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Vladislav Delay - Tummaa

Vladislav Delay - Tummaa (Leaf)

Sasu Ripatti’s workrate is nothing short of phenomenal. Alongside his long-established repertoire under the Delay and Uusitalo guises, there’s also his work with the now-established Moritz Von Oswald trio, the AGF project and his more house-orientated Luomo project. Within the last 2 or 3 years this has coalesced into a body of material that has seen his star rise to one of the most respected artists within electronic music. This piece, his first for Leaf, sees him explore more rhythmic avenues that with previous Delay excursions.

“Tummaa” itself means “Darkness” in Finnish, and Ripatti recorded most of this album whilst on holiday on a remote Baltic island. It features two other musicians, Lucio Capece and Craig Armstrong. Capece has worked with the other grandee of Finnish minimalism, Mika Vainio, and Armstrong is a Scottish soundtrack composer. Together, with contributions on clarinet, saxophone and piano, they help Ripatti sketch out elegant yet scratchy compositions that slowly work their way into one’s consciousness. This is an album that isn’t easily accessible, as it veers less and less away from some of the more atmospheric memes that have populated his work in the past. Armstrong’s subtle playing colours the lurching opener “Melankolia”, which is characterised by staccato drumming from Ripatti. “Kuula (Kiitos)” is much more organic, flowing with undulating and heavily processed bass clarinet from Capece that is propelled by a slowly propulsive and ever-changing rhythm. It grows substantially, retaining a suspense throughout.

“Tummaa” is long, at over an hour in length, and apart from one track, none of the other weigh in at less than 8 minutes in length. However, all compositions are full of character, and it’s a testament to the interplay between the 3 musicians, that none of them sound the same, and nor are we treated to the sort of easily-made drones that so many musicians of this genre seem happy to chuck out. What has made Ripatti so consistently engaging throughout his career is his ability to test himself, and it’s enjoyable to hear him continuing to try new things. They don’t always work, as the rather immobile dirge of “Mustelmia” and the meandering “Musta Planeetta”  attest to, but it’s the spirit of the endeavour that counts. “Toive” gets the album back on track with a 10 minute jazzy skank for want of a better description. It sounds thundering, but all the more so because it’s beautifully slow. With such a reduced tempo, Delay seems to enjoy working within the increased space afforded by it, and colours the production with some exceptional delay. The drums in particular sound like a peculiar mix of wood and metal. There’s time for some melody with the title track, which lazily colours Ripatti’s haphazard programming with a effervescent aura, and in “Tunnelvisio” the album comes to a slow, cinematic ending, finishing with melodies slowly being dampened.

Ripatti’s decision to bring in both Capece and Armstrong for this work pays enormous dividends. I’ve often felt that his work as Vladislav Delay often has a self-indulgent aura to it, and the presence of other musicians has brought out the best in him.  Armstrong in particular adds a melancholic quality that augments his own melodic talents, and in “Tummaa” there are rich pickings to be had amongst this collection of sketches and experiments. I found myself coming back to this album with repeated listens, only to discover new aspects and sonic footpaths that I’d not heard. This is another jewel in an increasingly wealthy crown.

Toby Frith

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