Home Music Vladislav Delay: Rakka II

Vladislav Delay: Rakka II

There’s a contradiction at the heart of Vladislav Delay’s Rakka that’s hard to understand at first. Arriving in 2020 after a six-year hiatus, Rakka was inspired, so he said, by the Arctic landscape in which he lives. Accordingly, it was his most brutal music, with zero interest in the “ambient” music the Delay moniker became known for around the turn of the millennium. You could imagine howling winds, harsh rocks, snow-capped peaks, ice-cold rivers. Indeed “rakka” is a name for a uniquely Arctic rock formation in the artist’s native Finnish. But he was at great pains to insist the music was not a “nature recording,” disdaining both the place-based self-identification of so much electronic music and the hippieish implications of going off the grid.

Listening to Rakka II, released just over a year after the first one, it’s a little easier to understand what he’s getting at. To traverse the Arctic requires a desire to expose oneself to punishing conditions, the sting of a cold wind and the burn of a long day’s hike. It’s a cleansing, healing pain. And even more so than its predecessor, Rakka II is interested in the soothing power of brutal sound, in how sensory bombardment can lead to a deeper focus and clarity of mind than ambient music. It requires the same alert state of mind you need out in the wilderness, and that’s what it’s meant to invoke, not an image of the wilderness itself.

It’s still not something you’d throw on unless you want to subject yourself to punishment, but this time around, it yields its rewards a little more easily. The first Rakka sometimes agitated when it wanted to awe, especially when it focused more on treble sounds and white noise. Rakka II lives in the low end, and it’s a world of difference: on both “Raaa” and “Ranno,” a bass drum crashes through the center of the song, and the effect is purifying. These eight tracks err on the side of “loud” rather than “noisy,” and even though Rakka II is both shorter and easier to listen to than Rakka, it’s by no means less powerful, and it’s certainly no closer to ambient music. (Ambient reprieve “Rakas” is just as hilariously undercooked as “Raakile” was on the first, as if to prove it’s not where his heart lies.)

Rakka II makes clear that it is not supposed to represent a journey. Most of these tracks, including the monstrous six-minute opener “Rakkn,” start and end abruptly. There’s no sense of linear progression. It’s more as if you’ve suddenly been airlifted into another and equally hostile space and have to get up as quickly as you can and fend for yourself. Taken together, Rakka and Rakka II don’t form any kind of conceivable arc. But that’s part of what makes the Rakka project so exciting. Despite a substantially shorter track-length average, Rakka II feels like a twin rather than an addendum, and there’s no risk that these albums will compromise their individuality to act as parts in a whole.

Delay said he threw “four albums of pretty good, standard Vladislav Delay music out the window” while trying to get the right sound for Rakka. He’s deemed both of these albums releasable, so there’s no telling if he’ll make three, four, five of them. I, for one, hope he does. The reason Delay was able to spend weeks in the Arctic wilderness in the first place was because he sold all his hardware; the Rakka albums are his first all-digital endeavors, so we’re hearing him figure out a new way of making his music in real time. Rakka II gets right what Rakka attempted. And with the impending release of Fun is Not a Straight Line, his debut as Ripatti, he seems to be hurling himself into his creative endeavors with fresh zeal. A half-century into his career, Vladislav Delay is once again one of the most exciting artists in electronic music.

Rakka II is interested in the soothing power of brutal sound, in how sensory bombardment can lead to a deeper focus and clarity of mind than ambient music.
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Arctic Awe

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