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Music Review A weird and wonderful wavelength

WILL STONE tunes into a mesmeric performance by techno master Alva Noto

Alva Noto
Barbican, London

HAVING studied architecture and trained in landscape design when he was growing up in East Germany, it's perhaps not so surprising that Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto, would end up creating architectures of sound, now commonly known as soundscapes.

This sold-out British premiere of the soon to be released Unieqav, the final instalment in the UNI trilogy, is a spectacularly produced amalgamation of audiovisuals, glitch and thumping techno bass.

Performing the album in full, Nicolai electrifies the Barbican's main hall — arguably London's best space for contemporary music — with each beat having its corresponding oscillating waveform.

The remarkably captivating end result has the audience mesmerised and, at times, almost on their feet — Unieqav is as dance floor ready as it is immersive and wouldn't be out of place in a club.

Quintessentially German techno in concept, Nicolai gets French sound poet support act Anne-James Chaton back on stage to incorporate his voice into a French Kraftwerkesque mix.

Appearing earlier, Chaton's performance was in need of a collaborator. Similar in concept to Noto, his voice-led performance feels unfurnished and clumsier.

But reunited with Noto following their collaboration on the track Uni Acronym for 2011’s Univrs — the second album in the Uni series — their tried and tested alliance works both on and off stage.

As niche as Noto sounds, his talents have taken him to the Hollywood heights, co-composing the soundtrack to The Revenant with Japanese artist Ryuichi Sakamoto.

His other collaborations include with legendary Berliner Blixa Bargeld, of Bad Seeds and Einsturzende Neubauten fame, on the side project ANBB and score composer Michael Nyman with whom he wrote an opera.

On tonight's evidence, though, we can be certain that Noto will have more in future to impress us with in his own right.

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