RT Picks

Recommended Books/CDs/DVDs
Published/released in 2009 - 2010


Twice A Man: Icicles [CD]

Since changing name and style from the Devo-esque "Cosmic Overdose" in the very early 1980s, this duo has been crafting some of the finest synth pop at least in the northern part of Europe. Following several partly commissioned forays into experimental/instrumental music, and 2008's rather slow-paced "Clouds", their newest outing marks a return to the dark and chilly yet highly romantic electronic new wave of such mid '80s classics as "From a Northern Shore" or "Slow Swirl". What is strikingly different though is the overwhelming quality and density of sound this time. Even in cases where catchy melodies are absent, Dan Soderqvist and Karl Gasleben never fail to use their excellent programming skills and attention to detail to create some of the best sonic textures ever to get lost in. Available from TAM's online store.

Posted by Andreas Date: May 28, 2010

Xenophone International / Yellow

EUR 12 / Released April 30, 2010 ASIN: B003813LHM


Alva Noto: For 1 + 2 [CD]

"For", an album that collected "tributes to certain individuals" made between 1999 and 2005, was released in 2006, and sold out within a year. Out now is volume two, simply titled "For 2", containing material written during the years up to 2008. It's again a very diverse affair that takes all those aback who expect the same minimal yet dynamic rhythmical outpours as showcased on Alva Noto's landmark album "Transform" and others. The protagonists here are called mood and melody, while rhythms are mostly absent, making way for some exquisite little drones and ambient pieces to unfold. As a special treat for Japanese fans, a "1+2" two-disk set is available in Japan only, and as an alternative yet comprehensive introduction to the seemingly boundless universe of Alva Noto, it should stand right next to "Transform" in every collection of contemporary electronic music.

Posted by Andreas Date: April 26, 2010

p*dis / Inpartmaint Inc.

2,800 yen / Released April 22, 2010 PDIP-6508


Monolake: Silence [CD/2LP]

Departing from the dub-flavoured ambient sound of the (former) duo's early releases, the work of Monolake as Robert Henke's solo project has gradually drifted off toward something like a dead end in the realm of rhythm-based electronic music. This truly exceptional new album however shows how smartly Henke pulled himself in a Munchausian manner out of the swamp of solid beats he seemed to be drowning in. Among the industrial and abstract cover artwork for most other Monolake releases, the snowy landscape this time radiates a mysterious kind of warmth, and although there is no literal "silence" inside, things have significantly calmed down compared to the last two or three album releases. "Silence" is an impressive demonstration of an artist who managed to escape the rhythmic patterns that once defined his sound, and now obviously enjoys his new freedom and the irregularities it introduces to his music. Striking an exquisite balance between tension and serenity, it rewards the attentive listener with plenty of surprises and discoveries.

Posted by Andreas Date: January 15, 2010

Monolake / Imbalance Computer Music

Open price / Released December 2009 ML 025


Katsuo Kuninaka, Takashi Harada, Eiichi Hayashi, Mamoru Hoshi: Diffuse Reflection [CD]

In only three years playing with the Yosuke Yamashita Trio, Kuninaka Katsuo had earned himself a reputation as a "legendary bass player," before surprisingly resurfacing as a guitarist at the trio's reunion concert in July 2009. This album is a recording of a unique live performance staged two days prior to that. Kuninaka's first encounter with Harada Takashi, a master of the electronic musical instrument known as Ondes Martenot, is simply amazing. While Kuninaka keeps producing sounds one usually doesn't expect to come from a guitar, the Ondes Martenot adds a range of incredibly colorful sounds. Hayashi Eiichi's saxophone and Hoshi Mamoru's cello complete what sounds like improvisations of "complex systems" with a distinct smell of European free jazz.

Posted by Matsushima Tamasaburo Date: December 31, 2009

Nautilus Records

2,000 yen / Released November 23, 2009 NR-S001


Kitsu Shigeri: Japanese Voice [CD]

Singer Kitsu Shigeri, also known as one half of the traditional Japanese music duo "Tsuru To Kame", has released a new mini album based on traditional Japanese cradlesong. While solidly rooted in tradition, Kitsu constantly strives to incorporate modern sounds in her music, and daringly keeps expanding the possibilities of Japanese cradlesong without spoiling its original ambiguity and rich nuances. Track one, "Takeda No Komori Uta" is a particularly excellent example featuring multiple vocal overdubs. The song's harmony supported by somewhat cloudy low tones beautifully illustrates the long journey of Kitsu Shigeri's "Japanese voice", and at once it serves as an impressive demonstration of the artistic heights it has reached.

Posted by Ichinose Kyo Date: November 27, 2009


1,800 yen / Released November 25, 2009 ASIN: B002OIH9BY


Raster-Noton. Archiv 3 [CD]

"Frame.Sync", produced for a festival in Portugal in May, resurfaces in Japan in the form of volume 3 in the German label's "Archiv" compilation series. The rather average, typical Raster-Noton track that opens the album lowers expectations in terms of edginess and innovation, but that is immediately corrected in track two. Frank Bretschneider's "Tigger Fun" has to be the sexiest piece of digital funk in the label's catalogue to date! Following is a stunning (yet often demanding) mixture that includes everything from clicks and cuts to elegant sound art and spaced-out drone "rock", demonstrating impressively that stagnation is not a term in the Raster-Noton vocalubary. However, the last four tracks are a bit exhausting to listen to after having gone through 50 minutes of cutting-edge music, so a short break after alva noto's contribution is recommended.

Posted by Andreas Date: November 21, 2009


2,100 yen / Released November 18, 2009 ASIN: B002OIH9BY


Oral History vol.1 Tsubaki Noboru: Radikal Monologue [DVD]

This first volume of a new video archive series launched by Kenji Kubota Art Office. Tsubaki Noboru is a creator of such imaginative artworks as a giant 50m locust-shaped balloon (presented together with Muroi Hisashi at the Yokohama Triennale 2001), and at once an excellent educator, and an artist who is continually engaging in "radikal dialogue" with society. The unique world of Tsubaki Noboru is introduced by the man himself, and through diligent interviews with the likes of Komoto Shinji (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto), Nanjo Fumio (Mori Art Museum), Miyajima Tatsuo (artist), Mori Tsukasa (Art Tower Mito), and other art-related professionals and experts who have been involved in some of the artist's crucial works.

Posted by Andreas Date: March 31, 2009


2,625 yen / Released February 16, 2009 ASIN: B001UJGPWC


Ryuichi Sakamoto: out of noise [CD / CD-Book]

Sakamoto Ryuichi is an artist "beyond". Living in New York and making different types of music, he operates beyond national borders and musical styles. But that's not all. If pop music represents the "voice of the public", Sakamoto went beyond that and became the "voice of the earth". But at once he also went beyond the pretentious and presumptuous claim of speaking in the name of nature, by letting nature speak for itself. That's certainly a little exaggerated, as there is of course "music" on the CD, but the sounds that Sakamoto himself and an array of guests add to the various field recordings are little more than contributions to, or ornamentations of the voice of the earth. The result sounds rather boring at first, but in the moment you catch that vibe and realize that it's Mother Nature talking to you from your speakers, this album reveals its true beauty.

Posted by Andreas Date: March 25, 2009


4,500 yen (full artwork edition) / 1,980 yen
Released March 4, 2009
RZCM-46128 (full artwork edition) / RZCM-46129


ATAK012 OLEVA Ø Mika Vainio [CD]

A Japanese edition of Pan Sonic member Mika Vainio's solo album was released from Shibuya Keiichiro's ATAK label. While the "onkyo" corners of CD shops are literally flooded with ear-pleasing yet rather shallow, easily digestible ambient stuff, Vainio lives once again up to his (and ATAK's) reputation as supplier of a solid, spatially expanding dense sound. The contrast of post-Kraftwerkian pop and serene electronic hush comes across beautifully, and as the CD is recorded in terrifyingly high-fidelity, I recommend listening to it on the best equipment you have at your disposal. This is one proof that music you can't compress into mp3 that easily does exist!

Posted by Arima Sumihisa Date: March 6, 2009


2,400 yen / Released February 18, 2009
ATAK012 / ASIN: B001QUS28U


Hideaki Takahashi: Media Opera <h/>our<br/>link [DVD/CD]

The piece that was unveiled in Asakusa about a year ago just resurfaced on DVD, which necessarily includes the restriction of having to imagine being at the venue while looking at a small TV screen. While the piece is subtitled "opera", it has only a general theme but no storyline, so one's imagination is already put to a test when it comes to making up one's own story, which is why it's perhaps more effective to switch off the TV (or close the eyes) and focus on the sound alone. It's available on the CD part of the set, but as the DVD includes a 5.1 channel surround mix that creates a sound field comparable to that of the real thing, if you have the right equipment at home that's just enough to enjoy the intriguing mix of minimal electronic, classical and ethnic (flavored) elements performed by Takahashi and various collaborators. The visuals are beautiful though, so it's recommended to switch the TV back on from time to time. Or, better still, go and watch the "opera" - provided that it is staged again.

Posted by Andreas Date: February 23, 2009


3,000 yen / Released February 21, 2009 AID-007


Ametsub: The Nothings of The North [CD]

After a (questionable) collaborative effort with drummer Jimanica, Ametsub returns to what he does best, and presents an album that stands out from the vast sea of piano-heavy electronica. Electronic and organic elements blend so naturally that one keeps wondering whether one is listening to piano sounds coming from a computer, or computer sounds coming from a piano, enriched with intricate rhythms and decent melodies that are beautiful enough to overwhelm, yet at once unobtrusive enough not to distract from the elaborate way everything is strung together. Sakamoto Ryuichi says he loves this album, which, as a fun fact, is based on a suspiciously similar "Arctic" experience as Sakamoto's soon-to-be released new opus. Anyway, the "professor" has to come up with a strong one to top this!

Posted by Andreas Date: February 4, 2009

Progressive Form / Third Ear

2,310 yen / Released February 4, 2009 XECD-1110


Pastacas "Snatsit Some Si Si" [CD]

This is the third album by Estonian musical phenomenon Pastacas. From the CD case's techno look and the fact that the disk includes next to new pieces also remixes and remakes, one might expect an emphasis on electronics, but the exact opposite is the case. Once again Pastacas combines Estonian folklore, jazz and electronica, but there are more "songs" this time, and the whole thing is dominated by a mellow atmosphere somewhere between Latin and baroque. The CD sounds more acoustic, and its case was handmade. Pastacas displays again amazing skills on various instruments, whereas it's a pity that there are only a few moments of Squarepusher-level frenzy this time. Anyway, it's a strictly limited release, so you better hurry to get your copy!

Posted by Andreas Date: January 21, 2009


2,300 yen / Released January 21, 2009 AH-089