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Luomo - Convivial

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Artist: Luomo

Album: Convivial

Label: Huume

Review date: Nov. 10, 2008

While it met the collective cold shoulder of ‘inflated online music critic expectations’ when released in 2006, I quite enjoyed Luomo’s third album, Paper Tigers. It may not have reached the heights of its predecessors, 2000’s Vocalcity and 2003’s The Present Lover, but "Good To Be With,” "Really Don’t Mind" and "Wanna Tell" were all sumptuous, and lyrically, Finnish producer Sasu Ripatti had made some significant strides. The lover’s lament of "Wanna Tell" perfected the game of emotional tag he had been playing across these records, where the tics of interpersonal, romantic anxiety manifest through lyric, delivery and production.

But it’s true that Paper Tigers didn’t make the aesthetic leaps of other Luomo records, on which Ripatti co-parented microhouse (Vocalcity) before gesturing toward hyper-modern pop on the sleek, stainless-steel surfaces of The Present Lover. Convivial, if anything, is an extension and intensification of the latter album, albeit with significantly streamlined production. If you’re looking for the vocal science that characterized Ripatti’s earlier output, Convivial might be a disappointment: it’s there, but it’s often submerged, made to service each song’s overarching structure. The rhythms are bold and almost brash, the bass squirms and worms its way through and across the beats, and the synth textures and melodies are razor-sharp, livid, and precision tooled – stealthy.

This new turn reaches its peak on penultimate track "Gets Along Fine,” where snares slap against your skull while whistling melodies weave their way around vocalist Chubbs’s dejected devotional. But most of Convivial works to a similar level. "If I Can’t" features Scissor Sister Jake Shears ghosting himself in falsetto, while Ripatti drops pensive chords into a dub-wise Echoplex; the piston-pulse bass drum that punctuates the verse, just before the chorus, is heart-stopping. "Love You All" pivots on a juddering bass pattern that’s equal parts Mororder and ‘80s electronic pop, coasted by Apparat alias Sascha Ring’s most wistful, woozy vocal delivery yet. "Sleep Tonight,” one of four tracks featuring long-time Luomo vocalist Johanna Iivanainen, is yet another highlight – skipping along on a bubble-pack rhythm, here Iivanainen’s voice is repeatedly swarmed by twisting, amorphous peals of electronics. It’s the most playful I’ve heard Ripatti: "Sleep Tonight" sounds almost giddy with its own pleasure.

Not everything’s perfect on Convivial. The lyrics on "Slow Dying Places’ are pretty ordinary, Sue Cie’s rap on "Nothing Goes Away" is faintly embarrassing, and Robert Owens is underused on "Robert’s Reason.” With a voice as singular as Owens, I was hoping for a full-blown house spiritual, something to shake the walls. Instead, Owens suffers slightly for his subjection to Ripatti’s will: it’s one of the few examples where you wish Ripatti had taken things further, really pushed the boat out. And the closing "Lonely Music Co.,” while lovely, feels slight. Ripatti could have done more with this, bringing Convivial to an end with a gracious flourish.

It’d be hard to be disappointed with Convivial, however. It’s not necessarily an immediate listen; it took a few spins before the leaps Ripatti has made started seriously to sink in. But it’s the strongest thing he’s done, either as Luomo or under his Uusitalo or Vladislav Delay guises, since The Present Lover, and its sharpening of focus suggests Ripatti has yet more work to do under this guise, heading further down the pop(ulist) path Luomo’s currently navigating.

By Jon Dale

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