Mika Vainio - Last Live

  • A recording of the legendary artist's unforgiving final gig.
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  • The late Mika Vainio has more live albums than most electronic artists. It's easy to understand why: his music is elemental and improvised, harnessing the power and sound of electricity itself. By himself and with others, Vainio's performances were fiery, sometimes hellish things, switching between flows of serrated distortion, harsh tones and, occasionally, pounding techno rhythms. Last Live captures his last-ever performance at Cave12 in Sweden, two months before he died. It shows Vainio at his most unforgiving and mind-bending. For just over an hour, he wrenches brutal, nasty tones out of his array of gear with little rhythm or melody. It's like listening to Vainio's art distilled down to its purest form. The concert presented on Last Live, edited into four movements by Stephen O'Malley, was not meant to be a swan song. There's no sense of finality to it, no thematic cohesion, no poetic justice. There's just an hour of abrasive, laser-focused sound. Vainio always delighted in the electric part of electronic music, and Last Live emphasises this part of his practice. It begins with a simple, dread-inducing hum that gradually self-immolates into ugly noise. It reminds me of artists like Prurient or Linekraft, but there's no contact micing or banging on objects here—just generated currents patched through cables. (Vainio didn't use a computer at this performance.) Last Live also differs from most Vainio records because there's never a break into anything resembling rhythm, or the techno tidal waves that made some of Pan Sonic's live records so imposing. Instead, he indulges his love of physical sound. Listen to how the second movement veers from eardrum-shredding distortion to near-silence. Sometimes the tones are pretty, sometimes they're maddeningly dull. Some evoke the sound of tinnitus. The final movement ends with a sustained tone so blunt it seems to invade every part of your body, filling up your sinuses and tensing your muscles. Experiencing this in concert must have been unbelievable, but the record doesn't try to capture the atmosphere of the event itself. What it does capture is a raw feed of Vainio at his best as a sound artist. It's not the proper farewell he deserved before suddenly dying two months later, but it's a blazing note to go out on. Listening to Last Live, one anecdote always comes back to me. A posthumous review of the show mentions how, largely emotionless through the performance, Vainio playfully punched the air at the end of the set in victory. Last Live may sound confrontational, even frightening, but for those familiar with Vainio's body of work, it's an expression of joy and life-affirming power from one of the fiercest sound artists in history.
  • Tracklist
      01. Movement 1 02. Movement 2 03. Movement 3 04. Movement 4