Carsten Nicolai appears as a musician under the pseudonym Alva Noto and is a prominent representative of electronic music and minimal techno.
He was influenced by the electronic synth sounds of Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings) in the Chemnitz of the early 1980s as well as by Depeche Mode and Klaus Schulze, with whom he still collaborates artistically today. In the 1990s he published Milles Plateaux on the legendary Glitch und Arthouse label. In 1999, he founded the raster-noton label with Olaf Bender. His work is constantly being re-contextualized through many collaborations with others, including with Scanner, Thomas Knak, Mika Vainio, Michael Nyman, Ryoji Ikeda and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
In 2010 he worked on the project ANBB with Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten). So far, one EP titled Ret Marut Handshake and the album Mimikry have appeared.
In October 2010, Nicolai presented his sound-and-light piece as part of an event for the exhibition Not in Fashion. Mode und Fotografie der 90er Jahre at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) in Frankfurt in collaboration with the fashion designer Kostas Murkudis from Dresden. For the Ruhrtriennale 2012, he collaborated with Ryūichi Sakamoto and the Ensemble Modern.
Carsten Nicolai, working under the name Alva Noto with Ryūichi Sakamoto, created the film music for The Revenant in 2015. The film’s soundtrack was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category Best Film Music in 2016.