by: Zero Sharp
In an old Pan Sonic interview, I remember the Finnish duo trying to
explain their philosophy of music to the readers. Where much of the music currently, much like American food, now is throughly processed digitally leaving its origins unknown, Pan Sonic compared their music to sushi: a style where the sounds are basically unprocessed, sublime, simple, subtle, and ultimately, probably more satisfying than consuming the overprocessed.
Their new album, "Kesto," is mammoth; it spans four full length CDs. The neat part about the length is that each of the CDs is a stand alone album, and each is in a completely different style. The first two sound essentially like other Pan Sonic stuff; both are minimal techno, however, the first tends to concentrate on noisy beats and tracks while the second seems more about the rhythm. The third is filled with ambient tracks that sound almost like field recordings in many cases, and the fourth is one sixty minute slowly-evolving drone.
The first CD opens with one of the best opening tracks I've ever heard on an album, Mayhem I. This is the spirit of rock and roll put into a noisy techno frame. This is the magic of Pan Sonic: the ability to do so much while staying minimal. Mayhem I and Mayhem II are the things that incite people to dance and let go. Some of the tracks on the first CD, like Rafter and Gravity, are akin to the more quiet, subtle past works of the band, but this CD is at its best when it's going furiously and noisy. The second CD focuses more on the cold minimal side of the rhythms, and in a different way, it's just as brilliant as the first. Current-Transformer is one of the best rolling tracks I've heard in a long time in it managing to stay distant while building pressure. Light-Transformer is a similar track, but this time, the focus is left on the slow journey of sparse beats through silence. Tasmania follows several converging and diverging patterns of beeps and whirs that shimmer in and out of phase. The third CD is likely the least memorable of the four, however even though the tracks tend to fade to the background, they are still interesting if listened to. The CD starts with a toilet flush, and then fades into different soundscapes that seem to be created in part by field recordings of banging on things. There are added elements to the sounds so it doesn't sound like an Alejandra & Aeron album, but it does easily fade to the background. Some of the tracks manage to be very nicely dark, like the sparking static and gongs of "Air," however, in the end, the CD sounds a little standard issue. The one sixty minute track on fourth CD is, on the other hand, magnificent. All of those times when we wished drones would take more time to evolve, this is an answer to that request. Even though it tends to fade in and out of the listener's consciousness as it progresses, its slight dissonance in the thick dreamy sounds that make it up helps pull interest along.
There's a tremendous amount of good music here, and Pan Sonic spends an incredible amount of "Kesto" in excellent form. Its reach and diversity show just how good this group is in both dark subtlety and pounding noise, and it's by far the best album I've heard this year. Add to it that the inside photography is rather beautifully striking, and I don't think there's an excuse out there to justify not owning this album.