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Pan Sonic - Aaltopiiri (Blast First)


When 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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