Mar022018| March 2, 2018
Next month’s wantlist.
Spanning LPs, EPs and reissues, we’ve combed through the pre-orders, promos and release listings for a diverse selection of music from our favourite artists and labels alongside newcomers we think you need to hear.
This month, look out for future-facing footwork from DJ Taye, vocal acrobatics from South Korea’s Park Jiha and Japan’s Hatis Noit, deviant pop from the backwaters of ’80s Europe, courtesy of Music From Memory and the Impulse! debut for the titanic Sons of Kemet.
Due: 2nd March
It feels like this one has been a long time coming, but perhaps only because we’ve been hyped for it ever since late 2017 when it first landed into our inboxes. Re-configuring the footwork sound and paying homage to originator DJ Rashad, Still Trippin’ bumps and flexes across sixteen soulful tracks. Look out for our interview with Taye next week.
(Domino Recording Co.)
Due: 2nd March
In the hands of another singer, Superorganism’s hipster-indie-hits could easily turn cloyingly saccharine. Thanks to Orono Noguchi it’s an entirely different story. For their self-titled debut, Noguchi delivers perfectly disaffected drawl over early ’00s, The Go Team and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-esque instrumentals. Anthems for underdogs of any age, consider this the perfect antidote for overproduced, paint-by-numbers pop fare.
Due: 2nd March
The debut album from 박지하 (Park Jiha) mixes traditional Korean music with modern jazz and minimal classic influences to mesmerisingly atmospheric and otherworldly effect. Featuring piri (double reed flute), saenghwang (mouth organ), and yanggeum (hammered dulcimer), Communion is both strangely familiar and beautifully unknown.
Due: 9th March
Electro pioneer Gerald Donald, best known as 1/2 of Drexciya as well as his Dopplereffekt and Arpanet aliases, unites with Tresor label once more for his debut album as XOR Gate. Composed of eight “themes” mixed as one track, Conic Sections is a vision of futuristic soundscapes from one of Detroit’s finest. An essential, vinyl-only release.
Due: 16th March
The third instalment of Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto’s Uni series, UNIEQAV was premiered last year as a live audio-visual show, continuing his exploration and dissection of electronic sound into its fundamental elements. Static fields and thunderous claps reign supreme here in Noto’s world of techno architecture, presented in a typically minimal, highly crafted vinyl edition.
Due: 16th March
Is it wrong that we’re beginning prefer this to the original? Thundercat’s 2017 album Drunk was a typically virtuoso collection of wigged-out bass riffs, high-profile collaborations and warped pop-funk jams that opened an unmistakable window into Thundercat’s psychotropic parallel universe. Here, under the knife of DJ Candlestick and OG Ron C of DJ collective The Chopstars, Drunk is twisted one turn further, and squeezed out as the low-slung ‘chopped-not-slopped’ Drank. With hyperactivity dialled back in favour of smoked-out wobbly weirdness, even the purple vinyl is making us weak at the knees.
Due: 23rd March
Japanese vocal performer and composer Hatis Noit deconstructs folk music, natural ambience and avant-garde composition on her Erased Tapes debut, drawing on Bulgarian and Gregorian chants and Gagaku or Japanese classical music. If that sounds like a mouthful, fear not – Illogical Lullaby has a Björk-like idiosyncrasy that feels at once complex and primordial. This already sounds like one of the most adventurous Erased Tapes releases in years.
Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991
(Music From Memory)
Due: 30th March
No premise for a comp has tickled us quite as much so far this year as the idea of Music From Memory letting loose on the backward world of ’80s Euro-pop. Steered by Jamie Tiller and Parisian record aficionado Raphael Top-Secret, Uneven Paths makes a virtue of diversion, detouring through the oddball continental underworlds of Spanish synth jams, avant-garde German boogie, and les obscurités Français.
Sons Of Kemet
Your Queen Is A Reptile
Due: 30th March
Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings follows his work at the helm of all-star Brownswood compilation We Out Here, and A.R.E. Project – one of our favourite 12”s of 2017 – with a new full-length from Sons of Kemet. Lest you forget what they came to do in the two years since the band’s last album, Your Queen Is A Reptile will swiftly remind – bringing jazz influences to hypnotic Afro-Caribbean rhythms through a politically minded lens. Featuring Hutchings alongside a double dose of drums from Tom Skinner and Eddie Hicks and Theon Cross on tuba, the album is fittingly being released on iconic label Impulse! – best known for records by fellow forward-thinking, sonic genre-spanners Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders amongst others.
Czarface & MF Doom
Czarface Meets Metal Face!
(Get On Down)
Due: 30th March
The hip-hop super-villian returns. MF Doom and Czarface (Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric) reunite for a full-length release, following their 2017 collaboration First Weapon Drawn. The new album is described as “ripe with cartoon violence, societal observations and pop culture musings”.
Jan252018| January 25, 2018
Following his Ryuichi Sakamoto collab.
Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai is releasing new LP UNIEQAV, this March via his NOTON label.
UNIEQAV is the third instalment in his Uni series, which “began when Alva Noto was booked to play live at the club UNIT in Tokyo, and had to adapt his sound accordingly for that environment”, following Unitxt and Universe.
It also features a collaboration with French sound poet Anne-James Chaton.
UNIEQAV is preceded by live improvisational album Glass, created with maestro Ryuichi Sakamoto, which will be released in February, as well as Nicolai’s 2016 Vinyl Factory Editions bausatz noto 12×10” multi-coloured box set.
Pre-order a copy of UNIEQAV ahead of its 16th March release and check out the track list below.
1. Uni Sub
2. Uni Mia
3. Uni Version
4. Uni Clip
5. Uni Normal
6. Uni Mic A
7. Uni Blue
8. Uni Mic B
9. Uni Dna
10. Uni Edit
11. Uni Tra
12. Uni Chord
(Photo by Deter Wuschanski)
Jan092018| January 9, 2018
Featuring Oneohtrix Point Never, Arca, Jóhan Jóhannsson and more.
Ryuichi Sakamoto is releasing async Remodels on vinyl, this March via Milan Music.
The LP includes 11 reworks, edits and remodels taken async – one of our top 10 favourite albums of 2017.
Though Sakamoto released some of the remixes featured in this album via digital streaming platforms, and topped the list of our favourite digital albums of 2017 we wish were available on vinyl, this is its first physical release.
Sakamoto is also releasing live album Glass with Jóhannsson in February.
Listen to Cornelius’ remix of ‘Zure’ ahead of async Remodels‘ 2nd March release and check out the track list below.
1. Andata (Oneohtrix Point Never Rework)
2. Andata (Electric Youth Remix)
3. Disintegration (Alva Noto Remodel)
4. Async (Arca Remix)
5. Fullmoon (Motion Graphics Remix)
6. Solari (Fennesz Remix)
7. Solari (Jóhann Jóhannsson Rework)
8. ZURE (Yves Tumor Obsession Edit)
9. Fullmoon (S U R V I V E Version)
10. ZURE (Cornelius Remix)
11. Life, Life (Andy Stott Remodel)
Mar142016| March 14, 2016
An “acoustic-architectural space designed as an audiovisual installation.”
Experimental German label Raster-Noton is to continue its twentieth anniversary celebrations this year as its immersive White Circle installation comes to Berlin’s Halle Am Berghain next month.
Taking up residence at the unused “other half” of the city’s iconic club, the audio-visual installation will feature music from several key members of the label, including Kangding Ray, Byetone, Frank Bretschneider and co-founder Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto, who collaborated with The Vinyl Factory to premiere his unicolor installation in the UK last year.
Installed at Halle Am Berghain from 28th to 30th April, White Circle will coincide with the label’s 20th anniversary showcase at the club next door where Atom™, Emptyset, Alva Noto and Marcel Dettmann will be among those performing. [via RA]
Jan292016| January 29, 2016
alva noto and Tarwater score Iggy Pop’s spoken word tribute to Walt Whitman.
‘Godfather of punk’ Iggy Pop has teamed up with German electronic experimentalists Carsten Nicolai aka alva noto and Tarwater to pay tribute to great US poet Walt Whitman.
A project first realised on the 2014 CD release of Children Of Adam, Leaves Of Grass takes its name from Whitman’s most famous collection and sees alva noto and Tarwater create the sonic backdrop for seven tracks of Iggy Pop’s idiosyncratic, gravelly readings.
Fresh from scoring Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar-nominated thriller The Revenant with Ryuichi Sakomoto, the raster-noton boss and Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram of Tarwater have created a threatening, post-industrial environment for Whitman’s pastoral masterpiece.
Infatuated with both the work and personality of the poet, whom he believes “would have been the perfect gangster rapper”, Iggy Pop had this to say on Walt Whitman:
“You know, I think he had something like Elvis. Like Elvis ahead of his time, one of the first manic American populists… His poetry is always about motion and rushing ahead, and crazy love and blood pushing through the body… Whitman says, even the most beautiful face is not as beautiful as the body. And to say that in the middle of the 19th century is outrageous. It’s a slap in the face. Look at the popular, well-educated poets of the time, those sensitive noblemen. But Whitman writes: “Fuck ass.”
Released on Morr Music with no digital version planned, Leaves Of Grass is only available in its limited vinyl edition of just 500 copies, complete with embossed artwork. Click here to pre-order your copy now ahead of its release on 5th February and hear preview snippets.
1. As Adam Early In The Morning / I Am he That Aches With Love (EP Version)
2. Ages And Ages Returning At Intervals (EP Version)
3. From Pent-Up Aching Rivers (EP Version)
4. A Woman Waits For Me (EP Version)
5. Out Of The Rolling Ocean The Crowd (EP Version)
6. To The Garden The World (EP Version) Iggy Pop / Tarwater
7. Leaves Of Grass (EP Version) Iggy Pop / Tarwater
Last year, Carsten Nicolai presented his immersive a/v installation unicolor at The Vinyl Factory’s Brewer Street Car Park Space and performed with Ryoji Ikeda at The Vinyl Factory’s Whitechapel live series Music For Museums.
Photo: Eddy Berthier / Wikipedia
Jan132016| January 13, 2016
2016 is off to a flying start.
If 2015 was the year for pressing machines and supermarkets, 2016 already looks like something of a turntable revival. With a rebooted Technics leading the charge, decks are taking over like never before.
There’s also a whole crop of new vinyl releases waiting in the wings. Amid those long overdue Twin Peaks reissues and 2015 hangovers like Arca’s Mutant, are sixteen forthcoming records that should whet your appetite in early 2016. From Kanye to Swans, get stuck in below:
This pair are onto a good thing. Ever since Berlin-based duo Africaine 808 dropped the sweet summer jam ‘Lagos, New York’ we’ve been watching their every step closely, entranced by their ability to seamlessly weave West African instrumentation into an analogue house framework that pops with the joy and vitality of downtown ‘80s NYC.
Almost three years after they exploded onto the scene with Silence Yourself, Savages new LP is about to be about an awful lot: “It’s about the choices we make. It’s about finding the poetry and avoiding the cliché. It’s about being the solution, not the problem. It’s about showing weakness to be strong. It’s about digging through your dirt to look for diamonds. It’s about claiming your right to think unacceptable thoughts.” Teased with the high-octane ‘The Answer’ and the certified murder ballad ‘Adore’, expect Adore Life to inject some post-punk punch into the first few months of the year.
After Vex’d dissolved, Roly Porter took a solo sidestep into immense, sci-fi inspired space. According to press materials his third full length will take another turn; this time, meditating on “ideas of rhythm, bass, sound design within his own world without having to shape any of these elements to fit preconceived ideas or rules.” The new angle seems like a perfect fit for his new home on Tri-Angle.
Anna Holmer & Steve Moshier
Breadwoman and other tales
After a stellar year in 2015, culminating in Savant’s fantastic Artificial Dance collection, we’ve been on high alert about New York label RVNG Intl.’s next move. Breadwoman does not disappoint. Cooked up in the baking heat of California’s Topanga Canyon in 1982, it’s a salient stream of Anna Holmer’s deconstructed language, an imagined vernacular here sculpted into song form by avant garde producer Steve Moshier. Startling and engrossing stuff.
(Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)
Due: 11 February / Listen
Hype/confusion around Kanye’s seventh LP has been building for almost as long as North’s been around. In January 2016, we know a few things though. The album will drop this February. Formerly titled So Help Me God, it’s now SWISH. And it’ll feature an all-star cast, from Paul McCartney to Kendrick Lamar.
But one thing that’s not been confirmed is whether or not there’ll be a vinyl release. Mainstream hip hop appears to dislike PVC, but with Kendrick bringing To Pimp A Butterfly to wax (albeit six months late), we’re hoping Yeezy will follow suit.
(Be With Records)
Who else can claim Ned Doheney, Letta Mbulu, The Streets and Cassie on its roster? Continuing to push the boat out in 2016, the Be With curveball this quarter is Kylie Minogue’s eponymous album from ’94.
A nice opportunity to bring Kylie fans out of the closet, the guilty favourite is her most in-demand with the original edition fetching as much as £150 on second hand markets. Touching on ambient, house, synth-pop and balearic, it’s a banger. As Balearic Mike says: “Brave move. I am a MASSIVE Kylie fan – as are all right-thinking people.”
(The Vinyl Factory)
Due: 19 February / Listen
JD Twitch did than more than most to improve our record collections last year, from those post-punk rarities to an inspired intercontinental collaboration on his Autonomous Africa imprint. For 2016, he goes back to his roots with a comp of ‘80s synth, industrial and cold wave from his earliest days behind the mixer.
Twitch has also enlisted contemporary cold-wave fans Powell and Helena Hauff to remix tracks on the compilation, which seems like a very good idea to us. We’re chuffed to be pressing it up.
Jesu & Sun Kil Moon
Jesu / Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozalek and Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh fame) team up as Sun Kil Moon and Jesu for a powerful collaboration on Kozalek’s Caldo Verde label. If pre-streamed tracks ‘America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger’ and ‘Exodus’ are anything to go by then it’s going to be an epic, harrowing trip, the latter using the death of Nick Cave’s fifteen year old son to form a ballad dedicated to “all bereaved parents”.
(Awesome Tapes From Africa)
The latest instalment on Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa promises to be a firecracker of deconstructed dance music from the Ghanaian capital Accra. Made with Fruity Loops, reforming neo-traditional Ga music with the urgency of early ‘90s Detroit techno and Chicago acid house, Trotro was initially released in 2009, doing the rounds on the country’s mobile DJ scene. Elastic dance music at its most raw.
Loop The Loop
Following a string of brilliant EPs and collaborations, Bullion has finally got round to readying a debut album of his own. Making sideways pop-not-pop like no-one else, expect the LP to be as playful and strange as ever, the title track already out there leading the way, drenched in gluey, analogue warmth.
Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto ft. Bryce Dessner
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s icy and visceral Western The Revenant bossed the Golden Globes this week. It’ll probably sweep up at the Oscars too, although the slogging soundtrack won’t. Because Sakamoto intertwined his work with two other composers – Alva Noto and The National’s Bryce Dessner – it’s ineligible to compete, according to Academy rules. Well, fuck the rules. This is easily one of the best scores of the year and we can’t wait to play it on vinyl.
Due: TBA / Listen
Almost six years since her last outing with Antony & The Johnsons, Antony Hegarty returns as Anohni, with two of the most individual contemporary producers in tow. Enlisting Warp’s Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Hopelessness was teased with the incendiary and apocalyptic ‘4 Degrees’ before the Paris Climate Summit at the end of 2015. We’d expect nothing less from one of Björk’s primary collaborators.
Tim Hecker follows up 2013’s Virgins with a new LP and his first on 4AD that promises to be every bit its elegiac successor. With a performance planned at the atmospheric St John Church in Hackney for early May and Hecker refining his sound with every release, greater exposure through 4AD should see him reach a wider audience than ever.
Ghostface & DOOM
Due: February / Listen
“I talked to DOOM’s people. DOOM is ready now,” said Wu Tang veteran Ghostface in a recent interview. The near mythical collaboration has been mooted for close to a decade so we’ll forgive you for being a little sceptical here. Word on the street though is that the elusive project will finally see light of day in Feb.
Black Origami: The MotherBoard
Last year’s Dark Energy blew up the notion of a footwork album. Mutated, venomous, and yet strangely uplifting; it was christened within our top 5 records of 2015. As a steel mill employee, it took Jlin her entire life to weave together that long player. Now that she’s given up the day job, we’re all ears as she cues up her sophomore effort.
Hauled from the grave in 2010, Michael Gira’s resurrected Swans have garnered vast critical and popular respect. Amid a swarm of reformations cashing in nostalgia checks, the band stands near alone with a recent run of albums living up to every inch of their daunting reputation. Following last year’s live CD album The Gate, this year brings the final Swans album (and tour). Strap up tight.
Jul082015| July 8, 2015
Over the past 16 years Raster-Noton has built itself up into one of the most distinctive and revered labels in electronic music. With co-founder Carsten Nicolai testing the limits of visual perception at his unicolor installation at Brewer Street Car Park this month, we take a look at the label through 10 ambitious and beautifully crafted releases.
Words: James Hammond
With a strong adherence to reductionism and taking raw materials down to their base elements, from packaging to the all-important sounds within, Raster-Noton is often referred to as genre in its own right. Describing what this genre-of-sorts entails as the number of releases has expanded beyond the 150 mark, normally resorts to the knee jerk labels of “glitch”, “academic” and “minimal techno” that have followed its sonic-aesthetic around. For founders Carsten Nicolai, Olaf Bender and Frank Brettschneider though, the most appropriate framing since inception is of an artist-run sonic space, a continually evolving “platform of music”. It’s certainly a platform that heralds high production values and incisive, conceptual explorations of sound.
Having all grown up in the cultural isolation of the East German industrial town of Chemnitz, the three soon became known to each other within a micro-climate of electronic music, which had its roots in pushing the sonic boundaries that were once so rigidly inflicted upon them by the state. Initial releases ran in parallel between Bender and Brettschneider’s Rastermusic and Nicolai’s noton archiv, before the merging of names came about in 1999, and at present the label is run between Berlin and Chemnitz. The label’s work with conceptual series as well as individual artist releases has made for an expansive back catalogue, which whilst having a certain degree of uniformity still revels in its variation and experimentation. It’s from this notion that the following list of essential RN listening emerges.
The 20′ To 2000 Series
(noton.archiv für ton und nichtton, 1999)
Asking 12 artists to record 20 minutes each in response to the last 20 minutes of the millennium, the series that resulted is an education in contemporary experimental electronics. Eventually compiled as a much sought after compilation box, if there ever were a Raster-Noton desert island collection this is it. Musically, conceptually, logistically and in terms of the minimalist design (the first use of clear scalloped CD Shell / ‘transport module’) they nailed it here. With efforts from the label founders and other visionaries such as Wolfgang Voigt, Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda and Coil – the music is astounding and created a clear sonic palette and modus operandi for the label that they carried forward into the 21st century.
Xerrox (Volumes 1-3)
(Raster-Noton, 2007 / 2009 / 2015)
Carsten Nicolai’s output has proven vast, and from exhibition to live performance to record, it is all part of a unified and distinctive approach. Whilst his ideas and sonic archive have been proliferated throughout the label and under different guises, his Xerrox series as Alva Noto deserves particular attention as remarkable works of ambience and sonic obfuscation. Using his own custom designed software to copy and reprocess sounds, he has so far created three volumes of deeply textured work with a decidedly emotive and melancholic edge. After a five year break the “towards space” theme of volume 3 appeared this year and is already a firm contender for the end of year lists. One for the ambient lovers.
2009’s Atavism full length presented us with SND at their most stripped back and elemental; a keenly focused study in repetition, nuance and sublime production work that still stands as the pinnacle of Mark Fell and Mat Steel’s collaborative project. The Sheffield duo have become synonymous with getting the most out of limited means, from equipment used to musical notions explored, and here the focus on what initially appears as a limited spectrum of repetitive mechanic percussion, becomes utterly beguiling as subtle changes in parameter reveal all manner of tonality and possibility in a truly compelling 60 minutes of sound.
The release appeared on both CD and 4GB SDHD card, with the latter again reflecting the label’s commitment to precision, fidelity and appropriate format, as the card allows for files to be streamed at 24bits and 96khz – unobtainable from a CD. Any meaningful discussion of the RN back catalogue isn’t complete without a mention of this extraordinary work of electronic music.
Along with its inherent “poppiness”, there’s a sense of the absurd and the humorous at work with HD (standing for Hard Drive rather that High-Def), none of which being what you’d typically expect from the supposed sonic austerity of Raster-Noton. It speaks of the ‘evolving platform of music’ that the label heads strive for, and primarily of course of Uwe Schmidt’s aka Atom TM’s gleefully eclectic approach to experimental music.
Like many who work with the label, Schmidt developed within a ferment of electronic ideas in the early ’90s, which became collectively coined as ‘minimal techno’, but relocating to Santiago, Chile to escape such genre specifics, Schmidt has a refreshing take on electronics in whichever guise he’s operating under. HD and other releases for Raster-Noton are suitably unique – a cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ on a Raster-Noton release? Roger Daltrey’s stutter as glitch electronics? Have a listen and all will become clear. A true highlight of recent releases that straddles an intriguing line between the readily listenable and the conceptual.
The Unun Series
The most recent series from the label has focused on 12” records organized conceptually with the periodic tables’ current frontier of discovery – the Unun elements (numbers 111 to 119). On record the science seems to have translated into a collection which is decidedly dance floor oriented, but being Raster Noton, this is of course a dance floor which values unpredictability and experimentation over convention. With the penultimate release issued this past March and the last part of the puzzle on its way, it’s proven a series with more than a few highlights. The curious should head straight for the NHK, Mika Vainio or Ueno Masaaki releases for a taste of what’s it’s all about.
Ikeda’s relationship with Raster-Noton has proven a natural and fruitful one, with both label and artist keenly matched in their exploration of art and science, and the reduction and refinement of raw materials to their essence. With Dataplex the focus is on something Ikeda has become one of the most astute practitioners of: ways of presenting the raw material of data as sound. Ranging from harsh digital noise and high frequency permutations, to the combination of data.vortex/data.matrix where it feels as if the raw data has been bent to a musical will, this is a challenging, oft austere, yet conceptually profound listen.
Death of a Typographer
Label founder Olav Bender has delivered a wide range of works for the label, with Death of a Typographer under his Byetone guise being one its most dance floor centric and melodic, particularly in contrast to the austere tones of his contribution to the 20-2000 series. With more than a few techno driven delights within, it’s a good entry point for those finding themselves a little apprehensive of the less easily digestible Raster-Noton releases. Bender is also a skilled designer and largely responsible for the labels striking minimalist designs and packaging. From transparent CDs to anti-static bags and choice of appropriate mediums for releases – from vinyl to memory sticks – it’s not just their own music that Bender and co. have paid the closest attention of detail to.
(noton.archiv für ton und nichtton, 1998)
This is certainly one from the label’s broader palette and takes things back to 1998 and the earliest releases when Bender and Brettschneider’s Rastermusic were releasing in tandem with Nicolai’s noton.archiv. With Basinski now having become a renowned figure for analogue haze and deeply melancholic tape loops, the oft associated digital/clinical leanings of Raster-Noton might appear an unusual fit. However, the experimentation of this one and subsequent RN release ‘The River’ sits assuredly within the label’s ideals and indeed finds common ground with Alva Noto’s ambient majesty. It was Carsten Nicolai who insisted that Basinski, who was little known at the time, did more for his music archive and the tapestry of altered radio samples that form this LP acted as a first release and key step in the opening of Basinski’s vault of masterful tape works.
The third part of the label-head triptych on this list, Frank Bretschneider, like Nicolai and Bender, has put out several works on Raster-Noton, with Rhythm being one of his and the label’s most remarkable. Under the Komet alias and in recordings for other labels such as 12k and Mille Plateau, Bretschneider has become renowned for the inherent groove and funkiness of his interwoven electronics, and here the focus of this approach is, as the title would have it, on rhythm. Whilst the experimentation and complexities of his rhythm are wholly suited to the Raster-Noton ethos, they’re not at the sake of an emphatic musicality.
CoH And Cosey Fanni Tutti
CoH Plays Cosey
A key member of the Raster-Noton artist collective, Russian born Ivan Pavlov aka CoH turned out one of the oddest gems of the label’s catalogue in collaboration with the inimitable Cosey Fanni Tuttti (of Throbbing Gristle, Coum etc). The concepts the two dealt with here were “honesty, trust, privacy, communication, as well as the perception of sexuality” through the manipulation of Cosey’s correspondence with Pavlov. This correspondence entailed a series of vocal recordings made in “intensely emotional states” which create a surreal and sexually charged atmosphere when Pavlov edits them into his sound world to effectively “play” Cosey.
Carsten Nicolai’s unicolor runs until 2nd August at Brewer Street Car Park. Open daily (closed Monday) 12pm – 6pm. Entry free. Click here for more info.
Carsten Nicolai has also released a limited edition fluoro pink vinyl Random Groove under his noto moniker to mark the exhibition, featuring a selection of random grooves. Order your copy here.
Jul022015| July 2, 2015
How can we be sure of the colours we are seeing? Testing the limits of perception for a month at The Vinyl Factory’s Brewer Street Car Park, Carsten Nicolai’s unicolor marries psychology, art and music to create an immersive audio/visual experience. Dorothy Feaver caught up with the German artist, musician and label boss to find out more.
Words: Dorothy Feaver
Carsten Nicolai’s prolific inventions as an artist in both the gallery setting and, under various stage names, in electronic music, see him interpreting codes, symbols and theories of natural phenomena in productions that are as pleasurable as they are penetrating. “Sound can only exist if there is space and time,” he has said, “so sound is a sculptural material”, and he conjures forces such as sound waves – or electromagnetic fields, heat waves or radiation – out of hiding and amplifies the evidence in immersive installations, often on a heroic scale.
Born in the German industrial city of Chemnitz, then Karl-Marx-Stadt in the GDR, Nicolai studied landscape design for five years before founding the acclaimed raster-noton label and going on to rack up a starry list of performances and exhibitions, including Documenta 10, Kassel; the 55th Venice Biennale; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Modern, London; and Centre Pompidou, Paris. He has made LED light patterns dance across the entire façade of Hong Kong’s international commerce centre (a (alpha) pulse, 2014) and monitored sounds hitting the glass shell of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie, turning them into a laser display (syn chron, 2004). In unicolor (2014), presented here, Nicolai grapples with the mechanical separation of audio and visuals, designing a system that bridges the two with Teutonic precision, but which, while illuminating colour theory, thrives on the hiss and crackle of emotional reaction. He takes a moment in Brewer Street Car Park to discuss the show.
It feels pretty crazy to come off this dense street in the middle of Soho, up a little concrete staircase and find this vast black space. What did you think when you first saw it?
It was a car park then, quite rough. Simple architecture, built for parking your car and for that purpose only, and I liked the long sweep. So the transformation is surprising! The exhibition eliminates the outside, it drags you into a completely different world. But there’s still a functional car park – just imagine that every time a car moves, the building is moving.
The first piece, bausatz noto ∞ (1998), has four turntables, and behind them, a back-lit shelf of translucent coloured records. What do the colours signify?
The different colours indicate different sound material, from the very abstract to the graphic. So there’s white, amber, red, yellow, pink… I wanted to have clear vinyl so they overlap on the wall behind. Some are drones, some are high-pitched digital errors; some are cracked grooves from older records; one is a single sonar sound, like a ping. You have multiple choices for mixing different loops into each other. I’ve been building up my sound library for over 17 years [noton.archiv für ton und nichtton], but this is the first time I’ve pulled out the whole catalogue and created 12 new records, in colour.
Who moves the needles?
The visitor can go to the shelf, pick a record, put it on, choose the ‘a’ or ‘b’ side. I am providing a library for you to build your own tracks.
So you don’t have an ideal combination?
This is not about me. I wanted to make a tool that everybody can use, from non-musicians to musicians, from older people to young kids. Locked grooves have always been part of DJ culture, where they integrate things in the mix, and this is a very basic, analogue way of mixing records into each other, a bit like Lego. You have the option to play the same colour record four times and then slightly change the pitch up or down and make it slower or faster. It’s important that visitors listen to the sounds. You can create something quite surprising if you’re good, if you know a little bit and you stay. It’s a very playful situation.
How many variations are there altogether?
Your new piece, unicolor (2014) also has an element of infinity. In the installation, the visuals are reflected by mirrors on either side; like a rainbow, you never see the end.
Yes, the spatial aspect is very important – you sit here and create this infinite stripe of colour. The projection is 25 metres long but if feels like you can see at least a kilometre.
Right now we’re looking at a projection of three bands of colour – red, green and blue… although maybe I’m seeing something different to you.
unicolor is based on the way we perceive colour. This is one of 16 modules, each presenting a different idea of colour perception. You can see that if the RGB is moving fast it turns white because at a higher speed, our brains mix the colour automatically. It’s a bit like a movie – you have 25 still frames per second but we think the image is moving. Goethe realised, almost 200 years ago, that the brain adds colour with a very simple test: if you look at a strong colour for a long time and then you look at white paper, you see the complementary colour. Our perception of colour depends on contrasts of black and white, and what colour is next to it. You can find contrast situations every day in nature: when you look at the sunset, for example, there’s a contrast on the horizon. Well one of the most important points in the installation is what looks like a horizon, where the projection meets the black wall. When you focus on this point, a bit further below, the colours look completely different. For a very short moment there’ll be an afterimage.
How does the sound element change in time with the colours?
The starting point was the connection between white noise and white light: they both have all the frequencies inside. With white noise you are listening to all the frequencies and white light contains all the colour frequencies. A programme translates the sound so that it changes more or less according to the parameter of the colour projection. You can see that the white noise goes with the white visual, but as the visual frequencies are assigned to red, purple and yellow, so too the amount of white noise fades.
If the modules present classic examples of colour theory, how does unicolor differ from a diagram illustrating the science?
For me it’s not science that’s important so much as nature. But this piece is not trying to teach people something. The modules are triggers for the imagination. I want to test how aware we are of the reality that we unconsciously create.
Looking at the melting panels of colour makes me think of Rothko…
And Josef Albers, or Kandinsky… there is a huge line of artists going back to Goethe and, to mention a scientist, Hermann von Helmholtz. There didn’t used to be a big division between scientific research or observation of nature and being a writer or an artist or a painter. I’m not so keen on a completely specialised world because we are people with multiple interests.
What about where you’re making music as noto or alva noto, rather than under the name Carsten Nicolai? How does that feed into what you are thinking about in the art studio?
I don’t make this division; it feels very connected for me. It’s more a problem on the outside – people always want to put you in a box. When I play at a music festival I’m the same person as when I have a show in a museum, though it’s completely different how people see it and what kind of people go there. But I’m enjoying the double life because it creates a situation where I can drop out sometimes. We all know that feeling where you sometimes feel stuck on one place and you move to another place – like a ying-yang.
Going back, is it fair to make a connection between your analysis of nature and your training as a gardener?
Yes, it’s very connected. Normally as a boy at that time you had to do military service. I dropped out – but since I had to wait a year to do landscape design, I started teaching other people who wanted to become gardeners, without knowing anything about it! It was a great year.
How did you know what to do? You had to make up some theory?
No theory, just pure gardening. It’s not difficult; there are different tasks in different months. When it came to landscape design, that was a way more complex study – we were educated to redesign landscapes from scratch, landscapes which had been exploited and destroyed by industrialisation, such as mining systems, landscapes which took a long period of time to stabilise. I learned to see a landscape as a biotope, where the smallest factor could decide if the landscape would collapse or survive. In Europe almost every landscape is completely defined by industrialisation and man’s influence. Even if sometimes you don’t think so, it is.
Like the optical effects of unicolor, things aren’t as they seem?
But this is different because unicolor is about perception, whereas with nature you realise that things are really strongly connected; you cannot make a decision on one topic, without affecting another.
Where do you see this flow of research taking your understanding of light and sound?
To even more basic things. It’s a journey, and if I knew where it ended, I’d probably stop working. Most of the time one thing leads to another, but over years you realise that you’re circling around a topic.
To mark the exhibition, Carsten Nicolai is also releasing a limited edition vinyl. Random Groove is pressed to fluoro pink vinyl and available to order here.
Jun252015| June 25, 2015
To mark the opening of unicolour at Brewer Street Car Park, Carsten Nicolai presents a collection of random grooves.
raster-noton boss Carsten Nicolai’s practice investigates the boundaries between visual and audio art forms within an integrated artistic approach. Influenced by scientific reference systems, Nicolai often employs mathematical language for example usings grids and codes, as well as error, randomisation and self-organising structures.
Under the his noto alias, Nicolai experiments with sound to create his own semiotic language, and acoustic and visual symbols. Random Groove is a new interactive and physical experiment that contains no music but rather a succession of grooves, several of which cross into one another, thereby creating a variety of pathways for the needle to follow when playing, making for a personal, tactile experience.
These stochastic grooves have been pressed on to 180-gram fluoro pink vinyl and feature a bespoke screen printed PVC sleeve. Available in a limited run of 500 copies, the edition has been created in celebration of the European premiere of unicolor, a new work by Carsten Nicolai, presented by The Vinyl Factory and taking place at Brewer Street Car Park from 24 June to 2 August 2015.
unicolor examines the psychology of colour perception. Submerged in panoramic wavelengths of blue, red, green and grey that grow, evaporate and meld into one another, the viewer is confronted with an infinite, visceral expanse of colour and sound. Find out more here.
Order a copy of Random Groove now from VF Editions.
The Vinyl Factory is the world’s foremost vinyl enterprise. It encompasses a record label, pressing plant and online magazine, and collaborates with artists and musicians to create stunning audio-visual shows. Read More
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16-18 Marshall Street
London W1F 7BE
Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.