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alva noto and ryuichi sakamoto - UTP (2011 Edition)
*BACK IN STOCK* A most welcome return for one of the most intriguing creative partnerships in contemporary experimental music, UTP_ reunites Carsten Nicolai with Ryuichi Sakamoto for a special performance in conjunction with Ensemble Modern, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the city of Mannheim. The title is derived from the notion of 'utopia', referencing the town's design background - Mannheim was conceptualised as the ideal 17th century city. The music devised by Noto and Sakamoto for their audio-visual tribute deviates considerably from the formulae set out by their prior releases Vrioon, Insen and Revep, embracing not only the electronic and piano-based palettes of old, but also an expanded array of avant-garde chamber instrumentation and a host of natural timbres. The album that lies ahead is a restless and multilayered stream of ideas and beautifully realised composition. The two 'Broken Line' pieces find this project on its most instantly familiar ground, propelling ethereal glitching rhythms across ambient plains of elaborately fashioned electroacoustic static, but the 'Particle' tracks reveal a very new and arguably more far-reachingly exploratory side to this duo, all-but abandoning melody and rhythm in favour of outright texture. Recalling Carsten Nicolai's Xerrox project, 'Plateaux 1' and 'Plateaux 2 End' take on a symphonic droning quality. If there's more to come from this duo (and here's hoping there is) this unprecedentedly grand sounding approach might make for an interesting new direction to pursue. For this album though, the interweaving of all the various styles on show lends itself to a more rounded - if somewhat fractured - listening experience than the two artists have previously delivered in their collaboration, and UTP_ is anything but a rehash of old ideas. Established fans of the duo's output will find rich rewards here.