Sleeping Dogs Lie 11jun10: Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto

Vrioon was originally released back in 2003 to great critical acclaim, the product of an unusual creative partnership between the hugely prolific Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carston Nicolai, aka Alva Noto. The two met in Japan during Nicolai’s first live tour, but it wasn’t until Sakamoto heard a Noto remix of his own work commissioned by Code Unfinished magazine a year later that this two-year project began.

Vrioon was the product of musical creation via exchange rather than collaboration in the traditional sense, each artist composing, constructing and recording their parts of the process separately. Sakamoto built long passages of sparse yet emotionally charged and passionate piano solos, and Nicolai subsequently molded his trademark brand of sine waves, glitchy percussion and throbbing bass pulses around them.

The result of this ‘phoning-in’ process is a suite of amazingly cohesive and intertwined pieces that are contemplative, minimal and hypnotic. The aural equivalent of a solitary, spell in a Japanese stone garden, Nicolai’s systems-based rhythm structures sonically map the environment into which they are piped, while Sakamoto’s sensitive piano motifs breathe warmth and emotion into the mapped space. The protracted nature of these pieces further contributes to the music’s meditative aura and several pieces consist of two movements, the second eschewing the percussive elements of the first in favor of even more dreamy ambient layers.

Sakamoto has always been able to elicit a wealth of detail from even the most minimal of sources, and the elegant, minimal phrasing heard on the melancholy “Trioon I & II” is a perfect example. When coupled with medical bleeps, cool drones and half-felt bass glitches, the experience becomes positively transcendental.

Hard to sit down and listen to in one sitting as Vrioon can sometimes be, there’s no denying the understated impact that this body of work has, as well as the transforming and transporting effects it exerts both on the environment and the listener. If you only ever buy one release on the Raster-Noton label, this should be it. (

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto

1. Uoon I (13:51)
2. Uoon II (9:40)
3. Duoon (5:47)
4. Noon 10:13)
5. Trioon I (5:09)
6. Trioon II (9:57)