There is often only the faintest line between simplicity and complexity, between sparsity and richness, and it is upon this interval that Ilpo Väisänen’s Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta rests. It is not so much that Väisänen’s work is fragile – he has built his career upon both Pan Sonic’s industrial-tinged techno, and the abrasive ambience of Angel – but more that it presents itself here with a certain naked solitude. Opening with a single, pure and unadorned tone, followed by a scratching, rhythmic oscillation, Syntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta works its way through a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes, with only the addition of quiet but caustic digital noise serving to offer the listener anything that might provoke interest. And whilst under any normal circumstance this might indicate a certain compositional weakness, an inability to progress ones ideas, here, such an approach serves instead to forefront the quality of the overtly compartmentalised sonic landscape.
There is an exquisite understanding of frequency, with each sound occupying a distinct location in the auditory spectrum, each provided with so much space, so much freedom, that the experience is akin to listening to a tangible loss, an audible loneliness. Rather than attempting to marry conflicting elements into a cohesive sonic landscape, they are placed, with clear consideration, into a row and left to be stumbled upon by the listener, an approach that reminds me more of the text-work of Lawrence Weiner than any more musical influence. It is at times as if Väisänen is genuinely battling to present some form of structured composition, but is somehow always prevented from doing so and, facing defeat, decides instead to abandon his sonic tools mid-flow. Rhythmic pulses give way suddenly to long held tones. Tones give way to short synthetic melodies, melodies to abstract horizons of filtered noise, with each contrasting piece barely overlapping the last.
The centrepiece of the album – which is perhaps a strong description, given the total running length is shy of 20 minutes – consists of a clicking bass drum that seems, rather than acting as steady beat by which to orientate the rest of the material, to instead dance freely of its own accord. It is a compositional device that works exceptionally well – rather than serving as a merely functional addendum to the rest of the music, Väisänen’s use of percussion is such that it exists as an aesthetic object in its own right, something that is so often overlooked within the majority of electronic music. Given the albums short running length (I should perhaps be referring to it as an E.P., but that seems somehow disingenuous given the nature of the material on offer), it is a shame that this dedication to exquisitely crafted sound objects isn’t entirely maintained throughout.
About halfway through we are introduced to a rumbling, self-oscillating resonance, that whilst in no way unpleasant, is notably more humdrum than everything that precedes it. Thankfully, as is the nature of the work as a whole, this soon subsides, leaving us instead with a blissful pulse and organic ambience by which to draw the work to a fitting and subtle conclusion.
At its heart, yntetisaattori Musiikkia Kuopiosta succeeds in its refusal to adhere to any form of compositional normalcy – indeed, it is in many senses barely a work of composition at all. Listening to this work feels more akin to scanning the stations of a radio, each idea so fragmented, so disconnected from the last, that it is hard to perceive any structural unity. Crucially, however, Väisänen’s sound world is refined enough that these snippets do not appear random, but rather emergent, with each new vignette offering a distinct yet clearly partitioned abstract drawn from a single fundamental world. The purpose of each section seems utterly philanthropic, embracing a subtly and near complete lack of showmanship that allows every passing moment to augment and frame those that it appends, before disappearing, without fuss, without trace.