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Luomo - Convivial



Ever since Sasu Ripatti’s warm and gentle vocal house style announced itself in the form of the fuzzy glow of Vocalcity, the Finn, who also records under the alias of Vladislav Delay, has struggled to match his initial output. Convivial, his 4th album under this guise, keeps the strong vocal tradition going, with a variety of house-orientated singers including Cassy, Sascha Ring, Robert Owens and most notably fellow Finn Johanna Iivanainen, who was guest vocalist on his last effort Paper Tigers.

Ripatti’s style has evolved to a point where his music is instantly recognisable, being a mixture of whispered vox, brittle synth washes, sudden changes of direction and amorphous melodic tropes that never quite coalesce into something firm. It provides a somewhat ambigious and skeletal framework for the vocalists to project their style onto, with Cassy for example providing a soft and gentle touch to the opener “Have You Ever”, which is the most forceful of the tracks on the album, Ripatti’s basslines underpinning a song that is almost commercial in its feel. That feeling is continued with “Love You All”, Sascha Ring’s melancholic vocals echoing the Junior Boys, and the rhythms merging seamlessly into the melodic structure. Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) lends his talents to the sharp production of “If I can’t”, which is accentuated by a gorgeous chorus and some lovely, abstract synths.

After a strong start, Ripatti stutters somewhat, despite Iivanainen’s presence on the remaining tracks. She can’t rescue an unnecessarily busy “Slow Dying Places”, and “Sleep Tonight” is somewhat forgettable. Thankfully things are rescued by the warm, elegiac feel of the album’s closer “Lonely Music Co.”.She also features with Sue Cie on “Nothing Goes Away” which promises much in the vein of Herbert, but falters.

Like most of his work, there is initially very little to grasp in Ripatti’s material upon first listening. The amount of sounds and action going on mean that one often has to listen on a number of occasions to grasp the form and subtle nuances that are such an important part of his aesthetic. Thus, the initial 3 song salvo at the start of Convivial is something of a surprise, and as such the songs that follow after feel weak in comparison. This shouldn’t detract though from an album that brings him back into the limelight after a time in which I felt his star had faded somewhat. Like Photek, who surprised everyone by releasing a remarkable deep house album after establishing a career in drum ‘n’ bass, Ripatti hasn’t lost his love of a trend that I feel does need re-inventing, especially at a time when deep house, forcefully re-emergent in Europe, has decided to follow an obvious trend in beefy production rather than exploring older, less well trodden avenues. Convivial is by no means perfect and loses its way at times, but it’s difficult to imagine a more experimental yet almost commercial sounding album in House right now.

Toby Frith


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