Luomo: Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers may not be the revelation that Vocalcity was, but its quiet, complex experiments show an artist extremely serious about his work


Paper Tigers

Label: Huume
US Release Date: 2006-10-24
UK Release Date: 2006-10-16

I've been rethinking my evaluation of Luomo's new CD since the first few spins, and the reason is I've realized the extent to which his echoing, fractured dub compositions echo another tightly-regulated musical form, that of the classical sonata. It's all done so skillfully, packaged so unobtrusively in Luomo's signature stuttering echo, you can miss it on the first, or seventh, listen; but this rigorously constructed music has a great deal of depth, and a continuing appeal.

Vladislav Delay, a.k.a. Luomo, must be coming up on 30, but he continues to make music on the forward edge of the electronica spectrum with his heavy, cut-to-pieces dub. All the fuss over the re-release of Vocalcity last year -- you know, words like “seminal", phrases like “father of minimalism” bandied about by the press willy-nilly -- left his second album, The Present Lover, feeling something like a postscript rather than a step forward. Paper Tigers feels like the third in a series; moving in a certain direction in miniscule steps, it’s a big sister to his previous album and, though it’s a perfectly accomplished piece of electronica, leaves the listener wondering just what this musician could do if he ever returns to the paradigm-breaking mindset of his debut.

But here's the thing: though this isn't true for all his songs, the best tracks conform to this very classical sonata form, and it brings a whole new structure to an otherwise very minimal aesthetic. Sonata form flows from exposition (in which the primary and secondary themes are stated) to development (in which thematic material is broken apart, its component elements expanded and dealt with individually) to recapitulation (the final repetition of the theme, altered slightly to mark the end of the piece. A song like "The Tease Is Over" follows this model remarkably closely: the jazzy, piano-accompanied theme is stated once before it begins to splinter into components, echoing bits taken one by one and developed into a strange, deep, and quite different sonic atmosphere.

This concern with developing and stripping away is continued across tracks, too, demonstrating the importance of tracking to the experience of listening to this kind of music. But from the outset, "Really Don't Mind" takes opening cut "Paper Tigers" as jumping-off point: where the first track took five minutes to coalesce into a coherent statement of minimal techno, "Really Don't Mind" begins with the previous track's fractured female vocal and quickly develops them into a full melody. The expansive nature of the tracks allow enormous changes of feeling/emotion/theme midway, as at five and a half minutes in here; Luomo takes the dub to the next level, demonstrating the construction of a great dub track from first principles. The same thing happens on "Wanna Tell", at the same point; the beat changes, and things become much sparser, even incorporating short breaks with no sound. Throughout, whether it's broken into shards or laying out a slinky melody, Johanna Iivanainen's vocals provide coherence.

Luomo's success without vocals is less consistent: while "Dirt Me" fizzles and sputters in and out of regularity, "Cowgirl" fails to hold as much of the listener's interest. But the artist's less concerned with variety and more with atmosphere and small-scale experiments of form; and it's paid off with an entirely consistent record that doesn't reach too far out-of-genre.

Luomo, like Hans-Peter Lindstrom (the other artist electronica release receiving critical praise recently), widens the appeal of a dance genre by mining a vein of attractive melody, unafraid of dance music's ability to please the ear. Luomo's the more challenging artist, though, and he's doing something more academic on his best tracks. Paper Tigers may not be the revelation that Vocalcity was, but its quiet, complex experiments show an artist extremely serious about his work. It's an added bonus that it's a splintering, disorienting treat to listen to, as well.






PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.


Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.