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Baker's Dozen

No Music: A Baker’s Dozen with Alva Noto
Ollie Zhang , February 21st, 2018 10:30

From Laurie Anderson’s United States Live to Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music, Carsten Nicolai tells Mollie Zhang about 13 records that shaped his musical backbone. Photo by Andrey Bold


P.I.L. - Album
I was always fascinated by punk, but was never really a huge punk fan. This record specifically, I found interesting because they started working with Bill Laswell, one of the few people who had really high production skills then. It wasn’t a typical punk band setup and I found this record to be groundbreaking. It’s not really punk, it’s not really dub. It had vocals from John Lydon, and Jah Wobble was part of it - I realized this later on, but not then. This record was on heavy rotation for me over a certain period. It was a perfect record for this period of time, between punk and new wave. You could feel something happening, it’s difficult to describe.

I remember the moment when I bought it. It was in Hungary, and it was so expensive for us to buy records then. If you would compare the cost to today, in terms of how long you could live off of the same amount of money, it cost [the equivalent of] 500 euros to buy a record. I went to Hungary during my summer break as a student, and I had a map of all the record stores in Budapest. I had 13 record stores on my list, and I checked all of them right away to figure out which record I wanted to buy - I needed to see what was available, what wasn’t, and in the end I decided on this P.I.L. record. And that was, of course, the end of my vacation. I’d spent all of my savings and had to go back to Germany because I didn’t have the money to continue my vacation, but I was very happy with this choice. The excitement of discovering new music was a really large part of my life. It wasn’t just a question of consuming music. It’s the complete opposite to today, where the norm for younger generations is to not pay for music. Listening to and buying music were big decisions! It directly effected how much money you had to live off of. When you buy a record for such a large amount of money, it becomes a real treasure. I still have it!