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In Memoriam Mika Vainio (1963-2017)

sun 7 may 2017
Theme: Crosslinks

Mika Vainio, the Finnish electronics musician and composer died on Wednesday 13 April. An Electronic Frequencies special on 10 May at 23:00 CET will look back at the life and work of this pioneer whose work has been an inspiration for so many others.

Mika Vainio was only 53 years old and the cause of his death is still not known here at the Concertzender. However, it was unexpected and is a shock to us all. Electronic music has lost one of its most important talents.

Pan Sonic.

Mika Vainio formed Panasonic together with fellow Finnish musicians Ilpo Väisänen en Sami Salo in 1993. Their first records were issued on Sähkö Recordings, a label set up by Vainio together with Tommi Grönlund. This was followed by a long relationship with the Mute sublabel Blast First. Salo left Panasonic in 1996 and the band continued as a duo until 2009. A dispute with a major electronics company during the period also meant that the name of the band had to be changed to Pan Sonic. The music of Pan Sonic formed a separate genre in the world of electronic music. Initially it combined elements from Techno, Industrial and Minimal, and later added aspects of Dub and Dark Ambient. The raw beauty of the resulting music was appreciated by fans of all these styles.
The band released 7 albums, a number of live recordings and countless cooperations with other musicians. A further live album (‘Oksastus’) was released in 2014 and the band reformed briefly in 2015 to produce the soundtrack for the film ‘Atomin Paluu’, a fitting finale to the Pan Sonic catalogue.

Mika Vainio.

Vainio also released many records under his own name and under aliases such as Ø and Philus. The end-result of all this activity was an enormous discography on many respected labels such as Säkhö, Raster-Noton, Touch, Editions Mego and iDEAL. He frequently worken together with other musicians including Alva Noto, Charlemagne Palestine, Merzbow, Fennesz, Stephen O’Malley, Kevin Drumm, Vladislav Delay and Franck Vigroux. The gave him the freedom to explore the possibilities of electronic music. Mika disliked computers and always used synthesisers and other hardware. His musical genius, in combination with the rawness and unpredictability that is characteristic of such instruments, defined his unique sound.

He was an inspiration for many of the musicians that later released music on the Raster-Noton and Touch labels such as Carsten Nicolai, BJ Nilsen and Carl Michael von Hausswolff. A younger generation including Jorge Haro, Zeno van den Broek and Paul Devens were also inpired by Vainio. To close, a quote taken from another obituary for Mika: “The death of Mika Vainio has robbed the avant-garde of one of its most important and most inspired standard-bearers.”

The Concertzender offers its deepest sympathy to all the family and friends of Mika.

This obituary was written by our programme maker Mike Kramer. Mike has compiled a special edition of Electronic Frequencies that focusses on Mika Vanio’s work for museums. For more information see our programme guide.