Vladislav Delay looks to footwork, hip-hop and old-school house on his rowdiest record yet.
Footwork feels like the main influence here—repetitive chopped-up vocals and stabbing bass notes abound—though as you might expect, Ripatti's take is more abstract than most. Most of the time, like on the opener "filthyfresh," the vocals are rendered unintelligible. Even when you can sort of understand what they're saying, like on the R&B crooner "Flowers," one of the catchiest tracks here, they eventually reach the point of semantic saturation. His version of this music lacks the soul and smoothness of many of its Chicago pioneers, instead choosing an angular, more aggressive tack. It feels more like a mélange of various Chicago strains, from ghettotech and juke to footwork and old-school jacking house.
The best part of Fun Is Not A Straight Line is implied by its title: each track, no matter how barebones and functional, zig-zags from one idea to the next. My favourite, "Monolith," starts out like heaving, sped-up gqom, before a breakdown leads into the heaviest footwork of the moment, with a jackhammer bassline that sounds like it's trying to knock the speakers over. Nearly every cut has some kind of dramatic change—see also "motherfuckyou," with its descent into barebones funk halfway through.
All of these tracks, in their own way, carry traces of Ripatti's other music. Sometimes the sound design suddenly transcends the direct, almost janky nature of the productions (check the three-dimensional hand drums on "speedmemories"), and several tracks have the airy feel of some of the most arctic and isolated Vladislav Delay releases, especially the astounding closer "girl is hip," where Ripatti's talent for both atmosphere and intuitive sampling come together for one of the trippiest footwork-adjacent tracks I've ever heard.
When Ripatti is doing his own thing on Fun Is A Straight Line, it sounds great. But when he's mimicking more conventional ideas, it falls a little flat. Using Rick Ross's "Hustlin'" as the backbone for "everyday" is a painfully obvious choice, like your dad talking about hip-hop, while his rework of Ty Dolla $ign's "Drop That Kitty"—here called "videophonekitty"—comes off sloppy and forced, lacking the slapdash charm of some of the earliest footwork.
That's the thing about this album. Come at it as a footwork record and you might be disappointed. But if you think of it as another LP in Ripatti's vast and adventurous discography, it's a new chapter in sound and rhythm, at a much faster pace than we're used to. At just 34 minutes, Fun Is Not A Straight Line is a breathtaking flurry, so quick that even the lesser moments pass by without a problem. It sounds like Ripatti taking out his frustrations—and sometimes celebrating—in the studio, coming up with inventive arrangements on the fly, every new twist and turn more thrilling than the last.