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30 January 2012

Mika Vainio: Life (…It Eats You Up) (Editions Mego)

One half of Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio has made a robust career out of exploiting combinations of signal, rhythm, noise and silence. His more recent solo forays, under his own name or his alter ego Ø, have focused more heavily on the guitar as the signal source, a departure from the purely electronic sounds of Pan Sonic and his early solo albums. On this latest for Mego, the guitar is again harnessed along with effects and electronics as the primary sound source. The result veers closer than ever to the death-drones of artists like Kevin Drumm, Daniel Menche or Russell Haswell, ranging in dynamics from a tense murmur to a full-on sonic blast. Only occasionally does Vainio dive into beats, with “Mining” working as a combination of his rhythmic indulgences on his Vandal EP for Raster-Noton and the more guitar-based sound he’s more fully exploiting elsewhere here; he continues it with a dip into more of a psych-rock sound on “Open Up And Bleed.” He takes this one step further then into an odd post-rock/post-metal sort of vibe on “And Give Us Our Daily Humiliation,” with its dry rock kit and strangely panning doses of guitar feedback. But perhaps my preferred moments are the more beatless abstractions, like the droning reverb of “Crashed,” the death drone dirge of “Conquering the Solitude,” or the spazzy feedback editing of “Throat,” all tracks that seem to fully exploit the guitar in new ways relative to Vainio’s past repertoire. While it’s certainly not half as severe as some of Vainio’s most stark material (Onko tended to push the limits of silence as sound, back in its day), it’s certainly not as accessible as the noisy electronic beats of Vandal or most of Pan Sonic’s electronic output. It’s interesting to hear him exploring the fringe with some new tools in his kit; as ever, I’m curious where it will take him next.

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