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Ø - Heijastuva

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Artist: Ø

Album: Heijastuva

Label: Sähkö

Review date: Mar. 18, 2011

Mika Vainio tends to work at the extremes. In his solo projects (as Ø, Philus, and using his given name) and as one half of Pan Sonic, he pushes the limits of volume and density, oscillating between bracing noise and spare, sculpted sound works. Over his long career, he has released some of the more viscerally ferocious electronic music on record, as well as some of the most austere and beautiful.

Heijastuva is Vainio’s first non-7” release since Pan Sonic turned out Gravitoni, an album which may well turn out to be its last. It could hardly be more different. Where Gravitoni is dark and often deliberately ugly, with thumping beats that seem weighted down with lead, Heijastuva is quiet and unabashedly pretty, with sounds that often sound like they are on the verge of evaporating into the ether.

It contains only one new piece, the opening title track (the other three tracks were previously available on three older Ø and Philus releases). It begins with a gentle shock, an organ chord that comes like a quiet bolt out of the blue. Vainio’s solo work may often be beautiful, but it’s usually a cold, spare sort of beauty like that of a frozen landscape. By contrast, “Heijastuva” is unmistakably warm and enveloping. At 17 minutes, its loops of undulating organ, feedback, and lazy, strummed guitar repeat and fold into one another. It is meditative and shoegaze-lovely, and marks a significant departure for Vainio.

With the sound of the sharp pop and crackle of the run-out groove, a familiar arctic emptiness returns. "Anksiolyytti," which originally appeared on a wonderful Philus record called Tetra, is an extraordinary piece and is the emotional highpoint of the album. It is defined as much by mercury-sheathed silence and the spaces between sounds as by the sounds themselves. The drama here occurs within decay and dissolve, and the subtle relationships that form between carefully sculpted pulses and swoops as they morph and slip into the void.

That exquisite beauty is nearly matched by “Hikari,” where Vainio’s high-frequency acrobatics are simply breathtaking. In the overall scope of a discography that is studded with some truly extraordinary albums, Heijastuva is a modest record by Vainio standards, but it is still a gem.

By Susanna Bolle

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