Review Summary: Ilpo Väisänen's expert sound design makes his second album Communist Dub one of the best releases from the Pan Sonic camp.
As one half of Pan Sonic, Ilpo Väisänen served up rough-hewn, distorted techno alongside noise, sine-wave jewel tones, and rich dark ambient. Communist Dub, his second solo album and first as I-LP-O In Dub, finds the producer firmly in techno mode. Here, words like "corrosive" and "abrasive" need not apply. The striking clarity of the sounds on Communist Dub are what make it one of the best and most accessible offerings from the Pan Sonic camp.
Communist Dub opens with "Gulag General," a short ambient piece that wouldn't be out of place on the third disc of Pan Sonic's four-hour magnum opus Kesto. But things don't really get interesting until track two, "Father Sun Rudealis." It's a sparse piece, with little more than a low mechanical hum and some clattering drums. But the kick is so punchy and full it provides a comfortable cushion for the ears, while the snares crack just hard enough to have real power without coming across as aggressive. (A dub version later in the album mutes some of the sounds; this version lacks the original's power, though it's nice as a reprise in context of the album.)
Comfort perhaps isn't the first thing one would associate with music this sparse, but judging from several titles' references to marijuana ("Rudealis" is presumably a misspelling of "ruderalis," a cannabis species, and the album's nine-minute ambient centerpiece is called "Kolyma Stoned"), it might have been what Väisänen had in mind. Communist Dub is a head-centric album filled with unidentifiable, alien sounds, from the robotic clanks and squeaks that fill "Kolyma Stoned" to the precipitous echo of the Theo Parrish-like "Uncle Ho Sticks." Though I can't imagine Communist Dub going over well in most college living rooms, it'd certainly be fun for a stoned walk somewhere cold.
In addition to cannabis, Väisänen evokes revolution in his song titles, referencing important locales for the Arab Spring ("Benghazi Affair"), the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution ("Donbass Hybrid") and the 1917 Russian Revolution that spawned the Soviet Union ("Kolyma Stoned," "Donetsk Disciples"). The Editions Mego press release describes Communist Dub as "a ruthless criticism of everything existing, but one ultimately tempered by hope." Perhaps pot is a symbol of hope to Väisänen, being able to walk around Kolyma stoned an admirable revolutionary goal.
But aside from a dedication to the "victims of isms" in the liner notes, the revolutionary imagery seems purely aesthetic. It certainly fits; this album's as grey, sparse, and spartan as the most stereotypical Worker & Parasite images of a country under Communist rule. But thanks to Väisänen's expert sound design, Communist Dub is comfy enough to pair well with a bowl or two.