaps it was a testament to the headliner that was to come, or a nod to the proposed changes in door policy. By the time we were finally on the dancefloor, Amir Javasoul was wrapping up his set and making way for Craig‘s resident set. It was a shame to have missed it, having read a great interview with him in preparation.

Craig Richards’ selection was slightly disjointed for the first couple of hours, with a lot of breakdowns and slightly quieter, slower sections. Craig seemed to have drawn influence from Dixon, and this made for a mixing style that lost momentum at points. Picking up in the last hour and completely redeeming himself, Craig intertwined his set with chuggy basslines and slight electro-leaning dub techno which is his glorious trademark with tracks like Sweet n’ Candy’s ‘Rebel Minds’ sounding gorgeous when filtered in on the body sonic dancefloor. Even better was Melchior’s ‘Coming Up‘, which samples Pink and gets the percussion completely accurately, being mixed into ‘Magic Potion‘ by Mango Boy (Mr. G’s alias) in a twist that perfectly encapsulates what Craig does best.  The 5am mark was ushered in by Harvey Sutherland’s ‘Q3 (12″ Mix)‘, a track whose stabbing synth melody washed the darker spaces of the main room with warmth just before what we knew was the main event: Ricardo’s arrival.

Cheers were deafening at points, but then that was to be expected from a slightly rowdier crowd than usual. In all honesty, for the first hour or so of Ricardo’s set, opting not to have a stranger’s hair in our faces, we ventured to the balcony of the main room, where one is always conscious that there is a better time to be had below in the mix. While we were here, Ricardo began to flex his muscles with tracks such as his own remix of Beck’s ‘Cellphone’s Dead’. A little later, and now in the thick of it in front of the booth, we were treated to an extremely rare airing of Reboot’s ‘Caminando‘, a track that uses a sample from a folk song written by Ricardo’s uncle, a protest song in Brazil and one that completely made one of my friends’ night, having waited years to hear it out.

A rip-roaring tour through the finer elements of minimal, micro-house and tech house, Ricardo’s mixing style really is an acquired taste, but everyone that hears him play admits that there is a master at work. His greatest strength is his amazing back catalogue of edits and remixes – some of them released, others not – which add untold dimensions to the original tracks and are expertly placed into his selections. These are what can lift even the most unsold customers out on the dancefloor. This set was full of his own productions, a fact that makes you shake your head with envy and brings you to wonder if there’s anybody else quite like him in the world today. His remix of The Horrorist’s haunting classic ‘One Night in NYC‘ retains the most chilling parts of the vocal, but dispenses with the dark electro bassline, enhancing the intricate percussion of the original. But the best example of his own edits heard on the night had to be his slow-building remix of Depeche Mode’s ‘The Sinner in Me’, a track that has you thinking the vocal must have been specifically made for the track (even though you know it wasn’t).

After almost three hours, Ricardo was certainly in full swing, playing precisely what he wanted. This attitude couldn’t be clearer than when he played about five minutes of a Romanian folk ballad, with the complete vocal, and then immediately journeyed back to techno again. As stated before, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly was ours, and the crowd absolutely revelled in it. By 9am, it was time for Craig Richards to join his half-Chilean friend behind the decks. This partnership has brought about some of the best moments we’ve experienced at Fabric, and this was no exception. There is something about the dubby techno sound of Richards’ twinned with Ricardo’s minimal percussion that you find in very few other places. Maurice Fulton’s ‘Life Is Water’ (maybe an allusion to the slightly melted faces of the crowd) perfectly encapsulates the more epic moments of Ricardo and Richards’ blended sound.

In our excitement at the headliner, we almost forgot about the second room, where, as expected, Stacey Pullen was pounding the finest techno Detroit has to offer. With an electric energy similar to that of Berghain’s resident selectors, but with more of a raw edge, he stayed true to the sound that won him acclaim with his early mix for the Fabric CD series over a decade ago.

On a night that celebrated Ricardo, it was clearer than ever why Fabric is an absolutely essential part of what makes the London scene so irreplaceable. Finishing up around 11am, surrounded by Turkish traditional instrumentation and more interesting percussive elements, Ricardo and Richards looked a funny pair side by side, but they had provided the soundtrack to yet another incredible night in one of the most incredible spaces in London.

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