Ten Questions Eric Quach
Ten Questions :papercutz

17 Pygmies
Alex B
Alva Noto
Aubry & Montavon
Martin Buttrich
Ken Camden
Mlle Caro & Garcia
Mathias Delplanque
d_rradio & Lianne Hall
Elektro Guzzi
Roman Flügel
Pierre Gerard / Shinkei
Ghost of 29 Megacycles
Tord Gustavsen
Ian Hawgood
Indignant Senility
Lunar Miasma
Jonas Reinhardt
Pascal Savy
Thorsten Scheerer
Stray Ghost
Nicholas Szczepanik
The Timewriter
Christian Wallumrød

Compilations / Mixes
Duskscape Not Seen

Orlando B.
Mlle Caro & Garcia
Kirk Degiorgio
Russ Gabriel
Kyle Hall
Junkie Sartre & Hexaquart
Mike Monday
Adam Pacione
Colin Andrew Sheffield
Shinkei / mise_en_scene
Rick Wade
When The Clouds

Alva Noto: For 2

For 2, Berlin-based Carsten Nicolai's second dedicatory recording, offers a refreshing change from the cool, cerebral Alva Noto style that has come to identify much of his work, like that issued on the Raster-Noton label. As with the first For collection, the new one brings together compositions Nicolai created in honour of influential figures such as industrial designer Dieter Rams, filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, composer Phil Niblock, and German dramatist Heiner Müller. Listeners expecting a further variation on the Alva Noto style might be disappointed to discover that many of the settings eschew beat structures altogether and are fairly elaborate in their arrangements; those who have long hoped to hear Nicolai open up his style will find the recording considerably more satisfying.

“Garment,” which takes its inspiration, oddly enough, from a translucent textile designed, has Alva Noto fingerprints all over it in its sine tones and minimal beat structures of pops and clicks, but it also distances itself from the austerity of that signature style by the inclusion of strings that drape themselves over the pulsating rhythm base. Similarly, Nicolai's signature bass and sine tones thread themselves through “Sonolumi,” but such elements almost disappear when they're overlaid by a wave of ambient shimmer. The absence of beat structures—so indelibly a component of the Alva Noto work —renders settings such as “Villa Aurora” (which incorporates outdoors field recordings) and “Pax” (for Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chain Music) almost unrecognizable as Nicolai pieces. “Cosmonaut” would be more like it, judging from the crystalline ambient character of the setting created for Heiner Müller, “Argonaut,” while the Tarkovsky and Niblock pieces, “Stalker” and “Early Winter,” are brooding, finely wrought ambient settings. A subtle dash of humour surfaces in the “Anthem Berlin” Nicolai composed for the Kingdom of Elgaland-Vargaland, the fictional land founded by artists Carl Michael von Hausswolf and Leif Elggren, when a few seconds of a standard marching band snare roll are elongated into a smeary, speckled thrum.

Two pieces Nicolai composed for a prize-giving ceremony in honour of Dieter Rams (best known for his Braun designs), “Interim” and “T3,” on the other hand, are exemplars of the Alva Noto style, but in this case it's appropriate, given how much the minimal sensibilities of Nicolai and Rams coincide. But they're the exception to the rule on this welcome departure from the Alva Noto persona. It's telling that the recording ends with an additional version of “Argonaut” that finds arranger Max Knoth recasting the piece as a chamber orchestra setting—further evidence of just how different the album is from Nicolai's Raster-Noton material.

May 2010