Alva Noto - Unieqav
Alva Noto launches the third entry in his Uni series with perhaps the most directly techno offering he has produced yet. Unieqav follows a recent flurry of activity for both Alva Noto and his NOTON imprint with collaborative albums already released this year in tandem with Ryuichi Sakamoto and a previously unheard 2002 joint live performance with Mika Vainio + Ryoji Ikeda.
Having begun the Uni series some ten years ago when Alva Noto was booked to play live at the legendary club UNIT in Tokyo, the Uni project was born out of an urge to adapt his sound accordingly for the club's unique environment. Continuing the extension of dancefloor dynamics that started with the album's 'Unitxt' (2008) and continued through 'Univrs' (2011), Unieqav has been described by Alva Noto as sonically representing an underwater dive and while this is a good representation of the aquatic depths found within Unieqav, the sheer coldness of the sounds give the feeling that this journey's entry point has been through a frozen border.
For those not hard-wired into the NOTON circuit board, Unieqav is as techno as it gets. This is 'club music' as produced by a mind well skilled within every aspect of what it takes to move both the dancers and the walls, with each sound dynamically drilled to near perfection in its quest to portray an absolute maximum sense and feeling of sheer impact.
Alva Noto's music has always been notable for its expulsions of power in the most all-encompassing sense, yet here he goes one step further than ever before. The spectral essence of Glass is present within the glacial tones of each track, yet the drum modules dissect any unwarranted overspill that (could) exist here, giving each piece a lean, almost muscular feel that when experienced in the correct environment really pushes all senses.
Elements of everyone from SND's hyper-garage, Monolake and Electric Indigo's ICM techno and of course, Mika Vainio's electricity channelling wall of noise drones are present within the DNA of Unieqav, yet very few else come close to Alva Noto right now for cutting records of such sheer sonic magnitude and intensity, tracks that switchgear with such an advanced, cutting-edge sound that we reckon it will be another ten years before we are able to wrap our heads around this one and truly understand the true scope of its velocity.
Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto - Two
Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) & Ryuichi Sakamoto have been playing together for many years now - their first collaborative LP, Vrioon, dates from 2002. The duo’s new album Two acts as a celebration of Noto & Sakamoto’s artistic legacy - both of their previous work and also of the musical understanding that they have built up down the years.
The pair’s 2018 concert at the Sydney Opera House forms the basis of this record (not the whole thing, mind - their performance ran to two hours and had to be edited down). Across the performance they run through several cuts from their extensive back catalogue. These old cuts come retooled for a new context, and it’s enjoyable to contrast the changes in sound - ‘Trioon II’, for instance, morphs from bleeping ambience into a micro-house loop reminiscent of Jan Jelinek. Most exciting of all is their portentous, brooding take on their theme for The Revenant, here given all the moodiness of a Ben Frost piece.
Around half of the record is made up of work that was improvised on the day. The new pieces are generally obtuse electronic things that reference the likes of Oval, Mika Vainio and Karlheinz Stockhausen. They are also rather spare - rather than crowding their textures, Sakamoto & Noto allow certain sounds to linger, something which indicates two artists wholly confident in their creative relationship.
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Two is part-new work, part-retrospective and wholly impressive.
NOTON Himekuri Calendar 2020
Japan’s Himekuri, or ‘every day’, calendar is unique in its format; each page is torn and removed daily to reveal the following one. You can see the date at a glance and treat each day as a fresh start. The three hundred and sixty-five page design combines calendar and notepad, making it compact, easy to use and, in this case, aesthetically striking.
The label has worked with a Japanese company that have specialised in producing their own traditional paper products for over one hundred years. The Himekuri Calendar won the Long Life Design Award for their 2012 design at the Good Design Awards. With NOTON now they have crafted only 70 customized versions for the Berlin Label, using delicate paper and traditional typography.
In addition to the usual information listed, significant ancient eastern calendars and cosmological happenings are recorded. Each page also reveals the lunar calendar, the ancient Eastern constellation system known as ‘Twenty-Eight Mansions’, horoscopes, the traditional ‘rokuyo’ six-day Japanese calendar, sexagenary cycle (also known as the twelve animal signs and five elements), the age of the moon and a record of the ebb and flow of the tide.