As a concept, this seemed poise to dominate an entire year’s worth of recorded music as the most compelling release across all genres. As an actual recorded production, it’s so poor that I would not be surprised if, in retrospect, it marks the beginning of the end of remix culture as aesthetically interesting.
Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer were given access to the vaults at ECM records, to remix and reproduce as they please. And they came up with over two hours of … incredibly bland and dull music. Everything is made the same way, spare looped patterns, sonic washes, sounds burbling in and out. The sounds are fine, and often exceptional, like the buzzing ring modulations on “Recurrence” and the shimmering cymbals and snare on “Recat,” but the structural purpose to which they are put is essentially non-existent.
How did this happen? It seems Villalobos and Loderbauer were seduced by the ECM sound – and despite Manfred Eicher’s protestations over the years, ECM absolutely has a sound. It’s not the product of engineering/production, but of the aesthetic Eicher created in the label, a balance between the intellectual side of jazz/improvised/new music and the desire to create a broadly accessible listening experience. That has produced a lot of great and important music, and also a lot of faceless, glossy product. It’s the latter that is the emphasis on Re: ECM. This is aural wallpaper, suitable for some professional office where rectangular eyeglasses are prevalent and the goal is to sell some idea of style.
The two men seem adept in the studio but have decidedly uninteresting taste in other music and clearly have no clue on how to actually create a coherent piece of music. The act of creating, especially composing, has become devalued so deeply by the nonsense that playing a sequence of records, or sampling a loop from one and repeating it ad nauseum and soporifically because it sounds nice for a minute or two, makes one a musician or composer. A DJ set can please just as much as any other kind of music, and that’s fine, but if you’re going to take apart a bunch of records, you had better put together something better than the original. The astonishingly pretentious liner notes just make this an even greater farce than the ‘work’ of Girl Talk. Where was DJ Shadow when they needed him?