Pan Sonic - Giants Of Electronic Music
Giants Of Electronic Music, Pan Sonic, One New Zealand Gig Only Galatos, Galatos Street, Auckland, 4 March 2001 At 8pm As Part Of Artspace's Alt.Music Festival Tickets At Beautiful Music, 300 K Road
PAN SONIC - PREVIEWED BY GARY STEEL
We get top rock groups, we get top films and exhibitions. Hell, we even get top circuses. What we never, ever get to see down here in New Zealand are leading edge electronic groups. All that changes with the appearance of Pan sonic in our climes. The importance of Pan sonic to the contemporary electronic music scene cannot be overstated: these guys are gods.
The Barcelona-based, Finnish duo of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen came to prominence when UK label Blast First (a subsidiary of indie giant Mute) signed them in 1994, at the peak of the 'artificial intelligence' electronica then in vogue. Then known as Panasonic (the electronics giant finally got around to sending them a threatening cease-and-desist letter a couple of years ago), the group may have got a record contract on the coat-tails of a trend, but they easily outshone most of those weedy, computer-driven nerds.
Displaying extra texture from the start, Pan sonic's music - great wedges of killer techno beats that somehow retained a diaphonous quality - was anything but locked in the hard drive. Clinical, yes... but this shuddering electronic beast found a physicality within its core; one based on an understanding of the physics and history of musical malevolence. Unlike most of the electronic groups of the 1990s, Pan sonic found terrific solace in the minimalist psycho-synth rockabilly of seminal 1970s group Suicide, the evil industrial eroticism of Throbbing Gristle, and the power-drilling explosiveness of Einsturzende Neubaten. Like these groups, Pan sonic was determined to melt the "electronic" music paradigm. Their maximalist minimalism played around with ideas of sonic terrorism: the spare, techno-based repetitions left all the space needed for whatever they had in mind.
Early performances were famously loud, with Pan sonic's tendency towards pranksterism indistinguishable from genuine interest in new sonic pathways: one concert in 1995 used an "advanced acoustic armaments" sound system which was said to have been used by police riot forces to accelerate rioters bowel movements. Happily, no such devices will be used for their New Zealand appearance. Recent Pan sonic gigs have mirrored their increasing interest in less beat-driven sounds. Their new album, Aaltopiiri (Wave Circle), alternates between terrifyingly rhythm precision and subtle textural pieces that explore an altogether quieter - albeit no less unsettling - dimension. This side of Pan sonic will only be new to those who haven't heard the work undertaken by Vainio and Vaisenen individually, most memorably Vainio's parallel undertakings for gallery sound installations. The sometimes alarmingly quiet buzzes, sinewaves and static of these pieces require a completely different level of listening.
The new work also reflects recent developments in German electronica, notably Stefan Betjke's Pole project, with its use of vinyl crackle as a rhythmic device and subterranean Jamaican dub lines harnessed for Teutonic designs. Aaltopiiri exploits these techniques, without losing any of Pan sonic's characteristic clinical sheen.
The current swing against music that sounds like it's locked in someone's airless hard-drive is incidental to Pan sonic, who have used a combination of state-of-the-art digital synthesis and especially commissioned antique electronic forgeries since their inception. Notably, their equipment arsenal includes analog synthesiser mutations from the 1970s, an era when truly surprising and warped sounds could be attained - often by accident - in stark contrast to the boringly precise programming possibilities offered by today's technology. It is likely, however, that in concert, Pan sonic will be largely computer-driven, having absorbed the analogue into the digital for the purpose of trouble-free reproduction.
For anyone interested in top-league electronic music, Pan sonic is a must-see. From start to Finnish.
ARTSPACE IN MARCH / APRIL 2001
Alt.Music: Artspace's New Music Mini-Festival, with David Watson, Makigami Koichi, Pan sonic, Jon Rose, Tony Buck and Florian Hecker. Galatos, Auckland 4-6 March 2001; and Adam Gallery, Wellington, 7-8 March. Auckland tickets from Beautiful Music, $25 / $20 / $30. With thanks to Asia 2000 and the Goethe Institut.
Bright Paradise at Artspace, featuring a major installation by Paul Morrison, plus work by Paul Seitsema, Tony De Lautour and Ian McDonald, Saturday 3 March at 4pm. Bright Paradise is a joint project with Auckland Art Gallery and the University of Auckland, with support from Creative New Zealand, the Chartwell Trust, the Sue Fisher Art Trust, IFA, the British Council, City Life and Aalto Colour. Until 28 April. Events: Saturday 17 March at noon, Floor Talk, curator Allan Smith, and artists Caroline Rothwell and John Reynolds respond to Paul Morrison's installation; Saturday 24 March at noon, Paradise Debriefing, Wystan Curnow leads a panel discussion on the show and the future of the Auckland Triennial; Saturday 31 March from noon, Waltzing the Feral, a John Lyall performance.
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