We know Carsten Nicolai for his sculpture and abstract sound installations, but the newest collaborative work shows us a new side, one prone to more accessible sounds and a visual element that references words and phrases that pop up in everyday life. Under the moniker Alva Noto, Nicolai joined forces with experimental sound artist Byetone to form Diamond Version, a rhythmic rendition of the conceptualism both these artists are known for.
Their new video for their song “Empowering Change” is something for the IDM heads, mathematically glitching at breakbeat speed, with a continuously fluctuating pattern of blips and grinds creating an ominous mood. We see LEDs displaying the values of playing cards, shuffling through them rapidly, in time with the beat. This is Diamond Version TV (DVTV), the project’s visual element led by Simon Mayer, which plays with stereotypes of contemporary visual culture (hence the playing card theme for this first video).
We spoke with Nicolai aka Alva Noto to find out more about Diamond Version, the new video, and the concepts behind their work.
The Creators Project: What inspired the playing card look of the video?
Alva Noto: Games and gambling. It is such a part of our culture and provided a lot of stereotypical imagery. Some of the key words that would encourage our creative process were phrases like: Lottery, casino, win/lose, slogans like: “Be A Winner,” “Good Luck/Bad Luck,” “Random,” “Hope,” and “Money.”
How did you go about creating images?
The technical aspects involved numerous tests and experimentation with lenses and digital cameras. Content-wise, we made a list of topics we would like to “use” in the Diamond Version project, the main focus centered around stereotypes of visual culture, how these stereotypes are created, how we deal with them, and what effect they have on our perception of the world.
Are they digital or shots of actual LED displays?
We included both analogue and digitally composed material, graduating from the first sketches we created which had been only analogue. We work with special digital filters in order to have better control over some specific parts of the video. The basic analogue images have a very “alive” feel with signal mistakes, dust, fragmentation, etc. All this material we will use during our live performances as well.
The music of Diamond Version has a more straightforward rhythmic feel than some of your previous work. Could this function as dance music?
Definitely yes, but we would not claim that Diamond Version is a dance act. We see ourselves more as a “band” that can perform in clubs or festivals or concert venues and these performances have a very dance-oriented feeling to them.
How does this project differ from your solo projects?
Diamond Version feels more like a band, and it will be the main focus of our artistic work for the foreseeable future. The starting point for us is to create something we would not be able to achieve as individual artists. And it’s also very different from a more improvised collaboration. We like the idea that Diamond Version feels like one person and of course this person has its very own identity.
What’s the meaning behind the titles like “Technology at the speed of life” and “Empowering change”?
We do not feel like explaining it too much, but if you look at our mission statement (the first video we presented for Diamond Version as well as the opening track to our live show) you will be confronted by a long list of very “powerful” company slogans. Both track names are taken from that list and all future Diamond Version track names will be used as one of the “slogans.” Hence, the track titles obtain different levels of meaning: one we might know through advertisement; an additional second layer—a more twisted view—by placing this slogan in a different context.