Luomo: Paper Tigers

Though it lacks a singular piece as seminal as Vocalcity's “Tessie” and The Present Lover's title song, Paper Tigers is as satisfying as the first two Luomo albums, if not a slightly better collection overall. The new one melds Sasu Ripatti's Vladislav Delay and Luomo personae into an accomplished whole, making Paper Tigers the most fully integrated statement yet from the Finnish producer and a definite progression. In short, rather than Paper Tigers occupying a diametric position to his Delay material, the new album conflates the two into a singular and encompassing statement.

Coalescing slowly out of swells of dubby echo and developing into a hazy lope of voice chatter and swooshing clatter, the title song establishes the album's experimental tone at the outset. The funky rush of “Really Don't Mind” then snaps to attention, animated by surging synth chords and a percolating groove and guided by Iivanainen's warm entreaties. It quickly becomes clear that one of the disc's major strengths is its healthy sound. The new material is wholly free of the sickly character that pervaded Demo(n)tracks, with whatever cancer that afflicted that album now fully extracted and exiled. That recovery was already apparent on the recent Tulenkantaja, issued under Ripatti's Uusitalo alias, but is now even more evident. Put simply, the jubilant shuffle of Paper Tigers' “Let You Know” and irresistibly funky propulsion of “Good To Be With” inhabit a different universe altogether from Demo(n)tracks. And certainly the notion that “The Tease Is Over,” which startles by opening in a languid, lounge ballad style, could have appeared on the earlier album verges on unthinkable.

Aside from the perpetually metamorphosizing character of the material, two things stand out as Paper Tigers signatures: the warm bass lines that slither syncopatedly throughout the songs and stabilize the surrounding swirl of perpetual invention, and the soulful vocalizing of Johanna Iivanainen which is all over the album (AGF makes a single turn), with Iivanainen's vocals now treated even more liberally than before, Ripatti broaching them elastically as one more sonic element to manipulate (witness how her voice gets sliced up during the gleaming electro-funk of “Wanna Tell” and swizzled into a turntable element in “Dirt Me”). Describing Luomo's music as sensual minimal house isn't entirely inaccurate but it woefully reduces the sound to a too-simple formula. Paper Tigers is far more experimental and unique than any such simple label suggests.

November 2006