Japanese electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda is known for minimalistic yet absorbing sound installations. As a premiere figure in the international world of audiovisual art, Ikeda has been featured at some of the world's premiere events, venues, and concert halls. These venues include Sonar Barcelona, The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, The Barbican Centre, Park Avenue Armory, Centre Pompidou, Art Basel, and more. At such locations, his absorbing and imaginative sound art has included A/V presentations of conceptual albums like 2012's Superpositions, 2008's Test Pattern, and 2006's Datamatics. With mathematical precision, Ikeda's work has pioneered a new minimal world of razor-sharp electronic music. It has also made him a premiere name in algorithmic composition, honing an instantly recognizable yet unrelenting sound.

On December 2nd, Ryoji Ikeda released his latest album, ultratronics. Comprised of 17 tracks, it comes via Alva Noto's NOTON imprint, which also hosted 2013's Supercodex project. Ultratronics is put together from recordings between 1989 and 1999 and compositions from 2013 to 2022; making the record both a career-spanning release and a sonic snapshot of the evolution of immersive, minimal electronic music. As with all his audio output, ultratronics explores sound's arithmetic and computational essence, rendering its tracklist into a complete audio experience marked by Ikeda's distinct sonic signature. This signature, born from an inherent interest in genetics, quantum physics, astronomy, and (more recently) big data, perceive music and the world in which it exists in numerical terms.

The album transports listeners into a world created from data, the kind that usually goes unnoticed. Each track is labelled ultratronics 1 - 17, with one released as the album's first single - a 5-minute glitchy combination of analogue radio dials, cut-up vocals (one of the album's few overtly connective motifs), and ever-so-minimal underlying rhythms. From ultratronics 1, the album experience gradually builds and takes a turn around the minimal techno of 4 before the album's centrepiece hits. 

This hit comes from the new wave percussion heavy ultratronics 7. Both 7 and the subsequent 8 subvert certain expectations, bypassing the sine waves in place of more accessible, dare I say it, even "banger" territory. They are closer to Meat Beat Manifesto than Mika Vainio. This continues through ultratronics 9 until 10 and sees Ikeda descend into more glistening soundscapes before the final tracks play out in slow-moving drone minimalism, albeit through the noise explosion of 14. Tracks like ultratronics 15 (another of the album's singles), and its human-like heartbeat or 16's bleepy bookend to 1, offer a complete, cyclical narrative experience. 

ultratronics is an album meant to be experienced visually and aurally, but it is also surprisingly accessible. The album format allows Ikeda to traverse several sonic territories, from industrial to ambient, within the glitch and bleep territory he is known. In addition, it features top production quality, albeit constructed through a sparse toolset. On the scale of Ikeda, however, ultrartonics skews the opposite of his more abstract work, like his Carsten Nicolai collaborative Cyclo project. This may disturb some of his most loyal fans. Still, its fragmented melting pot of data-driven ideas results in a rewarding, two-decade-spanning peer into the artistry of a master.