Carsten Nicolai, better known as Alva Noto, is a German artist and musician. He was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1965 and established himself as an artist at the crossroads between music, visual arts, and science, exploring the minimalist aesthetic.
Nicolai moved to Berlin at the beginning of the Nineties where, in 1994, he founded the experimental record label Noton.Archiv. Alva Noto’s music career debuted when Noton.Archiv merged with Rastermusic in order to become Raster-Noton. Indeed, in 1998 he published 20’ to 2000, a monthly series composed of twenty twenty-minute CDs intended to give an interpretation to the last twenty minutes of the XX Century.
In 2000 he published Prototypes, an album comprising untitled tracks composed of a sound collage tending towards ambient music. It was followed by Transform in 2001, which added a rhythmic base to his sound experimentations. That same year, he also released Uniform, a collaboration with composer Scanner for an exhibition at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.
In 2002 Alva Noto released the first of a series of collaborations with the Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Vrioon presented delicate piano melodies on a glitch-house base which was a great success with the critics. In 2005 theri second collaboration was published, Insen, Vrioon natural sequel characterized by a unique sound balance.
In 2008 he published Unitext, an album of intense glitch sound for which he collaborated with French poet Anne-James Chaton. Xerox, Vol.2 was a 2009 release and incorporated sounds produced by Sakamoto, Michael Nyman, and Stephen O’Malley.
Alva Noto’s fourth project with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Summvs, was released in 2011 together with a solo album, Univrs. 2012 saw the debut of Diamond Version, a collaboration with ambient producer Bender that presented a more pop iteration of the Raster-Noton aesthetic. It was the beginning of a long partnership with the German producer, with whom between 2012 and 2012 released five EPs, followed by CI in 2014.
Alongside Sakamoto and Bryce Dessner, he composed the soundtrack for the renowned film Revenant by director Alejandro Iñárritu, which was nominated for Best Original Soundtrack at the 2016 Golden Globes. That same year, Alva Noto released Leaves of Grass, an EP composed of lyrics narrated by Iggy Pop.
In 2017 the label Raster-Noto parted waysbut the Germanartist kept making music under the reborn label Noton. In 2018 he released Glass, a new Sakamoto collaboration with which he performed in Italy on the occasion of the Romaeuropa Festival in 2019. In 2020 he published an ambient style cover of The Cure’s “A Forest” which preceded the album Xerox, Vol.4. That same year he collaborated again with Sakamoto for a musical answer to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Incomplete” was the description of the solitude and estrangement felt by artists due to the impossibility to perform in front of the public.