Kuvaputki / Cathode Ray Tube / Set (to give it its full title) is a live DVD containing footage of Pan Sonic’s world tour of 1999/2000. Shine A Light it’s not. The film, if that’s the right word, was made by Edward Quist. Shot entirely (and appropriately) in monochrome, this is forty minutes of sinewaves, static ‘snow’, angular fractals and strobing. Like Pan Sonic’s music, it uses the extremes of its limited pallette – from blinding white to total darkness. In between this, ghostly images of Vainio and Väisänen emerge through the visual noise. Usually staring intently at their machines, and occasionally twiddling a dial. It’s not hard to fathom why a straight shot concert movie wouldn’t work!
The film fits Pan Sonic’s dystopian steampunk world perfectly. But it is, dare I say it, a bit boring to watch for forty minutes at a stretch.
The music itself is thirteen tracks of Pan Sonic at their most user-friendly. Bearing in mind that this stuff is nearly ten years old, they still sound like the future – albeit a bleak one dominated by monolithic concrete, grey skies and collapsing, malfunctioning machinery. Ever-present is the crackle and hum of raw electricity. It sounds positively dangerous – a nest of exposed cables hissing voltage like snakes. Pulses throb, oscillators oscillate, and bass frequencies rumble like earthquake aftershocks. It’s menacing music – cold, inhuman and bleak; yet strangely seductive. The duo stay away from the ultra-high frequencies that sometimes can make listening to them physically uncomfortable, and there are few journeys into the realm of total abstraction that characterized the middle section of last year’s brilliant Cathodephase.
There are three versions Kuvaputki on this disc, each shot through different angles. I’ve not watched all three, but what I did see of the alternate versions didn’t appear to be radically different. The music is the same on each. Each piece appears to have three titles too – one in Finnish, and the other two in a combination of English, physics terms and Sci-Fi gobbledegook. Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of music DVDs – I prefer to listen rather than watch. And I can’t see me sitting watching Kuvaputki again any time soon. The music’s another matter. It may not be quite as out there as parts of the last two records, but it’s prime Pan Sonic.
1 Alku / Thermionic Emission / Vidsync 1
2 Maa / Electron Gun / Vidsync 2
3 Toisto / Control Grid / Spore
4 Jhoto 4 / Crucuform / Transverse
5 Valikhota / Anode / Electric Field
6 Askel / Ion Trap / Plasma Horda
7 Kahalaus / The Glass Envelope / Swamp Grinder
8 Kone / Hathor / Electronoid
9 Esikierto / Phosphor Curtain / Neodynium
10 Murskaus / Irradiance / Centercore
11 CSG Sonic / Bleeder Resistor / Embryon
12 Telakoe / Shadow Mask / Raetheor
13 Loppu / Implosion / Control
Tracks can be streamed live.