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Sleeping Dogs Lie 23jul10: Alva Noto

This Alva Noto CD brings together disparate recordings created throughout the last four years, unified under a theme of dedication. All nine studies share the history of being made specifically for someone or for a project that for one reason or another remained open ended.

“wall anfang” for example, opens with a the voice sample “there must be a reason why it is so clear in my mind.” When we realize the person speaking is pioneering contemporary Canadian photographer Jeff Wall, we may understand the rising high tone that introduces the track as the imitation of a photo-flash warming up to be triggered. The track was originally prepared for a documentary about Wall, who became famous for his large scale light boxes that cast white light evenly through his photographs. Like this balanced light, the track presents a purity of thought, that spirals inside and out, the voice of Wall breaking only impartially this conjecture of sound, while adding an atmosphere of introspection and study to the piece.

The percussive, almost marimba like sounds of the track “jr” echo the woodcutting of Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, (whose work Wall allegorized in his photograph A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai),1993). The stark, poised three point intervals of sound bring to mind the intricate and exquisitely considered compositions of Hokusai style of Ukiyo-e pictures of the floating world. Jhonn Balance’s premature death in 2004 gave way to multiple dedications to his life and music by people who took influence from his activities in Coil. The track “odradek” was originally prepared for the tribute record …It Just Is (In Memoriam: Jhonn Balance). Nicolai worked with Balance when commissioning him for the award winning release 20′ to 2000 a CD set for the last 20 minutes of the year 1999.

These diverse engagements come to rest within this release. Like the image that seals the font cover of the CD, that depicts liquid oscillating with various frequencies, we are reminded that sound can give form to image and to thought and that it may continue to resonate in absences, particles, or processes until a point of final closure. (Andrew Cannon, www.alvanoto.de)

1. Alva Noto: “Counter” (2:01) from “For” (2006)
2. Alva Noto: “Transit” (12:40) from “For” (2006)
3. Alva Noto: “Station Remo” (9:20) from “For” (2006)
4. Alva Noto: “Gulf Night” (6:36) from “For” (2006)
5. Alva Noto: “Flashforward” (7:43) from “For” (2006)
6. Alva Noto: “Jr” (4:30) from “For” (2006)
7. Alva Noto: “Odradek” (9:37) from “For” (2006)
8. Alva Noto: “Wall Anfang” (6:25) from “For” (2006)
9. Alva Noto: “Alva Noto.z1” (6:20) from “For” (2006)

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Sleeping Dogs Lie 16jul10: Alva Noto

Alva Noto’s latest venture into the Xerrox series has finally arrived. This time, the dusty tracks of Vol. 1 are shadowed by darkened clouds, and the air has become electrified with higher-voltage static. For instance, track 4 sounds almost as harsh as a droney, hypnotic track from Merzbow’s Electro Magnetic Unit. However, no one can deny Vol. 2’s highly intelligent and often touching musicality. The mood is sombre on many tracks, but Alva Noto expertly seduces the listener by peeling back layers of static to reveal the trademark strings which broke our hearts in Vol. 1. Here they sing different melodies, but the same underlying sorrow permeates the fuzzy atmosphere.

Works by Stephen O’Malley, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and even Michael Nyman were sampled and transformed into different creatures by the inimitable expertise of Alva Noto. Who knew that O’Malley’s crushing riffs could generate such haunting sadness (Xerrox Soma)? Who foresaw that Sakamoto’s commercial film score could be mutated into a gentle drone/glitch supernova (Xerrox Sora)? Who counted on feeling the beautiful soul of Fennesz glowing on tracks such as Xerrox Phaser Acat 1?

With its subtle surprises and ‘ear-opening’ ambience, Vol.2 no doubt lives up to its predecessor’s poetic brilliance and edginess. Carsten Nicolai could not have expressed himself any better. Once again, Xerrox has electrified and stunned us into stupendous awe. (Review by FLuViRuS)

01. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Phaser Acat 1” (12:11) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
02. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Rin” (0:51) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
03. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Soma” (7:11) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
04. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Meta Phaser” (6:23) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
05. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Sora” (6:54) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
06. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Monophaser 1” (8:04) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
07. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Monophaser 2” (5:31) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
08. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Teion” (2:03) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
09. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Teion Acat” (5:26) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
10. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Tek Part 1” (5:28) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)
11. Alva Noto: “Xerrox Monophaser 3” (6:14) from “Xerrox Vol. 2” (2009)

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Sleeping Dogs Lie 09jul10: Alva Noto

Restock. Well, I’ve now had time to absorb what is easily and unequivocally one of the most important releases of 2007 and the more I listen to it the more impressed I am. Not only does ones sense of time become severely dislocated whilst listening to it, but the sheer magnitude of the production is simply breathtaking. I was lucky enough to witness ‘Xerrox’ performed live at the Tate Modern last year and to say that this recording lives up to me expectations is a massive understatement. Carsten Nicolai has taken the seemingly innocuous background noise from various places and locations and transformed them into grainy works of sheer electronic genius with the shorter, fragmented interlude tracks forming natural links to the longer, more sculptural works. Classical, muzak, electronic tones and more are all treated with the greatest of care and once the pieces are in full flow you can expect to be utterly spellbound, awestruck and amazed by this man’s incredibly detailed work. Hyperbole is one thing… this isquite something else. Timeless, brilliant, incredibly atmospheric… say a big hello to one of the greatest Raster releases ever. Highly, highly recommended. (Smallfish Records)

01. Alva Noto: “10-22-38 Astoria” (0:19) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
02. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 4” (3:53) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
03. Alva Noto: “03-10-06 Astoria” (0:38) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
04. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 3 (Paris)” (11:17) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
05. Alva Noto: “03-10-06 Astoria 2” (0:36) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
06. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 2 (Airfrance)” (5:07) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
07. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 6” (6:40) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
08. Alva Noto: “05-10-06 Astoria” (0:22) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
09. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 11” (3:40) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
10. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 1” (9:16) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
11. Alva Noto: “02-10-06 Astoria 1” (0:52) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
12. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 111” (7:56) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
13. Alva Noto: “09-10-19 Astoria” (0:18) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)
14. Alva Noto: “Haliod Xerrox Copy 9” (11:04) from “Xerrox Vol.1” (2007)

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Sleeping Dogs Lie 02jul10: Alva Noto

Three simultaneously released EP’s that are really something of a trilogy. Once again, packaged elegantly in fold-out sleeve folders, the size of a greeting card with a practical and clean-line die cut that makes retrieval of the sounds inside at a fingers touch. It’s more physics from Carsten Nicolai, but here there seems to be a greater depth of independence from the pure physics of his linear sound, and a concentration on the asymmetry of pitter-patter microgrooves, following up on his amazing live work. With sixteen tracks in all, Transrapid is the first release in the set and kicking off with “Funkbugfx” couldn’t make the room fill up with warm scattered notes more quickly. It’s like dropping an armful of silverware in space, kling klang, indeed. The sizzling buzz is hotwired. It’s a confident, bass-built sound from the ground up – like some type of free-floating CAD design installation that you are cast into. This is surely one for a full-on surround sound treatment. And when it comes to tracks simply titled “Future” Nicolai doesn’t casually paste faux imagery for the fad expectant, he delves into the coarse innards of every curvilinear angle and turnabout presenting something of an organic architecture tested for stealth ears willing or not to accept the fact that cultural plasticity has outgrown us humans. By including tracks ranging in timing from :16 to 8 minutes+ he knows that even the scraps, the sources, the edits are essential to making sounds that layer together those slices in between matter, finding a rightful home when honed from scratch. Tracks like “F117.Tiff” just propel and sputter with an astute assumed sense of gravity. The sense that what you hear is in the fourth dimension is uncanny. If the original Planet of the Apes film were made so machines took over the planet, rather than chimps, it would sound like some of what is proposed on these new works. With a nod to some the drums and wires of early 80s synth pop, the work expands upon some of the rhythm nation of yore and contracts only every other note, cuts and filters it, adding only essential structures and no frilly fillers. Along with the accompanying esoteric essays written for each of these three discs, Nicolai has composed the most symbiotically formatted work to date. (www.igloomag.com)

01. Alva Noto: “Funkbugfx” (8:29) from “Transrapid” (2004)
02. Alva Noto: “Pulse (XS Version)” (2:32) from “Transrapid” (2004)
03. Alva Noto: “Future” (7:15) from “Transrapid” (2004)
04. Alva Noto: “Highmatrix” (2:21) from “Transrapid” (2004)
05. Alva Noto: “Remodel” (5:33) from “Transvision” (2005)
06. Alva Noto: “J” (5:52) from “Transvision” (2005)
07. Alva Noto: “Postfabric” (3:30) from “Transvision” (2005)
08. Alva Noto: “10” (6:16) from “Transvision” (2005)
09. Alva Noto: “Bit” (5:49) from “Transspray” (2005)
10. Alva Noto: “Birr” (1:48) from “Transspray” (2005)
11. Alva Noto: “Obi One (Edit XS Version)” (2:40) from “Transspray” (2005)
12. Alva Noto: “Autoshape” (5:39) from “Transspray” (2005)
13. Alva Noto: “Spray” (1:39) from “Transspray” (2005)

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Sleeping Dogs Lie 25jun10: Alva Noto

Alva Noto is the project name of Berlin’s audio/visual artist Carsten Nicolai (he who put the “Noton” in the Raster-Noton label). As the microscopic glitchcraft within is underscored by various subsonic activities you won’t want to miss, I recommend that you listen to Transform on a system with good bass-response.

The low-low-low frequencies of 1 sometimes pulse rhythmically, and are continually bespeckled with sputtering digital flecks and shimmery looping materials. Rippling machinelike emanations meet with 2’s high insectoid buzzes. Thumping/sparking syncopations stir the steady drones and sparse crackles of 3 (10:09).

Thrumming energies hover beneath the lightly crunchy rhythms of 4 evolving into something like deep-house gone micro. Amid a barely-wavering mechanical haze, 6’s fragmented percussion elements sputter in time with brief-but-suggestive throbs. hough there seems to be little to hang onto amidst its gauze-and-stutter, 9 proves to be quite catchy; its sonic backdrop extends (sans “beats”) into and through closing track, 10 (2:41).

Crisp, yet often vague, the rarefied rhythms of transform are even more intriguing for what’s not there… extraneous details are stripped away to reveal skeletal beat-patterns, deep emissions and bits of audio detritus. Ten such tracks fill almost-an-hour with alva noto’s 9.1 entrancing disintegrations. (Spider Bytes, www.squidco.com)

01. Alva Noto: “m 01” (5:50) from “Transform” (2001)
02. Alva Noto: “m 02” (3:37) from “Transform” (2001)
03. Alva Noto: “m 03” (10:09) from “Transform” (2001)
04. Alva Noto: “m 04” (6:26) from “Transform” (2001)
05. Alva Noto: “m 05” (4:43) from “Transform” (2001)
06. Alva Noto: “m 06” (5:36) from “Transform” (2001)
07. Alva Noto: “m 07” (4:58) from “Transform” (2001)
08. Alva Noto: “m 08” (5:27) from “Transform” (2001)
09. Alva Noto: “m 09” (7:45) from “Transform” (2001)
10. Alva Noto: “m 10” (2:41) from “Transform” (2001)

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Sleeping Dogs Lie 18jun10: Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto

Alva Noto is the operating alias of Carsten Nicolai, who, together with Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, form the musical triumvirate that is Raster Noton Archiv Für Ton Und Nichtton. The label releases a spectrum of electronica that ranges from abstract to ultra-minimal. The roots of much of its output, together with its frequently attractive packaging, might be traced as much to fine art movements like Minimalism and Suprematism as the musical futurism of Detroit techno or Kraftwerk’s negotiation of the man/machine interface.

Insen is heir to Vrioon (2003), Alva Noto’s collaboration with Japanese multi-instrumentalist Ryuichi Sakamoto. Both represent something of a departure from the ascetic bent of their peers. Both explore the potential for interaction and tension between electronic and acoustic instrumentation, the latter taking form in Sakamoto’s piano. This relationship lies at the core of Insen and continues Vrioon’s cool melancholia in subtler, even more streamlined fashion. If each part of the marriage were isolated into constituent parts, they might prove too clinical or precious, but together a delicate vibrancy is created. The air-borne reverberations of the acoustic piano combine, impact and dissolve with digital loops, prods and waverings.

On “Aurora” notes are sustained and released as if Sakamoto were bidding a final, unwilling farewell to each one. On “Morning” he prods rising arpeggios gently as if afraid they might shatter. At the same time, echoing electronic streams and trembling resonances complement the pianist’s performance. Such is the sympathy of these elements that, moment by moment, the sense of a remarkably unified form is created. This is the initial impression at least. However, the association proves to be a mutable one. At times, as on “Logic Moon” – the piano becomes so enswathed in its own gossamer-thin feedback that it seems to disappear like a receding, fog-bound figure. Later, the piano’s surging conviction is undercut by subtle percussive glitches which suggest a delicate but troubling dysfunction which prompts examination of the cd player to ensure the counter is passing in regular time. The resulting creative interplay makes for beautiful, rewarding music which only gradually reveals its subtleties. (Colin Buttimer, www.bbc.co.uk)

If you are a fan of the crowded, element heavy electro that is often passed off as minimal these days then you are not going to like the latest outing from glitch meister Alva Noto and Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto. Were others claim to be astute students of the school of minimalism (and fail dismally) “Revep” state with conviction that it is the tutor, teacher and headmaster all rolled into one. Noto and Sakamoto have even kept the amount of tracks to a bare minimum, but don’t let the modestly lengthed tracklist scare you off this album can offer you much more than any regular sized album or even 3CD compilation.

Turn the volume up loud enough while listening to opening track ‘Siisx’ and you’ll hear unmistakable white noise. A mistake or recording problem? Not likely, nothing is an accident with these two virtuosos. Clicks, taps, clacks and taps skitter across the soundscape as Ryuichi’s expertly knocks away at the ebony and ivory. Don’t be surprised if you feel your throat tighten and a frosty sensation spread through your anterior lobes. Music? Art? Whatever it is this is less about listening and more about feeling.

Subtract the white noise, soon to be returned in a slightly altered form, and we have the beginning of ‘Mur’. Sakamoto strikes the keys as if sounding a bell and Alva Noto provides more mouth-watering scratches and concentrated beats. Only the sharpest ears will notice the subtle changes from the previous composition but keep your ears open and the rewards are considerable. These two collaborators employ the piano like the composers long gone to evoke emotion and stir feelings. Neo classical outings like ‘Siisx’ and ‘Mur’ help to lift this timeless instrument out of the handbag house cell to which it has been condemned for so long.

For the uninitiated Ryuichi Sakamoto was responsible for the theme song to 1980’s East meets West silver screen excursion “Merry Christmas Mr. Lwarence” starring Takeshi Kitano and David Bowie, minus of course the posing pouch he proudly donned in his “Labyrinth” role. ‘Ax Mr. L.’ is somewhat of a remix of Sakamoto’s popular tune. Here notes appear to hum amidst a light spattering of static. When compared to the sparseness of the anteceding song the stuttering sounds and purring keys utilized during this track almost feel like an overdose of stimulation, almost. Compare it to anything else, say music by Isolee or current minimal poster boys Richie Hawting and Ricardo Villalobos and you’ll be left wondering why they bother with all those superfluous samples.

This isn’t by any means an album to let loose and rock out to. In fact it is a refreshing change from all the electro sounds Tiefschwarz et al are dressing up as click, glitch and minimal. Play this at a party and you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered but turn it up a the next annual meeting of the chin strokers society and you’ll be hailed a hero. By all means listen to this CD numerous times but just be careful because there is a reason the album is only three songs long. Any more of this cleverly crafted masterpiece and you’d never want to waste your time with any of that other stuff posing as music. (Nick Lawrence, www.higher-frequency.com)

1. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Aurora” (8:51) from “Insen” (2005)
2. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Morning” (5:27) from “Insen” (2005)
3. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Logic Moon” (6:50) from “Insen” (2005)
4. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Moon” (6:07) from “Insen” (2005)
5. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Berlin” (6:16) from “Insen” (2005)
6. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Iano” (6:52) from “Insen” (2005)
7. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Avaol” (2:51) from “Insen” (2005)
8. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Mur” (8:14) from “Revep” (2006)
9. Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Ax Mr.L.” (4:18) from “Revep” (2006)

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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. (www.igloomag.com)

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto
“Vrioon”
(2002)

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)

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