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VAINIO, MIKA (aka "Ø") - Konstellaatio

Format: CD
Label & Cat.Number: Sähko Recordings SÄHKÖ 28
Release Year: 2014
Note: new "Ø" album on the legendary SÄHKO label, after the strong "Kilo" from last year, returning to more slow ambient & refined electronic (pure analogue) areas, strong and clear like a sunny Finnish winter day...."luminous and eerie, the sort of liminal record where the pretty sounds elicit goose bumps and the grimmest tones feel like exhalations" [Pitchfork] - CD version (vinyl is sold out now)
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €16.00

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"Konstellaatio is another Mika Vainio masterpiece as his original alias Ø on the native label Sähkö Recordings that Mika co-founded in 1993.

"There are few contemporary musicians who have had as much of an impact on us as Mika Vainio, so each new release is always cause for celebration.. you feel like you are being treated to the work of a pioneer, and someone whose work is a direct descendent of Bernard Parmegiani, Luciano Berio and Throbbing Gristle." (Boomkat)

As previously reported, electronic music vet Mika Vainio will soon return with a new Pan Sonic album, but first up will be a full-length from his resurrected Ø alias. His Konstellaatio drops digitally January 13 through Sähkö Recordings, with vinyl and CD copies set to arrive March 3.

While Vainio issued his Kilo LP under his own name earlier this year, as well as a collaborative LP with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, this will be the first Ø album since 2011's Heijastuva. A press release notes that the nine-song Konstellaatio was produced in Berlin and features ambient tracks that "crossing off borders between techno and private spaces."

As for Vainio himself, he said of Konstellaatio: "I no longer know which genre this music belongs to."

Details on Pan Sonic's Okstastus LP have still yet to arrive in full, but Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen's next set will be their first since 2010's Gravitoni. The Pan Sonic record will be released as a double LP via Kvitnu." [label info]


"The Finnish musician Mika Vainio appears to have very little use for trends: For 30 years, in a variety of collaborative contexts and with a panoply of solo guises, Vainio has doggedly explored the outer edges of extreme electronics. In the 80s, he tumbled found sounds into industrial onslaughts. In the 1990s and through much of the last decade, his duo Pan Sonic worked as a sort of analogue revolver, pushing between noise-heavy flotsam and graceful, glitchy techno. Vainio follows that same swerving muse by himself; in the past two years, he’s released a record that crunches and grinds (Kilo), one that sparkles only to roar (Magnetite), and another that hovers in a beautifully somber reverie (the impressive new Konstellaatio). What’s more, in an age of composers and improvisers staring at MacBook screens both onstage and in the studio, Vainio sticks to his longtime hardware kit of sequencers and synthesizers, effects pedals, and manipulated instruments. Speaking of computers, he flatly told the Quietus last year, “I have no problem resisting that.”

But Konstellaatio, Vainio’s first full-length in three years under his occasional mononym Ø, shares several sonic and stylistic traits with the slow wave of doom-oriented electronic musicians that have grown out of darkwave, shoegaze and heavy metal in recent years. Across these nine tracks, Vainio juxtaposes blanketing drones with airy keyboards, clipped beats and beeps with seemingly bottomless bass. These slow-motion spans treat the beautiful and the threatening as necessary complements, as though he were a horror film director with an eye for both shock and cinematic elegance. For its overall aggression and bulk, Vainio’s back catalogue can be intimidating, even off-putting. But Konstellaatio is luminous and eerie, the sort of liminal record where the pretty sounds elicit goose bumps and the grimmest tones feel like exhalations. Likely by little conscious design, Vainio is the stylistic contemporary of acts such as Demdike Stare, the Haxan Cloak and Andy Stott, at least temporarily. If there’s a movement among such groups, Konstellaatio merits more than mention with it.

Vainio works with a rather limited set of sounds on Konstellaatio, but he groups them into unexpected sets. He cycles constantly through low, high, and mid-range tones, a strategy he sets in motion during the thesis-like opener “Otava”. Mellifluous keyboards lay like a lacy filigree atop bulbous bass, with quick, shivering clicks teasing a rhythm between them. “Neutronit” could rattle trunks, with powerful concussions pounding beneath chirping circuits. But Vainio steadily corrodes his own system by fostering a rising tide of distortion beneath the beat. He’s the puppeteer, balancing the thrills of propulsion with the threat of darkness. The revelatory closer “Takaisin” works in much the same manner, pitting a corroded, dub-like skitter and whorls of sampled mbira melodies against foreboding bass movements. Konstellaatio works best when Vainio makes each piece’s elements conspire against one another, as when twinkling bells trickle their quiet hymns across the tectonic motion of “Elämän Puu” or when an unlikely rhythm emerges from a call-and-response between seraphic keyboards and hellish distortion during “Metsän Sydän”. These juxtapositions offer brief glimpses into Vainio’s past, itself a springboard to contrast.

If scope and restlessness are Vainio’s assets, overall editing isn’t. Judicious, non-grandiose projects have never really fit his approach. He releases a lot of records, and he tends to overload them with material. (His last four albums run collectively for more than four hours.) Sähkö, the label that Vainio co-founded in the 90s and has since issued much of his own music, released Konstellaatio on CD. Listening to it, though, it’s hard not to wish that Vainio didn’t find some way to make this fit onto one slab of vinyl. Though some of Konstellaatio’s best moments arrive near the end, these 66 minutes start to feel a touch oppressive long before the hour mark ticks near. As it floats from crackling static into sunwarped melody, from drifting guitar into coruscant glockenspiel, the 10-minute “Talvipäivä, Vanha Motelli” begins to feel like the record’s musical sketchpad, an organizational vestige accidentally left behind. And no matter how broad and compelling their sounds become, no matter how monstrous the bass or florid the high tones, the paired openers linger like redundant introductions. Konstellaatio fills a lot of room, then, with very little range. But what’s there is excellent and, for Vainio, a striking and surprising contribution to a scene that’s watched him work for at least two decades." [Grayson Haver Currin / Pitchfork]