Formed in 1992 in Turku, Finland by Mika Vainio
(1963) and Ilpo Väisänen (1963,Kuopio, Finland), Pan sonic have become one of the best known Finnish electronic music groups
, achieving renown for their harshly minimalist, high volume live performances
with custom-built equipment. Signed with English label Blast First!
, Pan Sonic now have ten albums, a slew of EPs and a DVD behind them, and have collaborated with legends such as Alan Vega, Barry Adamson and David Cunningham. Vainio and Väisänen each have various solo projects.
Vainio was a DJ in the 80s, and he and Väisänen organized illegal raves in the boreal forests of Finland. Starting out as Panasonic, their first release was on the Sähkö/Puu imprint, the eponymous EP Panasonic
appeared in 1994. Soon after Vainio and Väisänen were joined by a third member, Sami Salo, who later left the group, and landed a contract with the English Mute label's experimental subsidiary Blast First! Their debut full-length as Panasonic, Vakio
(Blast First, 1995), was released as limited boxed set of four 10”s on clear vinyl, as well as standard double-vinyl and CD versions. In autumn of the same year, the trio broadcasted a live session with John Peel for BBC, and performed a notorious concert in a car park in London's East End with an "Audio Weapons Armoured Car System" featuring a 5K Turbosound PA which was built and developed by Jimmy Cauty of The KLF fame. Panasonic added live performance to their regular repertoire in 1996, playing a number of gigs throughout Europe and Japan, as well as touring with the Swans. Already reduced once again to the duo of Vainio and Väisänen, Panasonic released their follow-up Kulma
in 1997. The next year they recorded the single "Medal" and the album Endless
(Blast First, 1998) with their idol Alan Vega of proto-techno duo Suicide. Resurrection River
(Mego, 2005) was another collaboration by Vega, Vainio and Väisänen, sometimes known as VVV.
1998 was also the year that legal problems arose with the duo’s name. After having been contacted by the lawyers of Panasonic USA, who threatened the record label with legal actions, Panasonic reluctantly agreed to remove the "a" from their name to become Pan Sonic. The missing "a" turned up as the title of their next album A
(Blast First, 1999).
Pan Sonic have performed frequently in "new music" events since 1998, including a presentation of John Cage pieces at London's Barbican with Gavin Bryars, Bruce Gilbert, Nicolas Collins, David Thomas, Susan Stenger and others. They’ve also performed Alvin Lucier's Music On A Long Thin Wire
, and played, together with the ensemble Alter Ego from Rome, pieces by young composers that were in turn based on Pan Sonic material. In 2004, Pan Sonic's monumental, four-cd box-set Kesto
(Mute) was released, followed by a more standard full-length, Katodivaihe
(Blast First) three years later. More recently, Pan Sonic released a DVD that had been in development for close to a decade. Kuvaputki
(2008) started out as a documentary of Pan Sonic’s 1999 live shows, but, directed by American digital artist, Edward Quist, and co-produced by Scissor Sisters' Derek Gruen (aka Del Marquis), the film developed into an audiovisual album meshing Quist's abstract, cathode ray visions with Pan Sonic's harsh sound world.
Much of the pair’s equipment is custom built by third "silent" member Jari Lehtinen. They also use samplers and an MPC2000 sequencer, but still record live to DAT tape in real time with no overdubbing.
Vainio is also active with a minimal-techno project known as Ø and has created sound installations around Europe. He’s released under the moniker Philus, as well and is in high demand for collaborations. Ilpo Väisänen is active in the dub-jazz realm as Piiri, and under the name Llima
for more austere, abstract productions. He is also in the group Angel
with Dirk Dresselhaus, Schneider TM and Hildur Gudnadottir
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