Pan Sonic — originally Panasonic, until an inevitable confrontation with the Japanese manufacturing giant of the same name — was among the most active and well-known exports from Finland's experimental techno underground, the first to reach acclaim at an international level. Pursuing the jagged edges of minimal and hardcore techno, Pan Sonic earned an enduring association with industrial and noise music through their incorporation of antiseptic production techniques and power-tool electronics. As they junked together studio equipment from spare parts and ancient analog debris, Pan Sonic's search for the untried in techno was their compositional m.o., which placed them closer to the genre's Detroit roots than is often understood. They represented a collision between the Motor City's Jeff Mills and Cologne's Mike Ink: dance-based electronic music with maximum impact made with minimal extraneous detail.
Formed in Turku in the early '90s, Pan Sonic began as the duo of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen. As with most Finnish techno groups, Pan Sonic's earliest beginnings lay with Sähkö Recordings, the focus of the Northern European techno scene and home to such artists as Kirlian, Philus, Ø (Vainio's solo guise), Mono Junk, and Jimi Tenor. In 1994, the duo released its self-titled debut single, just prior to adding third member Sami Salo and landing a contract with Mute subsidiary Blast First. The group's first BF release, 1995's Vakio, featured the same brand of furtive, passively aggressive techno, though with a fuller, more thought-out sound. Salo left the group (apparently to join the Army), and Pan Sonic's subsequent releases — the Osasto EP and the long-player Kulma — noted his absence with a comparatively harder tone.
Pan Sonic added live performance to their repertoire in 1996, playing a number of gigs throughout Europe and Japan, as well as touring with goth rock group Swans. Vainio moved to London in 1997, where, in addition to his commitment to Pan Sonic, he continued to record as Ø. He also released work on Sähkö, Puu, and Cheap as Tekonivel, Orchestra Guacamole (with Jaakko Salovaara), and Kosmos (with Jimi Tenor), and remixed tracks for Björk and Tactile. He and Väisänen joined with Suicide's Alan Vega to release Endless as VVV in 1998. The final Pan Sonic album of the '90s was A, their least intense full-length to that point. Pan Sonic resumed activity in 2001, when the duo released Aaltopiiri and toured the world. The remainder of the decade was highlighted by the four-disc Kesto (234.48:4), Katodivaihe/Cathodephase, and Gravitoni, as well as collaborations with Merzbow, Vega, Sunn 0))), Keiji Haino, and Stephen Burroughs.
In December of 2009, Pan Sonic announced that they would be parting ways in order to focus on their solo projects. The duo's final recordings surfaced over the course of the following decade. Studio album Gravitoni appeared on Blast First Petite in 2010, as did In the Studio, a double LP of sessions with Haino dating from 2007. Oksastus, a recording of one of Pan Sonic's final live dates, was released by Kvitnu in 2014. In 2015, previously unissued latter-day Pan Sonic recordings made up the soundtrack to Atomin Paluu, a documentary about the first nuclear power plant built since the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl. After winning the prize for Best Soundtrack at the Jussi Awards Festival, the soundtrack was released by Blast First Petite in 2016. ~ Sean Cooper & Andy Kellman