Panasonic released their first full-length Vakio in 1995, their
arrival on the electronic music scene foreshadowed the onset of an era
where techno and house music share the same stage with sound design
and digital processing. "Vakio" was an exciting debut that displayed
a somewhat scientific-sounding approach to the four-to-the-floor dance
sound, side by side with experimental snippets of exercises in pure
tonality. What gives Panasonic their particular sound of science are
their custom-made oscillators and synths (that they use in conjunction
with a few standard drum machines) to create an original style of sound-sculpture.
Their debut full-length and their subsequent single "Osasto" were both
somewhat bombastic beat-wise, creating bold statements of sculpted sound
on sound. As time has passed however, Ilpo Vaisanen and Mika Vainio
have matured their overall sound and prefer a more methodical evolution
of expression over statement.
Their new full-length Aaltopiiri is an excellent example of the
Pan Sonic sound. It's a rather lengthy affair, but quite focused and
contains dazzling displays of electronic movement. I also find that
it isn't as experimental as their last one ("A") and it's not really
as icy as past endeavors. Perhaps their recent move to Barcelona from
their home country of Finland has had an impact on their overall approach.
If that's the case, then it's to the benefit of the Pan Sonic fan as
it is arguably their best release since the revolutionary Vakio,
if not their most accessible.
With Pan Sonic, it always starts with one sound. The cd's opening jam
"Vaihtovirta" begins with a repetitive breath, followed by
a beating pulse that slowly evolves into a shimmering array of rhythmic
sound. Rhythms eventually give way to tonal mood enhancement as the
disc spins on, and tracks like "Reuna-Alue" even suggest the
sound of cosmological phenomena or an intercepted outerspace transmission.
An image suggested perhaps by the innersleeve photograph of an eclipse.
It's a mostly relaxing listen until the last four or five tracks. Tracks
like "Kone and Murskaus" assult the listener with distorted
rhythms, harking back to the early Panasonic sound. While these tracks
succeed in overall sound quality, they seem a bit out of place on such
a slowly evolving, somewhat atmospheric recording. Nonetheless, Pan
Sonic has succeeded in creating an impressive new full-length that is
just as bold as any of their earlier recordings, but succeeds in its
cohesive ability to move the listener through boldness of method and
overall sound design.
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| April 2001 | Issue 13