When Finnish beat scientist Sasu Ripatti left Berlin to raise a kid and get back to his own land, he moved to Hailuoto. An island tucked away at the top of the Gulf of Bothnia with a population of 1,000, it’s not the kind of place where you’d expect someone to realize that they need to make a big, wild noise, but that’s exactly what he’s set out to do on Vladislav Delay Quartet. Given Ripatti’s penchant for aliases — he’s recorded as Vladislav Delay, Luomo, Uusitalo and Sistol — it’s curious that he didn’t give this group a new name altogether. Its connection to the spacious, dub-inflected ambient electronics he has recorded as Vladislav Delay is tenuous at best. The quartet has more in common with the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, in which he plays drums and percussion.
But while the Trio’s relentless forward motion keeps them hitched to techno’s wagon in spirit if not sound, VD4 is less concerned with momentum than caustic atmospheres and brutal vertical blows. On “Minus Degrees, Bare Feet, Tickles,” coarse scraping moves from speaker to speaker like concrete blocks dragged across a parking lot; the beats on “Louhos” lurch and clank like tools in the back of a pick-up hitting potholes. The instrumental line-up, which is rounded out by Lucio Capece’s reeds, Derek Shirley’s double bass and Mika Vanio’s electronics, looks almost jazz-like, and there are moments when woody resonance and fluttering reeds might make you think of jazz for a second.
This music doesn’t behave like jazz, though. The way sounds stack on top of each other rather than spread out suggest that this music was made by someone whose compositional sensibilities were shaped by the possibilities of digital production. And when Vanio starts punching low buzzes into “Hohtokivi,” it’s impossible to forget that you first heard the guy passing such sounds off as dance music in Pan Sonic.
The only analogs to the Quartet’s music in Ripatti’s neck of the woods are the cracks and groans of frozen seawater being sundered by icebergs. But there’s still a bit of his old urban digs in this music, too; it feels oppressive, seething with tamped-down violence, like a dangerous neighborhood after curfew.