Before I delve in, I have to say how delighted I was to return to such a beautiful and lovely sounding venue – particularly when the stage was flanked with two proper stacks of Funktion 1 sound. We’re lucky to have a chance-taking venue of this calibre in London, particularly when it has to share its time with religious duties. But to get to the point without further delay (geddit?), here’s my report on Vladislav Delay‘s visit to Union Chapel.
Sasu Ripatti and Lucio Capece performed about an hour’s worth of material from Tummaa. It was very live. Most of the music originated from an alto saxophone without a neck, with various mouthpieces attached to it and a bizarre assortment of bespoke mutes on the other end – to the extent that there was hardly ever any recognisable saxophone in the mix. When the mouthpiece wasn’t being used for blowing, Lucio Capece made odd clicks and other percussive noises with it. He also abused the mutes for all manner of unexpected output.
These were strange mutes. One looked like a hollowed-out telephoto lense attached to a paper towell roll. They were variously tapped with mallets, bowed and things were shoved in them. In one of the oddest perversions of instrumentation I’ve ever seen, he covered one of the mutes on a bass clarinet with a circular piece of paper, balanced a tiny ball in the middle and kept it levitated with constant exhalation. The ball rattled around atop the floating sheet next to a microphone, but it’s hard to know exactly what this sounded like relative to the final output. I imagine he must have been breathing circularly to pull this off. Indeed, a lot of the time he seemed to be producing constant sound, so that he was achieving something more like a bagpipe or a didgeridoo than a saxophone/clarinet.
Not that you could really hear what it sounded like, since all of this was sampled, effected and often completely removed from the mix in its unadulterated form. It was basically the source of almost every sound that came out of the Ripatti’s laptop, save some bizarre percussive pops/clicks that looked like they were coming from the naked skeleton of an autoharp and some other pad thing he was tapping on from time to time.
What was amazing about this was how much it resembled the sounds of the album, since nearly all of it seemed to be generated, modified, sampled, sequenced, arranged and dubbed in real time. It seemed like Ripatti had some kind of Kaos pad type of thing that he would tremolo things up with as they were recorded and he would actually play a lot of the percussive bits himself. In short, it’s hard to know who made what at which point. I’ve seen similar performances where a lot is left to chance and improvisation, which can be excellent, but I was unprepared to hear something so similar to Tummaa, achieved in such an imaginative, unusual and genuinely live way. It was captivating.
There did seem to be a couple of pre-recorded bits, but from what I could tell they were just the bits that would have come from a keyboard, and there was no keyboardist. This was about .1% of the total music played, and no slight on what they did. Oh, and on the last or next-to-last track Lucio Capece had some bizarre arcane wooden box with some vaguely accordian-esque properties, routed through his own tiny mixer. This was really cool too. I’d love to know what the front of the box looks like and what the hell it was.
I’m also just remembering that during the first track there were a lot of people walking back in to the chapel from the bar and some of their footsteps and a cough from the audience were captured by on-stage microphones and wound up in the mix. This was really intriguing to hear, as they were just building up the sounds that would form the beginning of the set and it felt like the acoustics of the building were becoming a part of the music itself.
My only complaint is that I couldn’t recognise Toive in what they played. It’s my favourite song from the album (one of my favourites of the year full-stop) and I was really looking forward to hearing that kick come in, as it has a huge impact in contrast to an album’s worth of ambience. It’s possible that it was played, but I didn’t spot it, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, this is a very minor complaint and we left very happy. It was a great performance that will sit nicely beside my other great memories of the Union Chapel.