To step into Ryoji Ikeda’s world is to be immersed in numbers. Audiovisual installations generated by large datasets from CERN, NASA, and the Human Genome Challenge bathe audiences in streams of digits, barcodes of sunshine, and ever-shifting astronomical coordinates. Mathematical abstractions are reworked into overwhelming digital chatter as if in imitation of a pc language that we are able to hear however not perceive. As a composer, Ikeda pioneered glitch music within the Nineties by sonifying knowledge overload, however his technological critique belies his intuition for tune. Particular person parts of his sound, from pure sine waves to unadorned white noise, mix for surprisingly danceable moments. “I discovered the whole lot within the golf equipment,” he stated. “Nothing mental, simply, ‘growth growth growth.’” Ultratronics, a brand new set of compositions primarily based on materials recorded within the ’90s, foregrounds his songcraft over his trademark minimalism for probably the most accessible album of his profession.
Whereas fellow glitch originators Yasunao Tone and Oval use broken CDs to create waves of stuttering skips, Ikeda begins with the barest fundamentals of sound. Landmark albums like 2000’s Matrix, 2005’s Dataplex, and 2008’s Check Sample function little greater than sine waves hovering on the fringe of notion, filtered Thirty second-note clicks panning left and proper, and blasts of white noise interrupting. Solely on the finish of his information would these sparse sounds regularly coalesce into correct songs. Ultratronics does away with this barrier to entry, starting with absolutely realized and instantly compelling tracks. As an alternative of slowly constructing his tonal palette throughout the album, Ikeda gathers the principle threads and unfastened ends of his oeuvre right into a surprisingly colourful tapestry.
Ultratronics goes in instructions that Ikeda has left unexplored for many years. After abandoning the usage of samples on current releases, he prominently incorporates recordings of a robotic narrator named “ULT 708X,” who “can educate you counting, studying, capabilities, and math issues.” Within the playful spotlight “Ultratronics 04,” ULT 708X tries (and fails) to rely to 30, paying homage to Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator,” whereas “Ultratronics 01” garbles its voice utterly as in Autechre’s “Ccec.” A younger Ikeda might need generated these sounds in imitation of his heroes within the ’90s, however now he incorporates them into his personal sonic signature of crystal-clear sine tones, double-speed clicks and cuts, and bursts of dial-up noise. He sounds refreshingly unfastened, guiding us by his evolution as an artist with gracious humor.
A lot of Ultratronics is a patchwork of genres, as if Ikeda is DJing a retrospective of his personal profession. The breakneck shifts could threaten the coherence of the album, however Ikeda weaves an exhilarating panorama out of those numerous strands: a pummeling industrial beat extra acceptable for Throbbing Gristle or Esplendor Geométrico on “Ultratronics 09,” his most compelling IDM since Dataplex’s “Information.Matrix” on “Ultratronics 11,” and delightful atmosphere on “Ultratronics 14.” Ikeda has carved an unmistakable area of interest along with his relentlessly minimalist, self-consciously tutorial meditations on knowledge, however he additionally dangers repetitiveness with uninterrupted years of honing his sound. With Ultratronics, he maintains his exact aesthetic however provides a much-needed sense of levity and enjoyable. In case you look carefully, you would possibly even see him crack a smile.