Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto
October 21, 2018
The collaboration between Japanese composer, maverick and constituent of the synth pop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and experimental electronic cosmonaut Alva Noto, i.e. German minimalist par excellence Carsten Nicolai, may only appear curious on the surface as tonight’s incarnation of the two joining forces at Sydney’s Opera House illustrated what an organic chemistry the two manage to establish by blending minimal piano with austere electronics and beats in the realm of glitch.
Sakamoto by himself usually is more accessible and enters at times sentimental territory, but the synergy between him and Alva Noto that rest on a solid foundation of improvisation adds another dimension that balances warm emotions with electronic drones, rustling noises, piercing tones and hushed sounds. It is not for nothing that the alchemy they channel has dramatically enhanced the movie The Revenant with the soundtrack they provided.
In essence, Noto and Sakamoto incarnating in a live environment is an extended, abstract musical dialogue that meanders far away from any resemblance of popular music. Starkness, tense waves building and subsiding while being framed by a sense of calm and a foreboding of intense unease is what comes to mind had one to describe their performance.
Manually created sounds are digitally processed and alienated, accompanied by the emissions of Sakomoto’s synthesizer wafting about in space like high frequency audio flying saucers, and at times it feels like their collaboration elicits a physical reaction.
The performance was set against a strangely hypnotic and calming 3-D projection that not only corresponded with the performance but was in perfect alignment – abstract and free for interpretation yet borderline tangible.
There are times during the improvised parts when the performance appears overly unstructured yet it always finds its way back to the heart of the action / reaction dynamics that makes their relationship and which aids in them finding their path.
As they complemented each other while maintaining their individuality, it did not prove too difficult to see what they have chosen the name ‘Two’ for their joint performance and tour.
An enchanting and immersive evening that allowed one to space out from the daily humdrum of the white noise outside.
Photos by Prudence Upton