I’m glad to know that Pan Sonic are still an active concern. We need more of their stripped-down, near-brutalist approach to electronic music as an antidote to the creeping ambient menace and conspiracy of “tasteful” presets, both forces of banality which are gradually engulfing the world. On Oksastus (KVITNU 33) we have the original lineup of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen releasing their twisted and filthy onslaught in the arena of a live concert given in the Ukraine in 2009. While it’s not as aggressive as Life…It Eats You Up (Mika’s horrifying solo record from 2011) nor as continuously doomy as the recent Monstrance project with Joachim Nordwall, Oksastus is shrouded in black gloom and has enough thrilling moments of shocking noise to keep me tuned in during the oncoming Autumnal months. It’s also packed with beats, reminding us of the origins of these experimentalists in the Finnish Art-Techno milieu of Turku. But these beats are suffused, joyless, thumping pulsations that press against a man’s temples like unwanted mind-control clamps, and are calculated to induce a perpetual mood of dread and loathing, much like machine-operated spiders or a swarm of clockwork beetles on the advance. Oksastus builds an enclosed soundworld and wallows in its own claustrophobia, trapping the listener in an underground dungeon with virtually no light, which I would like to imagine is what the Ukraine venue was like. The sullen, uncommunicative performance seems to go on forever, until your memory of life in the upper sunlit world is wiped away, and you accept the finality of the darkness. The lush jet-black and silver cover, decorated with scanning microscope photography provided by Oleg Kozlov and much transparent ink overprinting, completely confirms the inward-looking nature of the music; it’s as though we’re being forced to examine our own internal organisms in unsparing microscopic detail. Arrived 24 February 2014.
Far more restrained than the above but no less chilling is Konstellaatio (SÄHKÖ RECORDINGS SÄHKÖ-028), a solo release by Mika Vainio under his Ø alias. Slow and spare pulse-beats provide a skeletal framework; barely filling in the spaces of this mechanical grid are thin and forlorn synth tones, sounding like small bells or unearthly whining tones. Desolation and bleakness abound, but there’s a clinical perfection to its execution, and it’s clear that Vainio finds beauty in this solitude and inhuman landscape of abstractions. Naturally enough, the back cover is an indistinct photo of a faraway galaxy, while the monochrome front cover image could be read as an attempt to reconstruct the famous photograph of the Solway Firth Spaceman. From 14 February 2014.