Pan Sonic ~ Kesto
Pan Sonic. Scary Finns. If you've ever seen a picture of Mika and Ilpo
you'll know they’re not the sort to mess with. Their first release
'Vakio' appeared almost ten years ago; almost more like sonic sculpture
than music, there's a curious air of stillness about it which is difficult
to forget. Nevertheless the bass rattles your china teacups like nobody's
business and there's a methodical determination to the beats more normally
found in the minds of men wielding wrecking balls to demolish large buildings.
In the four releases since they've pushed and pulled at their template but
stuck to the same circuit diagram ethos. Kesto is their first album since
2001’s Aaltopiiri and Pan Sonic have evidently been saving up, because
Kesto’s full title is 'Kesto 234.48:4' and that figure is the duration
of all four cds put together. The word ‘kesto’ means strength
or duration. Should you be nervous?
Disc one arrives with an exultant roar of electric noise (‘Rähinä I/Mayhem I’) that only reins in just enough to allow beats to be spied before returning to its in-the-red voltage levels again. ‘Mutaaattori/Mutator’ delivers a busy rhythm track around which something like an electric vulture soars and sweeps. You know all those techno tracks that had lovely sounds but you wished they’d max them out more? Listening to these extended pieces of writhing, twisting, howling noise set to purposeful beats should make you happy then. ‘Mayhem’s three parts are aptly named: malicious injury, severe disruption, absolute chaos. The small number of more subdued tracks such as ‘Rimu/Halter’ are eery, impling as they do a promise, almost certain to be kept, of conflagration.
Disc two continues in the same vein as its predecessor but is a little calmer. It appears to act as a mediating transition between the sounds which precede and succeed it. It’s also perhaps the closest to Pan Sonic’s other releases. The first track of disc three ‘Sewageworld’ begins with an extended wet fart presaging a descent into what sounds like ancient, echoing sewers. The rest of the disc is frozen ambient, as in permafrost-bitten tundra. If reverb were possible in space this would be its sound. Track titles such as ‘Arches of Frost’, ‘Inexplicable’ and ‘Sleep of Haddock’ (?) may give some indication to the soundscaping here. Disc four contains one track, 61 minutes and 14 seconds in length; ‘Sateily/Radiation’ is an ethereal tone-poem which slowly turns and spins like stars in the endless darkness of space.
At times it’s as if Pan Sonic are directly addressing Kraftwerk’s 1975 masterpiece ‘Radioactivity’. One of Radioactivity’s unifying themes is the existence and marshalling, via science, of natural forces for productive purpose. Much of disc one and some of disc two sound more like the untrammelled, primal roar of those energies. The word ‘scary’ is overused, but the first half of Kesto’s brutal, implacable onslaught induces the urge to cower before its might. Forget heavy metal, this is heavy electricity of the sort produced by massive hydro-electricity dams and shuddering generators. Kesto is so full of high voltage it should come with a warning:
- ENSURE YOU ARE PROPERLY EARTHED
- PUT ON RUBBER GLOVES AND BOOTS
- ENSURE NO LIQUIDS ARE INTRODUCED INTO THE VICINITY OF THE SPEAKERS
Discs three and four are predominantly the sound of slowform, deep-space signals uninterrupted by the momentary blip of mankind’s noisy chatter. The listener may shiver at the non-human loneliness implied by these muted soundworlds, redolent as they are of the eternal. It’s the aural equivalent of staring up at the nightsky and realising how insignificant and transitory mankind is. As a result the latter half of Kesto manages to be even more unsettling than its first half. I don't know what kind of warning should be given for this part, perhaps only the advice to:
- KEEP YOUR EYES DOWN
- HUG YOUR FRIENDS