Vladislav Delay Quartet – Vladislav Delay Quartet

In the premature darkness ‘Minus Degrees, Bare Feet, Tickles’ rises up, conjuring the spirit of Last Exit in freeze-frame cross-section. Something of the latter’s brutal physicality is even suggested in the title’s tactile reference. The experience is somewhere between thrilling and ecstatic. Here’s noise to be subsumed in, surrendered to, an angle grinder applied to the ears. Saxophone feedback makes itself heard late into the track’s eight minutes, physically forcing space in the waves of clanking drums and digital distress. As a statement of intent, it’s exemplary.

Vladislav Delay Quartet takes inspiration from other places than the blessed, blasted quartet of Ronald Shannon Jackson, Peter Brötzmann, Sonny Sharrock and Bill Laswell, yet the impression persists and it’s a welcome one. This allegedly postmodern world of images, ‘texts’ and multiplying surfaces is in dire, ongoing need of engagement with the real: such encounters being recognisable for their challenge, rejection of irony and embracing of difficulty – not for its own sake, but as a way of discovering and articulating elements intrinsic to process. It’s this sense of (un)earthing – the possibility of revelation – that may have motivated Sasu Ripatti to return to drumming and to form a group based around live performance. It’s a course striking for its similarity to fellow one-time ur-techno minimalist Moritz Von Oswald’s establishment of the MvO Trio, in which Ripatti also plays drums. The attitude of electronic musicians to live performers is a long and chequered one, but both these groups are releasing exploratory music that’s fascinating for its physicality. In addition to Ripatti, the Quartet is made up of fellow Finn Mika Vainio (electronics and processing), Derek Shirley (bass) and Lucio Capece (clarinet and sax). The latter also appeared on Delay’s Tumaa which can now be heard as a tentative, occluded prologue to this recording.

‘Sonta Teresa’ opens up a haunted space whose echoing percussion summons up the opening scenes of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, in which the three characters begin their journey into the ruined Zone. The sense of eery calm is then bludgeoned by ‘Des Abends’, a brutal blast of foghorn like a distant, wounded giant refusing to die. The distinct sonic character of each of the quartet’s performers is striking: Ripatti’s dramatic percussion reverberating as if in a vast refinery, Derek Shirley’s double bass sounding lengthy single notes like the tolling of the final bell and Vainio providing a darkened pall to bleed the light out from the day. ‘Hohtokivi’ comes the closest to Mika Vainio’s Pan Sonic project with its high voltage blast of rhythmic texture.

Lucio Capece’s beautifully treated saxophone tangled in weird bass and trudging percussion on ‘Killing The Water Bed’ brings to mind both the mercurial and too-long silent Chris Bowden, a Soviet-era version of Joe Henderson’s 1974 masterpiece The Elements and even, tangentially – maybe wishfully, maybe not – the great lost hope of Herbie Mwandishi Hancock’s Sextant, a set of co-ordinates still waiting to be properly explored. ‘Presentimen’t recalls the becalmed electronic dubscapes of classic Delay works such as The Four Quarters and Multila. Then ‘Louhos’ arrives with its all-consuming rhythm and banshee sax achieving an alarming intensity over its 10 minute length. Finally, ‘Salt Flat’ paints its landscape in drawn-out, multi-tracked saxophone gradually punctuated by minimal percussion and swathes of hot air: a fitting, somber end to an astonishing record.

The sound colours, the meshing of textures, the sheer interaction and group force of this record would be impossible for a single musician to produce. It’s a disappointment when each of the eight tracks ends; it’s not difficult to imagine each of them extended to occupy a full side of a quadruple vinyl record. Vladislav Delay Quartet is a thrilling call to arms. It’s impossible to imagine how they will develop this music. Let this be a starting point.

First published on The Liminal

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