Alva Noto – Univrs on Raster-Noton
Raster-Noton are an interesting label with a lot going for them, including a fairly diverse roster and some sumptuous packaging. I liked the Pan Sonic-esque Pact Systems/Signal release and Mika Vainio’s stunning Time Examined book and CDs.
The Unun vinyl series has been reliable and experimental offerings from poet Anne-James Chaton (who appears on Univrs too) and CoH certainly interest. Not everything they release is amazing by any stretch, however, and the mastering is pretty much geared towards those who like hyperloud cuts. I’ve always been rather underwhelmed by label-boss Alva Noto, perhaps, it has to be said, because I’d heard so many waxing lyrical about him before I heard any of his music. His ambient is pleasant enough, if rather polite, and his clicks ‘n’ cuts-style beats and micronoises seem over-worn. His remix of the over-rated Kangding Ray’s Rise was forgettable, his micronoise contributions to his utp_ collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto unnecessary. As a result, I approached this release with moderate expectations.
I am, however, quite pleasantly surprised and the Univrs album, from the very first track, sounds very reminiscent of middle-era Pan Sonic when they were being more beat driven. This is not a startlingly original work but it takes the Pan Sonic sound in a further useful direction, which is no bad thing. Following on from this comparison Univrs holds no real surprises but in developing the sound it moves more solidly onto the dancefloor. Alva Noto, while not displaying such great synths/drones, arguably has more interesting and danceable beats, with greater variety in track structure. The usual micro noises and rhythmic glitches are present but are somehow toned down and ameliorated by other sounds and FXs. The presence of Anne-James Chaton on uni acronym is welcome and the French fortunately obscures the banality of his shopping receipts. The electro track uni rec is pretty dull, however, and makes me want to put on Pan Sonic’s Kesto. It’s only benefit is that it makes the next track seem even more demented – which it is, quite deliciously so.
The fourth side comprises various shorter tracks including a beatless one that reminds me slightly of something BBC radiophonic workshop might have done. Its more dusty analogue feel makes it an anomaly here although it is perfectly good. Tonally, the album is a bit more moderate than some other things I’ve heard from him, with a well produced bass and fewer instances of ultra high pitch or abrasiveness at 3-5kHz: this is a far cry from the rather hard-to-like (admittedly unmastered) Id from Cyclo. A solid, if uninspiring, release, this is a record best suited for a club and will, I imagine, sound great there. Three and a bit stars.
Purchase it directly from Raster-Noton: postage is free and you get the usual mp3s. This is Opine Kosinski, signing off.
A1. Alva Noto – Uni C
A2. Alva Noto – Uni Fac
A3. Alva Noto – Uni Pro
B1. Alva Noto – Uni Dia
B2. Alva Noto – Uni Iso
C1. Alva Noto – Uni Acronym feat. Anne-James Chaton
C2. Alva Noto – Uni Asymmetric Noises
C3. Alva Noto – Uni Rec
D1. Alva Noto – Uni Deform
D2. Alva Noto – Uni Mode
D3. Alva Noto – Uni Asymmetric Tone
D4. Alva Noto – Uni Asymmetric III-IIII
D5. Alva Noto – Uni Syc
D6. Alva Noto – Uni Asymmetric Sweep