Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts
Cristina Branco
The Embarrassment
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
Guided By Voices
Lamento Bornicano
The New Year
Pan Sonic
Santa Sprees
David Sylvian
David Thomas and Two Pale Boys
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Pan sonic
Pan sonic

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Imagine you're in a fantastic, crumbling, futuristic building. It's made out of a strange alloy of glass and grime, and the architecture somehow manages to combine sleek, modern features like brilliant, towering windows with dark, chaotic nooks and crannies. Although the building may be crumbling in places, it's still very much alive, and as you move through it the sounds of its inhabitants create a strange, constantly evolving sonic landscape: a broken machine hums itself to sleep; someone vacuums in a gigantic corridor; an all-night rave winds down as the tired speakers pump out their last few cycles of the thumping bass line; a secret lab bounces ultrasonic waves off of the government building next door; a generator hums in a hallway ice machine as a fluorescent light flickers on and off.

These are the sounds of Pan sonic's Aaltopiiri. Mysterious, somewhat dark, often rhythmic, mostly organic, they burble and glow and hiss their way across this disc, leaving a rich and absorbing sonic trail for us to enjoy.

You've probably heard of Pan sonic by now, but if you haven't here's the skinny: The band was originally called Panasonic, but dropped an "a" a couple of years ago after an "intervention" from the electronics giant of the same name. The two fellows behind the music, Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen are from Finland, but now work in Barcelona. They use mostly analog gear (vintage and custom-built) when they play, and their tracks are recorded live to tape with no overdubbing. I'm sure that the knob-twiddling, accident-encouraging nature of their music-making accounts for the flowing and organic, yet often surprising sounds on this disc. Despite the obviously electronic origins of most of the sounds, there are clearly thinking, imagining humans behind the scenes; this is about as un-clinical as electronic music gets.

While this is for the most part pretty abstract, ambient work, it's not totally pop-less. A number of the tracks actually have a beat, and some of them even come pretty close to having something like a song form. And while none of the songs are exactly sing-alongs (which isn't surprising for a CD with no vocals), if your bottom is in the mood for shaking it won't necessarily be disappointed. "Experimental pop" is a label that's been thrown around enough that it's pretty much useless at this point, but if I had to stick this disc in a bin at the record store, that'd be as good a tag as any for this quiet, absorbing recording.

-- irving bellemead
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