Reviews

Luomo

It is said that a watched pot boils more slowly. Well, the genre coined as microhouse certainly has many a gaze -- journo at least -- turned on it. And if The Present Lover, only the second album since 2000 by Luomo -- a PowerBook-pop guise of Finnish producer Vladislav Delay -- is any indication, recordings in this gently unfolding genre show no signs of percolating to anyone's pace but their own. The tradeoff, however, is a thoroughly realized construction rather than overcooked/overwrought mimicry as befits so much house. Microhouse made sleek and streamlined the conventions of house. Now Luomo is making the sleek and steely silky, trading mere minimalism for scintillating simplicity.

Delay still traffics in repetitions, but they are not the introspective gathered glitches of Luomo's debut full-length, Vocalcity (actually a collection of three EPs). The Present Lover, on the other hand, is a refraction of the familiar through a gossamer prism. Ticking texturalization is reimagined as romantic ripple. The Present Lover is imbued with a sheen of disco shimmer -- the resulting patterns sometimes akin to the scatter of a disco ball, sometimes a more rigidly tempered plane/pane, frosted by the hot breath of the real, not robo, female vocals as sensually manipulated as they were delivered.

The Present Lover is house music where it's not about being in the thrall of the commanding respect of an in-your-face diva, but rather being enamored of the coy coo of an absent ingénue. It's an album of whispers. In much the way a lover can murmur something in your ear that's indistinct but identifiable in its intent, there's a warm tickle to even the coldest elements of The Present Lover. There's a familiarity you can't always pinpoint in its retooled form yet still recognize as appealing. Instead of hiccups there are sighs; instead of pools of ticks there are taut strands. The Present Lover reminds you of the conventions of deep/microhouse you enjoy most, then remakes them so you appreciate them all the more.

A track such as "Tessio" -- the first single, a remake of a Vocalcity cut -- utilizes lightly granulated processing over gelatinous, yawning bass. Instead of the languid coagulation of the hooks on the more ambient ambles of Vocalcity, The Present Lover is a rhythmically hypnotic construction that works harder at tethering the listener than a sprawl of slowly syncopating elements. You don't get lost in Luomo's latest as much as lost with it, even at its more abstract. "Cold Lately" is a clipped hive of pulse and pause. These are shadows in a stream, not murky puddles waiting to pool. "Body Speaking" is a seductive track of mesmerizing murmurs. Percussion provides a frame of reference, whether it is the hi-hats of "So You" or the anchoring kick drums of "Could Be Like This." Delay's appreciation and expressions of dub are apparent in the echo and reverb on tracks including "Shelter" and "Visitor," but he allows reels back before sounds get lost in the infinite overlaps.

What all tracks share is a polish that extends past tonal elements -- this is an album of well-rehearsed pickup lines. These are familiar techniques, but that doesn't make them any less effective. Instead of teasing the listener with burbling hooks waiting to surface, The Present Lover does so more directly with a buffed luster to reflect on and in, each angle revealing more. Let the pot take its time. This one is a slow burner, but worth it.