After seemingly backing himself into a corner with 2006’s underwhelming Paper Tigers, Sasu Ripatti bounces back strong with Luomo’s newest effort, Convivial. While it doesn’t quite revisit or surpass the height of his previous house epics Vocal City or The Present Lover, it finds Ripatti in a much warmer, livelier place, and the change in climate is both refreshing and relieving.
As its title conveys, Convivial is Luomo’s most accessible album. It’s not only more song-driven than any of Ripatti’s previous work, but his most human as well. That humanity comes courtesy of his expanded roster of impressive vocal and lyrical contributors. In addition to the return of chief Paper Tigers collaborator Johanna Ivanainen, Ripatti welcomes Apparat, Robert Owens, and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears among others. The sheer abundance of outside voices could have potentially proved detrimental, but the result is both cohesive and intimate.
That intimacy is felt strongest in the immaculate “Love You All.” Apparat lays his languid falsetto over Ripatti’s labyrinthine groove, charting a navigable path through his dense layers of strings, beats, and arpeggios. A close second comes in the form of “If I Can’t,” which finds Shears toning down his usual vocal theatrics in order service the beauty of the song rather than steal it. Both of these songs rank among Luomo’s best as well as most pop-friendly endeavors.
Other highlights heed closer to the established formula of Luomo’s past heights – the velvety, Owens-aided house of “Robert’s Dream,” the pensive thrust of “Gets Along Fine – but still unfold with a renewed sparkle and shine. Even the album’s dimmer moments (namely Ivanainen’s numbers) are merely overshadowed by its admittedly impressive peaks and work towards maintaining its unity and momentum.
Like a much needed breath of fresh air, Luomo’s latest clears out all of the staleness and doubt left in the room by Tigers, making way for what will hopefully continue to be confident, passionate gusts of creativity like this one.
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