Album: ALVA NOTO – Unitxt (Raster-Noton R-N095 2008)

This has been on and off the player for a couple of weeks now. It’s a strange one in that it is both Carsten Nicolai’s most accessible and his most wilfully difficult work to date. The first ten tracks take the Alva Noto trademark machine-tooled minimalism and give it a turbocharged tweak. The beats are harder, and everything sounds altogether more aggressive. At the same time, though, there are glimmers of humanity and warmth to be glimpsed among the clean, sleek data lines and singing computer hardware.

Another surprise is the addition of vocals, courtesy of poet Anne-James Chaton on “u_07” and “u_08-1”, although these consist of a breathlessly monotone recitation of series of digits. “u_03” is damn near funky, in blankly Teutonic sort of way, with an almost Nine Inch Nails style riffing developing. “u_08”, too, has a real dancefloor sensibility about it, with sounds like kick drums and wooden percussion amongst the chatter of scanners, faxes, and other whirring and clicking ephemera. It’s stunning stuff, both cerebral and playful. The first section culminates in “u_09-0”, a mighty riff and beat monster of the Pan Sonic school.

Three minutes of silence ensue before fifteen tracks of raw data, presumably somehow extracted from the applications that they are named after. These range in duration from a couple of seconds to almost two minutes. It’s hardly music, and yet even in these torrents of white noise, there are odd moments when something approaching music seems to spring from the data-chaos. These tracks aren’t things that anyone outside hardy Hecker-philes will return to very often. Viewed as a bonus addition to the main event, though, they don’t detract from what’s gone before. On the whole, Unitxt is a terrific work that should appeal to a wider audience than just the usual Raster-Noton techno-boffins.

1 U_07 07:57
2 U_06 02:07
3 U_04 05:15
4 U_09-1-2 04:48
5 U_08-1 03:13
6 U_03 04:30
7 U_08 05:37
8 U_01-2-0 04:00
9 U_05 03:20
10 U_09-0 03:53

11 Blank track

Unitxt Code (Data To Aiff)
12 60308_47 00:13
13 838TP7cdp 00:04
14 Enigma4.0 00:05
15 Fontlab4.0 00:51
16 Hyperengine 00:10
17 Entourage 00:54
18 Excel 01:07
19 Powerpoint 00:45
20 Word 01:41
21 Monitortest 00:06
22 Morse 00:08
23 Prototype6_isdn 00:08
24 Serialbox 00:29
25 Soundmaker 00:07
26 Spray16x9s 01:07



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