Pioneers in their own respective musical fields, Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto) and Ryuichi Sakamoto began their exploration of sound and visual arts, evocatively titled the Virus Series, in 2002. Nine years on and the fifth and final installment of the collection, “Summvs,” reaches the apex of their collaborative potential.

Sakamoto’s haunting piano-based arrangements — as well as his masterful understanding of silence — effortlessly coalesce with Nicolai’s digital rhythms and accompaniment, creating a work of musical art that is as provocative as it is meditative. OK, so technically because this album was pressed by German label Raster-Noton, it’s not strictly a Japanese release. However, Sakamoto’s contribution makes it a significant step forward for Japan’s avant-garde scene — not just musically, but also artistically.

What I’m looking forward to in 2012: More fresh releases from Sublime Records and anything by Masaki Sakamoto.

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