Moebius & Neumeier - "Side A" (Zero Set II Reconstruct Pt. 1 by Ricardo Villalobos)
In 1983, three giants of Krautrock -- Dieter Moebius of Cluster, Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru, and producer extraordinaire Conny Plank -- came together in the studio. The result was Zero Set, a record that is regarded as a late kosmische classic, combining motorik rhythms (propelled by Neumeier’s robotic man-as-drum-machine percussion) and darkly synthetic sounds of electronic pop. But this pair of 12"s on Japan’s Endless Flight label are not remixes of the well-known 1983 album. Instead, they are reconfigurations of material from a later, more obscure record, 2007’s Zero Set II, which was again made by Moebius and Neumeier, but without Plank, who died in 1987. This later record, which is dedicated to Plank, is out of print and hard to find so it’s difficult to gauge the relative faithfulness of either of these remixes.
Given Ricardo Villalobos’ penchant for distending and elongating source materials almost beyond recognition, however, the question of his version’s relationship to the original tracks could seem borderline irrelevant. And here Villalobos is in full-on expansive mode, taking Zero Set II’s brief, three-and-a-half-minute opener, "Mango Solo," and stretching it to an epochal 33 minutes, which is then spread over the two sides of the 12".
This is Villalobos at his most mesmerizing and hypnotic. He deploys his familiar clip-clop rhythms, which may be proper four-to-the-floor techno, but are hardly suitable for the dancefloor. For every metronomic intonation of "One…Two…Three" that runs as a kind of needle-stuck mantra throughout the whole of the record, there are small acts of subversion; stuttering basslines, splatters of drums, or clattering of cymbals threaten to derail the groove entirely. It’s only on Side B that the ever modulating drum and noodling atmospherics finally builds to a series of peaks and payoffs. But it’s still dance party music at its most weightily cerebral. Not surprisingly, the remixes by the Norwegian disco avantist, Prins Thomas could hardly be more different. Thomas has a history of combining nu-disco with the tricks and tropes of krautrock, and he stays true to form. In both of his versions, he delivers driving rhythms and arpeggiated synths to create uncomplicated and enjoyable, cosmic jams. While they have less heft than Villalobos’ epic mix, they have a bit more in-your-face oompf.