Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., June 25, 2004
Pan sonicKesto (234.48:4) (Mute/Blast First)
Back when rock and power electronics first collided in the demolition laboratories of industrial pioneers Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and Whitehouse, there was no music more visceral or shocking (literally). Two decades hence, hordes of faceless laptop mechanics have reduced electronic music into a near-mathematical competition of approximate, sample, and contort, waged deep in the bowels of antiseptic hard drives. Out of the uncompromising land of Finland comes Pan sonic (naturally, Panasonic bought the "a"), armed with the nuanced craftsmanship of an Autechre or Aphex Twin. The duo of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen have followed up a handful of acclaimed albums with the 4-CD motherlode Kesto (234.48:4). The first disc opens on a bassy electro-thud, with engaging beats running throughout, albeit blanketed in a raw electric miasma. Kesto gets progressively more subtle, and by the final disc, there's nothing left but "Radiation," a pure tonal wash subtly mutating over 61 sedate minutes. Compare this with "Fugalforce" off the first disc, which takes a Kurtis Blow old-school hip-hop beat through the sewers beneath a nuclear fallout shelter, or "Mayhem II," which cleanses a Front 242-style batwing ruse with the mother of all electric enemas. Perhaps even most impressive is disc two, which focuses on simple hypnotic beat patterns more than white noise. It's still technically club music, but like Boards of Canada, Pan sonic uses the beats as building blocks for something more dramatic in scope. Something grim and menacing, like a walking junkyard haunting your waking nightmares. "Cable 5." employs shards of silence that stab as forcefully as the Suicide-inspired slabs of deep, bassy throb. Disc three is Pan sonic's prank on the listener. Or is it? Long gaps of silence erupt in brutal vacuum-cleaner explosions. Eventually, sonar pings and decaying drones lead the way to the great beyond, culminating in Disc four. Kesto is heavy-duty stuff, a coherent, 250-minute artistic statement blessed with an epic scope and a dangerous edge.