Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto insen

The second collaboration from this meeting of minimalists across the acoustic/electronic divide is every bit as lovely an accomplishment as their opener, vrioon. As with the first release, which topped Wire’s 2004 list of electronic releases, Noto (Carsten Nicolai) was given a series of sketches by Sakamoto and left to shape them into a finalised format. Unlike the work on vrioon which consisted mainly of applying a sine-wave tapestry to the piano parts, here Noto microscopically dissects the piano notes themselves and rebuilds the music from the inside out. Sakamoto’s original themes are of the sentimental but sturdy school occupied by Erik Satie, Gavin Bryars and others. This sturdiness is only enhanced by Noto’s surgery. His signature pallet of pulses, clicks and beeps weave around the piano chords connective tissue, strong but delicate. It is where the altered notes and electronic rhythms fuse that progress is achieved. The primary/secondary order of which artist leads and which one supports is stripped away as the piano becomes rhythm to the electronics’ melody, then vice versa. A meditative calm suffuses the entire album, though not in an ambient way where the sound becomes transparent but in a way that gives reason to pause; stop; listen; enjoy; and become momentarily serene. (Asphodel)