Neu! have a lot to answer for. Their best bits can be transcendent, their worst bits lazy and a little pointless and even a little contemptuous. We all have days like that, but Neu! were the exemplar; they wrote the script and others followed. We all loved them despite their patchy output (perhaps because of it) and many attempted to emulate them. Stereolab did it pretty well, I thought, but the Stereolab imitators sounded exactly like a copy of a copy of a copy; with the referent long gone, the essence lost, the image shattered.I’m not saying what you think I’m saying here about Villalog. “Düsseldorf Dub” has that Neu! hum, the ever-so-slightly tumbling/scraped and slurred drums but… Actually, it’s the drums I want to talk about. Drums are big throughout this album; are present even when they’re not pushed forward, even when there’s no drumming. I don’t exactly know what I’m getting at here, this is something more properly felt than understood. It’s like the drums exist in the background (obviously, as the backbone) but their influence extends beyond that, so that every time you hear another sound it seems like it’s somehow… waiting for the drums. This can get a bit distracting, at times, and doesn’t always allow the album to drift as often as it could. Space Trash could be a little more open (actually could be a lot more open) but Villalog seem to want to keep things contained (constrained would be too harsh); they seem reluctant to drift off, as if that would cheapen their playing and not allow them to show their skills. The press release suggests the musical starting point is “found somewhere between Kraftwerk and Can, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Spacemen 3“; and while Can and the Quicksilvers are definitely in there, I don’t hear any Spacemen 3 or Kraftwerk, unless they mean Kraftwerk’s certainty of purpose, their control (their time-ticking drums). Certainly, it seems like Villalog can’t avoid the influence of Can and Neu! and, instead of hiding from this (and from the inevitable numbing comparison) they seem to make a virtue of it; almost daring you to challenge them.
How dare they attempt that Liebezeit roll? How dare those guitars clang like Rother? How dare they play with those motorik / Krautrock archetypes? This is to be commended, I think, and elevates this album above many of those bands that have attempted to digest these kind of influences and found themselves with reflux. There are indeed moments where they transcend their influences, but it’s a necessarily dangerous game to play, especially when you’re attempting to combine two utterly different, almost dialectical reference points (Kraftwerk and Can).Space Trash works on its own terms and I’ve actually played and enjoyed this album several times since I got it but it doesn’t demand attention, even if occasionally it deserves it. These guys can play and they’re dealing with influences that are almost sacred in the kind of circles I’d imagine they’d like to move in. I’d really like to see them just spin off and out… the further the better. They’ve got an amazing album in them and I’m going to keep watching the skies.