Rating: 7 / Format: CD/LP / Label: The Leaf Label

Following last year’s diverting but patchy Luomo LP, Convivial, it’s good to have Sasu Ripatti back in Vladislav Delay mode, without the distracting presence of guest vocalists and the pressure to entertain.

If Luomo is Ripatti in pop extrovert mode, then Vladislav Delay is a project inscrutable and challenging by its very nature. He’s produced some of his best work under this alias, flowering in the early 00s with releases on era-defining labels like Max Ernst, Mille Plateaux, Chain Reaction and Staubgold. The last Delay full-length was 2007’s Whistleblower, an easy record to like but a difficult one to love.

Ripatti brings Luomo’s collaborative spirit to bear on the new album, Tummaa. It’s an ensemble effort, featuring Lucio Capece (saxophone, clarinet) and Craig Armstrong (piano, Rhodes). Capece is a respected Argentinian musician with a jazz background; Armstrong shot to a kind of fame in the 90s thanks to his lush arrangements for Protection-era Massive Attack, but his not inconsiderable talent has been dulled by years of cheque-chasing collaboration with the likes of Bono and, er, The Spice Girls (‘2 Become 1’, folks).

Tummaa’s opening track ‘Melankolia’ harks back with some success to the stately, cinematic glitch of classic Fehlmann or Jelinek, but is ultimately undone by a lack of narrative thrust and by Armstrong’s piano embellishments – which have a gauchely synthetic sound at odds with the hard-wrought refinement of their surroundings. Things get much more interesting with ‘Kuula (Klitos)’, a dynamic and unsettled ambient poem that enthralls from start to finish, Capece’s contribution quite remarkable. The waterlogged polka of ‘Mustelmia’, by contrast, is charming but forgettable. On ‘Musta Planeetta’ Armstrong comes into his own, his treated Rhodes sequences lapping beautifully against Ripatti’s tricksy edits, and the title track is a triumph, climaxing in a gale of oriental-style chimes and groaning analogue synthesis.

For me Tuumaa doesn’t quite scale the heights of The Moritz Von Oswald Trio’s Vertical Ascent, to which Ripatti contributed show-stealing live percussion, but it’s nonetheless an impressive and original achievement. Even so, one wonders if it’s not time for Luomo and Vladislav Delay to become one (Luomo Delay, anyone?) – for Ripatti to reconcile his pop and avant-garde sensibilities into what would be, I’m sure, a genuine masterpiece.

James Mannion

Vladislav Delay homepage



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