Pan Sonic

Mixtape #58 : Virus

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Sometimes deciding a theme for a mixtape can be a time-consuming business – but not this time. If anything, not making viruses the theme for the new 5:4 mixtape would just feel like being wilfully contrary. So – a couple of weeks earlier than scheduled – here it is, a tour through some of my favourites that feel more than a little pertinent to the remarkable times we’re currently experiencing. Not surprisingly with a topic such as this, a lot of the music is serious in tone, though the way this is articulated varies widely. Many explore a quiet, often unsettlingly (in)tense simmering (Nine Inch NailsJohn Oswald, Bass CommunionVykintas Baltakas, The Noisettes, Angelo Badalamenti & David Lynch), occasionally featuring hot surges (Brian McOmber, Cat Temper, Ramin Djawadi, SaffronKeira, Toru Takemitsu, Necro Deathmort, Andrew Liles, Daphne Oram, Paul Haslinger). Some go beyond these limitations into ferocious incandescence (Man Without Country, Pan Sonic, Si Begg, Reza Solatipour), the complete opposite, eerie calm (Coleclough & Murmer, Ulrich Schnauss, Justin Hurwitz), or pounding, edgy regularity (Joseph Trapanese, Aria Prayogi & Fajar Yuskemal, Picture Palace Music). The rest channel their sentiments into fierce, forthright vocals (Björk, Chelsea Wolfe, Crystal Castles, Moderat, Lydia Lunch, Cabaret Voltaire, Hecq with Nongenetic). A short jingle from Raymond Scott is a closing tongue-in-cheek moment that i hope is forgivable in these trying circumstances.

Two hours of pandemically-related tracks and tropes that are, in a multitude of ways and in the absolute best sense, highly infectious and hard to shake off. Below is the tracklisting in full, together with approximate timings and links to obtain the music. As usual, the mixtape can be downloaded or streamed via MixCloud.

These are difficult times we’re living through at the moment. i sincerely hope you’re all keeping as safe, fit and healthy as you can, and that you’re taking advantage of any imposed isolation or downtime to explore lots of new music. Best wishes to all of you, wherever you are. Read more

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Mixtape #12 : Electronics

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Back, not so much with a vengeance as a new mixtape; the theme this time is simply electronics. Many of the pieces are rather long, so this mix, more than the others, features excerpts rather than complete works.

The mix opens with one of the most exciting electronic works by the duo FURT. Taking Brahms as its starting point, “Rigor” immediately slows, seemingly descending closer and closer upon its surface, the ensuing music seemingly scrutinising the Brahms material at the microscopic level. i was fortunate enough to witness this piece performed live (at the ICA, back in the mid ’90s), and it was thrilling, a truly memorable experience. The complete work can be downloaded free from FURT’s website; link below. “fol4” is Autechre‘s expanded version of “Fol3”, found on the limited double edition of Quaristice. It’s just as mercurial as its sibling, darting between the speakers with nervous, frenetic energy, from which assorted rhythmic patterns obtrude. A brief interruption comes in the form of Alva Noto’s “fontlab4.0”, one of his assorted miniature slews of (presumably) raw data from his superb album Unitxt. i’ve been interested in Ambrose Field‘s work since i heard him give a talk at Birmingham University about 15 years ago; he has a unique and fascinating approach both to sound itself as well as to its relationship to the listener. Included here is an episode from his splendid electroacoustic work Expanse Hotel, “Orient Express”. Next a work taken from an ancient off-air radio recording lurking in my archives, a work titled “Augustine’s Message” by the Welsh composer Robert Mackay. i’ve not heard anything else by Mackay, and sadly this piece doesn’t appear to be available on any releases, but i’ve been able to clean up the recording very well, and it nicely demonstrates the composer’s joint interest in music and drama. Despite its brevity, “Augustine’s Message” is an intense, beguiling listen. Then a lengthy excerpt from one of my very favourite composers, Roland Kayn. Kayn’s electronic works are nothing short of amazing, spanning vast durations with equally vast slabs of sound, slabs that are constantly re-shaping themselves. To my knowledge, few of Kayn’s works have been reissued on CD (the main exception being Tektra), but most of his vinyl releases can be found in high quality rips on the web (particularly here). Included here is a portion from the first part of his 1979 cycle Infra, “Isotrope”. Also conceived on a large scale is Pan Sonic‘s album Kesto (234.48:4), encapsulated in its 61-minute final track, “Säteily (Radiation)”. The excerpt here demonstrates the track’s beautifully radiant, shining character. Read more

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Into the “other”: Pan Sonic – Kesto (234.48:4)

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i’m a sucker for series and cycles, from collections of compositions into a larger whole (such as Richard Barrett‘s Opening of the Mouth and Charles Tournemire‘s L’Orgue Mystique) to multiple-CD albums and box sets. i love them; perhaps it’s something to do with the sheer effort required to engage with something on so large a scale. Plus, of course, there’s the pleasure of allowing yourself to be taken on a journey in the hands of one who’s seeking to present something new and unfamiliar and exciting and strange. A fair bit of music’s like that, of course, and you could even argue a single song or small-scale composition is a “journey” of sorts; but expand that to a cycle of pieces that lasts an hour, or three, or more, and you’re into something epic, an odyssey.

My first this year is Pan Sonic‘s Kesto (234.48:4), the parentheses testifying to the duration of the album in minutes. i started a week ago, and finished yesterday evening; no journey of this scope can be tackled in a single stage, and i wanted to give each disc its own space to speak. The first two CDs represent the Pan Sonic that i recognise: raw, abrasive, oscillating glitch beats shot through with sheets of noise and the occasional glimpse of an ambient cloud – Autechre meets Merzbow while Eno looks on (or something like that). While similar in content, there’s a perceptible shift on CD2 away from the dirty IDM to something more pensive and abstract, the sounds still evolving but without such a strong sense of cycle and repetition. By the third disc, little remains of the synthetic drum sounds, presenting instead slabs of etherea that shift and confuse (one of the track titles translates as “Inexplicable”), appearing to pose questions rather than postulate solutions. Nonetheless, there’s a palpable air of assurance in the music; these are confident questions. All of which leads to the final, confounding, uplifting, disorienting, compelling disc, where a continual onslaught of sliding layers of sound – broad strokes with flashes of filigree – bathes, no floods the ears and engulfs the mind. i have no idea what thoughts, if any, passed during this overload. Not that the experience is a harsh one – far from it; the music came down on me like a ton of cushions; like zooming in on a Hafler Trio drone, mellifluous, sublime, entrancing, and never ever dull. But powerfully present; indeed, my ears were ringing for a long time after the single 61-minute track had expired.

Four CDs of sounds that sit somewhere in a no man’s land betwixt IDM, japanoise and something ineffable, jarring the eardrums, mangling the brain, shivering the soul. It’s tempting to suggest that this album had such a profound effect based on the strength of (especially) the last 2 CDs, and while it’s true to say i found those the most engaging (disc 4 is simply superb), i find it hard to separate any of them from the 4-disc journey which together they comprise. After all, the summit of a mountain only means something relative to the base and all that lies between. The nature of this journey is not something i have yet understood, but there’s a connotation of moving away from one “thing” – be it familiar or organised or layered, or whatever – toward something “other”, something subtle and beautiful and bright and dense and deep and everywhere. i have no idea where it’ll take me next time; and i can’t wait.

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2007: memories and echoes; 2008: first sounds

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There were many, many musical highlights in 2007, but a lot of disappointments too, which i guess is unavoidable, considering the amount of music i listen to throughout the year. Probably the worst of the lowlights of the year was Avril Lavigne‘s The Best Damn Thing, an unfortunate title considering it was one of the most appalling things i’ve heard in a long time; it seems she’s not averse actually to steal musical ideas from other people these days (Peaches in particular). As for the highlights, the brightest and best were:

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