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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Reclusive Vladislav Delay takes break from sabbatical to perform in Abu Dhabi

Sasu Ripatti makes his second live appearance in six months at New York University Abu Dhabi. It might well be his last gig this year.
Electronica musician Vladislav Delay. Joseph Branston / Future Music Magazine via Getty Images
Electronica musician Vladislav Delay. Joseph Branston / Future Music Magazine via Getty Images

Sasu Ripatti is at a career crossroads. After 20 years, and even more records, the experimental electronic artist better known as Vladislav Delay – the longest-running and most personal of a half-dozen recording aliases – is in the midst of a year off.

He is still making music, but swears anything he creates during this 12-month period will never be heard by the public.

On April 16, Ripatti makes his second live appearance in six months at New York University Abu Dhabi. It might well be his last gig this year – and our interview, the Finn tells me, is the first he has granted in “a very, very long time”.

His hiatus is a response to ­turning 40 and reflecting on two decades of diverse music – spanning the spectrum from ambient, minimal and house to glitch and techno – released under names including Uusitalo, Ripatti, Sistol, Conoco and, the best known, clubby vocal house project Luomo.

“It’s a private lesson,” says ­Ripatti. “Many people who are car mechanics or teachers do painting as a hobby – I took time off for my hobby, to pursue my passion without anything else other than it being a hobby. That’s really a precious thing.

“Who knows, maybe there are 100 tracks that no one should ever hear. Or maybe they are fantastic, but I find it intriguing that it will stay here in my box, and that’s it – time to go forward.”

An exception was made for this Abu Dhabi gig – part of a diverse, five-night mini-festival called Manifold – because Ripatti sees the visit not as a “business ­opportunity” but as a “personal” experience. “I’m hoping to open my mind,” he says.

Anyone who has been paying attention to Ripatti’s exceedingly fertile, incessantly prolific career might not be so surprised by his hiatus, the latest oblique turn from a decidedly media-shy, ­reclusive personality.

After spending much of the early 2000s in electronic-music nerve centre Berlin, nearly a decade ago he moved to the remote agricultural island of Hailuoto, off the coast of Finland.

He eschews social-media channels and two years ago shut down his website. He no longer has a press pack, and when a journalist asks for a photo there is just one image he is willing to share for publication: a distant shot of the ambient auteur hooded, in the wilderness, taken by his wife, electronic musician and frequent collaborator Antye Greie-Ripatti.

“I was born in nature and find nature most inspiring,” he says. “When I look now outside my studio window, I see just snow and trees and ocean, and some animals jumping. I would strongly argue that you create better in a certain kind of isolation.”

Originally a drummer, Ripatti has been playing music since he was five, and spent his adolescence bouncing between bebop jazz and extreme-metal bands.

His later embrace of electronic music was a tool that allowed him to create in solitude, but despite the influential sway of his dynamically diverse output, he listens to few contemporaries.

“Electronic [music] is a ­mentality, a utopia I like to keep in my mind,” he says. “I like electronic music a lot, if I think about it. I just don’t like how it sounds, [or] how it makes me feel when I hear it, because it’s mostly so ­predictable.

“I can guess eight bars ahead what comes next, and nine out of 10 times it comes – that’s not how I want to live my life. I really like challenges, surprises, pulling away the carpet beneath me. It makes you more reflective, more in the moment. Not just a numbing background thing.”

• Vladislav Delay will perform at Black Box, NYU Abu Dhabi on April 16, 8pm. Register for free tickets at www.nyuad-artscenter.org

rgarratt@thenational.ae