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Carsten Nicolai is an artist whose work I always await with high expectations. His approach to creating audio is both artistic and scientific, this also applies to his visual output. Over the years he's amassed an impressive catalogue in both fields, yet is probably best known for his work as Alva Noto and collaborations with Ryuchi Sakamoto.   I have a huge amount of admiration and respect ...

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For 2 by Alva Noto
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9/10 Ant Staff review, 11 March 2010

Carsten Nicolai is an artist whose work I always await with high expectations. His approach to creating audio is both artistic and scientific, this also applies to his visual output. Over the years he's amassed an impressive catalogue in both fields, yet is probably best known for his work as Alva Noto and collaborations with Ryuchi Sakamoto.

 

I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for what this man does and his CD's and LP's have pride of place in my collection.

So it was with great excitement that I really got stuck into the 'For 2' CD which follows four years after the release of 'For'. both on Taylor Deupree's 12k sub-label Line. This really is a fantastic and diverse selection of tracks compiled from various projects.

As the term 'For' suggests each has a dedication to a particular person and their creative output. So in this case for Marta Feuchtwagner, Heiner Muller, Andrei Tarkovski, Dieter Rams, Phill Niblock, Evgeny Murzin and even "A Garment" (inspired by a translucent textile!) and the fictional kingdom of Elgaland-Vargaland.

What I find to be particularly satisfying about the collection is that it displays many sides of his productions. From the pure rhythmical machine sounds, the crystalline and precise pin-prick electronic sparks, shimmering tones through to field recordings and orchestral string snatches…. But above all just how moving his sounds can be.

Nicolai has carved out a sound all his own and his attention to detail is astounding (Watch the utp_ DVD for further evidence) and usually lost on first listen. As with many of his releases repeated listens reveal layers previously unheard.

'Argonaut' is a hugely evocative piece of slightly melancholy electronic music with bleepy tones that in some ways recall 'Artificial Intelligence' era Warp Records.

'Stalker' (for film maker Tarkovskyi) is a much darker sonic entity that is a little reminiscent of very late period Coil. The spoken word female vocal adds an extra level of mystery to the track and works brilliantly.

'Sonolumi' has a rhythmic bleep that makes me imagine a life support machine or a space probe while ghostly electronic pulses hover around a heavenly, gently evolving ambient synth. 't3' recalls the rhythmic precision of the "Trans" trilogy, again a fine use of bleeps and pulses with lush dissolving textures a little like the 'Xerox' material. This one builds super nice until the low end finally arrives and then I really am in sonic heaven.

If you've read this far then you are more than likely getting bored of my words and eager to listen, so if the above appeals then just grab this CD and spend some time with it as this really is an awesome showcase of Alva Noto's many sides. If you're unfamiliar with Alva Noto then this CD is a great place to begin discovering someone working in electronic music that I genuinely feel is possessed by genius. The closing piece 'Argonaut-Version' elaborates on the previous version with moving keys that evoke the spiritually uplifting vibes of Terry Riley, coupled with heart-wrenching strings that just blow me away. A magnificent listen throughout the entire duration of the disc. 'For 2' gets a massive recommendation.


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