Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto Alva Noto & Ryuichi SakamotoSummvs
In the past few months, word was going around that “Summvs” could be the last collaboration between Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Now that we have it in our hands –virtually, anyway, as it’s only out on digital for now (the CD will be released shortly), we have mixed feelings about the affair. On one hand, the bitter sensation of witnessing the last chapter of a collaboration that so far had given us four recordings and a live CD-DVD, on which the two developed a surprisingly fluid and well-oiled dynamic. On the other, there’s a sense of relief: listening to the previous two releases, you could already sense that the project couldn’t grow a whole lot more, that the surprise was gone and that it would be better to quit while they were ahead, with an impeccable course run and both musicians completely aware of the twilight. And in a way, this new and last episode shows an image of the circle closing, of an era coming to a conclusion.
The expressive and creative parameters of the album are identical to those of its predecessors. The Japanese maestro’s piano seeks comfort between the gassy layers and the erratic rhythms by Carsten Nicolai and vice versa, a game we know all too well but which is very hard to get bored with. Anyway, one of the elements that make “Summvs” a key work in the series is the warmth of its compositions, the closeness of its melodies, even in the context of an experimental clash like this. At first sight, the album might seem more distant and abstract, an idea coming from Nicolai’s adoption of somewhat darker and foggier ambient textures and resources, to the detriment of his most rhythmical vein, which may be more in the background on purpose, but in the end, the feeling the listener gets is that of a bigger emotional implication by both artists.
In that sense, “Naono” would be a perfect example to illustrate this: eleven anthological minutes during which Alva Noto invokes the spirit of William Basinski, Deathprod and, heads up, the Ben Frost of “By The Throat”, while Sakamoto sprinkles the black tapestry with the right amount of piano sketches. The result is quite more impressive than its predecessors, if we look at it closely. It hasn’t got the subtlety, the mystery or the ability to surprise of “Vrioon” and “Insen”, but it goes deeper, maybe because this is a goodbye and melancholy came over the duo. A special mention for the two versions of “By This River”, an old song by Roedelus, Eno and Moebius, surely the closest thing to a hit or at least a “full” song either of the two will have ever recorded. There’s little more to be said: it’s an essential record, like the previous ones.
“By This River – Phantom”