Vladislav Delay at Galapagos
The Bunker @ Galapagos
Writing about the post-modern electronic musings of Berlin poet-producer AGF (née Antye Greie-Fuchs) a few years ago in these very pages, I deemed that in the realm of current female singer/songwriters, “She’s a realist, not a meliorist.” For the duration of her two-laptop set at Brooklyn restaurant/ art installation Monkeytown, such distinctions dissipate and crumble like the images of broken ice, worn steps, and rusted Chinese signage that get projected on all four walls of the venue.
Perhaps AGF doesn’t believe that progress (or human interference with processes) leads to an improvement of the world, but she can at least perceive the future of the genre. Rather than be a singer/songwriter in the classical vein of, say, Joni Mitchell— seated on a stool, hunched over an acoustic guitar at open-mic night singing her poetry—AGF instead sits cross-legged and hunched over, bathed in the glow of a computer screen, mumbling her poetry amid thunderous though swiftly-splintering drum hits.
Much like her life partner, techno producer Sasu Ripatti—who releases similarly fractured and cutting-edge productions under the nom de plumes Vladislav Delay, Luomo, and Uusitalo (all three separately released full-lengths in 2007)—Greie-Fuchs explores space and time in her rubbery, wobbly productions. Tonight, the resultant beatscapes are slippery as ice and just as prone to ruptures and breaks. Instead of moving to the rhythms, the sparse crowd is forced instead to carefully traverse them in their heads. Lines (either written or whispered) bubble up about “layer(s) movable” and “a silence made of the space between words.” Sampling Aaliyah’s mantra “If at first you don’t succeed” at one point, AGF diligently mutates her beats between each word throughout the night. At least until she brings everything to a sudden halt, afraid that she blew out a speaker.
Ripatti isn’t in attendance that night, instead taking care of the couple’s infant daughter. For Ripatti’s rare appearance in New York two nights later at The Bunker, AGF instead has the parental duties. For over a decade, he has unleashed magma-like albums of abstract electronics as Vladislav Delay and infinite mirror-ball minimal techno as Luomo, with his other identities vascillating between the two. Tonight, he hews closer to the sonics of the former identity. The back room at Galapagos is packed, necks craning to get a glimpse of the reclusive, albeit prolific, producer.
Hunched over his laptop—though leaning to tap on a mysterious homemade piece of percussion with a screwdriver handle—Ripatti stands so that his impish Jack Frost features get highlighted by the screen’s glow, a constant smirk evident as he undercuts the 4/4 inherent in most electronic music, toying with it like the jazz drummer he once was. He immerses the room in warm, melted dub bass tones that slush about between the cement walls. But where you expect the snare to fall and order each measure, instead Ripatti holds it, holds it, holds it, hesitating for microseconds so that metronomic time dilates, the hits never falling precisely where you anticipate them. But when he does let that metallic snare sound drop, it’s crisp as a rifle shot, ricocheting through the room.
Delay too has a moment of rupture at the utmost depth of his mesmeric hour-long set. The room swaying to a bass line that quotes Luomo’s microhouse classic Vocalcity, an overhead fluorescent light flickers on, breaking the spell. But the illumination finally reveals Delay’s mysterious device: two cowbells welded together and bedecked with spring reverb and a contact mic. Thwacked steadily throughout the set, but processed so that time itself seems to warp and dissolve, in this light it looks like an hourglass laid on its side. Such are the sands of time in Ripatti’s hands.