Pan Sonic Pan SonicGravitoni
“Gravitoni” is Pan Sonic’s last album. Literally. After sixteen years working together, Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio – does anybody remember Sami Salo?– have decided to put an end to Pan Sonic. “Gravitoni” is, thus, the end of one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of contemporary electronic music. And they are doing it right. Without a fuss. It is the last album, but it is also just another album. Those who expect “Gravitoni” to be a testamentary manifesto, a (self) homage to a style that is personal and unmistakeable, will have a nasty shock. Vainio and Väisänen don’t lower the curtain. They aren’t leaving. They simply stop being there. Like someone who goes out to buy cigarettes and never comes back. A single wink at their fans: “Pan Finale,” closing the album and the circle with the recovery of “Alku”, the song that opened “Vakio” (Blast First, 1995), the first album of the band then called Panasonic. That’s all. A real character.
Seen with perspective, it can’t be denied that the Finnish pair is leaving behind a lovely corpse. They have known how to imaginatively squeeze the juice out of a formula that in theory appeared to be limited, and they knew how to express again when it was necessary. In this sense, and despite their excesses, “Kesto” (2004) shows itself today to be the most important work in their career, the point of inflection when Pan Sonic reinvented itself and took a route towards the total disintegration of their initial style, burning their bridges behind them. Doing that again at this stage in the game, with all of the possible variants already developed by the members individually–Vaino as ø and under his own name, and Väisänen with Angel– would have been redundant, if not simply absurd. So then it is better to kill the animal than to let it die on its own.
And the beast dies undomesticated. “Gravitoni” is the only possible sequel to “Katodivaihe” (2007) and its unrecognised offspring, “Kuvaputki” (2008). One step forward. Always forward. Now we know that they were headed towards an ending that no one could anticipate. This is how in shape Pan Sonic was. Let me correct that: how in shape they are. Because “Gravitoni” is, above all, a living work. Nervous and fierce. Like all of theirs. “Voltos Bolt”, opening, already puts listeners in their place: a crushing drop hammer of rhythm and noise. A lot of noise. And they don’t come down from this level of paroxysm until the seventh cut, the ambiental one (as ambiental as Pan Sonic can be), “Vainamoisen Uni”, which acts as a hinge between two clearly different parts. In the first part, dubstep leanings, in tune with what was already put forward in “Katodivaihe” – “Wanyugo”– dazzling generic exercises (because at this point Pan Sonic are a genre unto themselves), apocalyptic approximations to black metal – “Trepanointi”– and the roughest cut that has been heard from them in years: “Corona”. They couldn’t have given it a better name.
The second sequence, more reflexive, but also much darker, perhaps more conscious of the funereal nature of the last minutes of “Gravitoni”, goes more deeply into open structures, subject to unpredictable turns, putting the atmospheric ahead of the direct attack. This is an uncomfortable stroll through the places least well-known in Pan Sonic’s sound, bordering on being cryptic; without a doubt it is the most valuable part of the album, for being different from what comes before, and for being new in and of itself. To die killing, it said. At the end of such a winding road, “Pan Finale”. I already miss them. Oriol Rosell* Listen and buy here.