Alva Noto :: :: Xerrox Vol.1 (Raster-Noton)

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(03.09.08) Similar to the themed three album Transall series, Xerrox Vol.1 is the
first in an ongoing series of five albums by Carsten Nicolai, otherwise
known as minimalist sonic architect Alva Noto. The concept behind this
album is that of duplication and the way in which repeated replication
of the source material distorts the original to such a degree that the
copy itself becomes the source of newly created material. Exploring
this idea, Nicolai takes samples of everyday sounds from airports,
hotels, telephone hold music, entertainment programmes and various other
familiar sources and passes them through a specially created device
simply described as a “Xerrox Sample Transformer” designed by Nicolai
and built by Christoph Brunggel for this project. The resultant tracks
are manipulated, copied and re-copied beyond recognition to illustrate
the theme.

Although all the source material is clearly identified on the sleeve of
the album, the music it contains bears little resemblance to the
original sampled sounds. This in itself illustrates Nicolai’s point
that repeated replication and manipulation of original material leads to
distortion and degradation of that material to create something
completely new. Utilising a range of sources throughout the album,
Nicolai’s music is typically minimal and constructed in fine detail, the
inherent hiss and static of repeated replication evident throughout.
Tones echo and fizz through the distorted soundscape, gentle and
unassuming, punctuated by the briefest of interludes. At times, such as
“Haliod Xerrox Copy 6,” the underlying tones roll and cascade with a
soft heartfelt drone as though purveying raw emotion through the static
mist. Each track has its own understated subtlety but from time to time
the combination works to marvellous effect and Nicolai’s careful
composition is at its strongest. From the gentle emotion of “Haliod
Xerrox Copy 6″ comes the dark uncertainty of the generically named
“Haliod Xerrox Copy 11” illustrating how Nicolai can completely shift
emphasis simply by changing the underlying tone of the track, in this
case to one of edgy anxiety and tension. “Haliod Xerrox Copy 111”
explores a further variation in mood by placing slow, soft piano keys
under a thick layer of static, resulting in a fragile melancholic track
aching with the pain of a love lost. It is this attention to the
minutiae of sound composition that sets Nicolai and his ilk apart from
his peers; although the changes between the tracks on the album are
apparently small, the effect they have on the mood and feeling of the
track can be immense. This is further illustrated by the cinematic
qualities of “Haliod Xerrox Copy 1,” a track with an orchestral tone
that is essentially light in comparison to earlier tracks but still
heavy with emotion and feeling, yet at the same time completely
different to its counterparts. Even the track titles are “copied” and
left for the listener to draw what they will from them as they are all
generically titled and then numbered to be as similar as possible to
each other.

Nicolai proves his theory about the replication of source material
wonderfully with Xerrox Vol.1 and he does so by creating thematically
similar tracks that, with often the smallest and most subtle of changes,
replicate each other in many ways yet are fundamentally different in
others. Housed in a beautifully designed multi-fold folder and
protected with its own plastic sleeve, Xerrox Vol.1 is packaged with the
care and attention Raster-Noton are known for and is carried through to
the music they release.

Xerrox Vol.1 is out now on Raster-Noton. [Purchase]

  • Raster-Noton
  • Alva Noto
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