Recording information: Berlin (2011-2012).
The continuing work of Mika Vainio -- especially given his longtime association with Touch for a variety of releases -- has been at once reliable and sometimes quite surprising, with a certain restlessness that has served him well in his various explorations in sound. Fe3O4: Magnetite continues this, with a particular emphasis on utter extremity, moving between chaotic full-bore sound and silence in ways that make soft/loud/soft alt-rock seem like the stepping stone to a logical conclusion it is. Starting with slow tapping percussion and distant high tones before a big rolling evil burst snarls into place with a rhythmic rumble, Fe3O4 begins beautifully before the opening "Magnetia" dissipates completely into near silence, the high tones now swirling on the edge of hearing. It's a marvelously dynamic start to this collection, but what's equally intriguing is how well there's a focus on meditation, for lack of a better word -- Vainio's polarities of sound all pointing toward contemplation in the flow. "Magnetosphere," beginning almost like a random surprise in the album's overall sequence, has the quietest of tones building up over two minutes before collaged grinding train-sounding chaos rips in and then departs in a few seconds' space. "Magnetosense" is even quieter at the start, a distant metallic hum and grind barely emerging from the murk at three minutes in. The arcing metal dives at the end of "Magnetism" and even the swoops and screams of white noise on "Magnetotactic" still do not take away from the sense of serene focus that drives this effort. ~ Ned Raggett