Saturday, 4 February 2012

Review: Vladislav Delay - Vantaa

Vladislav Delay Vantaa
Like most of you who actually recognise the name, I know Vladislav Delay (real name Sasu Ripatti) mainly for his work as Luomo, particularly his brilliant and hugely influential 2000 album Vocalcity, which totally reinvented the sonic textures of house music and still sounds remarkably fresh over a decade later. Since then he's become a fixture of the experimental electronic world, albeit the kind of fixture I don't really bother following at all. Vantaa is his tenth album under this alias, and since I haven't heard any of the previous nine I am totally unqualified to discuss this record in any kind of proper context with respect to his previous output. I've no idea if this is a totally new direction for the project or if it's a tired, staid retread.

What I can say is that Vantaa manages the impressive feat of sounding like just about nothing else I've ever heard. Reviewers are calling this "electronic dub" but it has no resemblence to King Tubby, The Orb or even Moritz Van Oswald, with whom Ripatti occasionally collaborates. I appreciate that dub is as much about an approach and a methodology, about the use of delay, sonic spatialism and studio reshaping, as it is about thick basslines and swaggering spliff beats. Still, this is totally out there for me, and I've heard most flavours of electronic weirdness, dubbed up or otherwise. You can sort-of hear the heavy, rhythmically assembled electronic textures that informed his micro-house work as Luomo, but here they've been cut loose and abstracted out so "rhythmic textures" is pretty much the only description for what's going on here. I've mentioned the word "abstract" a few times on this blog, but this really does seem like music at its most abstract. Synths are simulacra - they have become a set of instruments unto their own. Usually you can pick out stuff like "pads", "keyboards" and "acid lines" that may be totally synthesised, but still form a common sonic discourse, a set of sounds and techniques common to the field. Very little electronic music has really divorced itself from the basic building blocks of traditional music. Vantaa doesn't contain any of these reference points. Even the beats are so blurred out and occasional that they barely qualify as percussion at all, sounding like just another carefully arranged noise in the overall mix.

Anyway, long-term Vladislav Delay fans are probably scoffing at this naive future-shock, because they've heard this whole thing nine times before. For me, this is quite a rarity - getting taken back to those days early on in your music-loving life where you hear something so different to what you're used to that you really can't respond to it much more than thinking "This is weird". It's a feeling most consistently achieved by Autechre, but I know Autechre by now so I'm braced for impact when I go into one of their albums (and besides, their last album sounded a lot more like their borderline-accessible early '90s output). I want to say I liked this album, but I'm not sure if I did. For the first time in years, I've encountered a boundary to what I can comfortably listen to and process.

Genre: Abstract electronic dub
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: ???

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