- A revered electronic music artist sells his equipment and starts from scratch, but has he stripped too much away?
- The name of Vladislav Delay's new LP refers to stone fields "where you have mountains or landscape covered with only rocks." In the six years since his last full-length, VISA, the Finnish artist did a lot of hiking with his wife and daughter as far north as the Arctic Circle. His musical hiatus was interrupted only by scoring work for a TV show, also called Arctic Circle. Where most would consider that a retreat into the wilderness, Ripatti might say he's only traded one inhospitable environment for another. In a recent interview, he complained about the "Facebook Likes Music Industry" and other "silly stuff" he faced as a working musician. Having sold much of his studio equipment and excused himself from the icky business of self-promotion, he's been free to focus on his craft virtually without interruption.
It's a shame, then, that Rakka feels so plugged in to the current vogue in experimental electronic music. The LP slots easily alongside the explosive power electronics of acts like SØS Gunver Ryberg, Ben Frost, Emptyset and Shapednoise (who's released Rakka on his label Cosmo Rhythmatic). The music scrubs your ears throughout, save for "Raakile," which sounds like the bleak refuge of a damp headland cave. But the album's craggy walls of sound, drum rockfalls and fields of distortion seem less like the medium for a clear artistic vision than its concealment. Rakka is more decorative rage than compositional substance. The bit of "Raajat" that catches the ear, for example, is a corrupted break fragment, but its choppy repetition quickly wears thin. Ripatti's music has little more to say about its theme, inspired by his treks through the tundra, than "nature is violent."
Some of Ripatti's work as Vladislav Delay has circled recognisable forms. The Four Quarters, from 2005, stirred jerky drum strikes in a digital cocktail of ambient, techno and jazz. Multila, released in 2000, sounded like a dub techno marshland. But the thread running through his records has been a feeling of permanent flux and immaterial presence. What's most surprising about Rakka, then, is the music's physical force. The opening track is a battering of bitcrushed drum stampedes and cannonball splashes. "Rakkine," whose drum patterns mimic an intercom vocal's halting speech, resembles a Call Of Duty-inspired hallucination. While these tracks excite to a degree, their intensity takes on a manipulative pull—I kept thinking of the Eastenders drum roll, and how it insinuates gravitas onto even the most routine cliffhanger.
The best LPs in Rakka's style got richer results from mining worlds that, by contrast, were both interior and unfamiliar. xin's Melts Into Love and Metasplices' Mirvariates, two outstanding albums from the past couple years, tempered cathartic gestures through distortion shaped with an imaginative sculptural depth. There is a notable lack of this depth within Rakka, a result perhaps of the limited tools at Ripatti's disposal. "I wanted to get rid of everything until only the core remained," he's said. Ultimately, Rakka is the sound of a revered producer starting from scratch. While a clearing of the cobwebs is liberating for the artist, the resulting record is a tough sell for its audience, even one as dedicated as Vladislav Delay's. Rakka could be a step towards something great. But too often, getting through it is like walking with a stone in your shoe.