Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto – Glass album review

Acclaimed artists choose not to throw stones.

alva ryuichi

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Few musical constructions signal “highbrow” more than a live improvised collaboration between Oscar-winning electronica pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto and Berlin artist Carsten Nicolai’s pseudonym for sonic work Alva Noto. Now place them doing this for 45 minutes in Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House and allow them to use the walls as an instrument just after a rain storm. With gong mallets dragged down the glass’ surface and various mixers and keyboards, it’s an unconventional approach to capturing a moment, but Sakamoto reckons the dramatic landscape and red sunset they watched made for the ideal interface of art and nature. Oddly, it’s less abstract than you might imagine. Its simmers and squeaks develop an atmospheric beauty, and there may even be a wink to Philip Glass in the theme and name. Some love the sound of it breaking, but this pair’s muse prefers to touch it delicately, coaxing answers to questions which only their refined aesthetic can articulate. Being there would have offered extra dimensions, but the attentive listener will find this tonal, spatial, intuitive recording both enigmatic and, gradually, enjoyable.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.