Vladislav Delay Quartet
Gatefold 2LP version. Vladislav Delay has always been a maverick artist. But after relocating to Hailuoto, Finland in 2008, what he calls "absolute freedom" has become the de facto muse guiding his music. On 2009's Tummaa, Delay cracked open ambient dub's hermetically-sealed aesthetic and ushered in elements of jazz-fusion, free improv and industrial noise. Tummaa is dark, restless and challenging. It's also a stepping stone, one that leads directly to Vladislav Delay Quartet, the musician's most radical statement to date. Though this absolute freedom is inextricably linked to the relative isolation of his Finnish home, Delay's latest record is very much a product of collective participation and multiple locales. In Derek Shirley, Lucio Capece and Mika Vainio, Delay has found three musicians more than willing to translate such a non-negotiable concept into sound. A balance is reached between individuality and the demands of the unit. The album's opening salvo -- "Minus Degrees, Bare Feet, Tickles" -- is a commanding declaration of independence. Layered with murky static, churning woodwinds and bowed bass, the music is visceral and unsettling. It also has nothing to do with ambient, dub or the myriad micro-genres they have spawned. This is noise -- vital 21st-century electronic noise that cuts a sharp angle between Borbetomagus' wicked maximalism and the wraith-like aggression coursing through black metal's more drone-based manifestations. That said, VDQ doesn't deal in sonic aggression, exclusively. Spotlighting Capece's soaring, avian reed-work, "Killing The Water Bed" is a vaporous foray into avant-garde jazz; "Presentiment" is deep, liquid blues, dripping suggestively from the celluloid of a long-forgotten sci-fi noir. The penultimate piece, "Louhos," is easily the record's most brutal in terms of rhythm, volume and density. Recalling free jazz and heavy metal's cacophonous flirtations in the late 1980s, the massive rock-beat anchoring the maelstrom swirling about it wouldn't feel out of place on Last Exit's Iron Path or even Ground Zero's epic Consume Red. Eventually, clattering electronics, fuzz-spiked percussion and a scalding wash of reeds rise up. Obliterating all forward propulsion by track's end, they leave a hazy cloud of reverb and feral cries in their wake. Recorded at the former Radio Yugoslavia studios in Belgrade throughout one week, Vladislav Delay Quartet is an expansive and multifaceted listening experience. In Delay's scrupulous production, the ensemble's raw and natural interaction finds a deep coherence: the articulation of absolute freedom. Vladislav Delay (drums, percussion), Lucio Capece (saxophone, bass clarinet), Derek Shirley (double bass) and Mika Vainio (electronics, live processing).