Valves is the second full-length album from Ololiuqui, a project led by German producer Volker König, on the now-defunct Spirit Zone Recordings. Although he is commonly overlooked I will admit to being quite a fan of his distinctive style, which typically blends funky and pumping progressive beats with sunny atmospheres and often memorable melodies. There is a strong analog feeling to this album, as the title might suggest, and every track shimmer with warmth and texture.
The album opens with the pleasant atmospheres and intricate rhythms of Djara, produced alongside Jens Zygar from Star Sounds Orchestra. It cruises along in a lazy fashion for the duration, offering a breezy preview of the distinctive grooves to come.
Static reunites Volker with Oliver Elschenbroich, former member of Ololiuqui. This one bubbles, squelches, and shakes with a hard and funky bass beat, lurching from one sequence to the next with strange and disorientating melodic hooks. Playful, weird, and highly original—one of my top picks from this album.
The title track picks up the pace, raising the tempo to 140 BPM with crunchy beats and intriguing yet highly processed vocal samples. The drum programming is tight, but there’s a little less going on here, so it doesn’t really stand out.
Pantograph is a charming tune shimmering with morning melodies faintly reminiscent of Oforia’s Off The Ground album (especially The Morning Song). This track develops gracefully, building steam without applying too much pressure, but there’s a pay-off in the end, as the bubbling leads begin to flow into one another with uplifting effects. Very nice!
Del Rio is built around a sunny melodic hook, a stomping analog groove, and another vocoded sample repeating the phrase “a landscape in Del Rio”, whatever that means. While still on the progressive trip you can hear more Goa trance influences here. Oddly enough, this track was licensed for release on Reactivate 13, a more mainstream trance compilation with major distribution.
Correlate is the fastest track on the album at 145 BPM. Here we have an upbeat morning song with subtle melodic characteristics and an energetic drive. Vocoded voices return once again, adding texture to the proceedings. The end result is smooth and satisfying, though it might have benefited from a more varied arrangement.
Activate Chi deepens the vibe and ventures into New Age spirituality with a wide variety of vocals spoken and sung by Isgaard Marke. This one is definitely an acquired taste, and inasmuch as critics have regularly panned this one over the years, it’s certainly well done for what it is: a dreamy morning anthem not shy to put the vocals up front.
Supply takes the story deeper, dropping the tempo to 130 BPM and laying down a fat and funky groove. Hints of sultry female vocals remain, but they are used in a tasteful fashion. This tune meanders along with slick synthetic hooks and the light touch of warm, enveloping atmospheres. Although it is one of the better songs on Valves, it feels a little too short—much more could have been done with these ideas.
Backline dips down to 120 BPM to conclude the album. The languid pace of the chugging beat allows for all kinds of rhythmic intricacies. Vocoded voices appear yet again, unifying the overall concept of the album. There is something innately appealing about the slow stomping groove and luxurious melodies that swirl around this lush finale.
This album took a while to grow on me but I quite like it now, having learned to appreciate it for what it is: smooth and sunny progressive trance with psychedelic undercurrents. My main complaint would be the brevity of some tracks; it doesn’t always feel as if there’s enough time for the central ideas of each song to develop as much as they could. That being said, it offers a cohesive listening experience, and much of this material still sounds great on receptive dance floors. Try it out and hear for yourself!