Finnish musician Mika Vainio is likely an inspiration to anyone who loves the sensation of electrified sound in its raw form – bare, exposed, vibrating, voltaic.

Mika Vainio is a thread running through so much of experimentalism in the past three decades of electronic music – noise to industrial to techno. News reaches us today that he died at the age of 53.


If now electronic music’s dark underground vein has become popular, then his fingerprints are all over that transformation. I can see just how many people he’s touched and how deeply moved they’ve been by his work just by browsing through my social feed, which has become flooded with remembrances.

In addition to being a solo artist (under his own name, or Ø or Philus), he is co-founder of Pan Sonic (originally dubbed Panasonic), co-founder and label head of the Sähkö label (with Tommi Grönlund), and contributed an extraordinary roster of collaborations with figures like Fennesz, Merbow, Franck Vigroux, and Charlemagne Palestine.

And he developed an idiosyncratic approach to hardware performance, eschewing anything like a laptop in favor of minimal, noisy configurations of hardware, applied with restraint and unleashed into sonic ecstasies.

I certainly welcome more remembrances if you’re looking for a place to host them. In the meantime, some essential obituaries from our colleagues:

Pitchfork’s Phil Sherburne eulogizes the artist, and offers up a listening guide that will be essential to those of you who arne’t yet familiar with his music, as well as an inspiration to those of you who are:

7 Songs Perfectly Capturing Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio

FACT recaps his life, and organizes remembrances found online:

Electronic Beats had a backstage interview with him and Actress on a – provocative theme – at MaerzMusik in Berlin in 2015:


Here are just a few gorgeous selections from his work:

Friend of CDM David Abravanel writes up these memories on social media — which I find doubly poignant as I fondly recall these being the two live shows I saw, as well, at David’s side:

The first time I saw Mika Vainio was at an intimate show at NK in 2011 ([curated by] Farahnaz Hatam). He had a large homemade rig covered in unlabeled knobs, on which he played what seemed like 10 minutes of piercing high tones, and 15-20 minutes of punishingly low tones. Then he slinked back off and I tried to digest one of the more sonically extreme performances I’d seen.

The second time was at Berghain, 2013. He’d released his album, Kilo, and fittingly his live set had changed to include a few samplers/drum machines (Korg Electribes, if anyone’s curious), and some massive heavy metal Ampeg amps. His hair was longer. It felt suitably over-the-top and heavy.

It’s fitting to see Mika Vainio’s legacy as a kind of long tapestry – his approach to electric sound itself treated it as medium, as fabric.

Here he is live, demonstrating how cosmic voids could open up out of impossibly minimal rigs, as if he had opened up a door to another dimension. We hope he’s found his way into that dimension – and our deepest condolences to his friends and family. We’re profoundly sorry to see him go.

Electronic music and the art of textile share many traits such as machinic repetition, processes of layering and textural development. In a rare encounter between electronic abstract music and the art of tapestry, the electronic music virtuoso Mika Vainio has composed a new composition called Trollklangveggen based on Hannah Ryggen’s work Trollveggen.

Previously (our interview with his long-standing collaborator):

Interview – Franck Vigroux is celebrating technology but resisting normality


  • chap

    Devastated by this news. I’ve seen Panasonic playing and it was one of the biggest shock of my life. RIP.

  • Random Chance

    I wasn’t aware of him and judging by the music examples provided here, I wonder why. Really great stuff and very inspiring. Also timely, because I’ve been thinking about musically returning to my noisier and edgier past for some time now. I’m not sure if rest in peace is really appropriate for him but I’m saying it anyway.

  • Oliver Greschke

    I have seen Mikka playing solo the first time at a shitkatapult?/krake? party @ Suicide Circus some years ago and I was deeply impressed, what he made out of a Korg Electribe and 2 tiny additional synths (doepfer dark energy, vermona lancet), concentrating on what this minimalistic gear could deliver, or rather should not deliver (hum, buzz). It was raw and intense, but also full of beauty. I heard a single oscillator doing his job, I have never heard before and never after again. Only Mikka could show this, with his very unique “stress test” of the circuits technique

  • johngough

    Sad news indeed. I had been listening to Pansonic a lot in the past few weeks, I hadn’t listened in years. What a great legacy he left. RIP.

  • Gatsby’sPool

    A friend turned me on to Panasonic when I was just starting to listen to electronic music. I’d never heard music like it, and it fit my sensibilities perfectly. I’ve been massively influenced in my own work by him. What a shock. His legacy will live on through his thought provoking music.

  • Finn Albertsson

    I remember when Pan Sonic played at Culture Box in Copenhagen during the Strøm festival in 2009 and it was just 1 week after they had given the club a bit of TLC with some repair and a lick of paint only to find that every water pipe on the toiletts had been rattled by Pan Sonic’s deep and loud bass so much so that the pipes was hanging loose after their gig… Sweet memories i must say!

  • chaircrusher

    Playlist of everything Mika I could find on Spotify. Put it on shuffle. Preferably with a wall of subs.

  • chaircrusher

    Bootleg live sets — anyone who saw Pan Sonic or Mika live knows that it was never the same river twice, and always a physically overwhelming experience…

  • Robin Parmar