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Luomo - Paper Tigers

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Artist: Luomo

Album: Paper Tigers

Label: Huume

Review date: Oct. 26, 2006

For six years and counting, Finland's Sasu Ripatti has donned the Luomo moniker as a means of positioning his better-known Vladislav Delay alter-ego at the strobe-lit heart of the dancefloor. True to the shredded pixels and sliced zeros of his Vladislav Delay releases, 2000's Vocalcity crumbles some of House music's most vivid components – notably its lustrous hollowness and the immediacy of its vamping leads – into shivering clusters of titanium shards floating in a reflecting pool of melted chrome. Voices, male and female, emerge as smudgy swirls or phantasmic gasps, occasionally looping in hot-blooded mantras over a writhing, glacial throb. Constant movement is maintained as gears grind and pistons pump under the watery surface. By 2003's follow-up, The Present Lover, Ripatti replaced this diamond dust bath for an intravenous drip. Rendering the rush and swoon of pop in brittle, crystalline trails, it was a spring-heeled leap from Vocalcity's musty, spark-lit engine room to a wide open, neon-domed clearing.

Paper Tigers, the third and latest Luomo full-length, lands somewhere between the milestones that precede it. Though he retains the same singer as on his prior discs – the ever-pliable Johanna Iivanainen – Ripatti opens the album with a different collaborator. The gushes of gurgled words and processed speech performed on the title-track by Antye Greie (aka AGF, with whom Ripatti has already worked several times in the past years) have a splotchy etherea different from Luomo's usual vocals, which are exact and sharp even when ephemeral. Perhaps under this laconic influence, Ripatti slowly rolls out a trembling, chunky blob of electricity marbled by dubby delay ripples. Eventually, though, a sprightly thump is called on to stir this amorphous mass into fiercer action. But the general mood of Paper Tigers is largely set: a clean, almost sanitized clutter of particles that morph into gas, solid or liquid at random intervals.

"Really Don't Mind" may be the closest Paper Tiger comes to the lush luxuriance of The Present Lover. Iivanainen intones over a snappy, clipped pulse embellished by freeze-dried chords. Climaxes are stumbled upon seemingly by chance as Iivanainen's voice, unfastened from the melody, spirals out into glistening pieces that recombine in bursts of vaporous color.

Elsewhere, the album has a numbed, almost inert character, particularly when set against Ripatti's other, lower-profile release this year: Tulenkantaja, under his Uusitalo moniker. That album's maelstrom of fuzzy purrs and astral pings has a diffuse, centripetal pull similar to Vocalcity. Next to it, Paper Tigers feels slightly muddled: a Luomo record that doesn't want to be one and so tries to opt out.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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