TO:72 - Mika Vainio "Black Telephone of Matter"
7 tracks - 54:38
Artwork by Jon Wozencroft
This is Mika Vainio's 4th solo album for Touch, after Onko [Touch # TO:34, 1997], Kajo [Touch # TO:43, 2000] and In The Land Of The Blind, One-Eyed Is King [Touch # TO:54, 2003]. He is, of course, part of Pan Sonic with Ilpo Väisänen, and also records solo as Ø.
1. Roma A.D. 2727
2. Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges
3. Bury A Horse's Head
4. In A Frosted Lake
6. A Measurement Of Excess Antenna Temperature At 4080 Ml/S
7. The Breather
I love the clinical minimalism of Pan Sonic. Their uncompromising, ascetic handling of digital sound is inspiring in its precision and attention to detail. It comes as no suprise then that the solo work of Mika Vainio, one half of the duo, possesses this same level of transcendent clarity. While Pan Sonic's work is usually beat driven in some way, Vainio chooses to work in the open field of beat-free music. In some ways, this gives his work a more cerebral feel- leaving the body behind to exist within a world barely held together by electronic hums, static, and pulses.
Vainio's sonic pallette is similar to his work in Pan Sonic. There are lots of rough digital sounds that are either forced into random cut-ups or given time to grow in a more ambient direction. It's impossible to listen to this without being affected, and in some ways this is some of the most psychedelic music I've heard this year. The focus of Vainio forces the listener into a different mode of consciousness. I felt as if I was being given a glimpse into the hidden world of communication between machines- not in an overly emotional way a Hollywood screenwriter might imagine, but as a hidden intruder who just happened to see the immaterial become materialized for a short moment.
"Black Telephone of Matter"'s stark nature defies any easy categorization. It somehow touches me more than a mere experiment in sound, but I can't exactly explain how. Maybe it is the way the disc seems almost magical, as if Vainio is conjuring up a new level of reality through his reinterpretation of non musical sources. While on the surface this might seem to be "noise", Vainio's work exists on a level outside of the realm of contemporary noise or experimental music. His approach seems partially academic, but the personal involvement that comes through to the listener is beyond the realm of mere experimentation. 10/10 [Charles Franklin]
I didn't think I'd hear a scarier record than Kreng's L'autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu in 2009. But then came Mika Vainio's Black Telephone of Matter. Kreng sounds positively sweet by comparison. Vainio's tailored noise is deeply fissured, unforgivingly ambiguous, and almost entirely devoid of the kind of cues that help us read sound as music. He doesn't mix in any creepy strings or detuned pianos to humanize his compositions, and he locates more feeling in near-silence than high volume, which makes him distinct from harsh-noise mavens. Only a few sounds on the album-- some mangled bird calls, a scattering of cymbals, hints of deconstructed death-metal on "Swedenborgia"-- are mimetic. All else is seething, oozing. It's a pitch-black world where blown-out machines mutter to each other.
As a member of Pan Sonic, a Finnish group that mines a ragged seam between minimal techno, industrial, and power electronics, Vainio (now based in Berlin) is no stranger to dire, confrontational music. Pan Sonic is known for blurring the line between the sonic and the physical. In 1995, they performed in a car park in London with a sound system rigged up on an armored car (designed by the KLF's Jimmy Cauty), similar to what riot squads use, in pursuit of the infamous brown note. One pre-Pan Sonic performance by Vainio found him locked in a room for ten hours with a low-frequency drone at 125 decibels. He's a process-guy with a bottomless fascination for how sound interacts with the whole body, not just the ears and mind.
Even in Vainio's various solo work (as Ø, Philus, and under his own name), there's usually at least the intimation of a beat, but Black Telephone of Matter is guided solely by extremes of frequency, volume, and stereo space. "Roma A.D. 2727" scans like a poltergeist radio, shuffling through piercingly textured machine noises that divulge moments of overwhelming force (spoiler alert: wait for what sounds like an infernal pipe organ). "Bury a Horse's Head" features pockets of laughter amongst its drones. The ghosting tones of "In a Frosted Lake" establish a subtle cadence with rate-of-decay parameters. The impossible shapes start and stop abruptly, yet their progression never feels desultory: Moving from one gripping passage to another by way of tapered segues or violent ruptures, every new development opens out inevitably, as in a really vivid nightmare.
It's hard to keep a grip on everyday rationality when the record is playing, as it's overwritten by Vainio's implacable script. This uncompromising dictation of reality is, of course, physical as well as emotional. Plenty of records favor headphones, but here, they're simply mandatory, unless you happen to have a very quiet room with a very good sound system. On "Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges", for instance, an important connective passage of juddering quietude simply vanishes without headphones. And it requires you to constantly adjust the volume, which you'll have jacked up during the quiet parts, unless you don't mind subjecting your ears to deliberately inhospitable frequencies as high volumes. "A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 ML/S" creates an uncanny effect by paring a tone so high you feel it more than hear it, as a sort of high-altitude pressure in the ear drums, with a soothing rumble that seems disproportionate to its anxious result. It's not too much to call Black Telephone of Matter a sadomasochistic record: In consenting to be mastered, we tap into a dreadful vitality. [Brian Howe]
Mika Vainio isn’t one for cliché, or explanation for that matter. He’s been matter or fact about his strategy for quite some time. In 1997, he’s quoted as saying (in reference to Pan Sonic, the group he’s worked in with Ilpo Väisänen since 1992) “We just start to turn the knobs and see what comes out.” That strategy, in recent years, has revealed a deeper density of results than the power-blasts that Vainio is known for. Last year’s Olvea (released as Ø) was almost delicate and playful in comparison to earlier pummel-fests like the shattering Pan Sonic (then recording as Panasonic) record Vakio.
Things are well turned around again on this, his fourth solo record for Touch. It is difficult to say if this new, stark material is born of improvisation or composition, but the result is an album seemingly rife with intention. There are plenty of raw analog tones and pulses evident as with a great deal of his work, but the organization of these pieces comes off as deeply deliberate as opposed to the perceived relentless automata of some Pan Sonic recordings.
Vainio is as uncompromising as ever on this set, deftly moving material around the stereo field, almost making the gestures usually heard in musique concrete. On “Silences Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges”, (the title appears in Rimbaud’s Voyelles) recordings of crows dissolve into bass drops that give way to multiple harmonics and noise at unpredictable intervals, culminating in quiet waves of analog and digital minutiae. A tribute to John Duncan, “Burying A Horse’s Head” uses silence as deftly as it’s placement of white/pink noise, mangled electrical disturbance and fractured rhythms.
Vainio’s use of analog synthesis suggests harnessed electricity more than discretely controlled voltage and that is no more evident on “A Measurement Of Excess Antenna temperature At 4080 ML/S,” where ground hum, test tones and shards of staccato are thrown thru digital reverb. The result is precise, and at times brutal, but never clinical. The record closes with the deliriously tense “The Breather,” which heaves and shimmers along until the last two minutes reveal a deep, claustrophobic harshness. This sound has a choral timbre that is quickly slammed shut, ending the suspense.
Now approaching 15 years of constant documented activity, Vainio seems keenly appraised of the challenge of not repeating one’s self and is in no way backing down.
Igloo Music (USA):
Probably best known as half of electronic experimentalists Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio also records under his own name as well as Philus and Ø. This album, his fourth solo album since 1997 for the UK’s esteemed Touch label, sees him further explore the minimal side of his electronic palette.
Covering seven tracks in just less than 55 minutes, Black Telephone of Matter appears to be compiled from a series of short experiments with different sound techniques and then fused into a collection of tracks. Often abruptly switching between completely different yet related sounds, Vainio contrasts abstract digital fragments with field recordings of rain, birds or running water. The mood sways between stark, clinical precision and dark creeping tension. "Silencés Traverses Des Mondes et Des Anges" for example builds from the outset with a slow paced thud before erupting into distorted layers of oscillating electronic noise that form an uneasy nightmarish atmosphere almost as though coming from some shadow dimension. Continuing with a deep oscillating bassy tone and a period of silence, the track slowly starts to re-emerge with the ebb of barely audible undulating tones and insectoid squeaks hinting at horrors unseen. Moving into "Bury a Horse’s Head" the minimal theme continues but begins to evolve and become more pronounced. Stop start buzzes of distorted hazy static fade away to reveal a low electrical hum that mutates briefly into a metallic screech and futuristic whir. Not content with just that a further transition introduces a low oscillating bass tone that changes tone to become an aggressive Tesla coil throb.
Although each of Vainio’s tracks shift in tone and construction, often quite suddenly, they somehow manage to maintain a form of cohesion. Perhaps Black Telephone of Matter is best understood by considering it as a single 55 minute installation of sound art to be experienced, absorbed and interpreted as such? Also minimal in content but equally heavy in presence is "The Breather," another track that explores the tiniest of sounds that slowly amplify to reveal various electrical buzzes and hums used almost as layered drones. A very interesting concept well executed utilising a continuous low tone contrasted with crisp filament crackle from a light source. This gives way to a deeper, engine-like tone that is joined by a rising radiant electronic tone that abruptly stops to end the album.
Where it maintains a consistent theme, such as the minimal ambient "In a Frosted Lake," Vainio’s attention to the most miniscule of sounds and use of silence and space results in a captivating and intense exploration of emotion and presence through the use of beautifully composed electronic tones. Often with little discernable linear structure each track fuses into the next forming one long experimental soundscape. Black Telephone of Matter may not be immediately accessible throughout but then albums that provoke thought and require a little effort, no matter how small, to understand without causing immediate alienation are often the most rewarding.
Other Music (USA):
As half of the venerable Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio crafts bold soundscapes with uncompromising vision. On his Touch label releases, Vainio appears to strike out in fearless departures from the familiar, and he does so to our benefit. With many recordings in/as Pan Sonic, Endless, O, and Philus, it's under his own name that Vainio is a true pioneer. Isolating sine waves and oscillating drones in sparse dissemination, he displaces the listener and challenges one with his tactile impressions. Spatially, Black Telephone Matter is akin to AMM, digitally reminiscent of Keith Fullerton Whitman, and sensually familiar to Christian Fennesz. Imagine the bleaker moments of micro sounds in Fennesz's Black Sea, and piece them around longer compositions with extremely streamlined and efficient functions. With an impact that is ultimately jarring, closely listening to this album opens up its aural possibilities. Notes take on vibrant undulation, songs singe in dark and drowning ambience, and the breadth of the album reaches far beyond immediate responses. Black Telephone Matter plays like a private instillation of soundscapes in your mind. As far as the tenuous genre of modern sound art is concerned, this is music to my ears. [BCa]
Veteran Finnish electronics maestro and one of the most fascinating producers of our times, Mika Vainio returns to the Touch label, the recent home of some of his most uncompromsing work. Last years 'Oleva' and the preceding Pan Sonic album remain examples of the finest electronic albums of the last few years, but they were surely also some of his most accessible. For 'Black Telephone Of Matter' we hear the contrarily noisy and contemplative side of Mika, no beats, but plenty of completely devastating aural views surveying vast abstract landscapes. 'Roma A.D 2727' weaves sinewaves sculpted into brutally effective and nerve stimulating squalls. 'Silence Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Endes' opens with the horrific cackle of a murder of crows before sharply focussed bass blasts with ever encroaching proximity and unrelated shards of textured noise dynamically ascend before crashing to point zero. If you've ever experienced one of his frightening but life affirming live shows, the album's centre-piece 'Bury A Horse's Head' should help you relive the life-changing intensity of his powerful drones with 11 mins of austere oscillator experimentation, only you'll have to turn the volume up for the full body tactile effect. Paralleling this is the set's other extended composition 'A Measurement Of Excess Antenna Temperature At 4080 Ml/s'. A reduction of excess to the bare minimum of electronic hum with brain massaging waves of subbass that'll make your eyeballs vibrate if you're paying attention on good headphones. Nobody else comes close to this man's sonic imagination or level of execution, this is another essential purchase for fans of cutting edge sonics and good music everywhere. Immense....
Rough Trade (UK):
veteran finnish electronics maestro and one of the most fascinating producers of our times, mika vainio returns to the touch label, the recent home of some of his most uncompromising work. last years 'oleva' and the preceding pan sonic album remain examples of the finest electronic albums of the last few years, but they were surely also some of his most accessible. for 'black telephone of matter' we hear the contrarily noisy and contemplative side of mika, no beats, but plenty of completely devastating aural views surveying vast abstract landscapes. 'roma a.d 2727' weaves sinewaves sculpted into brutally effective and nerve stimulating squalls. 'silence traverses des mondes et des endes' opens with the horrific cackle of a murder of crows before sharply focussed bass blasts with ever encroaching proximity and unrelated shards of textured noise dynamically ascend before crashing to point zero. if you've ever experienced one of his frightening but life affirming live shows, the album's centre-piece 'bury a horse's head' should help you relive the life-changing intensity of his powerful drones with 11 mins of austere oscillator experimentation, only you'll have to turn the volume up for the full body tactile effect. paralleling this is the set's other extended composition 'a measurement of excess antenna temperature at 4080 ml/s'. a reduction of excess to the bare minimum of electronic hum with brain massaging waves of subbass that'll make your eyeballs vibrate if you're paying attention on good headphones. nobody else comes close to this man's sonic imagination or level of execution, this is another essential purchase for fans of cutting edge sonics and good music everywhere. immense....
More and more quiet goes the solo album for Mika Vainio, the Finnish electronic wizard who has brought us such feats of techo-minimalist intensity as the Kesto 4cd boxset set in Pan Sonic and the Metri album recorded as an O with slash through it. But under his own name, Vainio's recordings shrink from existence in the wake of gasping, nocturnal bouts of silence. That said, comparisons to the very-special-nothing-music of Bernhard Gunter (whatever happened to that guy?) or Richard Chartier don't really apply to Vainio's work. There's much more in common here with the 2009 release Vectors from Robert Hampson (also released through Touch), as a revamped interpretation of INA-GRM concrete / electronic compositions from the '60s and '70s. Vainio's palette of sound rotates between chorales of electrical static, snarls of sawtooth buzzings, and cold sinewave generation with a few field recordings thrown in for good measure; and Vainio composes these elements by way of the razor-cut more often than not. Thus, Aineen Musta Puhelin is a fragmentary collage, at times marked by sharpened, Tesla-coil bursts of engorged electricity only to snap to a blackened frame of silence or at least prolonged inactivity.
Armchair Dancefloor (UK):
Anyone curious to know just how exhilarating harsh splinters of manipulated digital noise can be should proceed straight to 'Silences Traverses des Mondes et des Anges'. Beginning with the gradually layered cawing of crows, a metallica sheet of thunderous frequencies ushers in a quieter section before a procession of cliff-sized, My Bloody Valentine-style slabs of white noise, tremulous bass drops and wince-inducing frequencies lead you towards the muted string coda. Black Telephone... certainly showcases the more challenging side of Finn Mika Vainio, who as one half of Pan Sonic has been responsible for some of the best electronic music of the last decade, but there's such beauty sown into these weird fields that the idea of this being a minority interest album seems almost nonsensical. Until you remember how conservative and crap and awful and lacking in taste the real world is.
Crucial to this album's impact is the way in which Vainio is as skilled with silence as he is with punishing noise: 'In a Frosted Lake' flits about at the edges of consciousness, its trailing, mist-bound monotones imparting a sense that hovers somewhere between profound meditative calm and creeping unease. Similarly, the frequency whine of 'A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Ml/s' (we've all been there) stretches out over the course of 10 minutes into morse-like tones, this minimal approach reaping maximal returns.
If we are to believe Lucia Dlugoszewski's maxim that the "first concern of all music... is to shatter the indifference of hearing," then Finnish sound-sculptor Vainio's fourth solo album can be considered as exemplary. Throughout his latest effort, Vainio shocks and surprises, juxtaposing near-silences with gauzy walls of noise, almost ultrasonic frequencies with disorienting phase attacks. Lightning-fast cuts between different recorded materials combine with dramatic builds, as is most evident on the album's longest (and most beautiful) piece, "Bury a Horse's Head," and the overall effect is one that forces the listener out of passive hearing and into deep listening. Though Vainio's Pan Sonic minimal techno collaboration is infinitely more accessible than his solo releases, the focus of both remains the same: jarring the aural senses into action through unexpected sonic wizardry.
Over the years Pan Sonic's Mika Vainio delivers with certainty new work. Either with Pan Sonic, or as ø or under his own name. The latter is used when things are not rhythmic, but beyond that anything is possible. I saw various solo concerts by him in which he used relatively sound sources and some sound effects, but offered quite a bunch of noise with that. On his fourth solo CD for Touch, he goes however in an opposite direction. Not that there isn't any loud music on this, but it isn't the orgy of noise that we sometimes hear live, but in these seven pieces there are moments of silence. Vianio uses the methods of collage in each of them. Sounds fade in, fade out, cut in or cut out from a variety of electronic and acoustic sources. The latter are hard to trace back to their origins, although there is some metallic rumble to be spotted, but the electronic part is no doubt all analogue, Vainio's big love. Like the form of collage is used and makes a pretty intense listening. Long, monolithic blocks are cut off with a few, sparse sounds here and there, loud versus silence, high frequencies and low frequencies. If you don't watch the CD player, like I normally don't do, then there might be one objection against the CD. This approach that seems to go on for almost the entire CD (perhaps not in the last piece 'Hengitytaja/The Breather'), then one could easily believe this is just one long piece. That however I thought was not really a problem. The material is strong enough to keep the interest going for the entire disc. Strong compositions, a great selection of sound material, and effectively a fine disc of modern musique concrete. One of his best solo works so far, I reckon. [FdW]
Hair Entertainment (blog):
Finnish electronics pioneer Mika Vainio has been in fine form of late. After the recently released Pan Sonic collaborations with Keiji Haino and SunnO))) on Blast First, he returns to the Touch label which has been home to much of his most distilled and refined works. 'Black Telephone Of Matter' focuses on the sculpted noise and drone aspects of his style and is devoid of his trademark beats. It follows a much closer path to his live sets that, as most of you will know, are ear crushingly intense affairs. Complex frequency clusters expand, unfold and capitulate into delicate passages of sounds whose movement suggest an abundance of textures and sources. It's really worth cranking the volume up for tracks like 'Bury A Horses Head' that contains a particularly brutal ending when the mains hum threatens to spill out from the speakers and liquidate the contents of your head into a blackened pool of tar. It's dark, simplistic stuff that is able to deliver the most complex and kaleidoscopic array of sonic weaponry from the most minimal of sources. One of his finest works from a catalogue of releases that already defines the electronics genre which I wouldn't be surprised to see on many peoples end of year lists. Highly recommended. [Simon Harris]
Listening to this album on a weekday work commute did it no justice whatsoever. Its long periods of silence melted into the background, and the sporadic eruptions of noise jolted me no more than the random bursts of train wheel whine; I had to check several times to see if it was in fact still playing. Utterly wasted on the Victoria Line (the album that is, not me. I was relatively sober. Well, for 8am).
So, one for the headphones. Better still, accompanied by deprivation of the other senses: they’ll be overloaded by tasting, feeling and visualising this record. Those only familiar with Mika Vainio’s work as half of Pan Sonic may be unprepared for the abstract nature of this assault: entirely beat-free, focusing purely and precisely, brilliantly and brutally, on sound itself. A nightmarish technological fascination (which runs contrary to the more natural obsessions which are typical of Touch) underpins the album, from the radio static opening to “Roma AD 2727” to the deep, swelling (almost orchestral) vibrations of machinery hum which round off “Breather”. “Bury A Horse’s Head” traps you in a Faraday cage, before unleashing pummelling waves of electricity in your direction, a crackling flow mere inches from your cranium (I get that tingling tongue-in-battery sensation during this piece). Amongst all this someone can be heard laughing. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.
Those pauses during “Silences Traverses Des Mondes”, the ones which had me reaching for the play button on first listen, become a welcome respite on headphones. Even if the black crows which circle overhead don’t sound particularly welcoming. Black Telephone Of Matter is less a record than an experience, and one which you can have yourself with a visit to the Touch shop.
The cut-and-paste randomness is most evident in the opening piece, "Roma A. D. 2727." While the title sounds like it could be a very bad sci fi movie from the 1970s, the sound is a variety of sweeping digital lines of static, shrill sine waves that morph into sputtering white noise, and the occasionally regal orchestral sweep of synthetic sound. Sometimes roaring and harsh, and other times it drops to near pure silence, it shambles without any particular flow, for better or worse. It doesn’t have a sense of tight composition, but instead feels like random pastiches slapped together.
"Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges" has a more consistent structure to it, beginning with bird squawks, noise, and rain, like a post-apocalyptic soundscape. These sounds subtly segue into gentle stuttering waves of white noise. Occasionally these blast into more forceful territory, and occasionally matched with what sounds like an actual or synthetic didgeridoo, before dropping out to silence and then miniscule found sounds.
Dedicated to John Duncan, "Hautaa Hevosen Pää" ("Bury a Horse’s Head") is a more rhythmic composition, beginning with icy ambience and static laced scrapes, there are buried melodies and reverberated textures that are more overt throughout. The psychedelic low frequency pulses and phased static buzzes give it a much different sound quality than those that preceded it. "In A Frosted Lake" is a very descriptive title: being the most reserved of the tracks, its subtlety causes it to slip into the background when listening, but its glacial sound are never fully ignorable.
"Ylimääräisen Antenni Lämpötilan Mittaus 4080 MHz: SSÄ" ("A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Ml/S"), besides sounding like an electronic engineer's doctoral dissertation, features ultrasonic hums and buzzes with chiming distant loops far off in the distance. At the very end small bursts of what could be popular music appear, though so heavily filtered and effected to render them unidentifiable.
"Swedenborgia" and "Hengityttajä" ("The Breather") are the most aggressive of the pieces. The former opens with field recording sounds but adds in power drill like bass tones and warm, fuzzy static.The volume drifts into harsh territories at times, and the end features what may be an actual real live cymbal, or a digitally modeled equivalent. The latter demonstrates a lot of quiet metallic rattling and pinging before massive static squalls and reverb buried crashes max out the intensity of the sound.
While demonstrating Vainio’s love for clinically sparse digital textures, I think it is somewhat of a weaker album than his work with Pan Sonic, where the staunch minimalism is wrapped around sparse beats rather than here, where it is presented anomalously. It is a good album for sure, but it doesn’t have the same unique or individualist sound that it could have otherwise.
Few musicians explore the fine gradations separating signal from noise with the same ferocity and precision as Finland’s Mika Vainio. Over the years, this pursuit has taken a variety of musical forms. He’s best known for the shattering electro-noise he unleashes as one-half of Pan Sonic, but he is also responsible (as Ø and Philus) for creating some of minimal techno’s high-water marks. It is on the far more abstractly structured releases under his own name, however, that Vainio is at his most uncompromising and unsettling. And that’s saying something. Black Telephone of Matter, Vainio’s fourth solo album for the Touch imprint, is as unflinchingly extreme as ever. As often as not, it doesn’t pummel you with relentless waves of noise, but rather forces you to strain your ears to capture the finer points of each and every hiss and hum. Paradoxically, these barely audible elements, such as the delicate radio-static sizzle that opens the album with "Roma A.D. 2727," provide just as visceral a thrill as the sharp bursts of white noise and gut-rumbling thrums of sub-bass. Each of the pieces on Black Telephone of Matter consists of series of loosely structured, atmospheric episodes. The sounds may be those of pure, machine-age dystopia, but the structures themselves are more elemental, evoking the capriciousness of coastal weather patterns. One of the album’s centerpieces, "Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges," is the most literal example of this. The track begins with an ominous cawing of crows, followed by the distant rumble of thunder and soft, pitter-pat of falling rain. The sounds drift and melt into static before a crescendo, and – very suddenly – falling away. After a thunderous silence, a taut, rhythmic 4/4 pattern emerges (one of the few bones thrown to fans of Pan Sonic’s lockstep beats) that then gives way to a single, razor-edged sine tone. And so it goes. At times, it’s blazingly loud, at others you strain to pick out the tiny, mercurial droplets of sound. Like the album as a whole, it’s ominous and terrifying, but also quite extraordinarily subtle and austerely beautiful. Given the abiding pleasures to be found in the littlest details, this is one of those records that really does reward a bit of attentive listening. And though every so often a passage will rear up and scare the bejesus out of you, so much the better. [By Susanna Bolle]
Mika Vainio’s reputation precedes him. Briefly, because you’ve heard this a thousand times: He is one-half of Pan Sonic, the most far-reaching experimental electronic act to emerge from Finland in the mid-‘90s. He has also recorded solo material under his given name and the super cute sobriquet, Ø, which dates back even further. (Other aliases: Philus, Kentolevi, Tekonivel… blegh.) Ardent followers of this stuff like to geek out and say that Pan Sonic is closer to what we think of as techno, with a beat and a bassline, while his eponymous work is the least forthcoming of all. At the heart of it, though, his entire catalog represents a set of independent values that reject traditional notions of accessibility and musicality. He and his bandmates even make their own instruments and processors out of yard sale bric-a-brac. Electronica by way of hardcore punk, if you will.
Arriving on the heels of Oleva, his latest Ø record of dank glitches, Aineen Musta Puhelin (Black Telephone of Matter) feels like a deliberate shift. Rhythm and melody, which had never drawn attention to themselves to begin with, have been deep-sixed; if they do appear, it’s incidental. What we’re left with are the spare utterances of Vainio’s contraptions creeping and springing out of blackness. The mere existence of Aineen Musta Puhelin speaks to the development of a new listenership with saintly patience and a tolerance of silence; about half of this record sits extremely close to zero dB. Yet the quiet stretches have a tense, stifling quality that betrays a lack of acoustic resonance, and the noises don’t sound as if they’re occurring within an open space in nature but inside an airless metal box. Loud, soft, or deathly silent, Aineen Musta Puhelin constantly shivers with the artist’s presence. You can picture him standing there with a conductor’s wand, frozen in place for minutes at a time, before commanding his machines to strike.
As with any noise record worth its salt, there is a particular dynamic happening here that reveals itself after a few close listens. “Roma A.D. 2727” and “Silencés Traverses de Mondes et de Anges” start us off with a relatively high action content, mutilated sine waves, static, and all manner of sonic shrapnel saturating the panoramic field and bouncing between channels. “Bury a Horse’s Head” is an 11-and-a-half-minute buildup to the dog-whistle-high frequencies of “In a Frosted Lake” and the vile groans of “Swedenborgia”, and the record continues through a long period of quietude before a wicked finale, similar to that of Kevin Drumm’s masterpiece Imperial Distortion. (If you’ve heard “We All Get It in the End”, you know what this means; if not, have fun.) A richer narrative with dozens of miniature movements opens up if you can give Aineen Musta Puhelin the proper time and attention. But even if you can’t, the record is an enlightening showpiece for the assortment of sounds Vainio manages to wring from his equipment and a satisfying tribute to the things that go bump in the night. [Mike Newmark]
Pan Sonic member Mika Vainio's newest effort is in many ways perplexing, offering up everything from processed field recordings to remote-sounding rhythmic sequences to penetratingly pure tones. But perhaps the most beguiling aspect is the way in which these elements are arranged. While many current composers of abstract electronica opt for flowing gestures, smooth ambience, static drones/textures or flickering glitches, Vainio finds a peculiar way of reconciling these approaches through simple juxtaposition ― not dissimilar to early Nurse With Wound. The often-brazen jump cuts and stark silences make for a bit of bumpy ride for the listener but a compelling one nonetheless. While it often feels as if you're moving from one panel of sound to the next without much familiar structure, each moment within those panels is quite rich, regardless of origin. One moment you'll be immersed in a protracted slab of synth drone and the next you'll be jolted into deciphering the origin of some distant natural sound. The jumpiness though has a way of smoothing itself out, likely due to the abundance of delicate sounds amidst the harsh edits. Ultimately, the album evokes a sense of ethereal mystery rather than utter confusion. [Nick Storring]
Dark Entries (Belgium):
Liefhebbers van hedendaagse experimentele muziek weten onderhand wel dat zo goed als alle releases van Touch Music garant staan voor bijna risicoloze aankopen. Zo ook deze nieuwe release van Mika Vainio, zeg maar de helft van het Finse Pan Sonic. Met deze 'Black Telephone of Matter' is hij reeds aan zijn vierde soloalbum voor Touch toe. Wat de man als uitgangspunt nam is moeilijk te zeggen. Sims lijkt het erop dat hij onze aandacht wil vestigen op die krachten die wel inwerken op de telefoonkabel, maar die we doorgaans niet horen. Dit kan gaan van vogels die op de kabels balanceren, slagregen die de kabels geselt, de bedrading de over de bodem van een ijskoud Fins meer loopt, de elektrische spanning in de kabels zelf... Het mooiste overzicht hiervan zit vervat in 'Silencés traverses des Mondes et des Anges', waarbij dankzij de titel nog een andere dimensie erbij betrokken wordt: de spirituele... De geluiden gaan van onhoorbaar zacht tot overweldigend hard, wat ons onbehaaglijk genietend aan onze hoofdtelefoon kluistert. Een krachtig visitekaartje van een artiest met een bijna Japanse obsessie voor geluid. 7/10 [Jan Denolet]
Sonic Seducer (Germany):
Mika Vainio é o papá que diz vem ao papá. Quem adere a Aíneen Musta Puhelin (Black Telephone of Matter é o título internacional) ciente do passado sónico de Mika, autonomamente e na dupla Pan Sonic, sabe mais ou menos ao que vem: vagas de ruído que sufocam tudo o resto, sinewaves rasantes como máquina de barbear junto à orelha, oscilações repentinas de volume que, em situações extremas, deixam os mais curiosos com os dois dedos entalados na tomada eléctrica.
Todos esses recursos conspiram a extinção de qualquer coisa cândida perseguindo a batuta de Mika Vainio, que por esta altura parece maravilhado com a multiplicação dos canais de informação e com a oportunidade de sugerir a sua decadência com os sons mais grosseiros e germinais. Favorável a essa ideia de desinformação que alastra, "A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 ML/S" simula o que poderia ser uma epidemia de sinais e frequências que afecta primeiro os telefones, alcança depois os faxes e que devora toda a rede num final climático. Mika Vainio cria música romântica para hackers, basicamente.
Durante a escuta, não vale a pena ajustar o cabo dos auscultadores. Não existe qualquer mau contacto. Mau carácter e mão pesada, talvez, mas é também por isso que baixamos as calças para ser açoitados por Mika Vainio (cuja calvice também apela ao fetiche). Desta vez, o Black Telephone of Matter toca e do outro lado fala um compositor amadurecido (em sintonia com a Touch mais recente) e fixado na criação de ecossistemas que subsistem à base de ruído (servido como burburinho ou como sirene tirânica). Mika Vainio já nos habituou a este tipo de merdas e Black Telephone of Matter agradará mais aos possuidores de gosto adquirido do que aos iniciados. Os últimos que se preparem. [Miguel Arsénio]
Onda Rock (Italy):
Una delle due metà dei Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio, dà alla luce la sua sesta prova solista sotto il suo personale nome di battesimo, "Black Telephone Of Matter". La poetica insita in quest'opera risiede in un intimo naturalismo, descrittivo come forse mai nella sua molteplice carriera di musicista elettronico, pur costretta a battagliare contro le freddure del mezzo digitale e di una tecnica di composizione intransigente.
Il bozzetto di "In A Frosted Lake", per esempio, non potrebbe essere più descrittivo, con suoni glaciali al punto da evocare con forte realismo richiami sperduti nelle foreste ai bordi di un lago nordico. La quinta di natura di "Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges" è un concerto di field recordings e di cut-up, pause casuali e squarci industriali.
La sua ormai tipica manipolazioni di sorgenti naturali spetta a "Swedenborgia", a suon di click'n'beat, sorta di "cornici" pittoriche, e risonanze deformate. La musique concrete in corto circuito di "The Breather" è introdotta da echi misteriosi e effetti flanger, e infine è sommersa da una nuova valanga industriale.
In ambito più astratto, Vainio pennella i puri ultrasuoni di "A Measurement Of Excess Antenna Temperature At 4080 ML/S", ambient ridotto all'osso con fasce di suono random, e la doppietta "Roma A.D. 2727"-" Bury A Horses Head", due patchwork di radio works, rombi e ronzii, eventi gestuali e blocchi aleatori.
Anche presente come Ø, Vvv e Philus (oltre alle numerose collaborazioni intermedie alla carriera maggiore), il finnico Vainio attiva una partitura calcolata, scientifica, non certo affabile ma pur sospesa. Il rigore compositivo colto riesce persino a mascherare la raggiante irrazionalità di certi momenti uditivi (talvolta dolorosi per i padiglioni auricolari, come nel caso delle frequenze assolute di "Excess Antenna").
Titolo e tracklist tradotti in loco anche in finlandese; "Bury A Horses Head" è dedicata allo statunitense John Duncan, suo collaboratore e compositore elettroacustico appassionato di biologia, percezione e metafisica.
Blow Up (Italy):
Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden):
Sound of Music (Sweden):
Fjärde skivan på brittiska Touch av finländaren Mika Vainio. Sju låtar som uppvisar stora olikheter men som tillsammans utgör en entitet, ett album. Och det är inte vilket album som helst, genom att laborera med olika frekvensutrymmen, stämningar, organismer och artefakter har Mika Vainio visat att han är en av samtidens stora konsthantverkare inom ljud.
Ljudens konsistens är kanske det som mest skiljer Mika Vainio från de allra flesta inom detta gebit. Ljudens bearbetas på flera plan. De får skarpa snitt där ytorna lämnas blanka med sylvassa metalliska konturer. Med stor medvetenhet spelar han även med det som finns bortom ljuden: tystnaden. Den är ofta närvarande, står som kontrast och referens till det låtande, lyfter fram det, tydliggör. Ett exempel på detta är "Swedenborgia" där "brus-slussar" öppnas och stängs fortlöpande. Med hjälp av tystnaderna skapas tydliga rytmiska mönster. Till viss del återkommer detta i den geniala "Bury a Horse's Head", en tribut till John Duncan.
Vainio arbetar även med det lågfrekventa och vibrerande. Inget nytt eftersom det var dessa ljud han och Ilpo Väisinen så framgångsrikt utvecklade i Pan Sonic. På Black Telephone of Matter får de en inte lika framträdande roll. De är snarare komplement som i den splittrade och kittlande framtidsvisionen "Roma AD 2727". Mörkt och kallt tonar visionen fram. Orgeln som kunde förknippas med tro och hopp trasas sönder och omformas till en obeständig och hotfull massa. Och talar man om stämningslägen så är Black Telephone of Matter just en mörk skiva. Kanske inte lika nattsvart som "Roma AD 2727", men inte är det en flört med de glada minerna.
I flera av låtarna finns ett berättande element. "In a Frosted Lake" är till exempel just kylig, kall och tidlös. Men Vainio skapar även mer svårdefinierade stämningar. "The Breather" svänger exempelvis från det mini mala till maximala. Att då fråga sig varför känns inte befogat. Att det är är fullt tillräckligt! [Magnus Nygren]
Le Son di Grisli (France):
Vieux briscard des musiques électroniques, en solo et au sein du duo Pan Sonic avec Ilpo Väisänen, Mika Vainio est une de ces valeurs sûres qu'il fait toujours bon retrouver. Quatrième livrée du Finlandais pour le compte de Touch - la première depuis 2003 ! - Black Telephone of Matter ne fait nullement exception et c'est tant mieux.
Pleinement bruitiste, la vision de Vainio ne souffre toutefois pas de l'unicité apparente de sa démarche. D'une très grande variété de tons et d'atmosphères, le téléphone noir de la matière nécessite le plus grandŠ silence pour en appréhender toutes les inflexions. Totalement inutile dans un environnement surchargé en interférences diverses, son écoute attentive - oserions-nous écrire autiste - révèle le savoir-faire millimétrique de son auteur, au sommet de son art.
Toujours radicalement éprise d'une science de l'observation, la musique de Vainio remplit les blancs de la multiplicité de ses signaux. Entrée d'un requiem écrit pour Merzbow, messages intergalactiques captés d'hors la voie lactée ou électrocardiogramme au bord de l'asphyxie, l'argot du bruit vainiosien ne souffre aucune limite, si ce n'est celle qu'impose l'imagination. Extraordinairement cohérent en dépit des dizaines d'expériences qu'il fait traverser - des cris de corbeaux à la captation d'une antenne à 4080 Mhz - le disque oscille également entre diverses voies blanches, dont le signal est tellement faible qu'il fait tendre l'oreille (rappelez-vous la condition du silence). Plus fondamentalement, Mika Vainio se mue en un incroyable narrateur d'aventures soniques - elles recueillent notre admiration sans limites.
France Musique (France):
Mika Vainio est un musicien qui nous est cher ici à la Maison de la Radio. Nous le diffusons régulièrement, il est venu jouer ici en concert dans la grande salle Olivier Messiaen, il a également participé à un très beau disque de la collection Signature intitulé GRM Experience.
Mika Vainio à participé pendant 15 ans au célèbre duo Pan Sonic et son travail en solo est remarquable et remarqué à tel point que cet artiste, issu de la scène techno minimale, est aujourd'hui considéré comme, si ce n'est le meilleur, l'un des plus importants compositeurs de la scène expérimentale finlandaise. Ce nouvel album de déroge pas à cette règle d'excellence puisqu'il est à nouveau la démonstration évidente que l'on peut composer une musique totalement abstraite, faite de bruits et de sons qui vont de l'indicible au vacarme tout en restant accessible et terriblement séduisant. L'album que je vous ai apporté ce soir est intitulé Black Telephone of Matter, il réunit sept pièces enregistrées en 2008 à Berlin ou l'artiste semble avoir élu définitivement domicile. La magie de Mika Vainio réside dans sa capacité à nous faire plonger sans douleur de la rondeur sonore à la stridulance pour vivre une véritable expérience sensorielle. Une expérience radicale qui envahit nos oreilles bien sûr mais qui mobilise d'autres sens en traversant notre corps et en stimulant notre regard à la recherche de sons invisibles qui se spatialisent autour de nous. En voiture, au casque dans la rue ou chez vous, sur un bon système hifi ou de simples enceintes pour ordinateur, chaque occasion et système d'écoute révèle les faces cachées de ces compositions, le seul impératif étant d'écouter à un volume élevé. N'oubliez pas que ce que vous aller entendre n'est qu'une version limitée de ce qui se trouve sur cet album, puisque de l'autre côté de la vitre de ce studio les vus -mètre de la console vont s'affoler et que pour pouvoir diffuser ce type de musique sur les ondes, des mains expertes vont se charger d'en réduire le spectre sonore. Il en restera encore beaucoup, alors montez le volume et laissez vous surprendre. [Eric Serva]
Adverse Effect (Blog):
Being one half of the fantastic Pan Sonic, it's no surprise that Vainio's solo endeavours tend to adopt a similar approach to teasing often abrasive or uncomfortable sound structures into areas where they are tempered and far less black and white. When Vainio cranks things up, everything feels measured and almost surgical, yet these red-level workouts only arise in the first place from a mass of undulating and sometimes broken frequencies or what sounds like machine-noise having a coughing fit. At times, such as on 'Silences Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges', the proceedings even become quite subdued, like listening to an underground lake, before what sounds like a plane looming overhead then takes over in the next piece, 'Bury A Horse's Head'. Attention to detail and, in turn, to mapping out ideas that never betray a stance that feels wholly personal (without being completely detached from the listener) is what sets everything apart. Once more, the (perhaps obvious) analogy of the surgeon in the operating theatre springs only too readily to mind. Everything's considered and executed with precision and care. Helped along by very occasional choice samples themselves given to some appropriate treatments, Vainio appears to be operating on a far superior level to most of today's digital wanderers. Black Telephone of Matter pays testament to this fact in leaps and bounds. [Richard Johnson]
Il y a des soirs où votre oreille réclame de la difficulté, hurle à votre cerveau son désir d'anticonformisme, de lutte sonore et d'avant-garde de haute volée. Et quand cette envie vous noue le ventre jusqu'à imploser, abandonnez la pop, le rock ou le folk pour vous tourner vers le seigneur du son électronique obscur. Mika Vainio est de retour. On pourrait vous refaire pour la énième fois un récital exhaustif de la carrière du Finlandais, vous dire qu'il a côtoyé les plus grands labels de Raster Noton à Säkhö en passant par les références que sont des labels comme Touch ou Editions Mego ; qu'il a collaboré avec Fennesz ou encore que son projet avec Ilpo Väisanen, Pan Sonic, est encore cité chez les jeunes comme une balise inébranlable du son électronique.
Mika est pour beaucoup un seigneur, roi des ombres et des architectures chaotiques, voilà pourquoi l'annonce de son retour avec Black Telephone Of Matter faisait aussitôt l'écho d'un retour certain vers les brumes électroniques et territoires en décomposition. Pas de round d'observation ici, le Finlandais prend au corps son auditeur en décalquant des scènes de dévastations sur un papier d'aluminium froissé. On atteint directement un niveau de froideur élevé, marque de fabrique de notre héros expérimental : pas de jolies mélodies ni d'apitoiements surjoués, Black Telephone Of Matter est aussi chaleureux qu'un quartier dépravé au c¦ur d'une glaciale nuit d'hiver, là où le crime paie et les ennuis guettent le tout venant. Vous trouverez ici des pans complets d'ambient minimaliste et de murs noisy à vous faire passer Fuck Buttons pour des fillettes en jupon (ce qu'ils sont pour beaucoup d'amateurs de musique noise). Vous y rencontrerez surtout des hologrammes architecturaux forts de leurs agressives injonctions, des parcours hésitant toujours entre le flottant et le tonitruant. Une thèse musicale qui virevolte entre extrême silence et extrême chaos. Alors bien sur, certains tenteront encore de se lever contre ce nouvel essai d'avant-garde, prétextant un manque certain de chaleur humaine à l'ensemble (même l'opéra néo-classique défroqué de « Silencés Traverses De Mondes Et De Anges » ne suffira pas à les contredire). Ceux là auront peut-être l'occasion de remarquer que Mika Vainio à oublié d'écouter le battement de son c¦ur depuis belle lurette, que son humanité se retrouve dans cette manière unique d'anticiper la création musicale, transformant l'électro-acoustique contemporaine comme une nouvelle religion d'état.
On aurait du s'en douter avec le récent Trahnie, Mika Vainio est bel et bien au sommet de sa forme et nous le prouve une fois de plus en couchant une fois de plus ses noires pensées sur bandes magnétiques. Si un jour, vous vous retrouvez dans la situation décrite en début de chronique, il ne fait aucun doute que Black Telephone Of Matter est le disque à s'envoyer dans les esgourdes, histoire de prendre sans plus de formalités une nouvelle claque signée Vainio. Valeur sûre. 7/10 [Simon]
RATED: 8.5 / 10
A lesson in modern abstractionism referring to the old masters of musique concrete. No rules, no boundaries, just commitment to the sound sculpture.
A few weeks ago I had my first live encounter with the music of Pan Sonic. As expected this was a massive attack on body and mind with harsh pulsing noises and pounding beats. A wall of sound pierced the room and my ears. For this solo release Mika Vainio takes another approach without adding any beats to the sound. Instead for Aíneen Musta Puhelin (Black Telephone of Matter) he makes the choice for an abstract sound sculpture.
In 7 tracks Vainio shows us with a historical knowledge his modern take on musique concrete. Not that he is working with layered samples of about anything you can imagine. But the structures do remind of the old masters. Ranging from droney sine tone pieces to noisy cut and paste techniques, as long if it contains the free character you will find it on this album. Like a true pioneer Vainio experiments with sound not following any trends or conventional rules. Only commitment to his own sound world is what counts and the rest is not important.
Aíneen Musta Puhelin is an album with character, which makes it less accessible than Vainio's other work (solo and with Pan Sonic) but for the more adventurous listeners not an album to skip. A challenging experience crafted with dare and care. [Sietse van Erve]
Blow Up (Italy)
Gonzo Circus (Belgium):
Scandagli nella materia.
Non è nuovo Mr. Mika Vainio alle scorribande ambient, alle dissertazioni dronate e ai dischi di "puro suono" alla Kevin Drumm. Black Telephone Of Matter è infatti il suo quarto disco su Touch ed è un tipico lavoro da amanti del genere, da ascoltare rigorosamente in cuffia. Per cui mandare a fare in culo il mondo, i suoi archetipi e le sue pene e uscire dal proprio corpo per immergersi e muoversi più agevolmente tra la sarabanda di frequenze scatenate da Vainio. Discreto viaggione, insomma, questo BTOF: che sia per una puntatina romana nel futuro prossimo di "Roma A.D. 2727" o per fermarsi e svuotarsi di ogni ombra, tra le pieghe delle distese di suono e silenzio quasi totale di "Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges". Due le grandi cavalcate tra rimandi a Basinski e rumore bianco imbizzarrito. Bury A Horse's Head" e "A Measurement Of Excess Antenna Temperature At 4080 Ml/S", infatti, si snodano entrambe inquiete per più di dieci minuti. Il resto della scaletta si muove in fondo negli stessi ambiti e tra le classiche alternanze pieno/vuoto: si dipana un buon lavoro, che non riesce però a convincere davvero fino in fondo. I fan aggiungano pure una stella in più, però. 3/5 [Giampaolo Cristofaro]
Brain Dead Eternity (blog):
The English title is Black Telephone Of Matter, which is probably less fascinating – and perhaps even more incomprehensible - than its Finnish translation. But - language matters aside - this album by Vainio, the fourth at his name on Touch, gives us several reasons for feeling musically rewarded, and many others to remain wholly mystified and at a loss for words in the unproductive attempt to describe sounds that are impenetrable, often incredibly cold, yet attuned with the logic of solitary contemplation (bordering on inaccessible sufferance) that is becoming rather typical of the era in which the world seems to shut doors to whoever stands outside the borders of mass stupidity.
In spite of the countless silences that the record presents the most frequent response is a sense of oppressing adversity, the kind of thoughts that usually people try to swat away through an unrealistic vision of eventual future betterments that, in truth, are not likely to appear anytime soon. We’re left alone with sudden appearances of computerized excretions whose equalization is at times irritant, barely audible exudations introducing waste materials replete with electrostatic remnants and misshapen atmospheres from unknown places – could be a waterfall or an anechoic chamber, the result remains a total despoliation of the original tissue of a sound source.
When Vainio decides that low frequencies and entrancement must become one and the same, he delivers authoritatively: tracks such as “Hautaa Hevosen Pää” (dedicated to John Duncan) and the final “Hengityttajä”, both utilizing elements of physical reality amidst impressive landscapes of forlorn burdensomeness, place this disc in the “spin again before long” list.
Next time we’ll think about smiling.
I think that there is no use of introducing Mika Vainio to the readers of our webzine. This person has already produced and keeps producing extremely interesting music both in solo projects and in duet Pan Sonic with Ilpo Vaisanen and in various collaborations. And it's very interesting that under his own name Mika releases different works, the music which can't be called by the fans of classifications any way except "experimental". It concerns all three albums released earlier on label Touch and it concerns even more the new record with the double Finnish-English title Aineen Musta Puhelin / Black Telephone Of Matter. Why more? Perhaps because this album is more unusual and surprising than the previous ones, though one can draw quite obvious parallels. And here is the gloomiest and the darkest sound. Black Telephone Of Matter is a perfect soundtrack for a walk through an abandoned night suburbs under the influence of psychedelics. Impressive sound objects hide round each corner, absolutely common ones in another situations, but in this case threatening listeners trousers' dryness. Yes, gloomy, it's very gloomy here...
Despite the minimalistic sound, there are quite many events in the album, both calm, silent and explosive, powerful. Drones, crackles, buzzing and other noises are wandering in the air, very close and sometimes they simply burst out and let the gigantic energy charge out to calm down then and to intrigue with its own special latent presence. An interesting thing - each time when you start listening to the album, the feeling of newness doesn't disappear. Of course it's possible to predict the development of one or another part of the tracks, though your interest wakes up again and again like in an abstract film which can be attentively watched for many times and understood each time in different ways.
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
Terz Düsseldorf (Germany):
Bleiben wir im Fokus elektronischer Konsequenz: Das bereits vierte Solo-Album des Finnen für Touch lotet in 7 einzigartigen Tracks die Tiefe und Weite kontemporärer elektronischer Musik aus, die hier einmal mehr doch so eindringlich wie selten zuvor aus den Impulsen Rohheit und Komplexität schöpft und mittels derer hier ein verstörendes interaktives Szenario zwischen den Polen Physik und Poesie aufs Packendste inszeniert wird. Es ließe sich Thomas Bernhards Roman ’Verstörung' 2010 mit diesem Soundtrack kongenial verfilmen. Niemand geht derzeit soweit und tief in die Eingeweide der Schaltkreise hinein wie Vainio. [Honker]
Es este 'Aíneen Musta Puhelin/Black Telephone of Matter' (Touch, 09) un disco bien cabrón. No por malo o pecaminoso, sino porque requiere (mejor, demanda) de unas condiciones muy especiales. Una escucha no solo atenta sino concienzuda; una inmersión en toda regla encerrado en casa y dejando de lado familia, amantes y amigos. Rodeado por el más absoluto silencio, sería bueno también vendarse los ojos...previa ingesta de un buen café. Imprescindible, eso sí, se hace el uso de auriculares. Solo así podrá uno disfrutar del nuevo álbum de Mika Vainio.
Mika Vainio, better known as one half of experimental duo Pan Sonic, has been creating solo material at an admiral pace since the 90s under the monikers Æ and Philus. While he uses Pan Sonic to surrender to an industrial groove, his own explorations in sound are far more steeped in spontaneity and loosely-structured ambient noise. Vainio reaches a bit further this time, too: Aineen Musta Puhelin (Black Telephone of Matter), his fourth album for the illustrious Touch label, is a post-industrial collage of black static and oscillating tones.
Vainio elongates his aesthetic statement over the course of an hour, providing the listener with a various palette of dissonance to subsume into their aural vocabulary. By building this “vocabulary,” so to speak, the sounds -- what the average listener might characterize as a nuisance (or “noise”) -- create meaning within a larger context of melodic structure. Indeed, artists who employ dissonance and challenging compositional techniques often lose sight of the mission behind their music. But instead of simply provoking the listener, Vainio equally challenges himself with a range of dynamics, collage aesthetics, and bleak topic matter.
While "noise" generally thrives on volume and sustain, Black Telephone of Matter uses a fundamental element necessary to its own sustainability: silence. Not only is silence essential to Black Telephone of Matter, but it's inherent in the process of gathering sounds. To notice the difference between specific tones is to note the contrast, one that hinges on the relative definition of silence. You get a sense that this was a very isolated process for Vainio, that it’s meant to be consumed in the manner it was created. This clearly isn’t the kind of record to sit back and listen to with friends. (Although, it might be interesting to give it a spin for unexpected guests, as if one were taking part in a collective reading of William S. Burrough’s The Soft Machine.)
“Bury a Horse’s Head” is perhaps the best example of the album's strengths. Within its first passage, it creates a foundation developed upon a consistent texture of static. Building out of this is a pulsating tension of bass and muddy high-frequency, radar-like tones, until it all beautifully finds its way back into a similar texture that started the track. It tests the listener’s expectations by laying a foundation and then overtly destroying it, forcing one's thoughts into a mode of anxiety. It literally goes from the sound of human laughter, to a reversed permutation of it, and then finally to a horrific, yet somehow gratifying electric assault. On headphones, it’s a rather out-of-body experience, a testament to the aforementioned aural vocabulary of the listener, a static ode to our gadgetry fetishism.
Vainio is a master of surprise, covering sonic territory not attended to in a typical listener’s experience. By taking these “noises” and turning them into an intelligible final product, he has succeeded in crafting one of the more valued statements within the genre in recent memory. As a seasoned veteran in the world of experimental music, he has clearly developed a keen ear for the structuring of tonal and frequency combinations, and it’s highly evident on Black Telephone of Matter. [J. Bohannon]
Junk Media (USA):
Mika Vainio isn't one for cliché, or explanation for that matter. He's been matter or fact about his strategy for quite some time. In 1997, he's quoted as saying (in reference to Pan Sonic, the group he's worked in with Ilpo Väisänen since 1992) "We just start to turn the knobs and see what comes out." That strategy, in recent years, has revealed a deeper density of results than the power-blasts that Vainio is known for. Last year's Olvea (released as Ø) was almost delicate and playful in comparison to earlier pummel-fests like the shattering Pan Sonic (then recording as Panasonic) record Vakio.
Things are well turned around again on this, his fourth solo record for Touch. It is difficult to say if this new, stark material is born of improvisation or composition, but the result is an album seemingly rife with intention. There are plenty of raw analog tones and pulses evident as with a great deal of his work, but the organization of these pieces comes off as deeply deliberate as opposed to the perceived relentless automata of some Pan Sonic recordings.
Vainio is as uncompromising as ever on this set, deftly moving material around the stereo field, almost making the gestures usually heard in musique concrete. On "Silences Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges", (the title appears in Rimbaud's Voyelles) recordings of crows dissolve into bass drops that give way to multiple harmonics and noise at unpredictable intervals, culminating in quiet waves of analog and digital minutiae. A tribute to John Duncan, "Burying A Horse's Head" uses silence as deftly as it's placement of white/pink noise, mangled electrical disturbance and fractured rhythms.
Vainio's use of analog synthesis suggests harnessed electricity more than discretely controlled voltage and that is no more evident on "A Measurement Of Excess Antenna temperature At 4080 ML/S," where ground hum, test tones and shards of staccato are thrown thru digital reverb. The result is precise, and at times brutal, but never clinical. The record closes with the deliriously tense "The Breather," which heaves and shimmers along until the last two minutes reveal a deep, claustrophobic harshness. This sound has a choral timbre that is quickly slammed shut, ending the suspense.
Now approaching 15 years of constant documented activity, Vainio seems keenly appraised of the challenge of not repeating one's self and is in no way backing down.
Moitié de Pan Sonic, hyper productif multipliant les collaborations avec notamment des artistes de la scène improvisée, Mika Vainio a toujours mené en parallèle une carrière solo débutée chez Touch en 1997 avec Onko. Avec le récent concert du duo à la Maroquinerie annoncé comme le dernier avant longtemps, on se doute que ce projet solo, avec ses spécificités sonores, va rapidement prendre le dessus dans la carrière du Finlandais. Déjà en 2009 on pouvait trouver Mika Vainio chez Editions Mego aux côtés de Lucio Capece sur l'album Trahnie, chez Raster Noton dans le cadre de la série Unun (nous y reviendrons) et donc chez Touch pour qui il sort ce 4ème album.
Autant prévenir tout de suite les fans de Pan Sonic qui ne connaitraient pas encore les travaux solos de Mika Vainio, si l'on retrouve ici parfois quelques basses vrombissantes, la comparaison s'arrêtera là. En solo, la musique du Finlandais apparait abstraite et déstructurée. Pas de mélodies, ni même de rythmiques. Mika Vainio propose plutôt un collage méticuleux de sonorités en général opposées, jouant énormément sur les contrastes, qu'il s'agisse de contrastes de tonalités en enchainant infra-basses et sifflements suraigus, ou de contrastes de volume avec des passages de basses saturées alternant avec des silences. Sans même aller jusqu'à ces extrêmes, l'album regorge d'envolées sonores puissantes, et de longues plages relativement apaisées.
"Relativement" car comme le suggère son titre, Black Telephone of Matter est globalement un album sombre et lors des séquences les plus calmes, on sent qu'il se trame quelque chose d'inquiétant. Silencés Traverses Des Mondes Et Des Anges est certainement le titre le plus marqué par ces atmosphères dérangées, s'ouvrant par des cris de corbeaux, pluie et tonnerre au loin, se poursuivant par des coups de basses profondes et textures bruitistes industrielles, puis accords saturés proches du déchirement. Par la suite, tout semble être apaisé avec des nappes oscillantes lointaines, souffles chuintant et drones électroniques (Bury A Horses Head), ou sifflements et résonances cristallines sur un In A Frosted Lake particulièrement ambient et imagé, les sonorités évoquant clairement la glace qui recouvre le lac, fine et fragile, reflétant les rayons du soleil.
On devine parfois l'influence de collaborations récentes quand le Finlandais utilise des sonorités concrètes, qu'elles soient traitées ou non, ou d'instruments acoustiques à l'image des coups de cymbales de Swedenborgia. On reconnaitra également qu'il mérite sa place au sein de l'équipe Raster Noton à l'écoute des sifflements suraigus et bleeps de A Measurement Of Excess Antenna Temperature At 4080 ML/S tout en gardant avec lui la marque Pan Sonic. Particulièrement découpé, passant sans cesse du coq à l'âne, ce Black Telephone of Matter demandera un certain temps afin de se laisser apprivoiser. Pourtant, en se concentrant sur les détails, à chaque instant, chaque élément, chaque sonorité, cassure ou silence sera la preuve de la précision, de le finesse avec laquelle l'album a été composé. Du travail d'orfèvre. 6/8 [Fabrice Allard]
Search the Touch catalogue