It’s been a couple of weeks since I saw Alva Noto reproduce his Xerrox works with the small classical ensemble s t a r g a z e. The idea for the four volumes of the Xerrox series came initially to Noto in Japan. Some recordings that he’d made became electronically corrupted and rather than hit “delete”, he decided to embrace the glitches. He copied the files over and over, hence the portmanteau of xerox and error in the title of the albums. There’s a fifth volume to come, apparently.
Andre De Ridder approached Noto to supplement the recordings live with his s t a r g a z e group of musicians. A mixture of strings, woodwind and percussion, the evening was all about building textures and altering sounds.
As per his Barbican concert with Ryuichi Sakamoto in 2018, it wasn’t necessarily melodic or easy on the ear. This makes it tough to love at times and as a listener you have to lean in to it and engage. After a while, you’ll pick up recurring patterns or motifs, chopped and screwed. When the string section took the lead, the outcome could be piercing and for me it worked best when there was a little rhythmic motion to help things along via a processed bass drum or xylophone.
The visuals helped, just a simple set of hanging ribbons, lit to move with the music and change muted colours.
Things really gelled for the encores which had a familiarity. Firstly we got a version of The Cure’s A Forest which Noto recently covered, stretching it out and looping it back as he also has done with David Bowie’s Subterraneans. The final encore was an emotional version of his old collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme for Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky. The lighting was a blend of the Saharan desert and a Japanese sunset and matched with the romantic sweep of Sakamoto’s melody. Sakamoto died a few weeks ago and his presence was tangible.
It was a moving end to an evening that felt as much for the head as for the heart.