Posts Tagged ‘Mika Vainio’

Editions Mego/Cave12  – 8th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a heavy air of finality about this release, encapsulated simply and plainly and unemotively in the title. Mika Vainio, best known as one half of Pan Sonic, produced a quite remarkable body of work under various guises and through numerous noteworthy collaborations, before his death, age 53, in April 2017. Last Live is a document of his final live performance, recorded on 2 February 2017 at Cave12, in Geneva. This is by no means a cash-in release or some poor-taste milking of the vaults.

As the liner notes recount, ‘we needed time to listen to this archive again, which we did in situ in June 2020 with Cindy Van Acker. After this listening, we felt invested in having to make this archive public.’ And instead of just banging it out, Editions Mego invested in making it fit the format, with Carl Michael von Hausswolff to do the mixing, and the recording was organized in 4 movements, with Stephen O’Malley involved in the pre-edit process and the legendary. Denis Blackham doing the mastering. This was, of course, necessary, in order to fit the double-LP format, and each segment spans between ten and nineteen minutes to cover the full hour-long set, which begins as a low, oscillating hum.

The drone goes on through the duration of ‘Movement 1’: indeed, it’s almost torturous after a mere five minutes, and we’re reminded early on that Vainio’s reputation was not based on his commercial appeal. Eventually, the hum halts and is replaced by a low-level throbbing, and a softer tone, before plunging into a drone of ow-level murk that one feels more than hears.

There are breaks in the ever-shifting sonic blanket pitched forth by Vainio, and the near-silent spells don’t correspond with the lulls between tracks as you might expect – but then, on the CD, the tracks beleed together anyway, giving a true sense of the set as a continuous piece, and a performance that explores tonality and texture, as well as frequency and dynamics.

There’s no question that this performance was loud: circuits creak, wail, and scream in a bulldozering barrage of grinding earthworking sound, a nuclear wind in the middle of a construction site drilling through the mantle to the earth’s core. But Vainio also ventures effortlessly into quieter, more tranquil bywaters, as well as bringing it down into semi-ambient territory.

At times, it hurts. The density is just bewildering, and twelve minutes into ‘Movement 2’ when everything starts to overload, it’s tempting just to lie down and stare at the ceiling muttering ‘holy fuck.’ When the sound really starts to crescendo, it’s a brutal, speaker shredding wall of noise, and it’s dark, and utterly obliterative. It’s also absolutely fucking punishing. So much so, any kind of analysis or critique feels almost futile.

Even without the context of death and finality, while penning this review in a place where there has been next to no live music in ten months, listening to Last Live is an intense and moving experience. It serves as a reminder of just how physical and how transportative live music can be, how songs may be important but sometimes, all you need is a sea of sound which will carry you away. There is no destination here, just an immense flow of sonic waves. And this is all you need.

It may well have been an unintentional sign-off, but as a last, and lasting, live statement turning the light off on an illustrious career, this is an appropriate curtain close.