In 1996, Pan Sonic, the noisy Finnish techno duo that first brought Mika Vainio recognition, released their Osasto EP. It’s merciless; enormous, pulsing beats coerced forward by clanging basslines and clipped, grinding percussion. The sound is unnerving and mechanical, bringing forth images of mammoth, out of control machines as they recklessly churn, pounding and shredding and destroying and creating, impervious to, or possibly independent of, any human input. With In the Land of the Blind, One-Eyed Is King, Vainio again explores the inherent eeriness of inorganic life, but this time with an entirely different palette of methods.
The opening track, “Sunder Here, Sailor,” is a system-shocking precursor to the surprises to come. A few hisses, a grunt, and then: mayhem. Static, banging, mechanical cries-- maybe human ones, too. Less than a minute after it begins: a hard volume cut and silence. The machines of Osasto are extinct and The Land of the Blind is left to emerge from the destruction. The aptly titled “It Is Existing” rises from the chaos with a searching, distressed cry. It’s answered by a click-- steady, but too infrequent to be rhythmic-- a bass tone, and a wahing pulse, all delicately placed in a massive, empty soundscape. Other sounds soon join the chorus, each a tiny, expertly crafted, subtly changing organism for this new post-post-apocalyptic world. Their interplay is exact and thoroughly engrossing, bringing to mind the best moments of Biosphere’s Substrata.
Throughout the rest of the album Vainio works in much the same manner, albeit with a far less friendly soundest than that used for “It Is Existing.” On “Ahriman,” what sounds like a broken transistor radio grows into a low rumble and mountain of static before collapsing into a fit of screeching; “He Was a Sound Sometimes” finds a series of familiar elements (vinyl crackles, a broken amp) alternately fading, dieing, and abruptly returning. The highlight of the album, however, is not the sounds themselves (although the craftsmanship is certainly impressive); it’s Vainio’s ability to give them life. Instead of coming across as haphazard, random nonsense, the buzzes, clicks and drones sound as if they are truly reacting to their environment. In The Land of the Blind, One-Eyed King is a wonderfully accomplished, impeccably crafted album and certainly Vainio’s best work under his own name to date.
1. Revi Täälla, Merimies (Sunder Here, Sailor)
2. Se On Olemassa (It Is Existing)
3. Ahriman (Ahriman)
4. Hän Oli Ääni Joskus (He Was A Sound Sometimes)
5. Kasvien Vari (Colour Of Plants)
6. Kadut (Streets)
7. Motelli (Motel)
8. Lumisokea (Snowblind)
9. Kauemmas, Ylemmäs! (Further, Higher!)