by John Rickman
John Duncan / Mika Vainio / Ilpo Väisänen ‚Äì Nine Suggestions
The new studio collaboration between John Duncan, Mika Vainio, and Ilpo V√§is√§nen is an awesome, mind-melting drone experience. The threesome forms an impressive and complimentary unit that draws effectively from each artist’s wizard-like way of conjuring forth waveform environments from simple sound sources.
For conceptual sound artist and American ex-pat John Duncan, that source is a shortwave radio set. His music, typified by thick sheets of frequency modulation and shrill tones of naturally ringing feedback, is often dense and aggressive. Underlying the resultant haze, however, is a subtle touch. Duncan’s manipulations of random shortwave broadcasts evoke a kind of ghostly netherworld whose mysterious landscapes infrequently reveal planes of breathtaking beauty.
Finnish artists Vainio and Väisänen, better known as analogue electronic duo Pan Sonic, also apply an artful hand in tweaking custom-built synthesizers. The pair’s skillful ability to draw warmth from their uniquely cold-sounding machinery while harnessing alternate degrees of intensity and subtlety is equally breathtaking. That their exquisite soundscapes fold seamlessly into Duncan’s divined cosmos is not surprising.
‘Scratch Ring’ sounds like a burst of energy suspended in time and space, hovering ominously amidst an ever-expanding universe. ‘Volume’ shatters that universe with a startling charge of electricity, jolting the listener from one dimension into another. ‘The Metallic Conversation’ is a calming, rhythmic experiment set against a backdrop of silence that draws attention to the individual sounds in play. More active than ambient, each one of the nine ‚”suggestions” carries the listener through a myriad of engaging moods and movements.
Diskaholics ‚Äì Live In Japan Vol. 1
Diskaholics also consist of three innovative sound shamans. However, this improvisational trio embraces unhinged unpredictability over refined artfulness. Live In Japan Vol. 1 is a two-track tour de force that documents guitarist Thurston Moore, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, and laptop technician Jim O’Rourke jazzing free live in Tokyo in 2002.
As with all things improvised, the performances contain the usual peaks and valleys, but the same mood is more or less maintained throughout. Hair-raising feedback and squalid atonality is the operating theme, but it’s not until midway through the second track that the group eventually settles into it.
Gustafsson is the standout here and adds a semblance of soul to the proceedings. But too often his horn is buried beneath the rumble and rubble wrought by the Sonic Youth wrecking crew. The recordings teem with adventurous and exciting sounds, but they aren’t for the casual listener. In fact, this live document is for those whom harsh noise happily signals the end of all music.