Villalog - Spacetrash
The digitized cover art for Villalog’s Spacetrash suits them well. Angular debris drifts against a backdrop of rigid grid patterns. Invisible forces on a screen, aligned to the arbitrary demarcation of zones in the nothing of space? The Austrians' musical style is all drilled precision, normally associated with the addition, subtraction and rearrangement of elements of laptop artists but here achieved with live instrumentation and multiple participants. It speaks to rigorous, gruelling practice and stringent instrumental command. The key as a listener is patience; the repetitive guitar patterns and electronic enhancements circle over and over until a switch in instrumental texture has transfigured the familiar components. Rather than the blaze of boosters cracking sound and light, this is the slow revolution of a satellite pirouetting out to new climes, turning its face from distant star to near sun before gazing out toward the black.
It’d be easy to declare this release hail this as from somewhere amid the Seventies’ Kraut-rock era, that it was homage or pastiche. Its greatest successes lie, however, in how influences are blended into potent fuel for fresh journeys. 'Orange Sunshine' is both quintessential example and definite highlight with something close to lounge jazz warping to full bore rock stomper. A vocal turn recalls Dire Straits, an instrumental coda suggesting a late-era Hendrix studio jam. Nowhere on the album does the band take improvisation to mean happy chance; this can mean a minute or two for someone to make a bold move and change direction but, once comfortable with this more stately and polite progress, there’s much to enjoy. 'Wall of Echoes' takes this to an extreme while simultaneously providing the most ‘out there’ moment. There's humour too: the vocal turn on 'Alphavilla' suggests Laibach with bronchitis – most entertaining.
Instrumental rock often ends up mired in a fudge of limited variation with fast/slow, loud/soft, vox/non-vox juxtapositions sometimes feeling like the only tools in the box. Villalog don’t always escape this predictability but they do something new by making repetition the quality around which they base their music, then using it as the fixed point of infinite density from which they expand outward to new dimensions. By abandoning Dionysian rock God excess in favour of machine function they’ve found a new/old and still valid take on the music they love.