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Sulphur (Re-Mastered)

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Album Review

Scanner, born Robin Rimbaud, had a wonderful idea: Use intercepted cell phone conversations as found sonic objects and incorporate them into an improvised electronic musical milieu. The utilization of these conversations raises a rich depth of issues ranging from the purely abstract sonic qualities they may possess to privacy matters (technically, what Scanner does is illegal in most areas) to voyeuristic tendencies on the part of the listener, who may well experience a vicarious thrill at eavesdropping on a talk between prostitute and client or drug dealer and buyer. To his credit, Scanner treats this element as hardly more important than its musical accompaniment, so that the final result is fairly seamless. The electronically produced "bed" in which the phone calls lie tends toward the coolly ambient with the occasional subtle rhythm, of a piece with early Eno works like those that appeared on On Land. It's all the more impressive that he goes this route during, as here, live performances, wherein just what sort of calls he's going to be able to intercept is a matter of some chance. The final effect is indeed uncomfortable and distanced, even impersonal. But this is clearly one of the objectives that Scanner is shooting for and, by causing the listener to confront some prickly issues and by doing so relentlessly, it must be considered a success. Any contemporary music fan should have at least one Scanner album in his/her collection; either this one or the self-titled release on Ash would be a fine place to start.


Born: 06 May 1964 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Battersea-based ambient composer Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, took his curious pseudonym from his compositional tool of choice: the cellphone scanner. He quickly earned a reputation as a boundary-pushing experimentalist, wedding scanned vocal samples with sparse electronics and other textural elements that underscored the strain and isolation associated with modern telecommunications technology. Though Rimbaud worked increasingly toward other, more musical compositional devices, his first several...
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Sulphur (Re-Mastered), Scanner
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