Deep London bass specialist FDW keeps it hydraulically fwd and immersive in three dub technoid rollers for Delsin
He reminds of vintage Pub and Pendle Coven pieces in the hard but slinky, spectral shimmy of ‘Hidden Past’, and steering more into Dozzy-Like techno zones with ‘Invisible’, saving a rare slice of techno beauty for the plangent probe of ‘Radiance’ in a most beautiful kiss-off and romantic love note to the dance.
Always cause for no small amount of excitement, a new release from Carsten Nicolai tends to be a pretty significant event for the electronic music community. As suggested by the new moniker, the Aleph-1 project marks a departure from some of the more familiar Alva Noto approaches to composition, although these recordings do tie in to some extent with the rhythmic minimalism plotted out by Nicolai's older work, marking a step back from the more harmonic Xerrox material from last year. The most immediately striking aspect of this music is the presence of a pronounced melodic element, something that's previously barely featured in Nicolai's solo recordings. This manifests itself by replacing the abrupt prickling static soundset of the Transrapid/Transspray/Transvision triptych with more resonant, rounded tones, with simple, sustaining waves evolving gradually over the course of each piece within a network of looping, modulating phrases. This being Carsten Nicolai, the use of melody never makes itself too explicit, instead relying on a mesmeric, cumulative effect for its power. There's a subtlety and precision at work throughout Aleph-1, and after spending some time with these pieces you'll find yourself thoroughly absorbed by their awkward, immense beauty. ESSENTIAL PURCHASE!
Revolving around a collaborative new arrangement of Sakamoto's classic 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence', this third outing for Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto has been once again packaged and delivered with utmost attention to detail from the Raster Noton imprint.
Designed to accompany their extensive tour through much of Asia and Europe this Summer, 'Revep' is another indispensible record from two absolute masters - effortlessly colliding worlds of analogue beauty (Sakamoto's Piano) and Digital disruption (Alva Noto's Laptop) - the result is never short of jarring and deeply evocative. Sometimes the Piano takes the lead and sinks you head first into a world of melancholic reflection, while at others the padded bass stabs and pitched electronic frequencies sign-post sudden change and the inevitability of disintegration.
An unusual and always moving mix of traditions, Sakamoto and Nicolai are seperated geographically and stylistically - yet for the third time now they have managed to make a sound that is nothing short of harmonious.
When Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto got together to record 2003’s “Vrioon”, it probably hadn’t occurred to them that they were single-handedly re-positioning minimal piano music at the head of the electronic food chain.
Sure, Richard D James introduced his army of devotees to the works of Satie on his sprawling “Drukqs”, but “Vrioon” managed to intigrate the discipline into something altogether new and unfamiliar. To imagine that a follow-up might match the transparent loveliness of the original, not to mention transcend its soul-searching beauty, would, at best, seem unlikely. And yet as soon as you hear the opening, lonely notes of the incredible “Aurora” you realise that the pair have once again realised an ambition to embed complex discpilines into a sound that’s archetypal.
“Insen” finds Carsten Nicolai treating Ryuichi Sakamoto’s cascading piano compositions with a surgeon’s hand, embelishing notes and melody with a tapestry of digital breakages that seem to envelop the whole album with a reflective neon glow, becoming a vessel for all the emotions and memories provided by the listener.
Documenting a collaboration between poet Anne-James Chaton, guitarist Andy Moor and Raster-Noton boss Carsten 'Alva Noto' Nicolai. Chaton's clipped, monotone French delivery gives the whole work the feel of a post-Kraftwerk cold wave or industrial record - you could be fooled into thinking 'Calculus' or 'In The ISS" had been taken from an old Doxa-Sinistra tape, were the production not so crisp, punchy and spotless. Nicolai supplies a terrifically minimalist but dynamic backdrop for Chaton's words, its droning ambience punctuated with bullet-like percussion (the bolshiest number, 'Back In Town', sounds like Von Sudenfed gone Gallic), but the real star of the show is The Ex's Andy Moor, whose guitar parts, as treated and arranged by Nicolai, are just incredible, whether channelling atonal drone-metal ('On Stage') or something altogether more minimalist and textural ('Nihon No Tabi').
Xerrox Vol.1 is the first of five in an intended series and is based on the concept of copying. Together with Christoph Brünggel, Nicolai designed a 'sample transformer' which would take audio fragments and manipulate them beyond recognition, taking something familiar and de-familiarising it. The result is perhaps the definitive Alva Noto album and one of the most sublime releases in Carsten Nicolai's weighty catalogue.
Samples were taken from the most obvious sources; advertising jingles, airport tones, telephone hold music and film soundtracks, but the resulting album manages to sound totally unlike any of these things. Instead, what you end with is a series of haunting and intricately realised pieces that re-contextualise his patented 'glitches and bass' sound into long, organic and sometimes almost orchestral pieces of work.
The digital elements are reduced into little more than static noise, leaving only trace echoes of the original material building and falling graciously. On 'Haliod Xerrox Copy 1', for example, ghostly slivers of muzak are played back from what sounds like ancient answerphone tape, making for a gorgeously cinematic and effortlessly experimental soundworld.
**Part 1 of 3** This release is presented in three cds: Transrapid, Transvision and finally, Transspray. Across the 3 installments special emphasis is put on the rhythmic aspects of minimalism, utilising Carsten Nicolai's maverick minimal intricacies in brilliant white surroundings. There's a crisp clarity to Nicolai's construction's that's very hard to dissect - you know that you shouldn't be able to relate to this music's sparse trajectory emotionally, and yet, in between moments of microscopic dissection and malfunctioning arrangements - the material works on an incredibly moving level. Carsten Nicolai has been working on this material for over two years, these three releases also adhering to Raster Noton's strict aesthetic emphasis - housed in absolutely sublime booklet-sized die-cut packaging that visually reflects the contents to be found within. Incredible music.
‘Summvs’ is the fifth and purportedly final collaborative album from the dream-team of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto). Since 2002 the two musicians have fused their disciplines near-faultlessly, with Sakamoto’s evocative piano-based compositions melting effortlessly into Nicolai’s skillful digital rhythms and cautious manipulations. Each album has brought the duo slightly closer together, and ‘summvs’ (the title an amalgamation of the words summa and versus) sees their work reach critical mass. With Sakamoto apparently working on a rare piano (one of only fifteen in the world) using 16th interval tuning, and Nicolai expanding on his newfound love of harmony and melody, the results are much warmer than their earlier experiments, and all the better for it. While Nicolai’s glacial digital hiccups were always a draw for some, I found at times they distracted from the focus of the pieces – and here rather than eliminate them altogether Nicolai tempers them, working them into a more harmonic framework. The familiar bass-heavy shuffle we fell in love with all those years ago on ‘Transform’ still crops up occasionally, most noticeably on ‘Pioneer IOO’, but it's balanced by an unforgettable cinematic haze of ‘Naono’ (a clear standout – think Deaf Center, Ben Frost or The Fun Years) and ‘Halo’. There is something elegiac and deeply final about ‘summvs’, it feels like an ink stamp, an underline, a statement from the duo saying ‘this is it, and this is the best it can be’, and it truly is. Memorable, atmospheric and beautiful – even if you’ve missed all four of their previous albums, ‘summvs’ is the one to buy. Easily a highlight of 2011 thus far – you know what to do.
A second album of dedications from Carsten Nicolai. 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.
Carsten Nicolai is hardly a slouch in terms of his release frequency, but it feels like a rare treat to hear the Raster Noton boss exploring the jerky rhythmic variations he does so well. ‘Univrs’ is a followup to 2008’s ‘Unitxt’, and has an equally lofty and academic sidestory, but we don’t really need to go into that. The fact is that this might be Carsten’s best full-length since the genre-numbing ‘Transform’ back in 2001. Yep, ten years ago – and while he’s had some cracking releases since, few seem as perfectly crafted and dangerous as this. The gorgeous humming melodies of ‘Xerrox’ and the serene experiments of his collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto are nowhere to be seen, instead we’re treated to rugged industrial barrages of beats, violent noise and occasional glassy tones. It’s like Pan Sonic or Sleeparchive thrown through the corroded guts of Ted Hughes’s Iron Man then fed into Bill Gates’s nightmares, trust me on this one. There are elements of the long-gone clicks ‘n cuts scene Nicolai helped create, echoes of Einsturzende Neubauten, and a sly wink to the current crop of gloomy 4/4 operators, but Nicolai’s sound is really all his own. He’s been perfecting these rhythms for so long that it feels he’s operating inside his own genre, and mercifully without any of the self-indulgence you might expect from someone of his stature. ‘Univrs’ is a record made for enjoyment - sleazy, basement style, rusty enjoyment. It’s the record we’ve wanted him to make for far too long and it delivers on every level.
Those of you who heard the Alva Noto remix of Bjork's 'Innocence' have already been given a preview of the rhythmic processes behind Unitxt, which aesthetically follows along similar lines to the Trans series of releases. Recorded over the past couple of years, this album's inception came about during the Raster Noton tour of Japan between 2006 and 2007, only to be finally revised and edited into its current form within recent months. Of all the rhythm-based music by Alva Noto, this latest batch probably marks the greatest levels of detail and elaboration. If an album like Transform was largely characterised by a strict and pristine approach to minimalism and subtlety, Unitxt presents a more complex and full-blooded exercise. The essential building blocks of the Alva Noto sound remain pared down and elemental, but there's something uncommonly visceral about Nicolai's compositional technique this time around, which while still familiar and unmistakably his work, sounds charged with renewed levels of ferocity and kinetic energy. Surprisingly, this album isn't entirely impervious to human interventions, and Poet Anne-James Chaton appears on eight-minute opening track 'U_07', offering a portrait of Carsten Nicolai in numbers and text, reading out the various pieces of information found in Nicolai's wallet, from invoices, business cards, notes and even credit card information. This theme of spoken numeric information is continued on 'U_08-1', in which Chaton recites a series of digits corresponding to the 'Golden Ratio', which conceptually is all very much in keeping with the kind of geometric-acoustic perfection suggested by Noto's intensely organised soundworld. The album is divided into two distinct sections: after an initial sequence of ten conventional recordings, the remaining sixteen audio tracks are occupied by various kinds of data having been converted into audio information, with software applications like Excel, Word and Powerpoint all reinterpreted as a raw stream of sound matter. The end result is surprisingly beautiful, and very much akin to the kind of radical, uncompromising digital experiments of Farmers Manual. There's a certain logical elegance to the fact that these sound files - sourced from programs you'd use everyday in an office - actually sound rather like the various mechanisms of technology you might have encountered over the years, from the rhythmic splutter of printers to the loading sounds of old 8 bit computers. When it's presented to you in this context, you really appreciate how chaotic, alien and how absolutely beautiful this continuous bombardment of data can be. Coupled with the recent Ryoji Ikeda Test Pattern CD, Unitxt presents a hugely absorbing perspective on our relationship with the information that's all around us, all the time. An amazing album - Hugely recommended.
**Part 3 of 3** This release is presented in three cds: Transrapid, Transvision and finally, Transspray. Across the 3 installments special emphasis is put on the rhythmic aspects of minimalism, utilising Carsten Nicolai's maverick minimal intricacies in brilliant white surroundings. There's a crisp clarity to Nicolai's construction's that's very hard to dissect - you know that you shouldn't be able to relate to this music's sparse trajectory emotionally, and yet, in between moments of microscopic dissection and malfunctioning arrangements - the material works on an incredibly moving level. Carsten Nicolai has been working on this material for over two years, these three releases also adhering to Raster Noton's strict aesthetic emphasis - housed in absolutely sublime booklet-sized die-cut packaging that visually reflects the contents to be found within. Incredible music.
**Part 2 of 3** This release is presented in three cds: Transrapid, Transvision and finally, Transspray. Across the 3 installments special emphasis is put on the rhythmic aspects of minimalism, utilising Carsten Nicolai's maverick minimal intricacies in brilliant white surroundings. There's a crisp clarity to Nicolai's construction's that's very hard to dissect - you know that you shouldn't be able to relate to this music's sparse trajectory emotionally, and yet, in between moments of microscopic dissection and malfunctioning arrangements - the material works on an incredibly moving level. Carsten Nicolai has been working on this material for over two years, these three releases also adhering to Raster Noton's strict aesthetic emphasis - housed in absolutely sublime booklet-sized die-cut packaging that visually reflects the contents to be found within. Incredible music.
Returning to his much lauded Xerrox project, Alva Noto has delivered one of the most emotionally arresting album's we've heard in recent times.
Carsten Nicolai once again shuns the pinpoint precision for which he's become renowned, turning to a more abstract yet harmony-driven working methodology. As with the first Xerrox album, the starting point is a set of samples culled from external sources; this time around, snippets and recordings of SunnO))) dronesmith Stephen O'Malley and composer Michael Nyman feature, as does an excerpt from the 2004 Insen tour with Ryuichi Sakamoto.
All these elements weld together under a unified banner of widescreen, washed-out digital ambiences, molten electronics and, in the case of pieces like the outstanding 'Monophaser 1', an ambitiously symphonic scale. If the main thread of Alva Noto's music (as exemplified by last year's Unitxt) inhabits the domain of all things 'micro', the Xerrox albums surely represent a bold venture into the realm of making grand yet utterly intimate gestures that would find a kindred spirit in the stately neo-classical drones of Fennesz's Black Sea or Deaf Center's 'Pale Ravine' albums.
While floods of strings and sustained electrical signals compound the amorphous feel of the album, tracks like 'Teion Acat 1' draw attention to familiarly process-heavy, more rhythmically organised elements - the music in this instance embraces a fissure-ridden post-dub feel that recalls Pole's first three albums. Elsewhere, 'Sora' sounds like a mournful orchestra being pumped into some fatally broken digital mixer, while 'Meta Phaser' flirts with a sound that recalls KTL rendered through a bad telephone connection.
While Noto's oeuvre is predominantly associated with pristine and prodigiously precise sound designs, Xerrox is governed by a more chaotic, emotional sensibility, and this second volume feels like an even greater step away from the comforting orderliness of prior successes, opening up exciting new avenues paved with noise, melody and a big pulsing heart.
Two of the most distinctive presences in German experimental music unite for this stunning new collaborative venture, introducing the project with a five-track 12" that precedes a full-length due later on in the year. As it turns out, these two seemingly strange bedfellows have long admired one another's work and the project has itself been a long-term concern, in development since 2007. Bargeld lends his vocal to Nicolai's soundscapes, a formula that in theory might lead to an end product resembling Alan Vega's work with Pan Sonic. There is, however, something rather more immediately synergetic about this project, and Bargeld's voice embeds itself very naturally within Nicolai's seemingly inhospitable, yet ever-inscrutable production. Lead track 'Ret Marut Handshake' sets the tone, and everything immediately slots into place: the Einsturzende Neubauten frontman (and sometime Nick Cave sideman) Bargeld gives a commandingly expressive vocal performance that functions perfectly in counterpoint to the clinical precision of the pinpoint backdrop. While familiar Alva Noto hallmarks are in place, there's actually very little about the track that could be branded 'minimal', and the production soon reveals itself to be a multi-layered and robust affair. Possibly the biggest curveball on the EP, arriving next is a cover of Harry Nilsson's 'One' (from 1968's Aerial Ballet album, later popularised all over again by Aimee Mann on the Magnolia soundtrack). While it's mildly peculiar to hear Bargeld emotively intoning his way through the song, it's flat out bizarre to think that this is in any way the handiwork of Noto, an artist responsible for countless high-concept sound installations and uncompromising glitch landmarks like 'Transform'. Yet it's the terse digital arrangement that makes the piece so compelling - the solitary theme being underlined by the lonesome, metronomic blip running throughout the track. Subtle waves of noise and Xerrox-like quasi-orchestral timbres frame hints of piano, completing a logic-defyingly great rendition. A considerably more abstract affair, 'Electricity Is Fiction' introduces the B-side, laying down a rhythmic barrage while Bargeld's digitised voice floods every corner of the mix - even providing a vintage electro-style ascending/descending bassline. Switching tone again, 'Bersteinzimer' channels a richly elegiac tone that calls upon a string ensemble, a few loose high frequency drones and a palpable sense of drama. Bargeld's clearly in his element here, delivering a central performance that's devoid of production tricks or manipulations. Another cover completes the EP: 'I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground' is a traditional American folk song that's been boldly rearranged by the two Berliners. Nicolai is at his most restrained, supplying only the leanest backdrop of bass-heavy, panning electricity surges and snare-like percussive noise while Bargeld puts in an engagingly natural and forthright vocal. Exciting stuff from these two avant-garde greats; let's hope the album isn't too far behind.
Alva Noto’s 2000 debut album ‘Prototypes’ is finally, officially available to download for the first time, with a bonus track to boot.
Upon its release, ‘Prototypes’ marked a new high water mark of precision tooled electronic minimalism. Recorded 1999-2000 in Berlin, it morphed inspiration from sculptural work by Austrian artist Walter Pichler, known for his radical architectural work, into a series of ultra sparse, spacious arrangements of icy rhythmic pointillism, dense subbass, and barely there tonal presences for the Mille Plateaux label.
19 years (jeeeeez it’s never that long?!) later the album still sounds exceptional. It’s patently a product of the glitch era, yet future-proofed by its meticulously minimalist, near-elemental approach to the fundamentals of sound and music. Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto’s solo music has remained mostly minimalist ever since, but has taken on some more fleshly body over the years, leaving ‘Prototype’ as a skeletal Ur-text reminder of where he and electronic music have been and gone over the past 2 decades.
Vrioon', quite simply, is a work overloaded with beauty. The blue, solitary Piano of Sakamoto bleeding into the micro-constructions of Carsten Nicolai's rewired machinery.
"During his first live tour in Japan, Carsten Nicolai met Ryuichi Sakamoto in Tokyo. One year later Nicolai was asked to remix material from Sakamoto for the Japanese magazine Code Unfinished. '...The material that was given to me was already layered with digital effects. From one little clean piano piece I made the first track. I combined those simple piano chords with a clear rhythm constellation. Somehow Ryuichi was very surprised and really liked my work. Weeks later he sent me another piece recorded specifically for this project ."
Classic material from the Raster Noton vaults, this first full-length collaboration between Carsten Nicolai and Thomas Knak finds both artists at the very height of their powers. There's a level of focus on this album that allows the whole experiment to gel together far more convincingly than on the follow-up album released only a year or two back. Bringing to mind Transform-era Alva Noto and Possible-era Opiate these tracks seamlessly integrate subtle, elemental electronic melodies into the kind of sterilised rhythmic frameworks Nicolai made his name with. That said, Knak isn't just here to provide a tuneful foil to the Alva Noto clicks+cuts machine - he can glitch it up with the best, serving up dub chamber echo sparks to add a more analogue, physical slant on the prickly micro beats. It's really wonderful to hear this again, and it surely stands as a considerable achievement that even six years on from its release this music still sounds like a cutting edge piece of electronica. 'Opto File 1' is just magical: the warm crackle of those beats and the gradual hum of undulating chords sounds like an orchestra of fluorescent tubes switching themselves on and off with some freakishly musical outcome. Awesome.
Now I'm not going to be coy about this, we like Carsten Nicolai very much indeed here and with classic albums on his own Raster Noton label, a string of breathtaking collaborations with Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto and unmatched solo albums on the seminal Mille Plateaux imprint, he's been a busy man over the last decade. 'For' brings together work Nicolai has put together over the last four years, and stylistically it's closer to the subtle digital minimalism of 'Prototypes' than his later R+B-flecked bass heavy jams. It is a welcome return though, 'Prototypes' was a magnificent showcase of restraint, and I for one have hoped Nicolai would go back to something this simple, this effective again. It doesn't stop here either, the record is, for Nicolai especially, incredibly varied and unpredictable - from glacial minimalism one minute to Rhodes-led prog territory or Coil influenced dark drones the next - the variety works wonders for Nicolai's sound and makes this one of his most gripping records to date. The record ends with a track dedicated to the great John Cage and returns to the deep bass and cut piano sounds that are now so synonymous with the Alva Noto name, a perfect way to end an essential addition to the catalogue of one of the great producers of modern electronic music.
Glass offers the sublime results of a collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), as performed and recorded at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut during the private opening to Yayoi Kusama’s installation marking the 110th anniversary of Johnson’s birth.
Making sterling use of the landmark architectural work’s pellucid dimensions, the pair fixed contact mics to its glass walls, which they effectively played as an “instrument”, rubbing it with rubber gong mallets to generate delicate tones which they combined with a sympathetic palette of singing glass bowls, crotales, keyboards and mixers.
The seamless performance of floating, weightless tones and exquisitely quivering timbres is without doubt one of their finest. For the duration we’re held static and spellbound by the pair’s interplay of microtonal shifts and plasmic chronics, keening the listener thru hazes of digital dust and vortices of angelic harmonics to locate, alchemise and resolve a rarified, deeply mysterious spirit before the piece closes.
As the follow-up to their OST for The Revenant  and the warbling keys of Summvs  before that, the achingly lush tension of Glass is perhaps the purest testament to the clarity of vision and endless minimalist mutability of this highly revered duo.
Alva Noto beautifully exchanges austerity for cinematographic lushness with the remarkably widescreen 3rd volume in his 'Xerrox' series. Inspired by private, formative influences such as 'La Isla Misteriosa y el Capitán' - based on Jules Verne's 'The Mysterious Island' - and Tarvosky's screen adaptation of 'Solaris', he uses the self-designed Xerrox software to transpose early, ingenuous feelings of awe and wonder into innovative, intimate atmospheres and dynamic soundscapes. In keeping with the series' focus on "using the process of copying as a basis", and the manner in which the inherent infidelities of copies manifest as originals in their own right, these eleven impressionistic scenes could be heard as copies of memories; parsing the soul for patterns of emotional data that is subsequently refracted/reflected as melodic vectors and unquantifiably ambiguous noise. The results, ranging from heart-rending elegies to mind-bending sci-fi projections, flip the notion of Alva Noto as a clinically dry aesthete dangerously close to somewhere tender, even sentimental, surpassing even his own expectations in the process, stating; " "I see xerrox vol. 3 as my most personal album so far. I have to admit that this emotional output is a surprise even for myself. it remains exciting how the last two albums of this series will sound like." It's really rather special.
A most welcome return for one of the most successful creative partnerships in contemporary experimental music, UTP_ reunites Carsten Nicolai with Ryuichi Sakamoto for a special audio-visual 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, 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.
Fatima Al Qadiri, Jasss, Florian Kupfer, Ben Frost, and Luis Da Silva reorganise highlights of Alva Noto’s 2018 album, ‘Unieqav’
The artists variously expand on the album’s brooding cinematic and dancefloor themes in a mixture of anticipated and unexpected ways. Fatima Al Qadiri turns ‘Uni Sub’ into a stately transition from brassy fanfare to rolling electro, whereas Ben frost surprises with a driving techno take on ‘Uni Normal’ powered by an increasingly unruly core of pounding bass. Jasss arguably serves the biggest highlight, turning ‘Uni Blue’ into a staggering, hair-kissing breakbeat electro epic recalling late ‘90s Ae, while Florian Kupfer turns the same elements into a squeaky techno slammer.
In much the same way as label-mate and colleague Frank Bretschneider, Carsten Nicolai (under his recording guise of Alva Noto) has perfected a strain of clicky minimalism that is increasingly less reliant on the presence of gaps and silence, and instead focuses on the role played by bass pulses and basic groove formation. The components here are distinct and stripped, but the overall construction is not too disimillar to the more accessable compositional tricks of Dub and IDM. Silence, off course, figures in the reflective engineering of the sound space, whereby the ideology is that of space and isolation, but the interpretation is nothing short of accessable. For fans of Ryoji Ikeda and Pan Sonic, Transformation is a standout release that comes across best via headphone listening. Highly Recommended.
Jasss turns Alva Noto’s brooding ‘Uni Blue’ into a extended, roiling electro-techno missile for NOTON
Picking up where the original cut from ‘Unieqav’ left off, the Galician DJ/producer teases out its lugubrious bassline into a nine minute electro spectacle bound to own big rooms and warehouses if dropped at the right time.
Emma-Jean Thackray reissues the long out of print ‘Ley Lines’ and ‘Walrus’ EPs on her label Movementt.
"As a musician, composer, singer, producer and DJ Emma wrote, recorded and played every note on the ‘Ley Lines’ EP. Originally released in 2018 in a limited run of 500 copies, which flew off the shelves and became an instant classic. ‘Ley Lines’ was championed by DJs including Gilles Peterson and Jamie Cullum and earned Emma- Jean Thackray a nomination for Breakthrough Artist Of The Year at Jazz FM Awards and Jazz Album Of The Year at WorldWide Awards in 2019. Originally self-released in 2016 and picked up by DJs such as Theo Parrish and Mr Scruff, ‘Walrus’ has achieved cult status among fans and shows the beginnings of Emma’s journey through her early experiments in fusing the brass-band sounds of her youth with psychedelic jazz grooves, establishing her trajectory as one of the most talented young musicians whose ambitions go far beyond narrow genre tags."
Incredibly, the five year anniversary of Invisible, Inc. is upon us. Five whole years of bringing you music from the outer reaches and the fringes of obscurity, to the inner workings of your psyche.
"Let's rewind five years to the very beginning. Invisible Inc was started with the aim of releasing music to a wider audience that deserved wider attention. Amongst the new music there was also vast amounts of music previously only available digitally that seemed to vanish as quickly as it appeared...or music that came out on self-released CDrs or cassettes in incredibly small runs; music that deserved being brought out on vinyl to actual record stores worldwide and thus helping those artists widen their fanbase. Thus, connections were made that wouldn't have been made otherwise. It's undeniable that now more than ever, a physical release stands out from the billions of digital-only releases that we can all so easily drown in.
In the five years of its existence the label has certainly grown. I would never have thought that I would release music by such luminaries as Tonto's Expanding Head Band, Laraaji and K. Leimer - all 'veteran' artists with a legacy that I have been in awe of for years.
But as much as there are a few 'established' names appearing on the catalogue now, the ethos of unearthing unheard-of musical gems and getting them out there remains.
V is for Vision is no different. 'Kailash' by Sigward & Oliver Sudden, for instance. Originally relased digitally-only in 2018, it's a stunning piece of dark, downtempo electro with a distinct nod to minimal wave and synth goth that I very proudly present here on vinyl for the first time.
Don’t let that fool you that the label could ever be described as a 'reissue' label. The aim was always to find music that had gone so far under the radar that it would be widely considered as sounding as fresh as the day it was made. And in that respect much of the compilation features artists that are extremely ‘fresh’ at the moment...and this is deliberate. I specifically approached artists who had released some of my favourite music of 2019: Anatolian Weapons, Youkounkoun, Puma & The Dolphin, Golden Bug & In Fields and TCB. These five artists released some seriously amazing music in 2019 that you should hunt down at all costs.
Add to this artists already released on Invisible Inc: Secret Circuit, Sordid Sound System and Double Discone (the former two on board since the very beginning, the latter appearing for the first time just earlier this year) and we have a selection of artists both old and new that I feel widen the span of the five years of the label as much as possible."
Sweetly sore, contemplative chamber-pop missives from Newcastle’s Craig Pollard, returning to Slip with a subtle expansion of their quietly, confidently vulnerable style of songcraft - precisely puckered arrangements riddled with burred lyrics - imagine Mica meets Paddy McAloon.
“Competition makes a blue return to Slip with 'Repetititive Music': a sawn-off songbook of doting vocals and incisive, heart-ache instrumentals, carried with a soft swagger.
Poised between insistence and tenderness, 'Repetititive Music' is an assured, dreamy successor to 2018's 'You turned into a painting'. As ever, there is Competition's rare care and delight in the unadorned material of modern song. Chopped strings, keys, machines and speech are screwed with classical grace. A voice pines and frays as it circles. Beyond the cut and the loop something yearns and lingers.
Craig Pollard (aka Competition) is a quietly pivotal figure in Newcastle's musical underground, curating events as one half of the Wild Pop collective and operating across the city's artist-led communities. A collection of Craig's writing - 'Inside A Gleaming Feeling' - is forthcoming on Glasgow press The Grass is Green in the Fields For You.”
Carsten Nicolai concludes Alva Noto’s UNI-prefixed release cycle with UNIEQAV, the 3rd and most dancefloor-focussed instalment of the series. The follow-up to Unitxt  and Univrs  pairs pendulous minimal techno and electro rhythms with wide, sheer electronic drones in a way that strongly recalls recent Monolake output as well as Ilpo Väisänen in full swang. Comparisons aside, though, it’s unmistakably Alva Noto.
Pursuing the project’s roots in the dancefloor of Tokyo’s UNIT club to a satisfyingly logical endpoint, Nicolai rolls out 12 typically mercurial yet gripping sound designs defined by their fluid dynamics and seemingly fathomless dimensions intended to render the club or your head underwater, thanks to a still remarkable grasp of purified tonal minimalism/maximalism and studied sensitivity to proprioception.
The results are filigree yet robust, firmed up for deployment on the sickest sound system you can lay your hands on, but also highly pleasurable in a headphone or sofa-inclined context, keeping us rapt and twitching from the dubwise plong and looming pads of Uni Sub and the Robert Henke-esque pressure systems of Uni Mia.
The nervous skeleton of Uni Version flows into singular Alva Noto sounds in the jabbing pointillism of Uni Clip and the staggering scale of Uni Normal, with major highlights in the widescreen drama of Uni Blue, and footwork-like rapid movement join Uni Edit, while Anne-James Chaton’s vocal lend a sharp contrast in Uni Dna.
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto share recordings of their show at Sydney Opera House in 2018, yielding 80 minutes of sublime, glassy electronics; minimal but full of that light-handed emotive brilliance Sakamoto seems to always supply so generously, and with such little effort. Gorgeous, moving music.
“Last year the duo undertook a series of live events entitled ‘TWO’ at Berlin’s Funkhaus, Barcelona’s Theatre Grec (closing Sonar Festival’s 25th Anniversary), London’s Barbican Centre and Melbourne’s Hammer Hall, before culminating at Sydney Opera House, where their two hour set was recorded and edited down, forming this album.
“’TWO’’s pulsing, immersive live performance melded electronic and analogue instrumentation with striking visuals to create one of the most precise, beautiful and challengingly magnetic pieces we have ever had the privilege of staging. That Sakamoto and Noto are pleased enough with the recorded result to share its continuously unfolding, sinuous, questioning music with others is as singular an honour as it was for Sydney Opera House to host them." Ben Marshall - Head of Contemporary Music, Sydney Opera House.
Sharing a deep simpatico synergy, Alva Noto’s abstract electronic formalism contrasts and compliments Sakamoto’s exquisitely elegant piano finesse, which incorporates an individualistic take on classical, contemporary, minimalism and even a touch of jazz. At points melodic, atmospheric, gently rhythmic, textural and spatial, audio headspaces range from intimate and serene womb-like flotation, infinite fathoms of dark metaphysical expanse and moments of devastatingly poignant beauty.
The sparing, subtle use of parts populating the mix belies a deceptively effective whole, which indicates two masters’ skill and confidence in being able to say something profound with an intentionally restricted sonic vocabulary. At all times the album maintains a calm poise, and despite its improvised nature withholds an innate harmony and graceful order. Like two aural architects free-drawing, this is sound design for better living.”
With their first LP in over three years, Californian psych-dub duo Peaking Lights return with a kaleidoscopic collection of lo-fi, escapist-electronic pop.
"Over their illustrious twelve-year-plus career, the husband and wife duo of Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis have set themselves apart with their characteristic dreamy, and melancholic sound that blends together elements of dub, and delicate-but-quirky electronics. E S C A P E, Peaking Light’s sixth album, and first for Dekmantel, finds them at their finest, replete with atmospheric landscapes crafted out of homemade-percussive loops, that sit alongside wondrous electronic pop and krautrock-like hooks, all tied together by Indra Dunis’ composed and hypnotic vocal charm.
Now based out in Amsterdam, and having firmly established themselves on Dekmantel with their 2018 EP Sea of Sand, Coyes and Dunis’ unique brand of indie-synthwave yet further explores their ongoing delve into transcendental, psychedelic music. With E S C A P E, the production duo illustrate their pragmatic use of instrumentation and dubbing to create more heady and celestial avant-pop. From the very outset on opening track ‘Dharma’, the band’s iconic retro-dub aesthetic kicks in, before being accompanied by a litany of drum machines, sweeping compressed effects, and Dunis’ hypnotic serene vocals. Coyes, somewhat of a connoisseur and collector of varying studio gear adopts his steadfast dynamic approach to production, playing with new mixing techniques, tape loops, compression and effects throughout. It’s this freedom to indulge, and create new instruments, processes and sounds that have made Peaking Lights unique; an ever-present industriousness that characterises E S C A P E, whether it be on the deep textures of ‘Change Always Comes’, to the cathartic 80s pre-rave-wave of ‘The Damned’.
E S C A P E is a vibrant moment full of multi-spectral melodies crafted in an aesthetic the group have excelled in and made their own; a style exemplified by their breakout 2011 LP 936. And throughout E S C A P E, whether it’s on the esoteric ‘Eyes Alive’ to the mesmerising beach rhythms of ‘Dreams’, Peaking Lights’ rich and reverberated sonic palette shines through. For both dreamers and dancers alike, the latest offering to Peaking Lights’ illustrious catalogue is a true mind-expanding and fantastical listen full of passion and catharsis."
Proper, um, conceptronica from Alva Noto + Anne-James Chaton, bridging Middle Ages texts and modern electronic minimalism to reflect on how we perceive ourselves in the digital world
“ALPHABET takes its inspiration from the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville – a gargantuan encyclopaedia from the seventh century and the most widely-used textbook of the Middle Ages. TakingEtymologies as its starting point, ALPHABET explores the strategies man devised to represent the world and applies them to the digital age. It’s a piece that invites the spectator to immerse themselves in the multiple relationships between, language, its digital translations and our understanding of the world.
It’s the latest in many collaborations between the pair. Their various projects blend machinery and language, creating a dense electronic sound structure. With ALPHABET – also being released as a record – they speak a new language generated by the fusion of objective poetry and minimal music.”
Carsten Nicolai and Ryoji Ikeda’s seminal minimalist project is now finally available to download. Originally issued on CD and LP in 2001, cyclo.’s . was, and more or less still is, the last word in purest, stoically funked-up digital sound pressure.
“cyclo. is a collaborative research project by Ikeda and Nicolai which focuses on the visualisation of sound. The artists are developing a database of sounds that they are composing for the visual responses these produce when analysed in real time using equipment developed originally for phase correlation in mastering vinyl records. With such stereo image monitoring equipment, the phase and amplitude of stereo signals can be illustrated graphically.
The audio elements have been constructed and chosen through agendas concerned with the minute editing of frequencies (often beyond the physical range of human hearing) and the perceptual amassing of audio elements to an undefined point. For Nicolai and Ikeda an 'infinity index’ of sound fragments is a conscious motivation forming the basis of their research and feeding cyclo. with the audio material required for visuality.
In amassing this archive, Nicolai and Ikeda transcend the usual dynamic whereby image acts merely as a functional accompaniment to sound. They arrive at a standpoint from which the audio element in the process is subservient to the desire and appetite of the image. Although this imaging is purely 2-D in display, the process proposes 3-D possibilities. Their proposition is that the structural complexities of these visual metered shapes, born and examined from the perspective of audio metering, may have in them a rich potential for architects, designers and engineers to find starting points for structural readings.”
Carsten Nicolai’s Noton present a masterclass in minimalist electronic discipline with Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto’s powerfully future-proofed Live 2002 performance, recorded at Newcastle’s Baltic arts centre.
The only known recording of the trio, as far as we’re aware, Live 2002 documents three visionary artists in seamless, indivisible collaboration segueing from sublime drone darkness (Movements 1) thru what sounds like a massive computer server centre playing dancehall (Movements 2 + 4), to fiercely dense electro dynamics (Movements 6) and passages of purest, rolling techno pressure (Movements 8), intercut with bodiless, beatless electronic frequency massages.
Being familiar with each artist’s respective, individual catalogues, we’re pretty astonished at the level of democratic control between the three singular producers. While it’s maybe possible (or pedantic) to pick out who’s doing what, and where and when, ultimately the 45 minute performance is a lesson in subtlety and restraint at the service of generating powerful, coolly organised pressure systems, without recourse to convention/cliché (delete as applicable), offering electronic sounds at the purest and perhaps even egoless. Definitely no grandstanding doofus in front of a massive IPhone screen filtering dull as fuck doofs here.