Release Date: 10/11/2014
New material from any one of Sasu Ripatti’s many guises is something to treat as a rare grace. Extra significance should be afforded to his latest work however - not only is Visa the first album-length release from Ripatti since 2012’s Kuopio, the record also sees Ripatti (under his primary moniker, Vladislav Delay) return to the ambient genre, of which he is something of a master.
The dynamics Ripatti manages to create with so few components is something which has always set him apart: all too often, ambient music seems to give way to clichéd euphoric builds or sickly cinematic crescendos. In the case of Visa however, it is often just the slight release of a filter, a subtle adjustment made to a loop or an added layer of static that gives narrative to the album. Opening track ‘Visaton’ for instance stretches over twenty minutes in length, yet never feels to be overstaying its welcome. Tape-saturated samples clatter forward like a typewriter stuck on a single character, whilst discordant soundscapes build to a disquieting ascent.
Kuopio was groundbreaking in its injection of rhythm into the ambient genre, using sharply cut harmonic loops and quaking tremolo’s to create rhythm without the need for percussive hits. Visa deploys similar techniques but with a touch more subtlety. For example, ‘Viisari’ murmurs tentatively, as melancholic synths quiver like long grass in the wind. Scratches of static and warbling samples creak beneath the atmospheres; beautifully exposed and fragile. ’Vihollinen’ comes as close to actual percussion as Visa gets, and as the track reaches its climax, hollow snares begin cracking like thunder through the faded piano loops.
The album’s press release divulges that the record was composed in just two weeks - the Finnish artist having found himself with surplus time after being denied entry to the United States on a planned tour. If this feat were attributed to another artist it might beg belief, yet with the mystique Ripatti has already cultivated over the years through his wildly divergent productions it seems somehow plausible…