Minimalists will rejoice in this singularly unique collection of sounds, winding through space and echoes, percussion and bass, electronica and wind instruments. Vladislav Delay Quartet is not really a first-effort. Sasu Ripatti has many albums – of mostly jazz-based efforts, but this is completely set apart from any previous works.
The opening track, “Minus Degrees, Bare Feet, Tickles” throws out a slow-moving wall of white noise which requires the listener’s patience as it evolves, using subtle feedback loops, analog reverb and static as the structure for its melody. Along the way, a simple percussive is introduced, but only to provide an anchor for the time signature.
“SantaTeresa” continues the unassuming drumbeat, adding a bass and cymbal and a clarinet-based reverb to its deliberate progression. By now, the listener should have jettisoned their expectations and settled in for a dreamy, complex ride. This track is nearly twelve minutes of thoughtful, meditative tension with unexpected interludes of a reedy clarinet taking the lead. Its really mind-consuming if you allow it to be.
“Presentiment” opens with tantalizing cello bass notes, with a deep piano (including some string-plucking) drifting along underneath. This piece would like you to think it has more purpose than the other tracks, but if you have been listening to the songs in track order, you’ll know it’s only because it has less of the chaotic feedback overlays of say, “Hohtokivi”. It is comparatively short, at a little over four minutes, but the abrupt conclusion will have you wanting to hit “replay” and get back in the conduit of sound.
The most intriguing arrangement on the album is “Louhous”, it’s ¾ time beat and initial noodling that bleeds into distinct layers of saxophone, electronic noise and echoing cymbals. It’s more urgent, wild music and fades off rather than ends, leaving a vague uneasiness about…well something.
“Salt Flat” begins the end with a bagpipe feeling, underlaid by slow organ and a ticking percussive. I thought this piece would have done better in the middle of the album, perhaps a calming influence after “Louhous”. This is thinking music, where the listener will find different moods and interpretations each time they listen, reflective of what they are feeling at the time. It’s extraordinary, really, that a single musical arrangement can be so accommodating and unpredictable at the same time.
This is more than a collection of random concordance. It has purpose and method, but it takes effort to unknot the threads of harmony that are buried in the music.
It’s worth the effort.