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Vladislav Delay - Tummaa

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Artist: Vladislav Delay

Album: Tummaa

Label: Leaf

Review date: Sep. 1, 2009

When Sasu Ripatti, a.k.a. Vladislav Delay, returned to his home country of Finland last year after seven years in Berlin, he also returned to his first musical love: percussion. Besides basing his latest album, Tummaa, on drumming and natural sounds, Ripatti has also started performing live as a drummer again in the Vladislav Delay Quartet, with Mika Vainio, Derek Shipley and Argentine Lucio Capece.

Tummaa is a trio album of sorts, with Capece on clarinet and sax, and Scottish pianist/composer Craig Armstrong on piano and Rhodes. Using their contributions to his original drum patterns, Ripatti re-arranged the recordings to create the seven long compositions included here.

The album is an interesting exercise in artificial composition using natural sources. While there’s no doubt that overt production is the name of the game here, Ripatti does occasionally succeed in the difficult task of maintaining some improvisational feel. Nonetheless, the results are a sometimes awkward mélange of human and inhuman, in which the former tends to drown amidst the heavy sound treatments and editing. At times, it’s as if, for no good reason, Ripatti doesn’t want to leave a sound untouched.

Some songs retain a more natural feel than others. The 11-minute opener "Melankolia" proceeds with a slow heartbeat underpinning plaintive piano, while percussion rattles and taps in a freeform fashion. Elsewhere, Ripatti doesn’t hide his manipulative hand, whether it’s in the chilly factory rhythms of "Kuula" or the clunky, clanking steampunk beats of "Mustelmia.” The oddly envelope-edited sounds of "Musta planeetta" are one of the most noticeable examples of the album’s cut-and-paste nature. The classic Rhodes might have lent the song a peaceful, languid atmosphere, but Ripatti’s editing toys with the beginnings and endings of notes. The result is an uneasy, somehow claustrophobic feeling. The glacial crispness of the title track offers a stately – if staid – ambience, until chopped samples pull it off-kilter.

Ripatti is hardly the first person to use the studio to extract a new, fictional soundworld from original sources. His production skills are certainly up to the task; the parts flow seamlessly. Nonetheless, there’s an energy lacking. Intrigue isn’t enough. Tummaa feels like an immaculately constructed facade, whose journeys end uncomfortably close to their outset. For some, the circuitous route may be sufficient, but I was left wanting more.

By Mason Jones

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