Mika Vainio - Fe3O4 - Magnetite

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Cover photography: Joséphine Michel

Art Direction: Jon Wozencroft

Mastered by Denis Blackham


Track listing:

1. Magnetia
2. Magnetotactic
3. Magnetosphere
4. Magnetosense
5. Magnetism
6. Magnetosome
7. Elvis's TV Room

MIKA VAINIO, currently based in Berlin, was one half of the minimal electronic duo Pan Sonic from Finland, (with Ilpo Väisänen). Before starting Pan Sonic in the beginning of the 90's, Mika Vainio has played electronics and drums as part of the early Finnish industrial and noise scene. His solo works, under his own name and under aliases like Ø, are known for their analogue warmth and electronic harshness. Be it abstract drone works or minimal avant techno, Vainio is always creating unique, physical sounds. He has released on other labels such as Editions Mego, Wavetrap and Sähkö and he has produced work with, amongst others, Alan Vega of Suicide, Keiji Haino, and Bruce Gilbert. Since 2009 Mika Vainio has contributed to the music for Cindy van Acker's dance pieces...

This is his 5th album for Touch, after Onko [Touch # TO:34, 1998], Kajo TO:43, 2000], Sokeiden Maassa Yksisilmäinen on Kuningas (In the Land of the Blind One-Eyed Is King) [TO:54, 2004] and Black Telephone of Matter [Touch # TO:72, 2009].

FE3O4 - MAGNETITE was recorded in Berlin between 2011 and 2012. In contrast to the dark vistas of his most recent releases, FE3O4 - MAGNETITE oscillates between the two poles of silence and noise. Using his signature sources which range from radio signals to sine wave generators, Mika Vainio creates a unique emotional journey that moves from the serene to the unsettling, always challenging the listener's comfort zone.


Other Music (USA):

Unlike some of Mika Vainio's recent solo releases, which tended to truck in darker and more foreboding soundscapes, FE304 - Magnetite is a blissful exercise in exploring the opposing forces of sound, from crisp, quiet minutia to rough-edged washes, the poles of silence and noise. Using mostly radio signals and sine wave generators as his source material, Vainio takes the listener on a strangely emotional journey that stretches both the ears and the imagination.

Dusted (USA):

Amongst the ironies of Panasonic (later Pan Sonic) — the name that Finnish electronic musicians Mika Vaino and Ilpo Väisänen gave to their long-running and recently retired musical project — is this fact: While it implied an involvement with all sounds, they sure took their time getting beyond the elements of beats and tones. And to the very end, no matter how far they strayed from those essentials, they always returned to them. Vainio’s efforts under the name Ø could be even more reductive, while his work under his own name has tended toward extremes of loom and crumble; his last solo album Life (…it eats you up) is a massively heavy abstraction of guitar rock.

His new release, Fe304 - Magnetite, makes good on the Panasonic promise. Vainio seems comfortable using almost anything. At different points during its passage you’ll hear a solitary wood block, a clicking movie projector, a cymbal, a field recording of distant mall music, a shortwave radio not quite tuned into a station, some massive synth bass, and some flaking granite guitar noise. Beats, however, are pretty thin on the ground. In keeping with his past minimalist approach, sounds often appear in isolation, but Vainio seems more willing to overtly intervene with them; much of “Magnetosome,” for example, seems to be made out of stretched and transformed bell tones.

His taste in sounds and sense of what to do to them is unimpeachable, but the album’s greatest strength is its resistance to categorization. It has noisy moments, but it’s too spare to be noise. It uses field recordings, but not in a documentary fashion. It’s too uneasy and abruptly changeable to be ambient music, despite having long passages where things happen slowly. And while some of those long passages feel like slides mounted in a catalog of sounds, there is a spot tucked into the back end of “Magnetosense” that sounds like spooky movie music. What is this stuff? Hard to say, but that’s what keeps me coming back. [Bill Meyer]

Boomkat (UK):

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. Whether exploring the grim underbelly of the electric guitar on 'Life (... It Eats You Up)' or haunted minimalism in his collaboration with Kevin Drumm and friends on 'Venexia', Vainio somehow manages to throw us into a state of awe consistently time and time again. 'FE3O4 - Magnetite' manages to uphold this quality but takes a stylistic about turn, exploring the two poles of noise and silence, finding Vainio explore distortion and contrast in a way he hasn't for many years now. Radio static emerges from almost nothing, sounds appear for a second and are gone and cables are established and removed without warning. This dynamic is offset by Vainio's well-documented expertise with very loud drones, and the drones we're treated to on 'FE3O4' are louder and more intense than you're likely to find almost anywhere else. Sub bass tones tear through the silence heralded only by small pops, and wavering, distorted oscillators cut and slice like a lone machete in a dark night. This is often terrifying music, but thanks to Vainio's calm hand it never devolves into mere theatrics. Rather the sounds are so well paced and expertly handled that 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. Incredible music, and yet another totally unmissable full-length from Mika Vainio.

Norman Records (UK):

Vainio is back with his fifth album for the esteemed Touch label. if you’re not massively familiar with his work then he’s the king of dark sonic processed sounding sounds. I’m six minutes through the first track ‘Magnetia’ and I’m getting a dark sonic distorted fuzz which is foreboding and making me feel possessed.

Onto ‘Magnetotactic’ (all the tracks start with “Mag”...except the final track ‘Elvis’s TV Room’) and it’s chock full of strange noises, beeps and sounds. The album continues with disjointed crazy electronic soundscapes full of some of the oddest noises I’ve heard in a while. In between the dark fuzz, minimal tones and electronic pulses and throbs are acres of of sonic space where nothing much happens. It’s far from an easy listen but those who are fans of the Vainio will find this much fun.

The Milk Factory (UK):

Mika Vainio was once one half of Finnish exploratory duo Pan Sonic until he and Ilpo Väisänen decided to part for good after fifteen years two years ago, but this ever only represented one facet of his work. As well as contributing to a good few other formations, he has released a number of records under a variety of monikers, perhaps the best known of which, beside the music published under his own name of course, is Ø, a project he pursues to these days. Fe304 – Magnetite is his tenth solo record as himself, his fifth for Touch.

Over the years, Vainio has extensively experimented with noise and silence in various forms and to various degrees. With his last album, Life (.. It Eats You Up), published last year on Editions Mego, he turned his attention to the electric guitar (processed, treated and textured), which provided the majority of his sound sources and gave him the opportunity to experiment with distortion and feedback in a different way to his usual set up. Fe304 – Magnetite is a much more contrasted affair. Returning to the familiar post-industrial sound sources that have been at the core of his work for two decades, he explores an incredibly vast dynamic range, focusing essentially on the sonic regions between complete silence and extreme noise. Vainio assembles minimalist tableaux from rarefied percussions, scattered electronics, distant radio signals and statics reminiscent of early stripped down forms of musique concrète (Magnetica, Magnetosome), to which he occasionally adds haunting sounsdscapes (Magnetosense). These minimal structures can sometimes develop almost imperceptibly for a number of minutes before they are torn apart by a devastatingly powerful sub-bass or a stab of distortions, often with little to no warning (Magnetostatic).

Often though, Vainio generates tension by creating an expectation that, at any point, the listener may be subjected to a high level of noise, but never actually realising it. This is a technique that has used on many occasions throughout his career, but it has been some time since Vainio has played on this to such extend. Fe304 – Magnetite contains some pretty intense moments of noise, but these are comparatively few and far between compared to the vast sprawls of atmospheric or minimal constructions he deals with here. It feels as if, because of these almost constant expectations that a storm is brewing somewhere, this album deals with silence and noise in equal measure. This is not the case. Vainio manages to convey the idea of noise even when he refrains from going anywhere near it, and this infuses throughout one of his most unnerving records to date. 4.3/5

Black Audio (blogger):

With a credible history with the legendary minimalistic Pan Sonic, Berlin based Mika Vanio has found himself releasing a number of solo projects of late, alongside working within the Finnish Industrial and noise scene. It is of no surprise then that ‘Fe304-Magnetite’ starts off with a fair amount of minimalism in its own right; light droplets of sound that are interrupted with off key drones and machine head bass electronics. Whilst as clever as the first half of this album is, it isn’t until the glorious ambient beauty of ‘Magnetosense’ makes its appearance on track four that things really become interesting. Drones float away into breathing, resonating clarity and a cold wave of emotion is left for the listener to capture their own thoughts. For the most part, there is a purity to this album that I relish. When Vanio takes time to stop what could be deemed as tomfoolery, he does set apart a space where residual electronics can capture your thoughts and hold you in a small vacuum of hypnosis. The only aspect letting him down in a lot of respects, are the frequent self-indulgences of art taking precedence over actual music. This is in turn a real pity, as when Mika really sets his mind to it, his compositional qualities shine a very bright torch indeed.