Vladislav Delay: Kuopio

Kuopio, Sasu Ripatti's second Vladislav Delay full-length for Raster-Noton, would appear to have been named after the popular Finland city known for its captivating lakes and landscapes. It's a minor detail, however, as the album is a purely instrumental affair whose eight tracks document the Delay sound in its current form. In contrast to the meandering, explorative style characterizing the recordings that introduced the artist to the masses—Multila (Chain Reaction, 2000), Entain (Mille Plateaux, 2000), and Anima (Mille Plateaux, 2001)—, Kuopio operates according to a different set of rules, ones involving concision, coherence, and organization. Whereas the earlier recordings sometimes flirted with psychosis and collapse in their most extreme deviations from the norm, the latest collection exemplifies a far saner sensibility at work, with each track presenting a controlled site for electronic experimentation. Regulated beat patterns emerge repeatedly in a kind of unpredictable ebb-and-flow, ensuring that the material never veers off course when stable foundations for the tracks are never too far out of earshot. The dub dimension that's fundamental to the Delay style is also still very much part of Kuopio, with many tracks evidencing a reverb-heavy production design and a style that, reductive though the label regrettably is, one might label dub-techno.

Without question, Kuopio is expertly produced and performed. Having said that, it also lacks the drama and excitement of the first Delay albums, that sense of an artist pursuing a vision that's only coming into focus as it's being created. No doubt part of the reason why the new release invites a less enthusiastic response is that it's heard in the context of those earlier productions and seems less ambitious by comparison. There are arresting moments, for sure, such as the subtle twang of a Jew's Harp-like sound that surfaces alongside the cloudy vapours and chugging rhythms of “Osottava” and the warbly figure that repeats insistently through “Kulkee” (the track whose lugubrious abstractions come closest to resurrecting the early Delay style). One could regard Kuopio as the sound of Ripatti refining the Delay project rather than boldly advancing it, but the impression it leaves is of material he could have produced without breaking too much of a sweat, artistically speaking.

January 2013