Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto Utp_

While many attempts at marrying electronica and contemporary classical music have proven successful in theory and rather silly in practice, this release by long-time collaborators Alva Noto, Ryuichi Sakamoto and famed "new music" troupe Ensemble Modern demonstrates that bringing the two worlds together doesn't always spell aesthetic compromise. Composed for the 400th anniversary of the city of Mannheim, Utp_ is just the right blend of sombre, Badalamenti-ish film atmospherics, drawn-out Feldman-isms, spectralist-derived orchestral colours and careening, pulsating electronics. Sakamoto and Noto are highly adept at employing unexpected instrumental techniques to extend the palette. This is in stark contrast to the cliché route of casting the instruments as the "straight man" while electronic processing is there to spice things up. As you can witness on the peculiar documentary segment on the accompanying DVD, the composition process was highly elaborate and symbiotic, with both Sakamoto and Noto thoroughly excavating each ensemble member's vocabulary of sonic techniques for raw material. But despite the copious use of extended techniques, the overall sound remains focused and refined. The electronics and acoustic sounds perfectly offset each other to create a lambent, silvery glow, which encompasses various minimalisms that have been practiced through the 20th and 21st century. (Raster-Noton)