Review: Mika Vainio + Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto – Live 2002

Live 2002 is an arrangement of electricity. Adjustments in voltage. Right-angled circuitry. Carefully modulated levels of interference. The three artists negotiate these changes between themselves – one locking into a pulsing bass loop, another sending shudders of static over the top in intermittent waves, another transmitting high-pitched beeps to the edges – filling the grid of stereo space with blocks and deliberate absences. And while the rhythms beneath often feel like the kernels of a minimal techno track, the trio always push back against the promise of a more conventional musical framework. By denying the blueprint of familiar form, the roles of these artists are constantly subjected to adjustment, correction and rebalancing. In other words, even if the collaboration is vacuum-sealed circuitry in texture, it is relentlessly human in dialogue. A ballet of intention and restraint, enacted by computerised proxy.

Given that all three artists are known for applying silence with the same conviction as sound, it’s no surprise that great swathes of this collaboration centre on very little. “Movement 9” is a 30 second synthesiser sweep, which disintegrates beautifully into pops of static in the dark. The mid-section of “Movement 3” hangs like a crashed update patch, caught in a constellation of chattering code and jarred drones. “Movement 7” takes a fleeting deviation into physical emptiness, with hums of various pitches scanning the frame like search lights. Yet there are moments of dangerous overload too, with electronics eroding themselves as they rub together. At these moments, the collaboration converges upon the digital equivalent of humidity: filling the space with electricity that’s thick enough to chew, amassing vibrations of a potency that stereo space was never designed to withstand. I see these sections as calculated forewarnings about the pitfalls excessive presence, jutting out of a work that otherwise celebrates the potential of three minds in precise, beautifully negotiated symbiosis.