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Mika Vainio - In the Land of the Blind One-Eyed is King

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Artist: Mika Vainio

Album: In the Land of the Blind One-Eyed is King

Label: Touch

Review date: May. 11, 2003

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.

By Mason Jones

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