"They bestride the Earth." John Peel said that once on his old BBC World Service show to introduce a Fall song and as a vague reference to how he would often stretch his own programming rules in their case. I feel the same way about Mika Vainio. Unfair preferential treatment is in order and a new release must be celebrated. Vainio's recorded works have been in the areas of techno (as Ø, Philus), installations (Onko), out electro-rock (Pan Sonic and Endless), and finally soundscapes, which is where In The Land belongs together with Kajo and Ydin. In this context and that of nineties and naughties electronica, In The Land is hardly radical but it is exceptional. Vanio's work has a quality and coloring that is uniquely seductive and the finesse with which he applies his personal voice to a variety of tasks sets him apart. For example, the very short opener 'Sunder Here, Sailor' is a vicious attack of animal and machine noise that, without diminishing its power, has a watery metallic sheen that makes the meaning ambiguous and defies to be labeled as noise. Throughout the album Vainio combines familiar material with the alien, and friendly production with the downright disconcerting so as to keep both the soundtrack to the imagined movie dynamic and its narrative interesting. The only lulling you'll find here is temporary. But ultimately what overwhelms is the music's sheer melancholic beauty. 'The Colour of Plants', of plain and simple construction, just a handful of throbbing drones and pure tones, sings of the deep yearning for and impossibility of transcending our deadening corporeality. 'Snowblind' returns to a favorite resource of Vainio-amplified hum. At only six minutes long it develops a into monumental resonant chord with depth and emotion worthy of its drone music heritage (see the Charlamaine Palestine review in this edition). One more important difference between Vainio and many of his colleagues in electronic music is his commitment to what's known in the wine industry as low-yield-the notion that one cannot allow a vine to produce copious fruit without diluting the wine and that to make a concentrated wine, the vine's vigor and productivity must be either naturally or artificially curtailed. As numerous artists have demonstrated, electronic music is very easy to make and the whish-washy results of high-yield methods are abundant. In contrast, Vanio's stance seems almost defiant. [Tom Worster]

inthe (web):

In the more leftfield and experimental music genres, many have begun to associate laptops and computer based editors as the primary tool in it's creation and for the most part, that is correct. However there is a long list of musicians and sound artists long before that have been creating work without programs like Max/MSP or Reaktor. Mike Vainio is one of these such artist and as one half of the duo, Pan sonic, Vainio has been creating instruments and generating sounds from synths, re-wired drum machines, and mutated appliances to create his work. While he and his cohort have recently begun to get into computer sequencing and
processing, the hard analog and dirty acoustics play a large role as evident on his latest solo work. Hard, edgy and gritty could best describe the current batch of tracks but Vainio gives his work a chance to breath and grow before running it's natural course and dying off in the end. It's as if their are small hints of human feelings behing the buzzing and manipulated drones and Vanio doesn't seem to feel the need to beat you over the head by being too abrasive. This is of course with the exception of the hard and freaky opening number that grabs your attention and sends waves of discomfort shooting down your spine before drawing you in and keeping you listening compulsively for the next audio event. [JH]

Stylus (USA):

Mika Vainio is one-half of the Finnish duo Pan Sonic. Anyone who has read my reviews over the past few years will know that I consider Pan Sonic to be among the finest groups recording today. I'll grant that their music is not for everyone—there are usually some good beats, but their melodies often lean toward the weird, noisy end of the happiness spectrum. Actually, what I find most interesting about the group is the fact that the two members—Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen—are, in some ways, diametrically opposed musically. Väisänen's solo works, like Asuma and his contribution to Raster-Noton's 20' to 2000 collection, are sparse, rhythmic affairs. By comparison, Vainio's solo efforts, like Ydin and Kajo, are darker and creepier works, consisting largely of throbbing sine waves and some nasty feedback loops. Both of these elements appear in Pan Sonic, and it's the struggle between those sparse beats and the overwhelming noise that makes Pan Sonic's music so intriguing.However, these solo efforts have left me a bit underwhelmed. Many of the works are quite interesting in their own ways, but they are nowhere near as good as the work that both create together as Pan Sonic. I liked Asuma, but it left me a little bored (too much repetition, I think); I appreciated Ydin and Kajo, but the intensity of the feedback noise left me unwilling and unable to bear the works for longer than a few minutes at a time. So when I learned that Mika Vainio had released In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed is King, I didn't expect much.Well, once again my assumptions proved unfounded. This is a remarkably subtle, intense, and enjoyable listen. There's plenty of terror here—some rather intense explosions of sine waves pushing the ears to their popping point—but there are also many subtle, even beautiful moments spread throughout the disk's 44 minutes. "Kasvien Väri (Colour Of Plants)," for example, starts off with a series of sine waves that warble and sputter around for a few minutes, until joined by a few Vangelis-like synth lines that push their way into the warbling din. These sounds then spend a few more minutes swirling around each other (like a big soup of melodious air conditioner noise) until, all at once, the din disappears, leaving just a delicate, almost peaceful tone that floats around in pitch and intensity (at one point almost silent, at another almost blisteringly loud), until the tone dips and dies, and the song ends. It's a wonderful song, both minimalist (there are only really three or four different notes in the whole thing) and chaotic (those notes cover all areas of the sound spectrum, and vacillate in every directions for minutes at a time). Most of all, it's a wonderful song because the music itself weaves a wonderful spirit of dissonance and creativity, bringing an image of the title, "color of plants," to life in vivid, "colorful" detail. In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed is King is a work of atmosphere. That's not surprising. Most Pan Sonic works (and most solo works by the members of Pan Sonic) are atmospheric, even cinematic in scope and execution. The great thing about Pan Sonic's music is the duo's amazing ability to concoct so many different feelings and emotions out of such simple, almost elemental musical sources. Vainio's solo efforts are usually just as sparsely composed, but they too often subsumed themselves in dark, depressing landscapes of noise and morbidity. Vainio's latest, however, is different. Yes, it is a work of power; the noise of Vainio's homemade machines is always present. But this time, the noise and the power are not the end product: rather, they are the raw materials, the primordial soup out of which Vainio rips and pulls and molds and shapes nine beautiful, delicate, musical gems. [Michael Heumann]

Flux (UK):

The Finnish monarch of stripped post-technoid rumble surpasses himself. From the opening earbashing, Pan Sonic's more dangerous half doesn't let up on quality. His genius: the awesome pursuit of impulses towards minimalism, abstraction and power, perfectly distilled, reigned in and still menacing. The strongest experimental record I've heard this year. [Graeme Rowland]

VITAL (The Netherlands):

"Generally speaking, contemporary musicians produce too much stuff. It is easy to do. But if you feel like sighing, "Oh, it's another Mika Vainio CD" self has anticipated such sentiments with the opening track, a 2 minute blast which sounds like an angry animal breaking free of its cage" - it's what Touch says. With just his third solo CD for Touch, I don't think one can say he produces too many. I have been playing this new CD a couple of times now, and the material starts to grow immensly. At first I thought it to be a quite boring CD, with half-baked ambient ideas and likewise rhythm experiments, but the more I play this, the better the material gets. Vainio is more on the edge of sound collage then his previous solo efforts, or his work with Pan Sonic. Sounds and textures of varying mood (although they are mostly darkly coloured) go hand in hand on this CD. Upon close listening this CD reveals more depth then superficially seems present on this CD. In some of these tracks, the old Vainio is still present, such as in 'Lumisokea', with it's staggering sine wave experiments in a repeating drone mood. It's only the natural link to his new work. A track like 'Se On Olemassa' could be horror soundtrack straight away. A CD that grows infinitely. [Frans de Waard]

Ink19 (USA):

The title, translating to, "In The Land Of The Blind The One-Eyed is King" seems almost utopian compared to being in a land of one-eyed people with a blind king. Aside from knee-jerk politics, the real question of "The Land of the Blind" is how useful our ears are to our general orientation. As usual, Mika Vainio's work can rarely be accused of lacking curiosity in that regard. Vainio's partnership in Pan Sonic has shown a two-pronged interest in trance-inducing ambience and human hearing perception. If we want to reduce all of the complex things that go into a collaborative effort, Vainio sculpts the ambience and Ilpo Vaisanen is in charge of human hearing perception, and additionally seems to have particular attention vested in rhythm and reduction. You can deduce this from Vaisanen's engaging release on Mego, Asuma, and any number of Vainio's releases from the past years. Pan Sonic has had plenty of Wire Mag-related acclaim for their allegedly austere, mechanical, and sparse sound. Yet, austerity, sine wave tones, and psychoacoustics are without a doubt more effectively executed by Touch labelmate Ryoji Ikeda. This is not to suggest that Vainio and Vaisanen aren't fairly potent artists. Yet, joined together, Vainio's electrical socket timbres and Vaisenen's sine palette seem pale compared to Ikeda's even sparser vision. Vaisenen's Asuma release showed traces of a pop sensibility that might've been responsible for Pan Sonic's relative success on the IDM circuit. Vainio, on the other hand, makes a little less sense, at first. There seems to be a general confusion that makes the word "cold" synonymous with "impersonal". Ikeda's work is impersonal, human expression is not the point, pinprick explorations into the science of hearing is what seems to emanate from his recordings. Pan Sonic, and Vainio's "One-Eyed", in particular, is cold music. The human hand that created it is never far from the work, the chills and inconsolable barrenness, while maybe conveying a similar emotional response in the listener as Ikeda's human-absent proceedings, is fundamentally different in practice. Someone like Oval makes impersonal music that still has warm, emotional overtones, after all. Vainio's work has waffled between being the ghost traces of corroding mechanics and decidedly Finnish expressive qualities that allow a not-entirely-unfair allusion to a composer like Jean Sibelius. One-Eyed shows a Vainio with a comfortable, wintery, musical vocabulary, that echoes Sibelius' Scandinavian alienation (the press release even compares it to the soundtracks to the films of Tarkovsky, which, while Russian, share a similar stoicism). Granted, all of this is exemplified by Vainio's use of ominous, though somehow comforting drones, which the Touch label seems to hold the trademark for. Through this, Vainio, rather than presenting the found sounds of electrical charge, gives his work a personal and melancholy taste. In The Land Of The Blind The One Eyed Is King is achingly bleak. Look at the overcast evening photograph on the cover, or the empty chairs on the back. Perfectly summed up by the photograph inside, of people sitting in what looks to be an airport, staring out into the blank, blue landscape. This is dry-eyed, exhausted music, without almost diary-like entry portals into Vainio's life. [Kim Shannon]

Junkmedia (USA):

At the risk of sounding like I'm auditioning for "High Fidelity - the Musical", I have to admit that I gave up on the Finnish electronic duo Pan Sonic after their first three albums. This isn't because they lost their knack, or that once forced to drop the other "a" in their original name they were suddenly inspired to go too "commercial" for my tastes. No, in fact, the opposite is true. What happened was Pan Sonic remained exactly the same. For better or worse, Pan Sonic has carved out a niche -- vertiginous tone experiments, radar pulse grooves, and dry synth beats -- so perfectly they seem trapped in it. I got the idea. I lost interest. Both Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio released solo albums in the years since I lost touch with Pan Sonic and I ignored them completely. So it was with a mixture of blasé disinterest and guilty conscience that I slid Vainio's In the Land of the Blind One-Eyed is King into my stereo. "Sunder Here, Sailor", the opening track, a shimmering, white squall of noise, retreats into a solid bit of ambience called "It is Existing" that sounds like a quiet section from a Coil record -- very satisfying, totally creepy, and not a very Pan Sonic-sounding track at all. The entire album has a unique fidelity: You can hear the open room, the echo of unfinished concrete walls, the lack of furniture. If this is electronic music, then it is not simply a series of MP3s passed from one computer to another. The music here has been oxygenated, passed through actual air and microphones. The presence of an earthly environment is a welcome change from the Pan Sonic sound, which seemed created in a kind of prismatic limbo.With a lot of Pan Sonic records you kind of feel like putting them on only to justify their purchase, but tracks on In the Land... such as "Streets" and "Snowblind" carve a truly engaging listen out of tremulous ambience. Vainio's emotional perception has never been so acute as it is here. There's always been a great seriousness to Vainio's music; Pan Sonic is as unfunny as hell. Here Vainio's lugubrious expression seems more personal, and less conceptually rigid. However, once the album is finished, it's like amnesia has instantly hit, and I forget what I've heard. Not to say that In the Land of the Blind is bland, because it isn't at all. It's just very subtle and unobtrusive. [Don Keye]

Dusted (USA):

Minimalist Landscapes:
The latest solo outing by Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic sees him engaging in a full-bodied version of minimalist electronic glitchscaping. More interesting than most examples of its ilk, In the Land... most often sounds like a barren wasteland, as if you're trapped in a city-sized factory of humming equipment and threatening machinery. Admittedly, the pieces sometimes seem a bit too random, but at other times Vainio communicates clearly and succinctly. However, I did occasionally get impatient, and felt like things were too simple, seemingly meaningless and simply meandering from one end to the other. Vainio introduces things with "Sunder Here, Sailor," a minute-long intro track that's initially quiet, but then explodes into a relatively harsh noise piece. It's about the loudest and most obnoxious moment on the album. "It Is Existing" is more typical of the nine pieces here, a collection of spooky, low ominous tones and crackling, humming emissions. Towards the end it devolves into extremely minimalist clicks and distant thumps, and ever so slightly overstays its welcome at eight-and-a-half minutes. "Ahriman" is more concise, and introduces rather psychedelic engine-like roars, whooshes, and pitch-shifted tones that make it probably my favorite entry on the album. "He Was a Sound Sometimes" is the ten-minute centerpiece, as well as perhaps the most minimal song. A smorgasbord of artificial buzzing, static, near-silence, and anonymous tones that, at the very end, even includes a test tone. Most notably, Vainio tosses in the sound of a needle skipping at the end of a record, or at least a close facsimile thereof, that slows until it vanishes. The remaining pieces range from electronic tone-drone to densely fuzzy, greasy sounds and heavy drone. A one-minute interlude, "Streets" ends up somehow religious in nature due to the synthetic organ-like sound, while early sci-fi movie soundtracks make a comeback in "Snowblind," a thickly overlaid collection of annoying tones, somewhat like an opera for a bank of modems. Then "Further, Higher!" closes out the album with a 2-minute finale of quiet minimalism. [Mason Jones]

Pitchform Media (USA):

Rating: 7.7
When not turning entrails into milkshakes with the frequency fuckery of his full-time project Pan Sonic or performing clinical click/cut operations as either ¯ or Philus, Mika Vainio has spent his time accumulating a curious catalog of sounds on the Touch imprint, be they of the curatorial art gallery background sort or the more frontal lobe-frying, barbed sinewaves sort. His fourth solo disc finds a kind of strange theme: sailors. Here he is, all dolled-up like a siren with a wig and fishnets, waylaying freshly shaved skippers on shore leave with a beguiling sound that's part good-time laughter, part throat gurgling, and part cheap-liquor retching, before he stoves their heads 20 seconds in with a savage blast of broken glass, roars, and machinations. If those Yankee recruits could only have read Finnish, they'd have known that the title "Revi TSıSıllSı, Merimies" actually translates to "Sunder Here, Sailor". "It Is Existing" breathes some back-alley gases through the lungs, seeping out an air of greasy haze over a slimy puddle underfoot. Once that clears up, Vainio turns his prey down a dark passage, chloroforming them again until all you can hear is their drugged, staggering heartbeats and the swaying neon of the red-light district. Coming to from the stupor, the sailors find themselves stripped clean, clanging against some oil barrels as they try to hide out on an opaque dock in a strange port town. "He Was a Sound Sometimes" drones pleasantly the first two minutes, before the record ends and a needle starts to slowly drag across the label, pulling the ears back down while gathering up dust as it loops itself. Vainio finally gets around to replacing it with a rare record of steamer engines, all surface noise and menacing hiss. Floating still on that boat, he wraps a scratchy wool pea coat tighter around the head before a tea kettle in the captain's quarters reaches a roiling boil, evaporating all that came before it. The blissful peak comes at the center of the record. "Colour of Plants" uses a gentle harmonium-hum as the starting strand of a relaxing sort of sea cruise, while Vainio assuredly gathers a gravity about it, stretching its salty breadth to encompass all available space, at the same time retaining its hypnotic state, the colors of the open sea glowing a ghostly blue iridescence that carries through the more land-locked tracks "Streets" and two-thirds of "Motel". But that's where the nightmares begin. Forgoing the nautical imaginings for the seedier side of noir, the end of "Motel" seethes with a menacing series of squeals before segueing into the drunken lurch of "Snowblind", which is just blottoed enough to hear the ozone gathering over the flickering TV static, all of it turning into an acid-reflux of hot mash, making the by-the-hour room spin and strobe. "Further, Higher!" finds us by the seaside for a split second, hearing the crashing waves before a low drum hit drops us back into the dank galley darkness, where the shanghaied sailors sleep. Small orchestral flames slowly cast a glow over the claustrophobic space, just catching the glint of a blade before it chops the disc to an end. More frequently than not, Vainio serves up a disarming fluctuation between the extremes of ambience and power noise, even changing horses midstream in the track if the mood takes him. A fine bodily hijacking that's neither too mellow nor too harsh.

de:bug [Germany]:

Mika ist gewiß ein Held. Nicht nur ist er teilweise mit Panasonic für totalen Paradigmenwechsel in der elektronischen Musik verantwortlich gewesen, sondern er legt auch mit seinen Solo-Alben wahre Schätze analogen Taumels vor, die sich vor allem bisher Gewesenen nicht zu verstecken brauchen. Sein Debut 'Onko' ließ bereits tief blicken in nie gespürte Oberflächlickeit mikrobiologischer Klangauslotung. 'Land of the Blind' ist ebenso bedächtlich aufgebaut und klingt nach einem sonderbaren urbanen Organ, so als ob verdeckte Berge schmilzen, zu weite Alleen flimmern oder dichte Wolken Großstädte berauschen. Da dies nicht sonderlich oft vorkommt, muß hier wesentlich mehr hinter stecken als diese fehlerhaften Bilder verraten. [ed *****]

ProSieben (Germany):

Mika Vainios dritte Solo-CD für das britische Label Touch ist eines seiner ausgefeiltesten Werke, was die Bearbeitung und Organisation des Klanges angeht. So schrieb das britische Musikmagazin "The Wire" über den Vorgänger "Onko" noch: "Es ist ein bischen so, als würde man das Gras beim Wachsen beobachten, während im Hintergrund schon eine dämonische Batterie von Rasenmähern vor sich hinsummt, die nur darauf wartet ihren Schnitt zu tun", und das Magazin "New Powers" bescheinigte zu dem Touch-Debut "Kajo": "der ideale Soundtrack für Menschen die an einem Mangel von digitalem Geräusch in ihrer Umgebung leiden." So darf man sich bei "In The Land Of The Blind One-Eyed Is King“ nach zwei Minuten Klangaufruhr zu Beginn der Compact Disc zurücklehnen, und Soundscapes genießen, die eine Spannweite von Reminiszenzen an Artemyevs-Tarkovsky-Soundtracks gleichermaßen zulassen, wie die freie Assoziation, von Geräuschen digitaler Insekten umgeben zu sein. Mika Vainio ist natürlich für seine Aufnahmen auf Mute, als eine Hälfte der legendären Pan Sonic (früher Panasonic, bis der Konzern gleichen Namens seine Rechtsabteilung bemühte) bekannt, die gleichermaßen für ihre klar strukturierten Elektro-Stücke beliebt sind, wie für ihre ambienten Kompositionen mit gewissen räumlichen Untiefen. Letztere Rezeptur verfeinert Mika Vaino auf Solopfaden weiter, wenngleich auch mal ein pulsierender Beat die malerischen digitalen Landschaften durchkreuzt. Easy Listening geht sicherlich anders, aber dafür steht Mika Vainio in dem Ruf einer der subtilsten Elektroniker der Moderne zu sein, und dieses Album wird der Tatsache vollends gerecht.

Intro (Germany):

Das britische Touch-Label hat in Sachen Elektro-Minimalismus Pionierarbeit geleistet, noch bevor Clicks'n'Cuts zum feststehenden Begriff wurde. Auffallend ist fast immer die Stimmigkeit von Inhalt und Form. Labelbetreiber Jon Wozencroft designt die CDs von Künstlern wie Vainio, Biosphere oder Fennesz meist selbst. Optisch ist Vainios dritte Veröffentlichung für Touch ganz in Dämmerlicht getaucht: vorne ein Foto von städtischem Straßenverkehr, innen ein Landschaftsmotiv und ein Bild von wartenden Fluggästen. Das tiefe Blau vermittelt Ruhe. Ganz gleich, ob Wozencroft eine Blattstruktur in Nahaufnahme zeigt, architektonische oder technologische Motive - immer wieder korrespondieren die Bilder mit der Musik, beide verbindet ein beruhigender Glaube an Ordnung und Struktur. In einem fast schon affirmativen Gestus geben einem Touch-CDs das Gefühl, dass es ein durchaus erhebendes Gefühl sein kann, am Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts zu leben. Mika Vainio aus Finnland, die eine Hälfte von Pan Sonic, lässt es erwartungsgemäß summen. Noch reduzierter, noch abstrakter als bei Pan-Sonic-Arbeiten, strahlen die Maschinen eine Wärme aus, die dafür sorgt, dass seine Musik immer wieder mit Bildern aus der Natur verglichen wird. Man könne "das Gras beim Wachsen beobachten", hatte der Wire geschrieben. Es ist schon ein Paradox, dass diese absolut strenge, lakonische, oft nur noch auf ein paar Brummgeräusche reduzierte Musik Gefühle hervorruft, die keineswegs Schalterhallen, Stromgeneratoren und entfremdete Arbeit assoziieren, sondern Weite und ein freies Durchatmen. Vainio gelingen Klangminiaturen, die Hochtechnologisches in eine Art Ambient-Folk transformieren. Nur während der ersten beiden Minuten liefert die CD ein Noise-Brett, das härteste Referenzen an Kollegen wie Merzbow erwarten lässt, dann schon entknotet sich das Chaos, gibt wieder klare Strukturen zu erkennen. Mit dieser Musik geht es ein wenig so wie mit der Minimal Art: Auf einfachste Formen reduziert, bekommt hier gerade das Nüchterne und Abstrakte, nämlich das, was von Expressivität am weitesten entfernt ist, einen fast schon meditativen Einschlag. Die akkuraten Klangabfolgen bilden einen Strom, der das Zeitgefühl außer Kraft setzt. Die gefühlte Zeit beim Hören ist da um ein Drei- bis Vierfaches länger als die reale Dauer, nicht aber aufgrund von Langeweile, sondern aufgrund einer sehr cleanen, also ganz und gar unbekifften Trance.

Loop (Chile):

Este es el diseño sonoro del finlandés Mika Vainio, conocido por sus trabajos en Pan Sonic, junto a Ilpo Väisänen. Además desarrolla otros proyectos en el área del techno como Ø y Philus; Onko en el ámbito de las instalaciones y Ydin y Kajo en una vertiente ruidista. Falta mencionar por cierto, su propuesta minimalista y oscura que es la que factura con su propio nombre. Si bien Vainio produce ruido en el tema introductorio "Sunder here sailor", con el rechinar del metal, no alcanza un sonido extremo [tipo Merzbow], sino más bien apuesta por quiebres repentinos, largos desarrollos, ondas sinuodales, loops y oscuridad. Otra característica de Vainio son los timbres y tonos que exhibe en "He was a sound sometimes"; los silencios de "Colour of plants" también tienen lugar y los sintetizadores analógicos que hacen recordar aquel sonido planeador alemán de los '70. En tanto, en "Streets" se desplaza en una atmósfera oscura, cercana al silencio y al gélido entorno de un lugar inhóspito. Por supuesto que el sonido digitalizado de algún software está presente en este disco como aquellas murallas sónicas de interminable ejecución que se reproducen en "Snowblind". Con todo, aquí tenemos un álbum que expresa el silencio de un espacio vacío, con sus tortuosos golpes eléctricos en clave minimal. Más info. de este artista en el sello Touch, sección links. [Guillermo Escudero]

Bad Alchemy (Germany):

Nach "Onko" (1997) und "Kajo" (2000) ist In The Land Of The Blind One-Eyed Is King (TO:54) der dritte Touch-Release des heute in Berlin lebenden Pan Sonic-Finnen unter seinem bürgerlichen Namen MIKA VAINIO. Davor veröffentlichte er als Ø eher technoiden Stoff. Davon entfernt er sich immer mehr, indem er Beats gegen Breitwandsounds und Mobilität gegen 'Mood' tauscht. Nach einem Trommelfell zerreißenden Reinigungsritual zum Auftakt öffnet sich der Vorhang für einen Tonfilm für das Innere Auge. Düstere Klangschwaden suggerieren, was auch immer die individuelle Gestimmtheit dazu phantasiert. Nur eins ist sicher:
Depro is King. Das Nachtschattenblau und die Messing- und Bronzetöne der Fotoästhetik färben auf die Imagination ab. Vainio tastet nicht mit den Fingerspitzen über Brailleschrift. Er stößt bis zum Ellbogen in die Eingeweide, finnische Massage in Reinform. Eine Vinylauslaufrille knirscht durchs Hirn wie eine Lore in die Unterwelt. Dabei sind Bilder nur Umwege. Vainios Drones, seine Rumpel-, Sirr- und Prasselsounds attackieren die Synapsen direkt im Kurzschluss von Klang und Schock, Reflex, Unbehagen, Staunen, Verlockung. Bis sich allmählich die verborgenen Schwingen öffnen und man sich fallen lässt in die rauhen
Frequenzströme über den schlafenden Städten. Wobei auch das schon wieder eine Metapher zuviel ist. Die Musik ist gerade in ihrer Sprachlosigkeit gewaltig.

ei (USA):


Alternative Press (USA):
After giving the electronica movement a kick in the ass with Panasonic's harsh, minimal techno, Mika Vainio has now set his sights on more abstract forms of music with his latest solo album, Onko. Vainio dispenses with the repetitive beats and pulses of Panasonic and allows this music to breathe and expand. Much of Onko inhabits the gray area that exists between Thomas Köner's arctic soundscapes and Bernhard Günter's hyperminimalism, but Vainio lacks either of those artists' vision. I know that this type of music requires a careful listen and an abundance of patience to appreciate, but tracks such as "Kelvin" and "Jos [If?]" ultimately lack the attention to detail that makes Köner's and Günter's music so intriguing. However, "Viher [Green/Cellular]" is a revelation in which a series of textured drones slowly crumbles into 1000 pieces until another soothing wave of sound comes along to sweep it all away. It's one of those tracks that you want to last forever. But despite flashes of brilliance, Onko comes off like a series of promising sketches and outlines instead of a fully realized world of sound. [Bill Cohen]
VITAL (The Netherlands):
Mika, famous for his Panasonic excursions and solo work as Ø, has finally brought out some stuff under his own name. Listen along as he primes, then fine tunes his pneumatic devices, limbers up with a burst of groundhum before reclining against a sonic wall of hissing grit. Sounds of information reduced to their smallest common denominators. Frosty machine language. The reveries of circuitry. Bit-reduction. Wings of bass. And then, after three tracks which intensely and deftly tweak the spaces between the Hertz, there's track 4, a soft rising of sap, the fragility and transcience of shadows, respiration of a cell. Onko means 'It is'. And it is. Is it? [Mark Poysden]
New Powers (Canada):
An experimental music release for Mika who keeps his rhythm machines off while making these hums and static washes for installations and for people who don't get
enough digital noise in their environment. Recommended for listeners of Lovely Music-makers such as Alvin Lucier.
1. "Kelvin" - your stereo is not broken this is hum music, with interludes of static
2. "Jos [IF?]"
3. "Onko Parts 1-11 [IS IT?]" 36m an index of hums and test tone beeps recorded for an installation in Holland
4. "Viher [GREEN/CELLULAR]" 16m gentle ambient pulses in the vein of Oval.
Exclaim! (Canada):

Onko is an experimental music release for Panasonic's Mika Vainio who kept his rhythm machines off-line while making these sounds for people who don't get enough digital noise in their environment. "Kelvin"'s quiet hums and interludes of static may make you think your stereo is broken, but this is the essential grain of the most basic electronic sound unit. In "Jos (If?)", data processing tweets are even further reduced into Mika's most minimal 'techno' yet. And during his epic 36 minute "Onko Parts 1-11 [Is It?]" an extensive index was made of test-tone beeps and drones in order that a Dutch art gallery's patrons could experience a new level of cyber muzak. Onko is Mika's most abstract music to date and recommended for fans of the lovely music of Alvin Lucier.
The Wire (UK):
Static and rumblings from the heaving netherworld of electronic sound experimentation...Onko is Panasonic man Mika Vainio's first release under his own name - his solo material has until now come under the Techno minimilia guise of Ø. The album marks a new departure for this mysterious musician, who now turns away from the vestigial dancefloor patterns that haunt most of his projects. The nearest parallel to this picks up from where the Ø contributions to Rastermusic's Mikro Makro album were heading, embarking on longish episodic pieces. At the centre of this album is a loosely structured 36 minute work which passes through many phases, ranging from crackle and static to tape-recorded atmospheric sound. While spareness remains the byword - parts of the piece are near-silent - there is a definite attention to wider sound sources than hitherto. The stark warmth previously favoured gives way to an unsettling succession of darkly themed noises. A strong flavour of indeterminacy develops as the listener is drawn into sounds that waver and change shape before disappearing again into silence. In the end, however, the focus of the shorter pieces wins out, with Vainio racking up the tension through sheer concentration. Like watching grass grow while a battery of demonic lawnmowers hover in the background, ready for the kill. [Will Montgomery]
Village Voice (USA):
Techno with the snare turned off is nice to decompress to, but it's not ambient music, whose object is to play with a sound environment to change the texture of it, as careful lighting would. So the best recent atmosphere-altering recordings have moved toward sounds that can't be confused with electroglop. That's the beauty of Mika Vainio's Onko (Touch). No matter how loud you turn it up, it won't take centre stage - it just makes its surroundings seem starker and sharper. Vainio (also of the more rhythm-friendly Panasonic) eschews frills like beats and notes in favor of sounds that can pass for background noise: tape hiss, appliance hum, seashell roar. His constructions are tart, ascetic and razor clean. When the title track mutates into a random series of ultra-high pitched ticks, you can practically hear your neural connections being severed.....There are lots of recordings of unusual pre-existing ambience too, like Disinformation's 12-inch single of solar radio emissions, and Chris Watson's location recordings - "River Mara, Maasal Mara, Kenya 2130h, 16 September 1994" is the jam.
i/e (USA):
At absolute zero, the molecular motion which translates as radiated warmth comes to a complete standstill. Mika Vainio inches restlessly down the 'Kelvin' scale in search of this ultimate stasis, never reaching his goal of total absence of motion. For every degree in temperature his electrostasic hum drops, there's just enough energy to sustain the molecular movements transcribed into durable sound. "Jos [If?]" is an exercise in pre reduction, an oscilloscope breakdown of pircing binary sounds into its constituent waves, frequencies and zero-and-one switchings. The raw audible matter of "Onko Parts l-ll [IS IT?]" is molded into an epic poéme electronique through a series of nebulous Xenakis-like manipulations and Parmegiani-like electroacoustic 'incidences'. Designed for a sound installation, the thirty-five minute piece culminates in a passage of unresolved liquid ambient tones. "Viher [Green/Cellular]" works backwards from this ambiquous resolution, sifting minute electronic disruptions into a similarly fluid revolving loop Halcyon song. [Gil Gershman]
=Ellipse= (France):
Fondateur de l'excellent groupe Panasonic mais aussi de multiples autres projets tels ÿ, Tekonivel ou encore Rancho Relaxo All-Stars, c'est le premier disque que ce Finlandais sort sous on propre nom. L'occasion pour nous de découvrir des travaux encore plus expÈrimentaux et conceptuels s'il en est, avec entre autres son gout pour les installations sonores. Ainsi donc plus de la moitié de l'album est consacré une performance ayant eu lieu aux Pays-Bas en 1996, composée d'une succession de plages sonores calmes, peu évolutives et perturbées de temps autre par des parasites rythmiques. Tout un travail sur les fréquences, la mise en valeur du souffle, les sons amusicaux comme issus d'erreurs de manipulations et récupérés pour en faire tout autre chose, avec toujours le paradox entre l'utilisation de machines analogiques (fabriquées par ses propres soins) et un résultat final sonnant complètement moderne. Accompagné par un superbe digipack, ce disque nous prÈsente un univers musical trés personnel et hermétique avec toutefois un rel‚chement trés appréciable sur la fin travers le morceau "viher" presque mélodiqe et doux que l'on pourrait rapprocher des ambiances propres Oval / Microstoria. Attention toutefois, si vous ne possédez qu'un simple lecteur CD et des enceintes moyennes, vous pourrez difficilement appécier ce CD.
mécano (UK):
Mika Vainio is the founder of the pioneering Finnish label Säkho, and one half of the equally renowned Panasonic. For this, his first release under how own name, Vainio has abandoned the minimal rhythmic structures which characterise his label and work with Panasonic. Instead, Onko is a clinical exploration of the "post-digital landscape". The sounds are sparse and delicate - listen closely for the faint strains of laid-back sax which trickle through the icy surface of the title track, or the soft, looped tones of 'Viher'. Onko is less harsher (sic) than I'd expected it to be, but not overtly 'easy listening' either. [AK]
Web review:

Excoriations of straight techno have bordered on the obsessive. Vainio's solo work (previously under the name Ø, and now, with this his Touch debut, under his own name) have ventured several fathoms further into abstraction, often leaving behind structure entirely to focus on a fizzing, futzing blur of dimensionless test-tones and residual electronic noise. Onko is perhaps not so far from that description, although Vainio here hits upon an even less stratified constructivism, integrating the vaguest of melodies and textural components largely absent both from Panasonic and from previous of his solo work. Much of Onko lacks the immediate reference point of rhythm, which means listening can become either a frustrating prolegomenon or an enthralling procedure of micrometrical discovery, depending on the context of playback and the expectations of the listener. The album's title track was recorded live for a Dutch sound installation, and at just over 30 minutes long is a gauzy, fascinating pencil-sketch of meek, enervated patterns and sculptured circuitry. Like the slow unwrapping of a meticulously crumpled page, Onko reveals an intriguing play of shadow and texture through the sharpest and most internal of means, giving rise to a quiet musicality as delicate as it is unshakable. Rating: 7.5
Art Zero (France):
Onko, nouvelle production de tres soigne label d'ambient-bruitisme Touch, a ce gout minimaliste tres actuel. Aux cotes de Ryoji Ikeda (Dumb Type) lui aussi edite par Touch, Mika Vainio a une esthetique musicale bien a lui, aux croisees des ecoles du label Digital Narcis (Atau Tanaka) et du nouveau projet d'Otomo Yoshihide, I.S.O. (voir chronique plus haut). Venu des contrees nordiques, et non du Japon comme une ecoute en blind-test pourrait le laisser penser, Vainio semble explorer au microscope electronique le materiau-son. Son approche est concentree sur l'atome musical, qu'il s'escrime a vouloir dissequer, a representer musicalement selon les differents points de vue qui lui sont fournis. Musique de l'insecable tout autant que de l'aride, "Onko" presente des experiences ambientes et bruitistes radicales et minimales qui explorent le grain et la texture musicale dans ses details les plus enfouis. Fort de cette demarche sans concession, Mika Vainio se situe a la pointe des experiences du genre qui peuvent malheureusement rebuter par leur apparent hermetisme un large public.
Your Flesh (USA):
A barely fluctuating hum, and a hardly distinguishable series of granulated tones mark our 'Kelvin', the first track here and a mark of Vainio's intention to record at a nearly absolute minimal level. As half of Panasonic, Vainio is adept at making sparse, electronic music and this solo record takes it down to an even lower level. The listener is denied even the spare rhythmic structure of Panasonic. Geiger counter-like clicks pop out of the second track over a hiss that sounds like an escaping rush of air. The thirty-plus minute title track puts a series of clicks, pops and shifts of sound waves together in eleven parts that sums up Vainio's 'thing'. Whe a gentle, slow melody and some patterned rhythms are knocked out it's the equivalent of the cannons booming out in the '1812 Overture'. Vainio establishes the conditions of his music so well that small transitions like this are absolutely riveting. The CD ends with the gently cycling melody of 'Viher'. Which may mean nothing at all to you if you're the kind of person who needs structure and direction delivered to you on a silver platter during every moment of a recording. For me, the sounds used here and the way they are organised are more than enough. If you're willing to sit and listen, Onko can be rewarding, maybe not immediately and probably not in any way I can explain readily. Along with folks like Bernard Günter, Minrostoria and Thomas Koner, Mika Vainio is working with such distinct sounds, low volumes and careful shifts of timbre that his real craft can be easily overlooked. Is it music? Does that matter to you? [Bruce Adam]s
Angbase (net):
For those of us who would frequent art galleries more only if there was complimentary hard liquor involved as opposed to that cheap fruity sour pink wine shit, the confusing mix of tones and rumbles (and silences) that make up the half hour title track (excerpted from an installation) almost makes me re-consider my value system. Almost. Wobbly "synth" tones and mic hum which might as well be Mika leaving the DAT running in his sauna while he runs down to the corner to pick up some more raw horse meat. Disc packaged impeccably as usual, with an aura of mystery and importance destined to seduce those of us who don't know Stockhausen from Munchausen.
Switzerland (net):
Listening to `Onko' is a bit like listening to Morton Feldman's piano works (i know of the 70+ m ``Triadic Memories'' and the 30+ m ``Five Pianos'') which are very sparse or minimal and don't appear to require any technical mastery, just tenacity and patience. `Onko' comprises four tracks: the longest at 36m is taken from a live event performed in Holland '96 while the other three shorter pieces are studio works from '97. Waterfall textures and extended tones. Tone pulses, silence then static bursts. Pencil-on-table tapping, deep drones then Geiger-counter crackling. And just as you become settled in, some glitch or abrupt change will unsettle you into a different stream of thought or level of bliss. The creativity of Vainio (and others like Ryoji Ikeda, Thomas Koner and Bernard Gunther) lies not so much in their ability to generate and process eletronic sounds, but in their sense of awareness, judgement and decision-making skills i.e. when to sound or not to sound. I would describe this `Onko' as lush, beautiful and mildly challenging. Nice cover art too - close-up pics of tropical flora.

[RE] (Web)
A studied, formal CD. Vainio's fourth (under his name) takes the tabula rasa back to the rasa. "Kajo" intimates that there was, once, much more there, but that selectively, swaths were erased, leaving only throbbing bass tones that seem to emanate from the floorboards, and piercing hums that ebb and flow, build and stop abruptly. Rotating webs of static throw soft nets of sound that pass quickly across your hearing field: it's more fun than listening to your dishwasher, but not by that much (then again, I find the dishwasher _very_ calming). Fans of stark, pointillistic material, take note. 9 tracks, 54 minutes. (Vainio is one-half of Pan Sonic, fyi)
VITAL (The Netherlands)
This is Mika Vainio's second solo CD; the first 'Onko', also on Touch, crept into my body like unobserved liquid, and this latest has the same effect. It's a swirl. A hiss. A sigh. A whine. A roar. It's all the fine detail you would normally only notice in a film after staring at each frozen frame individually. Visual as fuck. Delicate as angel hair. As quiet as a nightforest when there's nobody around to hear it. Spacetoads yurp, stones slither, the wind plays strange tricks on the trees. Minerals crawl and cluster, assuming shapes of things they saw in past lives, then slowly deteriorate, making new chemical alliances. Rainpings pong with curt reverb, dancing like flocculet trapped for a moment in an eye of a storm. One hand claps. Cables snap like twigs. Distant trains blur across the tundra. Fridgehum bellows. Electronic yedakis crack and cackle. If circuitry could speak this might be the secret backfeed language it would use to mutter and whisper operational commands. Bask in this sea of new sound, never too loud, and fresh and glinting in the silver light. [Mark Poysden]
Bizarre (UK)
You've been lying in a snow-trench in the wastes of Siberia for two days, alone, glued to your radio, listening out for orders from above. Instead, all you hear is fluctuating hums, static, interference. By the fourth day, the beauty in these sounds becomes overwhelming and you hope to hear nothing else. Kajo opens with a recording of Vainio walking towards a machine and switching it on, drawing us from the outside, in. The following journey is atmospheric, sparse and beautiful. A soundtrack to something.
More than just Pan(a)Sonic without the bass oscillations, Mika Vainio's second solo outing still bears obvious connections to his work with Ilpo Vaisanen on their last album release under that name as A, a recording which featured moments of unsettling stillness and texture among the distened beats and noise. Naturally, it's also more about making a different kind of sound to Pan Sonic's - wavering, exploratory, semi-consciously aware of the noises Vainio is mixing into the listening environment. Headphones are one thing, but putting Kajo among the hummings of fridge mechanisms, birdsong, passing cars and train horns is as vital as settling down for an intense listen in a darkened, soundproof room.
Turn it up loud, and some of the pieces here become truly unsettling, as wafts of electronic movement summon pre-linguistic eminences of the occasionally threatening kind. Like watching a dog settled in front of a TV documentary on the habits of wolves, there are moments when the human listener becomes alert to the sounds associated with raising hackles and before much warning is given, gooseflesh is everywhere. What dogs make of it is less obvious but they might not find it too relaxing either.
Circling drones, ratcheted trickles of noise, static in search of its own level and then up to eleven - there's enough on this disc to provoke night sweats and nervous glances in the gloom, especially when it sounds like there's something breathing, or more disturbingly, sniffing through the speakers. Development is a matter of awaiting the next visitation with apprehension, then revelling it its own definition of purity of any particular form. Somewhere along the way it takes transcendent steps into carefully-gleaned vibrations, shimmers in the distance and slow-pulsed hums, soothing without making the easy step into ambient mush, thanks to that underlying threat (perhaps intimation is a better term) of deeper modes of acoustic menace. An ultrasonic sine wave can do no physical harm, at least not on most home stereos it can't - so let Mr Vainio into the fabric of any chosen environment, and maybe he can make it a little less linear, and that little bit more unfamiliar again.
Kajo is the second CD by Miko Vainio, one half of the acclaimed Pan Sonic. As Vainio is Finnish I would take it that the album title and all the track titles are in Finnish. With translations in English provided which with the ambiguity of Kajo as Glow/Shimmer we conjure an intriguing image. The packaging is of a mock LP - card board sleeve with an inner card sleeve. The cover showing a bowl of fruit, the inside a night sky and shimmering - working on enhancing the idea of Kajo.
Kajo starts with Kytkenta/Connection, the sound of a device turned on, we record footsteps and the humming of "on". This forms a bass drone, with a hissing variable edge, sustained with mild crackling. From there the sound works on variations of those effects - at times a more intense hum, and others a distortive crackle. After 4 minutes it turns off and the hum quickly pitchshifts, clicking us into the more interrupted hum structure of Osiltain/Partly. Though after a slight bleep this focuses into a tighter sound - a spiralling mechanism, rising in approach. Then shifts again a metallic, mechanical rhythm - factory components observing a consistency. A clicking motion comes in through the background so that when the rhythm fades it is evident. The feel of the sound is vibrant and we can hear mild bleeps beneath the palpable surface.
The sound of Kolmas Piiri/Third Area is a sustained deep hum. Slowly vibrating as its frequency shifts, higher and louder. Peaked we move into more of a strumming, metal hum, looping with a vibrating cymbal sound added - sheer, perhaps glowing brass. A cloudy sound expands, slow motion blast cloud, carrying dust outward. The closer it comes you can feel a humming, then you hear the clump f the actual blast and its over. Continuing with Leslie/Leslie and a stroking sound being overwhelmed by an oscillating vibration. Slow cycle of bass, inviting mutation in various offshoot tonal qualities. This hypnotises the listener - instilling a strange fascination.
Lahetys/Transmission is a babble of electronic signal - verging on static as much as it attempts to go for a bleeping melody. The on/off bass tones win out - their shifting regularity forming simulations of notes in melodic construction. Maintaining Leslie's fascination well in a seemingly simplistic manner. Aleksandrovsk/ Aleksandrovsk follows in a piercing motion, edge against edge generating shrill noises. Over the turning surface and droning background - with a strike we are left with a high pitched drone, wavering as it peaks in cyclic motions.
Layering quickly we find ourselves in Aaltomuoto/Waveform - shimmers and drones leading to a more focused core. Static edged sighs rise and fall as breaths, which then collapse with a milder, but slightly higher frequency wave. Something mechanical/electrical is turned on - the gears turning in conjunction with the hum of the power source. Moment of discord brings us back to a more subdued form - close your eyes and focus on the hum. Slowly your patience is rewarded and other details return in the form of a second hum - working on a different frequency and pitch. Though in time that layer takes over, but in doing so the sounds become further apart - suggesting distant calls of night creatures.
A clicking-ping triggers the dull rumble of Unessa/In Sleep. The fluid flow of particulate solid down the side of a moutain - rushing into expansion. Echoing into the distance, the rain starts to fall - a lightly heard lashing of external downfall. Going through a more subdued stage we are surprised when melody emerges - light notes increasingly strung together - though in an uncluttered, unconcerned manner. Which leads us to the final track Tukaisin/Returning - a spiralling glitch piece. Rotating plate colliding with obstructing arm, with an increasing aggression, till it is overwhelmed by a level humming. Sustained through tonal focus and a mildly scraping outer edge. Seeming to embody and emphasize the perception of Kajo in sound.
In some ways the motion within tracks is as pronounced as the transformation of one piece of Kajo to the next. Which isn't to suggest Kajo suffers from incoherence, as there is enough consistency to deny that idea. Whether it is a case of being more fully under Vainio's power or not it would seem that Kajo gets better as it goes on. The glowing warm hums of the middle tracks like Leslie and Lahetys really seeming to pull you in. Kajo is a sound work, concentrating on tones and shifts in the magnified moment of sound. At times this can be melodic and really can glow - but tunes are not really the intention or what you will find.
Spain (Web):
Este segundo disco en solitario del componente de Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio, existe en ese indeciso espacio entre el orden y el colapso, donde las máquinas empiezan a fallar y se rompen. Desde el zumbido amplificado de un sonido muy tenue, vagamente audible, en el tema que irónicamente el finlandés titula "Connection", hasta las secas oscilaciones de "Ruturning", un sentido de caos atenuado amenaza en cada corte. Vainio a transformado los sonidos de crispados alambres, superficies arañadas y generadores defectuosos en un hipnótico y meditativo flujo. Quizás los más destacable de este disco, y tiene muchas cosas destacables, es que Vainio no ha tenido la más mínima tentación de ofrecer un espectáculo ensordecedor de cara al aficionado más gamberro. "Kajo" es, dentro de su indiscutible radicalidad, un disco libre de excesos.
Tranquilo, aislacionista hasta el límite de la nada, donde Vainio ha querido entrar en un mundo de sueños, el equivalente acústico de secuencias que se pueden encontrar en los films del director soviético Tarkovsky, evocando el sentido maravillosos de la desorientación espacial en un viaje laberíntico a traves de varios lugares. "Kajo" es un disco impresionante, una obra de un artista que esta en la plenitud de su obra, una obra austera e inteligente, llena de texturas y efectos acumulados, la continuación lógica del "Radioactivity" de Kraftwerk; y lo bueno del caso es que mucho de esta obra ha sido parido en Barcelona. Bien.
Intuitive (Spain):
This is the 2nd solo release from the member of Pan Sonic, recorded throughout 1999 in his home workshop in Barcelona, as well as Lary 7's New York City studio. What starts out as an exercise in concrete techniques (Mika, presumably, walks into the room and activates whatever it is that makes that... sound) slowly morphs into a series of machine-tone studies, rife with loose/lost connections and omnipresent 50/60 cycle hum. From there it's a settling tour through Mika's now familiar landscape, all constructed out of the same gray matter (slight, pulsing derivations, electric mist) we've found so fascinating all along.
City Newspaper, Rochester [USA]:
Semiacoustic Nature
Mika Vainio, Kajo, Touch (TO:43) & Hazard, Wood & Bridge/Field, Ash International (Ash 5.4/5.5)
Later this summer, former Cabaret Voltaire member Chris Watson will receive an award of distinction in the digital music category at Austria's Ars Electronica festival. But Watson hasn't released a shred of digital music since stepping out from Voltaire 17 years ago. Instead, he's been traveling the world, making field recordings of various natural phenomena. His second solo disc --- the work for which he is receiving the award --- is called Outside the Circle of Fire, and includes meticulously recorded animal sounds from locations in Zimbabwe, Scotland, Costa Rica, England, and elsewhere.
Ars Electronica 2000's jurors are right on when they argue that the sounds he captures "would be just as well received in a concert of digital music." Recordings of a male capercallie display or the songs of corncrakes could be outtakes from the latest Autechre album --- off-kilter rhythms, foreign timbres.
Joe Banks takes a similar approach to pre-existing ambience for his Disinformation project, constructing dense collages of solar radio emissions and VLF broadcast data. He's capturing sounds that occur naturally, functioning outside of a deliberate compositional framework.
These recordings provoke a ton of questions from their listeners: What's the difference between background "noise" and music? How can we stamp authorship on naturally occurring sounds? It's hard to get these questions, and the work of Watson and Banks, out of your mind when confronted with recent releases by Mika Vainio (Pan sonic) and Hazard (aka Benny Nilsen). Taking almost the exact opposite approach of Watson and Banks, Vainio and Nilsen construct mostly digital soundscapes that sound environmental.
Recorded in the forest of Kungs Norrby in Sweden, the source material for the Hazard release (a nifty package including one record and one CD) is the sound of trees rustling in the wind, sticks and branches crackling and snapping apart. Nilsen took the source material into his studio, adding wavering drones and beds of light static. The finished product is a remarkable simulation of a larger-than-life aural atmosphere. Low-end bass rumbles like thunder as electrified rain slowly crashes to the ground. Distant machinery tears the forest apart.
Vainio's Kajo isn't as blatantly natural, but it employs similar musique concrète techniques. When the CD starts you can hear Vainio walking into his studio, eventually flicking on the power switch to the machine that will serve as his sound source for Kajo. The music here is extremely minimal and thoughtfully composed; Vainio seems intent on capturing the glitchy nuances of his machine and constructing razor-sharp frequency waves and electronic mist. Pan sonic fans should note that Vainio calls Kajo the first album he's completely satisfied with.
All of these recordings --- the Watson, Vainio, Hazard, and any Disinformation material --- will serve as excellent introductions to the digital-natural music-making fold. And many of them are beautifully packaged, including typically stunning photographs by Jon Wozencroft. For more information, visit <>. [Chad Oliveiri]
Weekly Dig (USA):
Mika Vainio is one half (the other is Ilpo Vaisanen) of the Finnish duo Pan Sonic and Kajo is his fourth solo release. On the disc, the title of the album is translated from the Finnish as glow/shimmer, but the music here does not so much glow or shimmer as crackle, hiss and hum. As with his work with Pan Sonic, Vainio uses unusual, almost primitive electronic instruments (I imagine them looking something like the equipment in Dr. Frankenstein's lab) to create a very palpable electric music. Like his work with Vaisanen, Vainio's music is based on the accidental, such as the sounds of machines being turned on, warming up, malfunctioning, etc. On Kajo, Vainio focuses on the highs (although to a lesser extent than his previous solo release Ydin), rather than exploring the innards-shaking lows sometimes employed by Pan Sonic. Kajo is spare, devoid of beats, minimal and restrained. Indeed, the mood is rather meditative, even with the pops, hisses and other sonic debris. From the "machine on" sounds on 'Kykenta' (Connection) through the hypnotic, oscillating 'Leslie' and the ghostly and poignant 'Unessa' (Returning), Kajo is beautifully austere. Zen for noiseniks. (S Bolle)
Under the Volcanoe (USA):
New from England's Touch label is Panasonic's Mika Vaionio's second solo CD, Kajo, a recording of much greater textural depth than any of his past worl. The new disc focuses on the creation of disquieting atmospheres through subtle, imaginative use of hushed electronics. Each of these nine meditative pieces creates visions of stark, sureal landscapes like those that unfold in one's nightmares. Kajo is a carefully conceived, understated work, not nearly as difficult or complex as the above Mego releases, yet equally alluring. [Paul Lemos]
OOR (The Netherlands):
Biosphere is een overlevende van de ambient-rage van een jaar of 6 terug, een ambacht die hij nog steeds als geen ander beheerste. De muziek is als de foto's (van onder andere zijn Noorse woonplaats Tromso) op de hoes en in het boekje : ijzig, desolaat, statisch en op zijn best van een beklemmende schoonheid. Maar af en toe kleeft er iets gemakzuchtigs aan de ambient formule van Geir Jenssen, die zijn gebruik van 'veldopnamen' van veel creativiteit blijk geeft, maar de mist in gaat als hij ergens een stijf en plichtmatig drum 'n' bass-beatje uit het doosje trekt. Zijn muziek drijft op keurig afgeronde hoeken en dat is bij Mika Vainio wel anders. Ook zijn nieuwe roept ietwat gemengde gevoelens op, maar dan om omgekeerde redenen. De helft van het Finse duo Pan Sonic trekt kale geluidsvlakten op, die van een stekelige hoekigheid blijken. Klanken verschieten subtiel van kleur en richting, een proces dat aandachtige beluistering verdient en dan voor het eigenlijke drama in de muziek blijkt te zorgen. Vainio is echter iets te streng in de leer, wat Kajo tot een zwaar verteerbare aangelegenheid maakt. Maar om zijn onstuitbare exploratiedrang is Vainio me net iets liever dan Biosphere. [Jacob Haagsma]
Outburn (USA):
:Pan Sonic ambience of electronics side project:
Mika Vainio is one half of connection jostled electronics technicians, Pan Sonic. With Kajo, he stretches the boundaries of what Pan Sonic create by allowing the electronics room to breathe. For example, though a track like "Osittain" contains many electronic variables, shifting between lightly crackling loops tinged with pulsing nuances, the presentation is less jittery, more fluid, than most of Pan Sonic's work. "Leslie" loops warm electric oscillations that slither into the crevices of the mind, the illusion of blood flow rather soothing. "Lehetys" opens with what sounds like garbled static from amplified light bulbs, before a duo of smooth blips dodge a third, more subtly intrusive tone, one that seems covered in fur (?!). Indiscriminate electronics gather as one to form a streamlined hum during "Waveform." The hums are caressed by tones of unease that press outward from within the speakers, never quite breaking through. After a brief pause, tones like splinters of edgeless plastic try to puncture the insides of my ears, to no avail. As highlighted by all of the sounds here (between abrupt injections of electronic discharges), Mika's journey through the labyrinthine, subtly electric, circuitry alleys and byways, is nothing less than compelling. - JC Smith
Too frequently the noises and hisses of the modern environment are removed from their sources, layered atop one another in search of a disembodied sonic soundscape. Mika vainio instead skillfully captures the tinging of static, the humming of distant machines and the sonic roar of empty space. Vainio (of Pan Sonic) invokes the materiality of noise, allowing the listener inside the nuances of his sound mutations. Tracks such as 'Kolmas Piiri' (Third Area) forge upon the senses piercing feedback and the aural devastation of distant-sounding church bells in a post-apocalyptic city. The weight of lazy machinery on 'Leslie' and the interrupted bleeping of 'Osittain' (Partly) are the satisfying superlative moments of this successful release. [Kathleen Maloney]
Alternative Press [USA]:
Thrumming, buzzing and searing its way into your mind, Mika Vainio's Kajo represents a bold step forward for ambient music. Vainio is best known for the alternatingly (sic) abrasive and intricate beats and textures he produces as half of Pan Sonic, who march alongside Autechre at the foremost avant-garde of abstract post-techno music. On his previous solo works, Vainio's pursued the more atmospheric side of things, from the gray-scale static of Onko to the deliberately difficult mechanics of Ydin. On Kajo, the once brazen Finn explores a new degree of subtlety, wrapping gossamer tones around the pained hiss of last centur's machines.
Vainio's music is not for airports, but rather the age of airports; a soundtrack to displacement and the unsettling divisions at the core of teleconnected living. The polar opposite of easy-listening music, Kajo makes you work for it: taking a cue from Francisco Lopez, the closing track is all but inaudible when heard on a home stereo with the windows open. But by closing that window, shutting out the outside world and accepting Vainio's invitation, you may just discover a rare space of groundedness sheltered from the wired world outside.
Outburn [USA]:
PAN SONIC AMBIENCE OF ELECTRONICS SIDE PROJECT: Mika Vainio is one half of jostled electronic technicians, Pan Sonic. With kajo, he stretches the boundaries of what Pan Sonic create by allowing the electronics room to breathe. For example, though a track like "Osittain" contains many electronic variables, shifting between lightly crackling loops tinged with pulsing nuances, the presentation is less jittery, more fluid, than most of Pan Sonic's work. "Leslie" loops warm electric oscillations that slither into the crevices of the mind, the illusion of blood flow rather soothing. "Lehetys" opens with what sounds like garbles static from amplified light bulbs, before a duo of smooth blips dodge a third, more subtly intrusive tone, one that seems covered in fur. Indiscriminate electronics gather as one to form a streamlined hum during "Waveform". The hums are caressed by tones of unease that press outward from within the speakers, never quite breaking through. After a brief pause, tones like splinters of edgeless plastic try to puncture the inside of my ears. As highlighted by all of the sounds here (between abrupt injections of electronic discharges), Mika's journey through the labyrinthine, subtly electric, circuitry alleys and byways, is nothing less than compelling. [JC Smith]
Muze [USA]:
As Pan Sonic's more introspective half, Mika Vainio is given to austere solo meditations on the sonic space in which machine and man meet. Vainio hears something sublime in the rafter-rattling hum of industrial engines and electrical wiring. He wants us to hear it, too. With his third set of industrial hymns, Vainio divines the deus in the machinery. KAJO humanizes the cold acoustics of an abandoned power plant, giving sound an expressive female face ("Leslie"), a warm heart ("Third Area"), and anthropomorphic attributes (the wearied ambience of "In Sleep" and "Returning"). Vainio eavesdrops on the slumberous thoughts of electromagnetic coils, conductors, and miles of snaking conduit ("Connection", "Transmission"), sympathetic to their restlessness in disuse. As a picture emerges of KAJO s utility works as a living and feeling body, Vainio s stark presentation imbues the impression with a certain note of sadness. He recognizes a wounded soul within the concrete and metal and offers the electronic elegy of "Waveform" as solace.