It can be tricky for musicians to explore sounds that transcend genre without impinging on the expectations of an established listenership. Pseudonyms, however, allow musicians to tackle divergent branches of exploration with seemingly less risk, a moniker becoming a signifier of a specific project, like a Noh performer selecting different masks to exemplify an alteration in mood or character. Through his canny myriad of projects, Finnish electronic musician Sasu Ripatti has managed to embrace a plethora of musical angles, signposted by the guise of whichever outfit stands subject to operation. This not only gives him leverage in purporting to different lines of experimentation, but also allows for project streamlining to sonically represent a specific interest or desire.
Ripatti has been releasing material under a slew of monikers since his first EP as Vladislav Delay back in 1997; Luomo, which began in 2000, focuses on blurring the boundaries between experimental pop, house, and disco; while other undertakings, such as Uusitalo, have an ultramodern techno edge that allow for a specific degree of distinction within the Oulo-born artist’s prolific back catalogue. In addition to his solo ventures, he works with a wily clutch of like-minded musicians in a handful of collective outfits, namely the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, who have been putting out electro-accoustic records since early 2009. However, regardless of the project at hand, Ripatti insists that the assemblage of his work remains at the core of his interest, even when the impending results outweigh his meticulous creative processes. This seeming contrast in approach manifests itself in fantastic attention to detail, which wholly comes to the fore on his latest offering, Kuopio.
Apart from the tenacious sense of craftsmanship lying at the album’s core, there is very little to extrapolate in correlating relationships the tracks might share with any external entity. This was made abundantly clear in a recent interview with Resident Advisor, where Ripatti confirmed that even the small towns baring the same name as his latest clutter of records have nothing to do with the music. He admires the way that phonetic inflections are generated while pronouncing the names in Finnish, but any other ulterior meaning — perhaps concerning the Scandinavian landscape — is disregarded. Ironically, this phonetic fetish signifies more of a relationship between titles and sonic material than may have been intended, for in the same interview, he stresses that the end-result of his art is the most important aspect of it, regardless of how it was constructed or what methods were deployed to record certain samples, even when doing something completely unhinged, like recording the sound of snow.
Kuopio remains free, then, from any external baggage; this is an absolutely no-nonsense record. That’s definitely a positive thing in this case, because each track works as a standalone testament to a technological prowess that has been harnessed over the years, particularly in the fringes of industrial dub manifestations marshaled together as Vladislav Delay, where percussion and rhythm are essentially key to such rugged output. A classically trained drummer, Ripatti has a brilliant knack for creating rapturous and engulfing loops that purr, curdle, and whir, even when they are at their most subtle, nestled behind a ballsy metallic melody or some disintegrating synth keys. “Ossottava” is an interesting example as to how well this can be pulled off, where rapid drum loops cascade unflinchingly alongside tepid keys and undercover glitches somewhere in the distance; despite its repetition, the piece is littered with tidbits of experimentation, where rattling splices of techno particles flicker and squirm in an industrial vortex of dub-drenched stateliness.
“Marsila” continues in a similar fashion, building on deep-cut bass lines and goading beats that flail and echo in the giddy headspace that the artist is so renowned for creating. The result is one of genuine escapism, where sonic portals are opened up and the listener is invited to inspect the cavernous grandeur each track encompasses. This is not a new affect, but Ripatti has really hit the nail on the head with his latest effort, pulling on a range of techniques and setting up a number of devices that encourage exploration and inspection. These tracks aren’t part of a bigger project or a larger scale vision; they have been created for the very sake of being, as separate entities, and the sound that is consequentially forged is both rich and exciting. Filching from the foundations of dub music to create a stridulous yet wholesome panache is something Vladislav Delay has been doing for many years, and despite purveying a rather ambivalent shrug with regards to its inception, he has fashioned on Kuopio an album that stands equally as tall as its predecessors.