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I-LP-O in Dub: Communist Dub (Editions Mego)

Ilpo Väisänen has been a fixture in experimental minimal electronic music for decades now, best known as one-half of Finnish duo Pan Sonic. His partner in crime, Mika Vainio, has consistently maintained a higher profile, having released numerous solo albums under his own name in addition to numerous aliases. Väisänen has gradually been amassing a significant backcatalogue of his own, though only one solo album precedes this one under his proper name. Lately he’s been making freeform percussion noise as Angel with Dirk Dresselhaus, but Communist Dub is a different animal completely. Most of the tracks on the album are bone dry — if there’s reverb, it’s deliberately claustrophobic, making the sound tighter and more taut rather than more spacious. So a track like “Donbass Hybrid” that could have easily gone into a drippy, wet, traditional dub sound is instead sucked dry, with a thick gate on the reverb that makes it feel airless in a distinct and cool way. It’s that contradiction of heavy effects and supreme dryness that lends Communist Dub a disorienting quality; despite its splashing in delays and effects, these tracks are very much informed by Väisänen’s repertoire of leftfield beatmaking and extreme minimalism.

It’s hard not to conjure up imagery of oppressive Eastern Bloc architecture and grey skies listening to some of these highly mechanical and dry tracks, somehow simultaneously disorienting and yet also plain, with the highs and lows smothered and the mids carrying the mix. it may be a detail but my favorite element throughout these tracks is his use of moist, strange droplet sounds, thick in reverb but dry on decay — it lends a strange, organic quality despite its obvious synthetic origins. Some tracks are longer than others, with “Kolyma Stoned -36” serving as the centerpiece of the album at nine minutes. About halfway through it recalls Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music,” with a swaying lurching that peaks with a squeak of digital feedback. Unlike Reich’s piece, however, which I personally find to be nearly impossible to sit through, there is that dubby pulse at the center of the track to propel it forward with a steady bob. He ends on a more toxic note with the grind of “Benghazi Affair,” with a gnarl to it that recalls his partner Mika Vainio’s more aggressive solo output, and, given its title and the context of the album, it’s a fitting final explosion. I like how distinct the sound is for this batch of tracks, and yet it still sounds very much like it came from its creator — here’s hoping his next solo outing isn’t so far apart.

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