Alva Noto


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Many forward-looking electronica producers adopted the glitch sound in the early 2000s, incorporating the aesthetic subtly into traditional forms of techno and house. Few, however, devoted themselves to the style as wholeheartedly as Carsten Nicolai, whose second LP as Alva.Noto, Transform, came as somewhat of a realization of the style's ambient side in late 2001. It's noteworthy to view Transform as a realization, because Nicolai had toyed with various approaches to glitch long before this album hit the streets. None of the sounds and methods one hears on Transform are new, yet rarely before -- arguably never before -- have they been compiled and synthesized in such a seamless manner. Nicolai takes every sound conceivable within the realm of ambient glitch's expansive palette and arranges these sounds in different manners throughout Transform. The tracks have no names and few distinctive qualities; in fact, rarely can one even notice when one track succeeds another. There are moments when the listener hears nothing but lingering buzzing tones; there are other moments when barely audible clicks form Morse code-like rhythms; there are also moments when these almost undetectable sounds form a hypnotic chorus of audible silence. Granted, this all sounds admittedly enigmatic -- lingering buzzing, barely audible rhythms, undetectable sounds, audible silence -- yet this is precisely what's most exciting about this album. No, it can't be danced to. In fact, listeners really can't even tap their feet to it since there are no, by definition, beats. But there are rhythms here, even if they don't draw attention to themselves, and the sound is dense, even if one can barely hear it. And even if the volume is turned up to normally obscene levels, listeners still can't grasp this music. It's so transparent and so quiet that they can only sit back and surrender to its subtle effect. They may struggle to hear it, but they know it's there and can feel its inhuman aura -- that's about the best they can do, and quite frankly, that's what they're suppose to do. Whether listeners find such an aura appealing is another question. What's certain, though, is that here Nicolai proves why he's considered one of the leading -- if not the leading -- ambient glitch producer of the early 2000s. For those who are curious about ambient glitch, there's no better place to go -- this is as pure and unadulterated as the style gets, making no concessions to anyone except the artist himself.

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