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alva noto_unitxt amongst mapsadaisical´s top 5 albums of 2008
unitxt is so different from last year’s xerrox Vol.1, it is hard to believe that these abrasive rhythms were hewn from the same source. just like the last album, however, this goes straight into the top five of the year.
I’m sure by now the Raster-Noton crew have just about awoken after their 12th birthday celebrations the other night at the ICA, and are now in the “did I do that? Really? I wore a shiny white jacket and danced on stage in front of hundreds of people just down the road from the Queen?” stage of not entirely welcome morning-after reflection. As for me, I’m swearing by hair of the dog: the new album by Alva Noto went on sale that night, and I’ve had it on heavy (actually, caps that up – HEAVY) repeat ever since.
Coming on the heels of the lush and emotive Xerrox Vol.1, and the rhythm geometrics of Aleph 1, this is a HEAVY piece of work from Carsten Nicolai. The first half of the album is a good shoe-ing to the ribs in a dark and rainy alley, a piece of masterfully-controlled aggression. “U_07” begins with punched in beats ushering in some wallet-bumph text, with French poet Anne-James Chaton reading from credit and business cards, building to a sickening static finish that actually makes my teeth hurt. You can taste the electricity, and it isn’t pleasant. It doesn’t let up; “U_06” and “U_04” pack crisp rhythmic wallop, while on “U_08-1”, Chaton is back reciting golden number ratios, which would be pleasingly mathematical in an Aleph 1 manner if it wasn’t soldered to a framework of scarred metal. Later, at the end of “U-03, I’m convinced I can hear someone using dialup to try to download the apocalypse. Hilarity does not ensue. The skeletal “U-05” does, initially appearing almost Photek-like in its airiness, but closer inspection revealing a lattice of tiny stitch and glitch edits of malfunctioning machinery.
In the second part of the record, Nicolai goes to new, and even more brutal extremes for his sound sources, converting various non-audio files (including those hardy Office perennials Word, Excel and Powerpoint) to audio, creating chaotic, dense, splintered fragments of white noise. It reminds me of Haswell and Hecker’s Blackest Ever Black experiments with UPIC graphic to audio conversion, another nosebreaking smack into an insurmountable language barrier.
Unitxt welds a variety of spare parts (German techno, noise, dubstep rhythms) to Noto’s minimalist chassis to create something unrecognisable: you can barely believe this thing would roll down hill if you let off the hand brake. That it in fact moves with such power is due to the immense skill of the man behind the wheel. Catch a ride to Raster-Noton to listen to more and to pick up a copy of this masterpiece.