Northern winter is for sound lovers. Sound travels farther in cold air. The variety of noises thins out in the winter air and tiny acoustic details appear in the spaciousness. Visuals cooperate too: colours ease away and, as a friend says, the landscape looks like a monochrome watercolour. Time for delicate calibrations of the senses.
Minimalist music makes sense when you walk around for an hour and hear nothing more than wind in branches, the occasional dog, and ravens imitating anything from water to car motor, between spells of silence.
I’ve thought about minimalist music and Northern spaciousness since listening to work by audio artist Tim Hecker’s work for the first time when I visited Dawson’s twilight November last year. This year, I didn’t have to look far to find out that Vladislav Delay (born Sasu Ripatti, 1976) also makes a strong connection between Northern winter and time for creativity.
In a description of his just-released experimental CD Tummaa, the Berlin-based Finnish artist writes that he spent last winter “on a remote island in the Baltic Sea within the Arctic Circle” creating a new album called Tummaa.
Tummaa means dark or darkness, which reflects the music on the album somehow but also the fact that I worked on the album during ‘kaamos’ time of the year in Finland. Kaamos time really gets dark from December to February where you only have few hours of light per day. I really liked that and the whole winter enormously.
(So which island was it? I’d love to know. And what differences did he notice most between the soundscape there and in Berlin?)
The minimalist music on Tummaa alternates between gorgeous and haunting. Here’s part of the album description from Ripatti’s website:
Tummaa involves Ripatti on percussion, Argentine musician Lucio Capece on clarinet and saxophone, and Scottish soundtrack composer Craig Armstrong on piano and Rhodes (Ripatti previously collaborated with Armstrong on the 1995 album The Dolls, along with Ante Greie). Ripatti set the tone, recording his drum parts and then inviting Capece to his studio to improvise alongside the drums. Armstrong offered recordings of pure solo piano playing he had made for the project. From these two sound sources, Ripatti began composing and arranging, and wrote a whole suite of music.
And here’s a beautiful video for Toive (“Wish”), the fifth track on Tummaa.
An animation of ice rebuilding itself from fragments, among other crystalline imagery. Eyeblink shifts ice to plastic to ice. Spheres and pyramids plot hard lines between crumbling ice slush: futuristic cityscapes flash over ice columns that hunger for the privacy of dark winter days.
First seen accompanied on a dark snowy eve when post-dinner scotch-sipping turned toward surfing YouTube for favorite music clips (thanks Charles!). Directed by Carolina Melis (London illustrator and animator, London) and Lorenzo Sportiello (film director/photographer, London/Rome).
Ripatti’s ambient, broken beat and house music, lately rubbed down with some R&B, has been in high demand since Berlin’s Chain Reaction released a series of his experimental dub EPs. He’s collaborated with many musicians ranging from Massive Attack to Scissor Sisters (versatile!).
I’m intrigued that he devoted a season to living remotely – and I imagine somewhat austerely – with two incredible composers when he has options open to him in any urban area globally. Remoteness invites possibility at times, and at the right time this musician had the listening answer.