The colors of Alva Noto


For the first time we are able to enjoy the visuals from Alva Noto’s UNIQEAV show in streaming format. Back in 2018 Alva Noto, aka Carsten Nicolai, released UNIEQAV, the third in his Uni- series of dancefloor-orientated releases inspired by the Tokyo club UNIT.

For live performances of the album, the artist drew inspiration from mathematics, data, unit systems, and codes to create mesmerizing visuals to accompany UNIEQAV, which the artist describes as “sonically representing an underwater dive”.

Nicolai is hardly a stranger to dance floors. His projects have collided with techno over the years, and even his experimental work has ended up in DJ sets. (Ben Klock memorably ended his fabric mix with an Alva Noto track.) But rarely has Nicolai engaged with techno as directly as on Unieqav. “Uni Sub” is classic Alva Noto abstraction with a typical techno sound palette of corrugated metals and rumbling basslines. The ominous mood on “Uni Version” sounds like it could’ve come from Northern Electronics, yet the static-coated snares and clicky drums are unmistakably Nicolai’s. “Uni Dna”—featuring the French poet Anne-James Chaton reciting the names of amino acids—hints at the conceptual techno of Atom TM.

Now you can experience the album with all the visuals used for those live shows with a new playlist, courtesy of Alva Noto and Noton.

UNIEQAV is available on digital and physical formats at the Noton website. You can also buy all of the videos in HD via Apple Music.

Carsten Nicolai concludes Alva Noto’s UNI-prefixed release cycle with UNIEQAV, the 3rd and most dancefloor-focussed instalment of the series. The follow-up to Unitxt [2008] and Univrs [2011] pairs pendulous minimal techno and electro rhythms with wide, sheer electronic drones in a way that strongly recalls recent Monolake output as well as Ilpo Väisänen in full swang. Comparisons aside, though, it’s unmistakably Alva Noto.

Pursuing the project’s roots in the dancefloor of Tokyo’s UNIT club to a satisfyingly logical endpoint, Nicolai rolls out 12 typically mercurial yet gripping sound designs defined by their fluid dynamics and seemingly fathomless dimensions intended to render the club or your head underwater, thanks to a still remarkable grasp of purified tonal minimalism/maximalism and studied sensitivity to proprioception.

The results are filigree yet robust, firmed up for deployment on the sickest sound system you can lay your hands on, but also highly pleasurable in a headphone or sofa-inclined context, keeping us rapt and twitching from the dubwise plong and looming pads of Uni Sub and the Robert Henke-esque pressure systems of Uni Mia.

The nervous skeleton of Uni Version flows into singular Alva Noto sounds in the jabbing pointillism of Uni Clip and the staggering scale of Uni Normal, with major highlights in the widescreen drama of Uni Blue, and footwork-like rapid movement join Uni Edit, while Anne-James Chaton’s vocal lend a sharp contrast in Uni Dna.