German music and media master Alva Noto, aka Carsten Nicolai, has released his full UNIEQAV audiovisual show online. In other words – get your sine wave on, ears and eyeballs, from the comfort of your own home.
As you’d expect from the Noton founder, the world of UNIEQAV is digital in its purest sense – mathematics and code on full display, raw single-cycle wavetables, minimal graphics celebrating color and line.
The full playlist is on YouTube. Some of these clips are not advisable if you have epilepsy. (Oddly, the things that trigger epilepsy victims make me really calm, which I presume says something about the brain, and makes me wish I better-understood neurology and perception.)
Some pleasing moments:
All sound and conception/design is Carsten Nicolai/Alva Noto, with visuals programmed by ongoing collaborator NIBO. (More info – thanks to comments!)
The 2018 album is available direct (including lossless, physical) on the Noton site:
For higher quality movies, check Apple Music. (Hey, “would you like to watch some Alva Noto on my giant flat panel in high res” would probably get me to come home with you, so I guess I’m a digital media nerd.)
Carsten once told us in a talk I moderated at SONAR, alongside Raster founder and friend/collaborator Olaf Bender, that these abstractions were a way of resisting audiovisual propaganda. It’s programming, then, not to serve a pre-defined narrative, but for programming’s sake – mathematical philosophy and objectivism.
I suspect it’s also possible Carsten really, really likes Japan. This piece references Tokyo’s UNIT nightclub, third in a series there. I suppose one personal attraction for me to both Germany and Japan is that they both contemplate tools as art – whether it’s Berlin and software code, or traditional Japan and the careful study and trade of even utensils of tea preparation. I don’t even mean that by analogy – I think many of us who care about sound and visuals also consider time spent contemplating their tools to be part of the process. I can easily imagine that also is part of the connection for Alva Noto artworks.
At least in modern Japan, strict rules governing dancing may also have produced a particular environment for audiovisual work. A 67-year dancing ban has meant that a nightclub is not synonymous with a dancefloor. Even with those laws loosened, it’s not uncommon today to see people stand in contemplation of a show, presumably as a remnant of this history. But for the club-artwork mix of classic Alva Noto, it fits.
I haven’t gotten to speak with Carsten about this and whether it’s connected, but Japanese aesthetics and a history playing there have been part of the whole (former) Raster-Noton crew. Oh, plus Noton will sell you a very attractive Japanese calendar. I also like their logo. Can’t put my finger on why, exactly.
If you’re in Berlin rather than Japan, you can catch Carsten and his brother go up against Robert Lippok and his brother in a back to back to back to back DJ pairing at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. (Seriously, that is the full name of the museum. When German can’t make really long single words, it can still compensate by making really long names for things with multiple words!)
It’s a DJ battle for the ages, and true to form for Carsten’s art world savvy, it also makes the museum the showcase for music. I cannot report for certain whether this “battle” is also a contest for the honor of the two labels Noton and Raster, but it at least makes a fine show of fraternity and love of music. Enjoy that tomorrow night; I’m in Montreal.
Here is that talk, maybe one of the last to put Olaf and Carsten together onstage as Raster-Noton, though – it’s all still in the family, even as each label and platform now focuses elegantly on their own direction.
(That’s of course Olaf, not Carsten in the thumbnail, but you get all of us in black or whatever.)
For a review of an earlier show, Inverted Audio has some thoughtful words on Alva Noto & Anne-James Chaton live at The Barbican.
Image at top: SONAR Istanbul 2018 performance of this show, photo Feli Gutiérres.