Dance Tracks of the Week: Vladislav Delay Enters the ‘Techno/Footwork Nexus’
Plus twisted house and techno from Physical Therapy, Leon Vynehall, and Eltron John
Ripatti, Ripatti 01 (Ripatti)
Sasu Ripatti has never not been a shapeshifter. That’s true of his individual projects — the mercurial fog of Vladislav Delay, in which the dividing line between beat and texture is sanded down to a mere shadow of a nothingness; the spongy balloon shapes of Luomo, in which house music’s fundamental sensuality was pushed so far that it became almost innocent, childlike, pre-sexed — and it’s been true of his whole career arc, as the Finnish musician’s voluminous interests and unbounded talents have careened from alias to alias, each moniker an attempt to lasso a ribbon around a jumbled cloud of ideas. Along with Vladislav Delay’s grainy pulse studies and Luomo’s sublimated glamour, Ripatti has also given us Uusitalo, Conoco, and Sistol; Discogs tells us that the executive producer of Luomo’s Vocalcity, Luukas Onnekas, was also one of Ripatti’s inventions. It’s tempting to speculate that maybe he needed the cover; in those days, Ripatti was in a bad way, in thrall to a chemical siren song that nearly wrecked him on the rocks.
These days, Ripatti lives with his family on a remote island in the north of Finland, and it’s tempting to speculate that it’s that kind of stability that has allowed him, for the first time, to embrace oneness and reinhabit his birth name. But screw armchair psychologizing, because the first two releases on his vinyl-only Ripatti label are gleefully, defiantly eccentric affairs. He describes them as “feeding into the emergent Techno/Footwork nexus,” but they’re weirder that. The A-side of Ripatti 01 is house tempo, actually, but it feels faster, thanks to stuttering vocal samples and staggering kick drums; sounding like Oval going to town on an R&B sample pack, it’s a blast of manic, nervous energy that sustains itself for more than 12 minutes. Indeed, it feeds upon its own excess, becoming even crazier in the latter half as the beats trip themselves up in their headlong rush. The B-side cut is faster — 185 beats per minute, with a cadence approximating drum’n’bass — but it feels at least marginally less unhinged, resting atop a bed of vocal samples with the lumpy texture of quilted cotton batting. Despite the beat structure, it’s hardly a typical drum’n’bass tune; the conventional climax/drop roller-coaster has been ironed flat and broken into shards. Instead of mapping a journey, it traces a housefly’s mid-air hesitations in a right-angled fugue state that never comes down.
Stay tuned for Ripatti 02, in which Ripatti and Max Loderbauer dissolve dancehall and techno into a fractal spray; the alias they’ve adopted is Heisenberg. (So much for oneness.)
Physical Therapy, whitelabel (Grizzly)
New York’s Physical Therapy has the techno-weirdo thing down pat. On the cover of last year’s Safety Net EP for Hippos in Tanks, he posed in stonewashed cowboy gear and fugly silver headphones, crouching like a pensive Rodin (if the sculptor had taken his inspiration from characters he found in the parking lot of the Gas ‘N Sip) and Photoshopped against a high-desert backdrop with his name spelled out in Rope MF. It was a perfect storm of bad design decisions, the apotheosis of the CD Baby aesthetic. But the music — a mishmash of chopped-up diva house, breakbeats, new age sax, and dissociative sample play — was too visceral to scan as merely ironic. His whitelabel EP for Sinden’s Grizzly label sounds more focused: There are fewer ideas per track, but he latches onto them like a dog to a rag doll. But it’s also just as odd as his last record, flipping dance-music cliché into something that’s neither pastiche nor tribute, but some whole new kind of category. The title track re-routes the chords from 2 Unlimited’s “Y’all Get Ready for This” into a sickeningly detuned rave rollercoaster, while skittering trap hi-hats threaten to derail it at every turn. “Rolling on Saturday” sounds like a jacking take on Blawan’s industrial crunch, but the pitched-up funhouse organs are more in keeping with happy hardcore. The absence of actual horns aside, “That Horn Track” is the most straightforward proposition here, sounding a little like an acidified update of Slam’s “Positive Education,” while Nautiluss’ “whitelabel” remix travels in the same ethereal orbit as Shed and Special Request’s breakbeat rave redux. There’s more where this came from, too: Physical Therapy has got an even stranger, druggier-sounding EP on the way in October, appropriately titled Yes, I’m Elastic. He sure is.
Leon Vynehall, Open EP (3024)
Leon Vynehall has a storyteller’s flair for mystery. That goes for his track titles — “I Get Mine, You Get Yours”; “Step or Stone (Breath or Bone)”; “I Know Your Face, Heroine”; “XVII (Rox Out)” — and also his slightly cryptic approach to sound. All four tracks on his new EP for Martyn’s 3024 label are fairly stern and bruising, flayed with open hi-hats and leaning forward into their 4/4 grooves like cyclists attacking a steep hill. For all their toughness, though, there’s the sense of things being veiled: Ultra-deep sub-bass lurks just out of earshot, and the high end is ever so faintly muffled, which lends the music the feel of a nightclub heard through cement walls. Vynehall hails from the U.K., and his swinging, breakbeat-influenced beats sound like it; his music clearly comes from the same place as that of contemporaries like Four Tet, Boddika, and Joy Orbison. But it also sounds like he’s been listening to New Yorkers like Levon Vincent and Joey Anderson, particularly on the phenomenal “Step or Stone (Breath or Bone),” which threads a lively, high-stepping synth melody with a kind of weary refinement.
Eltron John, “Bomby” (S1 Warsaw)
With Krakow’s Unsound festival just around the corner, let’s turn our attention to Poland. Eltron John is a regular fixture at the festival, and now, thanks to this Clone-distributed single, listeners outside Eastern Europe get to find out why. Despite the farcical nature of his name, “Bomby” is all business — though it is, I suppose, a kind of funny business, too. There’s nothing overtly jokey about the tune, but there’s no mistaking the big-hearted sense of humor at play here: The tune’s central riff is a sample of the word “Bomby” (or, maybe, “Bumpin'”) that’s been spread across the keyboard so that it bounces like an astronaut jogging on the moon. There’s something nostalgic about the technique, recalling the gee-whiz gusto of sampling’s early years, when the sounds of speech were bent and and broken with abandon, simply because they could be. The cut itself is a high-powered blast of syncopated pizzicato synths and crisp 909 tattoos, beefy (and heady) as a Kompakt Speicher side. Check out a video of Eltron John’s set from Sonar 2012 to appreciate the way it slowly, surely closes its fist around the crowd (and get a load of the DJ’s dance moves while you’re at it).