While his work has left some detractors a bit cold, I've found my interest with Vladislav Delay growing with just about every release. His cool, minimal production didn't really grab my ear on his earlier releases, but some of his newer work (like The Four Quarters and Explode with AGF) has really tickled my fancy. Tulenkantaja is the fourth album that he's had a hand in during the past year (he also contributed to the self-titled release by The Dolls), and it seems he has no intention of slowing down.
If The Four Quarters was his take on cool and creepy fractured dub, then his Uusitalo guise finds him cranking up the BPMs and churning out sleek dancefloor burners that twist and turn in the same odd ways. Ten tracks clock in at an average of almost seven minutes apiece and each track (inspired by Finnish literature and his author father and grandmother) is slippery in subtle ways, shifting from 4/4 bangers to slightly weirder signatures before locking in and rolling again. "Paskaa Musaa" opens the album, and at eight minutes runs a bit long, but like a true intro seems to tease and tease before finally letting loose with some cracking beats for a bit before slithering back again.
From there, the album is much more successful, as "Odottava Peto" wastes no time in getting going as the German-inspired minimalism lets it ride with breathy synth stabs, undulating bass lines and frenetic beat programming. "Nokkonen Päiväunilla" is even more successful, chopping apart his lustrous minimal sounds and putting them back together in a way that sounds something like what might happen if Akufen were remixing Delay himself. Little spoken bits and micro stutters jump all over the place, yet the track keeps things engaging by barely staying on the rails.
Other than the jumpy first track, the album only takes a few small breathers, and even those are short ones. Mostly, Delay keeps things hot and heavy with numbers like the excellent "Tervatahroja," which takes little bursts of hand percussion and microsamples and shuffles them into the rhythmic workout. Rhythm is the key word for the entire album, and while it might make for some slightly bewildered limbs on the dancefloor (due to the playful shifts in tempo), Tulenkantaja is a needed addition to any collection that worships the beat.