Mika Vainio – ‘FE304 Magnetite’ [Review]

Half of Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio is no novice when it comes to electronic abstraction.  Whereas the duo have always evoked the marital relationship which cannot but emerge in collaboration (“can we just have a good fucking time for once?!”), this solo work appears more like a husband’s spare-room wizardry, matured to a frenzied esotericism.  The disc littered with the technocratic affect of Alva Noto, ‘FE304 Magnetite’ suggests a scentless scientism analogous to the “math” of mathrock, grounded only in vague, smell-of-gasoline like repulse-attractions to something we don’t really understand.  Or maybe that’s unfair.  The tracks/permutations of ‘Magnetite’ (there are six, e.g. “Magnetosphere”, “Magnetism”, “Magnetism”), with their common thread of thick, quavering drone, shares many distinct features with Sunn O)))’s alchemistic ‘Domkirke’, which incants demiurges of/in the clouds, consummated in “Masks the Aetmosphere.”  Not to imply a common darkness between the drone demons and Vainio – they are clearly evoking entirely different epochs of science – but the essential elements ring true, as though the Whiggishness of scientific structure mapped doubly onto music, as real and imagined history.  With the mute background of a modernist vacuum, each version of sine function (this is hard, atomistic minimalism) emerges out of total control, a culture on a gel, blossoming out and tearing across the ether.  Each conjugation of “magnetite” resembles a different episteme of the lab metaphysics – organic, energetic, perceptual – and while not complete, offers a look into the possible modes of study available from a pure synthesis of sound and no sound.  Rarely does a second object appear in the sound field, multiplying concern over the observation of the listener, and the initial object perceived when a splitting does occur.  This is perfected in the consummate and longest (by a hair) track, “Magnetosome,” where a vaporous tone implies cloud figures, fingered and bulbous, before hinging and crashing into itself at higher registers.  As if to say “ahh, I’m just shitting ya!” Vainio concludes the disc with “Elvis’s TV Room,” which tells more than it shows, though subtly breaking methodology to introduce all new mutations of mass and depth; atmospheric in the sense of a still life, the track teems with the various systems stilled in a common space, evoking unspent currents and echoes of action dissipating at long-distance.  Yet the track is consumed by the same deep belief which generates the prior disc, and all this energy is pitched to a sole object turned death tone.  Bleak, except for the scientists unflagging faith, compressed to a single function.

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