Alva Noto – Xerrox, Vol. 4 Review

Thirteen years have passed since the first chapter of the Xerrox series. It was 2007, and glitch musician Alva Noto released an album driven by the idea of endless digital repetition, where almost imperceptible glitches and interferences end up destroying the original samples, turning them unrecognizable. Furthermore, the curious name of that work was pretty much self-explanatory, coming from the union of xerox and error.

It wasn’t really a completely unheard of concept, since previous works from masters like William Basinski were definitely focused on the idea of repetition with errors. But the German musician’s ability to create cinematic soundscapes and his incredible accuracy in sound design were absolutely remarkable. In the same way, the programmatic idea of building a five-album series was at least impressive.

So here we are with the penultimate work from the series, five years after Xerrox ,Vol. 3. In the meantime, Carsten Nicolai has created performances and installations – either visual or sound art – for world renowned museums, and has released new music both as a solo artist and in collaboration, including the original soundtrack for the Oscar-winning movie The Revenant with his longtime collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto and his latest project Alphabet with the French poet Anne-James Chaton. Considering the artist’s versatility and multidisciplinary interests, Xerror ,Vol. 4 can look like a return to sound – and specifically music – as the primary element of his research.

Released by his own label NOTON, it preserves the concept of the previous Xerrox works, strictly following the process of digital repetition. Anyway, the outcome sounds pretty different compared to its siblings: avoiding exaggerated conceptualism and the harshest aspects of them, Vol. 4 is more approachable and than its predecessors.

The sound material selected by Noto is absolutely harmonic, with dreamy strings and soothing piano phrases. It is music made by soft shapes, where everything flows in an ongoing, uninterrupted flux without excessive dissonance. Listening to it recalls a journey through wide open space or cosmic visions – an idea also suggested by the tracks’ titles. The listeners can dive into ethereal and warm sounds, flooded in the mind blowing and meditative atmosphere that pervades the whole album, which for sure is one the most interesting ambient releases of the year so far.

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