Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Two

  • Two masters reflect on a collaboration spanning nearly two decades on this live album.
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  • Over more than 15 years, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai have struck a powerful and complementary partnership. The hums and buzzes of Nicolai's Alva Noto project combine with the organic timbre and classical lilt of Sakamoto's work for a unique sound unlike anything in their individual catalogues. This new live album reflects on their work together, which encompasses four albums, a film soundtrack and a handful of other releases. The music is taken from one of their Two concerts, recorded at the Sydney Opera House, where they performed new, improvised bits alongside seven tracks from their catalogue, played in chronological order. This live album underlines the deeply intertwined nature of their collaboration, where the contrasting styles of two extraordinary musical personalities dovetail gracefully. Two was edited down from a two-hour concert into a 79-minute CD, yet it feels complete. The music touches on placid ambient, roaring drone and the kind of glitchy minimalism the duo are known for. The album's live feel comes out best during the improvised pieces, which are surprising in both their depth and irreverence. Nicolai's snare-like clicks speed up past 150 BPM on "Emspac," while Sakamoto's downcast piano chords duel with a wall of sound that sounds like hissing wind and rain on "Monomom," a piece so fully realized that it's hard to imagine it was something whipped up for a concert. Sakamoto spends most of his time on the piano while Nicolai drums up whirrs and clicks from his laptop. But in a recent review of the Sydney concert, Xiaoran Shi saw Sakamoto "[pacing] around the open-top concert grand, pausing to pluck a string or strike it" as Nicolai kept still. The two take on defined roles, as Nicolai creates (and sometimes destroys) the electronic canvas for Sakamoto's playing and quirky experiments, like the plucked melodies on "Gitrac." It's another example of how the duo's opposing impulses work so well together. After an hour of ebb and flow, Two ends with a spectacular climax: the one-two punch of "Naono," from the duo's 2011 Summvs LP, and their piece for The Revenant. Starting with abstract fuzz and ending with the theme for an Oscar-winning film, Two reveals the vast range of Sakamoto and Nicolai's work together. Though a second live album (after last year's Glass) might seem like a minor work, Two is the most pleasurable listen in Sakamoto and Noto's catalogue.
  • Tracklist
      01. Inosc 02. Propho 03. Trioon II (Live) 04. Scape I 05. Berlin (Live) 06. Scape II 07. Morning + Iano (Live) 08. Emspac 09. Kizuna (Live) 10. Gitrac 11. Monomom 12. Panois 13. Naono (Live) 14. The Revenant Theme (Live)