Alva Noto is the pseudonym of German audio-visual artist Carsten Nicolai. Born in the east German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1965, Nicolai first studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing an interest in the theoretical properties of sound and space.
Resettling in Berlin in the early '90s, Nicolai founded the experimental music label Noton.Archiv Fuer Ton Und Nichtton as a platform for his conceptual and experimental musical concerns. Those concerns finally took shape as a 12-issue CD and magazine series called 20 to 2000, released in 1999 and 2000 on Raster-Noton Records (which had merged his own label with Olaf Bender's Rastermusic). With that conceptual masterwork out of the way, Nicolai adopted the name Alva Noto (as simply Noto, he had done some small-scale recordings and performances dating as far back as 1996) and recorded 2000's Prototypes, a 50-minute album of untitled sound collages constructed from the actual sound of electrical hums and clicks, amplified and arranged into a series of discrete movements that move beyond mere ambient music into a new realm of environmental music. 2001's Transform delved into the glitch genre with ten new evanescent pieces, while 2005's Insen (featuring piano contributions from Ryuichi Sakamoto) continued that direction. Released one year later, both For and Rev EP were composed of unreleased tracks, and Alva Noto continued releasing music with Xerrox, UTP, and Unitxt, the latter of which mixed Noto's minimalist capabilities with German techno and dubstep. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi