Ryuichi Sakamoto and electronic artist Alva Noto have been collaborating regularly for the best part of ten years, now, having just released their fifth album, 'Summvs'. Their work is minimalist and sparse, with Sakamoto reining in his piano playing and Noto scattering rhythmic blips and atmospheric static across it. The resulting music is like a great science fiction soundtrack, evoking a still, eerie loneliness that brings to mind floating aimlessly in space.

The crowd for this performance are sitting on allocated tables in The Roundhouse’s stage area. In the spaces between the notes – of which there were many – within each piece, you can hear a pin drop. This is quiet, subtle, challenging music, and this audience is engrossed in it. Perhaps this is to do with the fact that those in attendance are most likely familiar with the output of the Raster-Noton record label, who organised the concert as part of a two-day showcase for its roster.

Sakamoto and Noto, aka Carsten Nicolai, don’t speak at all during the performance, stopping only briefly between pieces as the video projection changes behind them. The colours and shapes that provide the visual aspect of the show seem to be triggered and warped by Sakamoto’s piano playing and Noto’s electronic skitters, giving the music an atmospheric boost.

Many of the pieces, naturally, are taken from 'Summvs', but older tracks from previous collaborations such as ‘Insen’ and ‘Revep’ also get an outing. The music is, for the most part, wonderfully tense, building a taut atmosphere in the room and then breaking it with prettier tracks such as a version of Brian Eno’s ‘By This River’ and a minimalist version of one of Sakamoto’s most famous works, ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ (which is included on ‘Revep’ as ‘ax Mr L’).

Being more of a fan of Sakamoto’s more intricate piano works, it is hard to fight the urge to see him really go for it on the piano, but that’s really not what these pieces are about. It certainly doesn’t detract from the emotional impact of the music to give the notes a little space.emotional impact of the music to give the notes a little space.

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Commenting On: Roundhouse, London, 13/5/2011 - Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto

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