A very restrained, subtly penetrating recording that unfolds more with
curiosity than ferocity. Although all three artists have previously
constructed music both bombastic and understated, Nine Suggestions is a
primarily quiet and completely beatless entity. The cacophonous yet stately
moments in the first two tracks ("Scratch Ring" and "Volume") endow the
staid, shifting and retreating ones that follow with an impression of grace
culled from dissonance. While "The Metallic Conversation" mimics the room
tone of a department store’s elevator, the sparse, beautiful themes pinioned
at strategic points throughout the remainder of the album act as sensual
counterpoints to this machinelike sensibility. Consider a .wav file of
Holst's "Venus, The Bringer Of Peace" fed into a
computer and stretched out by it until the notes would play slowly, until
infinity, the flaws in the low quality digital file coolly accentuating the
splendor of the music. These elegant, skeletal melodies have their
apotheosis in the final track, "The Bristling Haze", as they flow outward in
a procession that is stunning, solemn, and final.
NINE SUGGESTIONS gathers collaborations over the past couple of years between sound installation artist John Duncan and the two members of Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen. Duncan's previous collaborators have included Elliott Sharp, Bernhard Günter and Carl Michael von Hausswolff, and the album is on his own label.
As Pan Sonic's reputation would lead you to expect, there's enormous confidence here in the handling of material, whether we're talking about distorted screeching like the strangling of an entryphone system, or the tiny flickers of sound, a lunarscape of nocturnal insects, found towards the end of "Center: Pause". The scale is grand and the spaces large, but these beatless soundscapes are achieved without bombast. Where there is a pulse, it's obscured, or clattering like a galloping camel. The two openers are fiercely blazing electronic bonfires, faraway drones and gradually evolving states. The second track "Volume" erupts like a small tornado nosing around your room, and later implodes to a glowing drone on the horizon, a virtuoso moment. The latter two thirds of the album treads a more peaceful path. Time slows down, and at 74 minutes, the CD has plenty of it. There's a nice alternation of slowly shifting textures versus sharply edited transitions. Plenty of fun and drama here for those of not too nervous a disposition. Overall it's a well put together record, packaged within a beautiful photo of a plant similar to an English cow parsley.
-- Clive Bell, The Wire
Best known for their high pressure avant Techno as Pan Sonic, finnish electron wranglers Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen find themselves in good company alongside John Duncan. All three artists have long stood at the vanguard of electronic composition, each pushing the envelope of electrostatic volatility. On their first collaboration, Duncan brings his crucible of psychological inquisitions made flesh through his manipulations of shortwave recordings, while Vainio and Väisänen offer their expertise in hammering electronic arpeggiations and crystalline tone generation. NINE SUGGESTIONS begins with a prolonged discharge of toxic electricity, rupturing through a series of shortened bursts into one of Pan Sonic's signature rhythmic propulsions. Steadily, the album turns away from dislocation and towards contemplation, which reflects many of the sleep-deprived epiphanies from Vainio's solo work on Touch, as well as Duncan's recent interest in subversive seduction, whereby beauty is invoked to lure the audience into Duncan's accusatory interrogations. NINE SUGGESTIONS is nothing short of brilliant.
-- Jim Haynes, The Wire
The new studio collaboration between John Duncan, Mika Vainio, and Ilpo Väisänen is an awesome, mind-melting drone experience. The threesome forms an impressive and complimentary unit that draws effectively from each artist’s wizard-like way of conjuring forth waveform environments from simple sound sources.
For conceptual sound artist and American ex-pat John Duncan, that source is a shortwave radio set. His music, typified by thick sheets of frequency modulation and shrill tones of naturally ringing feedback, is often dense and aggressive. Underlying the resultant haze, however, is a subtle touch. Duncan’s manipulations of random shortwave broadcasts evoke a kind of ghostly netherworld whose mysterious landscapes infrequently reveal planes of breathtaking beauty.
Finnish artists Vainio and Väisänen, better known as analogue electronic duo Pan Sonic, also apply an artful hand in tweaking custom-built synthesizers. The pair’s skillful ability to draw warmth from their uniquely cold-sounding machinery while harnessing alternate degrees of intensity and subtlety is equally breathtaking. That their exquisite soundscapes fold seamlessly into Duncan’s divined cosmos is not surprising.
‘Scratch Ring’ sounds like a burst of energy suspended in time and space, hovering ominously amidst an ever-expanding universe. ‘Volume’ shatters that universe with a startling charge of electricity, jolting the listener from one dimension into another. ‘The Metallic Conversation’ is a calming, rhythmic experiment set against a backdrop of silence that draws attention to the individual sounds in play. More active than ambient, each one of the nine “suggestions” carries the listener through a myriad of engaging moods and movements.
-- John Rickman, Free Williamsburg
Applying their personal logic codes to a vast range of timbral permutations, the team of Duncan, Vainio and Väisänen transforms shortwaves and oscillators in a detailed musculature of anxious murmurs, primal electronics, chiaroscuro subsonics whose placental liquids are sprayed around according to a scheme where the decontextualization of the electroacoustic event is fundamental. Everything originates from impulses which are developed and gradually disfigured in a series of frictional refractions whose origin can't be seen, not even from a million observation angles; common glitches and crackles are put under the magnifying lens of our emotional principles, thanks to a gorgeous processing which changes the listening perspective right in the moment of a hard-earned semi-comprehension of the initial nucleus of vibrational matter. When the brain has finally reached the saturation point, the lingering silhouettes of incubated misunderstanding suddenly dissolve: all becomes an intuition per se, rationalizations remaining out of the equation.
-- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes