It feels like a long time since Vladislav released some new material. In reality it’s only been just over a year since his last full length album “Vantaa” was issued, and only a few months ago we got the small, two-track EP “Espoo” – a quick taster of what was to come.
At first, Vantaa seemed like Vladislav going through the motions in a new studio. It was a strange mix of high tempo and no tempo. Espoo on the other hand, was in unusual quarter note beats that wriggled and refused to remain still. Upon hearing the new Kuopio album, it’s pretty clear that the previous two releases were testing ground for a new direction, a new aesthetic.
The opening track Vastaa is a fast pulsating, dubby piece that breaks and declines from and into identifiable rhythms. Its a breathless mix of extremely processed synthesis, and near-unprocessed drums and works as an excellent and chaotic opening piece. Percussion rattles and shifts from background to foreground, and patters shift and evolve with a subtlety that I’ve not heard since “Multila”. I can almost see this track as a decomposition and re imagining of a modern Sistol track. Changed in focus, yes, but a very clear relationship I think.
The second track, Hetkonen (that means ‘moment’ to you and I) is what I’ve waited to hear a long time. Ever since V dropped the sampler for the album I’ve been desperate to hear the integral version of this. Syncopation plays a large part in the entire album, but it’s certainly most of all evident here. The bassline plays with casual disregard to the tempo and the drums, snapping back into focus whenever it pleases. A stab resonates again and again, like a sonar desperately searching in the night, desperately trying to make sense of the disarray but slowly fracturing and faulting. Hetkonen features the most effective, most subdued and well executed chord progression I’ve ever heard. The whole track is a chaotic free-for-all, beats, chords and percussion landing where ever they fall – but it’s somehow all controlled and sculpted into something no less than a masterpiece of contemporary music. I genuinely believe this is a significant piece of work, and more than reason enough to pick up the album. Amazing.
Avanne is a grove focused piece, a little unlike anything I’ve heard before. In fact, a little unlike anything else Vladislav has released before. Gritty, but groovy, and all the time managing to keep a serious and straight façade. The best analogy I can come up with is Multila does house music. It’s like listening to a jazz record, through your neighbour wall, all while they’re having building work done. Is it noise in music, or music in noise? Does it matter? The groove stays the main focus right until the end, giving way only into an atmosphere of haze and noise. It doesn’t envelope you, it plods until exhaustion, until there’s nothing left but rubble.
Kellute is something only Vladislav Delay can do – make interesting semi-ambient music. Do you remember tracks like Pisa, Ele, Karha, Kohde? Kellute lines up well with almost any of those, which is quite a compliment considering most of those were ground breaking pieces. The rhythms in Kellute pulse and sway in mechanical harmony, like a two-stroke engine spluttering in a shipyard. In fact at this point, Kullute actually draws more aesthetic similarity with the Conoco EP. However, at the three and a half minute mark, everything is sharply snapped into perspective. A heavy rhythms devours everything in sight, consuming all the delicate elements one by one, until all that’s left is the looping broken fragments of a chord and a one note bassline.
I don’t know what Vladislav is using for sequencing, but it’s not from this world. Osottava is composed of the same jittering, fidgeting rhythms as Kolari was on the Esopp EP. It’s essentially written in 4/4, but it’s very difficult to hear that at first glance. Where Osottava differentiates itself from the Espoo EP is in it’s final crescendo, where the entire track devolves into what sounds like a techno interpretation of hell. Swarming evil and impending ruin quickly engulf everything they touch. You can feel the size an weight of the track pressing down on you. Inevitability.
Kulkee is the damaged and broken remains of the destruction. Lone chords ring out hoping for a reply amongst the ruins, only to be answered by a staggering bass. Dysfunctional rhythms and melodies begin to rumble and clunk unevenly. The track begins to build, but in a very literal sense. Elements assemble cautiously, but with a little optimism. You hear the individual elements bond and work together to form the workings of a contraption from another world, another time. Kulkee works so beautifully as an album track, it should be used as a device to teach aspiring musicians. When I first heard the preview of Kulkee, I didn’t think much of it, but in the context of the album, it really is a masterpiece. And if you’ll permit me to use one more cliché, it truly is an inspired work.
The penultimate track, Marsila, is a showcase of the new sound and new technique. Lots of untamed energy the track presses forward into a not yet defined concept. Sparkling and unusually glee, it brings everything back to life with a tom pulse. It’s a glimpse into the new world and the unknown. An optimistic look at an uncertain future.
The album closes with Hitto. Crackling and snapping drums fold and roll. Those trademark Delay pads are captured in a digital tape loop, being wound faster and faster, squealing and stretching into something au courant. Finally the tape snaps, the twisting ends, and the drums loop mechanically ad infinitum. The sound fades quickly into the distance, leaving only the memory of the scale of the journey.
The entire Kuopio album is something very special indeed. It has layers of depth that only the most perceptive listener will find (I doubt I have even scratched the surface yet). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Vladislav Delay demonstrates why we love music. It’s evolving, emotional, unique. It’s art, not product. It’s well thought out, not rushed. It’s a beautiful thing.
Before Kuopio, if I’d been asked to name my favourite V.D. albums, I’d have said “The Four Quarters” “Multila” “Anima” “Entain”. Now, Kuopio so confidently and completely eclipses everything in terms of quality that there is no other answer. That’s not to downplay the significance of his other works, but Kuopio is such a perfect album I begin to doubt if anyone will, or indeed, can do better.
Kuopio is absolutely remarkable. Buy it now.
Kuuluuko (download only track). Sorry, you need to read the full review to see this content.
[censor]Only joking 🙂 Kuuluuko is offered as a bonus track on the download only release of Kuopio, but is it worth it? Well, yes, probably. If you like the sounds of Kullute, Kuuluuko is Kullute on drugs. Frantic, less focused, panicked almost. It’s Conoco for the year 2100.[/censor]