Mika Vainio, Time Examined
Cascading drones, blasts of static, distant rumbles and passages of near-silence
Mika Vainio understands the effect of sound on the body. After all, this is an artist who once spent 10 hours in a locked room, submitting himself to a steady, ultra-low-frequency hum at a volume of 125 decibels. (For comparison, that's the same volume as working with a pneumatic riveter, and just shy of the 140 decibels of a jet engine heard from 100 feet away). Time Examined moves outward from his corporeal interests to consider sound's relationship with space.
Don't worry, you won't need Dolby 5.1 to listen to this collection of Vainio's work for video, installation and dance performance. There are no wacky quadraphonic gimmicks, just cascading drones, blasts of static, distant rumbles and passages of ominous near-silence. You will want to listen loud, however, to better grasp the suggestive, multilayered din of tracks like "Ilmanvaihto," which slowly massages a stream of white noise into a succession of soft, pliable shapes, pulled together into a sequence that feels almost narrative in its arc. "The Human Fly" sounds like an orchestra tuning up, as heard from a distant star system — not via radio wave, but a tin-can-and-string telephone. "Berns" most closely recalls Vaiko's work with his group Pan Sonic, with queasy oscillator drones exploding into buzzsaw violence; it sounds a little like Sunn O))) performing at Berlin's Berghain club, a former power station. (Probably not coincidentally, Vainio has collaborated with the former and played in the latter.) "Half Awake Half Asleep" and "Berlin Sound Chamber" are both stuporous, hypnagogic collages of metallic drones alongside what sound like distant field recordings, shrouded in cathedral-sized reverb. The most distinctive piece here might be "Monumentti," a two-minute miniature of frequency modulation tones that unfurl with the grace of an orchid caught on time-lapse film. The closing "4 x Radio," meanwhile, shows a softer side of Vainio, as a set of minor-key chords roll out through a long expanse of silence with the patience and surety of a Morton Feldman composition.