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alva noto - For 2
A second album of dedications from Carsten Nicolai, once again presented by 12k offshoot label Line. Perhaps reflective of how varied this artist's output has become over recent years 'For 2' represents an incredibly broad range of styles and approaches, though the music always manages to retain the all-important sonic signatures unique to the Alva Noto sound. Over the past decade or so Nicolai's music has transcended the hyper-minimal rhythmic motifs that defined so much of his early work, exploring the possibilities of collaboration, live instrumentation and reconstituted orchestral ambience among other things. Accordingly, on For 2 (which collects music made between 2003 and 2008) you can expect surely the most expansive repertoire of sounds than has ever been gathered for a single Alva Noto album, something that's in-keeping with the diverse set of dedications - works for Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, fellow minimalist composer Phill Niblock, industrial designer Dieter Rams and dramatist Heiner Muller are all included, prompting greatly diverging works from Nicolai. The first piece isn't dedicated to an artist, or even a human being at all, but rather a translucent textile. This composition seems to cut itself into sections, with Noto's trademark glitching wave patterns joining with string ensemble-style chord movements and harsh, industrial sounding noise inserts. Following on is 'Villa Aurora (For Marta Feuchtwanger)', an immensely subtle field recording that captures the decay of a sustaining piano chord before it's snuffed out by the closing piano lid, leaving only the bustle of exterior environmental noises. This isn't the last time on the disc that Nicolai draws our ears to the narrative-warping potential and all-round beauty of music in decay: 'Anthem Berlin' (dedicated to Leif Elggren and Carl Michael Von Hausswolf's fictional Kingdom Of Elgaland-Vargaland) plays a similar trick, taking a sample of a militaristic marching band and spiralling the snare's sound off across several minutes of sustaining, treated resonance. There's a surprisingly strong melodic component to this selection too, with the wonderful 'Stalker (For Andrei Tarkovsky)' and two different versions of 'Argonaut (For Heiner Muller)' - one of which is arranged for live classical instrumentation - both exhibiting a keen ear for minimalist harmonic progressions. Much of this music is caught in a continual dialogue between outright beauty and more uncompromisingly conceptual, experimental pursuits. At one end of this we find the synaesthetic, Evgeny Murzin-inspired visual-to-audio synthesizer piece, 'Ans', while at the other there's the quietly heart-wrenching 'Early Winter', which samples a Phill Niblock recording - slowly and elegiacally evolving what sounds like a looped orchestral passage while sonar-blip electronics sound off in the background. A hugely impressive account of Carsten Nicolai's talents as a musician and artist, 'For 2' comes with a massive recommendation.