"On "Xerrox", ALVA NOTO works with samples from muzak, advertising, soundtracks and entertainment programs. These sounds we hear randomly in everyday life and thereby they become an always present and available public domain. With "Xerrox" ALVA NOTO manipulates these recognizable melodic (micro) structures by the process of copying. He alienates them beyond recognition so the results manifest their connection to the original only suggestively. In this respect the original is copied to the original."
In these distressing times of jagged heteronormativity, apocalyptic multiplicity and the retro-gaze of the eventual subject my relationship with concepts and theory surrounding popular music has always been rather one of alert suspicion. When the names 'Raster-Noton' and 'Carsten Nicolai' are evoked this suspicion goes into supermega-overdrive and reaches an all-time high.
The above promotional text accompanying Alva Noto's newest project (Nicolai does not make records, he thinks up projects, that are then worked out in detail and, one is inclined to think, are only recorded because, well, they have to be, do they not), is one of the most overblown and anal commentaries I ever encountered. And as a regular record reviewer I have read quite a few promotional papers that were talking out of the metaphorical anus. I, as any other thinking being, crave my daily piece of theory. But when they lay their filthy pomo claws on my music, I am inclined to take out the air-rifle and do some serious damage.
Now, I am asking you to point out in which way there is anything revolutionary about taking samples and copying them beyond recognition? Since the birth of the sampler electronic producers have been doing just that, have they not? Tell me what is so special about that.
All this would not make me grumpy, if not the music that is the result of this incredibly original and shrewd conceptualisation were anything more than white noise and ambient. Mind you, the music on Xerrox Vol.1 (four more episodes, and, one fears, an equal amount of conceptual bullshit along with it, to follow) is some of the most pristine, alienating and beautiful sound you will have ever heard. But even after a few listenings it remains just that: white noise and ambient.
The music even sounds white. It is pure nothing music, a glacial soundtrack to accompany a perverted tourist walk through a cathedral of concrete, glass and shining design materials. Beautiful as levitating through the clouds on a sunny day, but the link with the so-called concept is non-existing.
Furthermore, what is Nicolai talking about when he states that "the results manifest their connection to the original only suggestively"? I challenge everyone to listen a few times to this recording and point out the portion(s) which he thinks manifest any connection whatsoever to a recognizable sound source. Nicolai is so kind to provide us with a list of the original sources, references like "Narita Airport", "Telephone Wait-loop" and "Seven-Eleven Tokyo".
He is right when he says that you will not recognize Narita Airport or the 7/11 in Tokyo on Xerrox Vol.1. But if he had put phrases like "Bear Fart from Amsterdam Zoo" or "80-year Old Being Porked by Said Bear" instead, you would have believed him just as well. Hell, I would even take something like "Carsten Nicolai Hurting His Membranes While Thinking Up A Marvellous New Concept" for granted. But the result would be exactly the same. Is this a cd or an encyclopedia, an example of Nicolai's "work in the transitional area between art and science"? Who knows, dear readers, who knows?
And then of course, as top of the bill, we get a phrase like: "In this respect the original is copied to the original." What the fuck is this guy talking about? Someone. Explain. This. Sentence. To. Me.
But this is not the end of it. Xerrox Vol.1, as you will by now have come to suspect, is not encased in an ordinary jewelcase. Sir, no, Sir! It is presented in a folder. If you fold this open more logorrhoea comes pouring out. Things like:
"In the end the process of copying can itself become a creative tool which analytically generates something new. The mutating copy emerges as a new original and thereby provides space for development." (The sheer invention of it! Serendipity alert!! A sound Revolution!!!)
"In our world of constant reproduction the immeasurable number of multiplied images corroborates the original. The copy assumes its independence and its own value. The replication equals the original, which as an icon becomes abstract and virtual." (Yes, dear readers, you read that right. This "Maître Penseur of Microtechno" dares to go all Platonic on us.)
What next? Will Xerrox Vol.2 be an "original replication" of Xerrox Vol.1? And Xerrox Vol.3 an "unrecognizable copy" of the, by that time, iconic, abstract and virtual Xerrox Vol.1? And, most important of all: will we still be able to recognize "Narita Airport" by the time Xerrox Vol.5 will have wreaked more conceptual havoc upon our poor minds? Will the "integral material component of the original remain or can this only be projected?" Give this man some time and in a few months he will be mentioning terms like "substance", "category", "free will" and "eternal recurrence". Anytime would I welcome another tsunami of Tolkien-inspired progressive rock albums with Uriah Heep-style sleeves full of wizards and sci-fi birds before taking in another helping of this kind pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo.
With all this mind-poisoning post-techno babble one would almost forget - and this, the ironic cruelty that is always so manifest in pomo, almost makes me weep of frustration - that Xerrox Vol.1 actually is one of the most fascinating ambient records 2007 has yielded up till now.