Tonight the Union Chapel is an oasis of calm in a city beset by a sudden torrential downpour. As London venues go it’s particularly appropriate for this evening’s performance, the church’s intricate architecture and slightly odd acoustic properties reflected in Vladislav Delay’s almost indecipherably complex sound sculpturing.
In many ways it’s difficult to know how to interpret Sasu Ripatti’s performance tonight. Whilst on record his delicately shaped abstractions maintain a certain sense of direction, this evening’s show with Lucio Capece downplays obvious build and release dynamics for more exploratory meanderings. It could hardly be considered a bad thing – the music the duo craft is complex and almost irresistibly immersive, managing to slow the brain’s activity to some sort of suspended animation for the hour or so they are onstage. The spell is only broken by sudden, punctuated bursts of abrasive noise and percussive utterances from Capece’s formidable array of clarinet preparations – including, amongst other things, several differently sized coffee tins and, perversely, what appears to be a large silver vibrator.
The real joy in tonight’s performance though is in witnessing the interaction between the two players. Throughout, Ripatti and Capece face in almost opposite directions, their minimal physical communication belying the almost superhuman concentration that seems to be focused on every musical development. Capece’s sax and bass clarinet are passed through Ripatti’s impressive tabletop array of processors, setting up a complex feedback loop that allows each player to feed both directly and indirectly off the actions of the other. The result is an hour’s worth of crystalline percussive textures that shift back and forth as though alive, lent an eerie physicality by occasional phases of cavernous, dubbed out bass – a memory of Ripatti’s seven years spent making music in Berlin. That this evening is the first time they’ve performed live together makes it all the more entrancing to watch.
Despite the set’s heavily improvised nature, there are odd moments when recognisable melodic themes appear briefly and lock into the groove, stretching out to infinity under the pair’s ever rippling surface tension. The thick analogue tones of ‘Kuula (Kitos)’ form a central motif around which the ocean of heavily processed sound breaks off in tiny eddies before pulling back together as the melody sinks below the surface. The aquatic comparison is an apt one – each tiny sound produced by Capece is added to Ripatti’s sonic whirlpool and takes on a life of its own, turning away on odd tangents before becoming re-absorbed into the maelstrom. When the final notes ebb away the pair leave the stage in as understated a manner as they arrived, the odd silence hanging in the air feeling merely like the next section of a much longer performance.
Photograph: 'Brixton Monsoon' by Nico Hogg