Although it's been some time since I actually reviewed a release by Vladislav Delay (you'd have to go clear back to his Entain release), I've kept an ear on his output over the course of the past couple years. In large part, he's continued his work in long-form electronic excursions that take bits of everything from minimal ambient to dub and work them into cool, tense worlds of sound that could easily be the soundtrack for a futuristic realm where everyone wears form-fitting clothes completely lacking in color and germs are a thing of the past.
It's not to say that his releases are sterile, because they're far from it, but they definitely run clean and often lean, focusing in on the micro as well as the journey at hand. In the past year, he's been even more prolific than usual, teaming up with AGF (aka Antye Greie) on this year's Explode with Greie and Craig Armstrong on the forthcoming release as The Dolls, and with this newest full-length release under his own name.
The Four Quarters contains many of the aforementioned qualities of the work of Delay, and fans of his previous work will eat it up and find some new pleasing wrinkles as well. With four tracks that run a total of just over an hour (averaging almost exactly fifteen minutes apiece), the disc takes its time in getting places and although it has a very similar feel throughout, manages just enough twists to keep interesting. In fact, the opening track "The First Quarter," drops dubby low end rumbles and microsamples of everything from breakbeat to hip-hop in order to propel the track through a hazy landscape of skittery bursts and tonal washes.
In large part, that's how the action continues on the release, with "The Second Quarter" again laying down pretty drones of sound and sparse interjections of beat programming that feel like they're falling apart while being played through the empty halls of an old building. "The Third Quarter" seems to take a slightly more aggressive path, as rhythmic structures again struggle to find form out of shadowy darkness before it settles in and moves along with a subtle beat that steadily gains power before being obliterated again. "The Fourth Quarter" mainly picks up where the previous tracks left off, dropping delayed (pun intended perhaps), dub-style melodica sounds while unleashing swirls of beats that only coalesce into something even slightly solid once in awhile.
So it goes with The Four Quarters, which is largely an ambient release broken up with completely fractured rhythms and micro-elements that serve mainly as sporadic placeholders. In general, it seems that Delay has rounded off some of the more clinical corners of his previous releases, leaving a slightly more human element that doesn't ever really jell like some of his minimal electronic musician contemporaries, but still makes for an interesting journey. To some it will sound pretty unfocused, but to me it captures the feel of modern life pretty well, with a combination of odd calm and blatant distractions.