When I was 14 I went to hospital and had two micro-thin metal filaments inserted into my thigh and shoulder, which were allowed to spool through my major blood vessels until they reached my heart. Electricity was then passed through them, jacking my heart into artificially inspired activity. The resultant sense of becoming android, of having one's bodily processes infected and taken over by machines, returns keenly to me every time I put on Panasonic's extraordinary records.
Touted as Panasonic's engagement with Dutch speed-apocalypse-techno variant, gabba, Osasto is in fact just more of the usual, though the unceasing sine-tone interludes you sometimes find on the band's albums are to be fair excluded in favour of particularly hammering, unvarying beat structures. But on the other hand because it's relatively compact, Osasto concentrates the mind wonderfully on Panasonic's virtues. Which are as follows: the band's mastery of texture, and their mastery of structure. You could, I suppose, say much the same about any 'intelligent dance' auteur - Autechre, or Aphex, or even Orbital - but Panasonic stand out through their brutalist economy of means, the way they ruthlessly strip anything even remotely psychedelic or contemplative from their music in favour of relentless repetition and purism. (Not to mention the fact that you can dance to Panasonic even less than you can to the aforementioned.) Osasto unfolds with the impervious grace of an architectural blueprint. First it pummells you, then rewires your concentration, sense of time, and sense of internal rhythm in its own stark image. The record and the listening environment are fused, and gradually you become accustomed to every tiny shift and subtlety of pattern. The next record you pay will seem colourful to the point of crassness, but also curiously blurry and unreal.
The actual single is also a lovely object, with a nice stark sleeve design.
I expect I would agree with this write-up if I was to hear Osasto again - however it's another case where I've not listened to the band for a while. For once this isn't a question of shifting tastes - if there's one kind of music my wife really cannot stand it's minimal electronica, and acts like Panasonic are no good on headphones, you need a space that the sound can alter and use. So my opportunities to listen to this stuff are a lot fewer now, generally just the time between me coming home from work and her coming home from her evening tutorials, and Panasonic aren't generally my first choice after a day at the office.
(I'm sure most adults' listening habits are formed more by these kind of habits and compromises than they'd admit. Nick Hornby's notorious "I don't have time for difficult music" Radiohead review was actually sympathetic until the point where he demanded the band change to accomodate HIM.)
Writing about electronic music has always been quite difficult for me and this was no exception. Most of the imagery I'm reaching for feels a bit hackneyed but the altering properties of Panasonic's music hopefully come through.
(For anyone wanting to investigate them, they're now known as Pan Sonic after legal hassles, and I think if any of their back catalogue is in print it'll be under that name.)