Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto – Summvs (Raster Noton)


There’s something about the piano which makes it masterfully emotional. Its ability to portray raw expression is without equal amongst other instruments. On Summvs, their 5th collaboration, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto utilize this extraordinary ability to its fullest extent, surrounding it with subtle electronics and whirling sine waves, to create an almost physical release of whole feeling.

“Microon I” opens the release with the recording of a custom built piano with 16th tone interval tuning, creating minor tonal imperfections which, along with the oscillations it’s surrounded by, creates a swirling mass of hazy notes. “Reverso” sees clicking electronics and static surround a beautifully sparse piano refrain, the two extremes fitting together rather well, creating an almost palpable tension. The conservative use of both elements is what balances this release out so nicely. Not once does the piano outweigh the electronics it is accompanied by, and the same is true of much of the tones and static which pervade every corner. “Halo” has snips of static and white noise evenly dispersed between stabs of piano chords, as a lone bass tone subtly rides through the whole piece. “Microon II” has more work from the same piano as “Microon I”, its 16th note tuning providing an uncomfortable sense of tension. “Pionier IOO” moves into beat orientated space, with a collage of electronic beeps and pulses holding steady beat beneath a heady mix of played and plucked piano notes. “By This River” sees Ryuichi and Alva covering a piece written by Roedelius, Moebius and Brian Eno in 1977. Different melodic ideas are toyed with, and sparse, glitching electronics coat proceedings. “Microon III” is the final instalment from the aforementioned piano, and while it is more sparse than the other 2, it still has an eerie quality of discomfort. Finishing up with “By This River – Phantom”, a cover which would make Eno himself proud, the duo simply take the version already present and half it in speed. Remarkably, even though it’s the same piece, the difference in pace create an entirely new track altogether, one which stands on its own legs.

There’s an almost Arvo Part-ish sense of spiritualistic minimalism at work here, one which points to the fact that both practitioners are acutely aware of what they are doing. For two minds to work as one and produce works as subtle and detailed as these is certainly cause for praise. More of this, please.

Nick Giles


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