What’s remarkable about German music label Raster-Noton is not simply its staying power. Rather, it’s the way the aesthetic direction of the label, across visual and sonic media, has remained on course — and how that vision is just as relevant today.
The label, founded in the far southeastern German town of Chemnitz by Carsten Nicolai und Olaf Bender, has a stable of artists united by a sense of common interests. That aesthetic is often visual as well as musical; you get the impression that the music is designed as much as produced. Carsten Nicolai, for his part, has become a staple of galleries as well as festivals and clubs; you’ll find his work in places like Frankfurt’s renowned Städel Museum. But across a set of artists whose work is diverse without blurring the focus of the imprint, you discover musical work that is deeply connected to imagery.
And while the aesthetic may be often glitchy and minimal, there isn’t a sense of a post-apocalyptic, self-referential pessimism about digital media. Instead, I think Raster Noton’s output tends to orbit the notion of digital media at their most elemental: stripped of ornament, we see computers that crackle and buzz like living organisms. This is the kind of digital chemistry you might imagine if Tron were made now – only, minus the cribbed Kubrick sets and high-tech frisbees and motorcycles. It’s the computer as an instrument, dynamic and unique, as though resonating inside its microscopic silicon pathways rather than in wood or brass.
Given that a lot of the performances and even the design of the records play into the feeling of the label, it’s worth seeing a mix of music from Raster Noton in video form. Lately, the label has been sharing some great music via its Facebook page.
That includes videos from Aoki Takamasa, who just released RV8 in April (r-n148), Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto teaming up for their beautiful duets live last year, and like a dream of noisy CRT tube snow, a collaboration between UK video artist Sam Williams (with Clayton Welham) and Emptyset.
(Starting with Ryuichi Sakamoto – and being horribly biased as a piano player from the time I could reach the keys, again what I said about electronics and piano.)
Recently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Next, these Emptyset videos. They’re quite nice, but I have to say – sorry, Sam – I think it’s utterly stupid to disable embedding on a video apart from an exclusive release of a week or something. (I’m tempted, indeed, not to use them at all, but hope we can convince Sam to reconsider.) Anyway, click through to see them.
This is an extract from the film “Trawsfynydd”, made in collaboration with Emptyset and Clayton Welham.
Developed for Tate Britain’s Performing Architecture programme the film was produced inside the decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Snowdownia, North Wales. Designed by the Modernist architect Basil Spence the power station is currently awaiting demolition in 2083 as part of the sites gradual dissolution across the next century. Trawsfynydd continues on from Medium examining a secondary premise within the architectural cycle, shifting from a space never to be completed to one that has instead finished its functional arc and now faces a gradual dissolution. The project considers the site’s presence as a shadow that is to be gradually returned to the earth examining the transition of space and what architecture becomes when function is lost. The film sits within a broader body of work titled Material examining wider themes of architecture, nature and recursion.
Latest in an ongoing audiovisual experiment with Emptyset and Clayton Welham.
Video: Sam Williams & Clayton Welham
There’s a great interview with Emptyset on The Quietus from late last year:
You’ll find Sam at his site:
— and, naturally, on Vimeo.
Finishing with what’s in fact newest:
video : HISAKI ITO, sound : AOKI takamasa
Official video “RHYTHM VARIATION 02” on AOKI takamasa’s new album “RV8” __ raster-noton [ 2013 _ May ]
Hisaki Ito is on Vimeo (and perhaps somewhere else, if someone has the link)
Got other favorite r-n videos? Send them our way and we’ll cover them. Also, hope to share soon a conversation with ATOM TM, with whom I was on a panel at Mapping Festival – and whose new ATOM HD show I quite love.