Pan Sonic - Gravitoni

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-06-07

Taking their cues from Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten, Faust, Non, Nurse with Wound and Autechre, Finnish duo Pan Sonic have been making cutting-edge electronic noise for 15 years now. Gravitoni is apparently to be their swansong and, if so, it's a fitting, but slightly underwhelming, way for these noiseniks to go out. Beginning with a squall of subsonic white noise, opener 'Voltos Bolt' is like a Nine Inch Nails track shorn of vocals, guitars and, in fact, anything resembling a tune. What's left is little more than an angry, headachy dirge occasionally enlivened by lacerating feedback. Second track 'Wanyugo' is more traditionally electronic, it's skittering beats underscoring hair-raising rasping effects and bass that sounds more like low-frequency bowel gas than anything you'd call music.

The industrial-experimental vibe reaches its apex on fourth track 'Corona', a vortex of swirling synth, juddering, machine gun beats and screeching noise. For the first six tracks, the assault is almost relentless. It overwhelms the listener until eventually you become desensitised to it. By the time you reach the hiss and churn of 'Trepanointi/Trepanation', it's a bit difficult not to let your mind wander. It's like listening to a fuzzy tape recording of a school metal-work lesson, and only serious industrial noise fans will still be rapt.

The second half of Gravitoni is more ambient and, in parts, no less daunting than the first. However, some of it is also very beautiful. When the echoing crashes and splashes of 'Vainamoisen Uni/Dream of Vainamoinen' give way to a reverent drone, the effect is akin to sparking a match in a pitch dark cave and suddenly illuminating a work of primitive art. The analogue pulses and distant rain of Vainamoisen Uni/Dream of Vainamoinen, meanwhile, are very calming.

The second half is also more interesting and varied than the first, Pan Sonic seeming to find greater scope for developing the album's final two tracks, 'Kaksoisvinokas/Twinaskew' and 'Pan Finale'. In fact, 'Pan Finale' is the only track here which could actually be described as a tune; it's skipping, post-house beats and tinkling atmospherics creating something really magical. It's a shame one has to wait until the very close of the album to hear it, but then maybe that's the point. 'No pain no gain' being a phrase this frequently difficult, but often brilliant duo has exemplified.

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