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Matias Aguayo
I Don't Smoke EP Kate Hutchinson , June 16th, 2011 08:07

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How did Battles counter the creative departure of their frontman, Tyondai Braxton, on their recently released comeback album Gloss Drop? Answer: they roped in Matias Aguayo, one of the most underrated vocalist/producers in electronic music, to bring their lead single, 'Ice Cream', to life. The result was a heart-melting return to form (but of course), Aguayo's incomprehensible grunt funkin' its way over Battles' bubblegum psychedelic-pop, which you can read all about, by the way, in The Quietus' album review here.

But as the indie cognoscenti are still dribbling over his sleazy Latin-inflected sing-speak – see Aguayo's sublime and defining ditty 'Rollerskate' – the Chilean-born, Cologne-raised and Berlin-based producer has already moved on. While his previous, sophomore album, 2009's Ay Ay Ay, celebrated his versatile lung movements and was comprised entirely of them, much like Bjork's sample-layered album Medulla, his new six-track EP for Kompakt is fuelled by a entirely different stimulus: the throbbing, primal force of rhythm.

I Don't Smoke, it says here, is a tour diary of "tales of the road" that were "created between gigs and tried and tested on the crowds" and, consequently, it possesses a made-for-the-club energy that turns your desk into your dancefloor. Unlike the sound of his BumBumBox events, the outdoor block parties that he runs across South America, here, Aguayo drums up his hallmark techy tribal and pan-African influences and gives them a classic Chicago house and thunderous EBM spin. It's more suited to the sticky basement clubs in Buenos Aires in the early 2000s, where Aguayo was based at the time; the kind of beats you'd find in a pitch-black rave space with nothing but a single laser piercing the condensation and the sensory deprivation invoking your innate urge to dance.

It's not as dark as it sounds. The title track mimics the ear-worming effect of Yolanda Be Cool's 'We No Speak Americano', albeit a far more stripped-back and quirkier version, with its galloping, syncopated rhythm and noodly steel-pan flourishes. Its cartoonish refrain of "No, I don't smoke, I don't smoke" was inspired by a group of drunk girls pestering Rebolledo, one of the acts on Aguayo's label Cómeme, and you can imagine similarly drunk girls yelling these lines at one of their shows. It is, perhaps, the sound of his label to come, with the gear shifted from techno-pop to quirky, percussive tech-house. Or, as evidenced by pointedly named track, 'Cómeme Riddim', it has a retroscovering house and Eurobeat alter ego too.

Aguayo's minimal approach, however, still reigns king. Unlike his fellow Chilean-German contemporary Ricardo Villalobos, he creates inspiring and feverish synth-bass rhythms that transcend the genre's clinicalness (his stellar 2008 single 'Minimal' was, in fact, a light-hearted taunt of his former influences with its taunting, hip-swivelling chorus line of "music got no groove, got no balls"). And there is no escaping the raw, stripped-back power of 'Niños', which exposes a pneumatic drill bassline so bluntly that it is almost oppressive. It should come with a "Whatever you do, do not play this at Glade at 6am" warning, really.

Still, it's a breathtaking slice of hammering electronic body music, inspired by EBM pioneers Liaisons Dangereuses and their classic '80s tune 'Los Niños del Parque'. The teasing hi-hats indicate that it might flare into a metallic-edged opus at any minute, but it stays faithfully taught and unwavering throughout – you get the impression that, as with 'Minimal', Aguayo is poking fun at the often rigid constraints of EBM and the nerdery that goes with it. Or so we hope.

It is offset by the last two (and digital bonus) tracks: 'Kuddle Riddim', Aguayo's most masterful voodoo ritual, an instrumental bone-rattler of jungle drumming, bongo patters and an ominous bass-stirring undercurrent; and 'Ligado', a hyperactive tech-house slap back and forth through all of these disparate influences. Its primitive synth melody argues with a classic rock riff while drum clatters propel you through the rapid-fire samplemania with terrifying speed.

By now, we're out of breath. Is Matias Aguayo a man that ever sits still? By the sound of it: certainly not. But this really is the best and freshest dance offering we've heard this year so far –we only wish he'd sat down long enough to whirl more tracks into his breathtaking spell.

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