Scanner | Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges


In his most intimate and forceful recording in years Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner maneuvers across fresh terrain that embraces the traditional – guitar, vocals and string arrangements, and the more eclectic – hundreds of found voices, radar transmissions and environmental recordings.

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In his most intimate and forceful recording in years Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner maneuvers across fresh terrain that embraces the traditional – guitar, vocals and string arrangements, and the more eclectic – hundreds of found voices, radar transmissions and environmental recordings.

Opening the album with Sans Soleil, featuring Michael Gira (Swans, Angels of Light) on guitar, Scanner sings for the first time on his album, his voice hovering through a barren landscape of fragile loops and harmonies. Crisp distressed melodies with crushingly fat beats unite in Pietas Iulia to map a cinematic landscape populated by N.E.R.D by way of Robert Fripp and John Barry. Anna Livia Plurabelle paints an achingly melancholic picture through which celebrated Mumbai born soprano Patricia Rozario soars and flies with a radiant timbre. Having effectively been the muse for British composer John Taverner for some years, Rozario brings a dexterity and humane conviction to this electronic soundscape.

The ghostly presence of William Burroughs and philosopher Bertrand Russell weave their way through some of the pieces, opening into the dark heart of Yellow Plains Under White Hot Blue Sky, an epic, almost menacing work, with corrosive voices, noises and abstract shapes over a primordial electronic beat, that continues to build and ignite with bowed strings into a picturesque precise explosion. The Last European casts phonetic Croatian and Korean into a rhythmic bed of pulses and instrumental melodies, tripping through itchy rhythms that entangle themselves upon one another, whilst A Clearing Between Earth and Air closes the album with a highly organic and textured mix of voices, drifting harmonies and Krautrock pulses, breeding a drifting melancholy from the union of voice and electronic and acoustic instrumentation.

By far his most mature and personally sombre album, Rockets is in equal parts sumptuous and achingly beautiful, sentimental and exploratory. Jean Baudrillard once depicted paradise as mournful, a fitting location for this ravishing soundtrack.

Release Date // April 27, 2009
Format // Digital Album // CD
Catalog Nr // BINE CD18
EAN // 880319410727

10 reviews for Scanner | Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges

  1. DE:BUG (DE)

    When Scanner was still scanning analogue radio traffic, the world was good. He wanted to be no musician but arrange and present his finds. Then change set in: Scanner wanted to make more music and less radio traffic which got more digitial and thus more difficult, but this change didn’t fit him well at first. No right touch for sound design and little emphasis on structure. That was several years ago, and being a clever tot who never ceases to learn, Robin Rimbaud’s latest album is a very musical one: the opening track (together with Swans’ Michael Gira) is really impressive already, but there’s still room for more. You sample once, you sample your whole life, and Scanner’s sound design just can’t keep up with his own demands. And as soon as the novelty wears off, one can hear the presets and sequenced beds for the heart of his tracks – the samples.

  2. Vital Weekly (NL)

    In my previous reviews of Scanner 12″s on Bine Music I expressed my interest in a CD of his for this label. But somehow ‘Rockets, Unto The Edges Of Edges’ is not what I expected. The 12″s were cool, minimal slabs of techno music with a twist of elektro, but on this CD Robin Rimbaud moves into a different area again. The CD opens with ‘Sans Soleil’, which sets the tone for the rest. Micheal Gira plucking the guitar and, for the very first time, Rimbaud on vocals. Clicks below the surface. No techno, no elektro, highly atmospheric in approach. A very nice track. ‘Pietas Ilulia’ has a more forceful rhythm, sampled strings, Fripp like bowed guitar and is a bit too sweet for me. Strangely enough it is followed by a piece with soprano Patricia Rozario, which has a modern classical approach, but it didn’t do much for me, but in the piece followed by it, the voice is continued in a likewise sweet piece, which works nicely around with cliche’s. The fifth and sixth track are the longest on CD but also the weakest with its dark sampled drums, like early Greater Than One. It didn’t do much for me. ‘The Last European’ has sampled voices and pulsating rhythm in a more joyful mood, and is much more interesting, as well as is the closing piece of this CD. The score? Half the tracks I thought was pretty good, the other half I didn’t like very much. Too sombre, too dark or too sweet. Indeed not quite the album I expected. Half a good album is not an entirely a great score. (FdW)

  3. Boomkat (UK)

    Immediately stopping you in your tracks, this new Scanner album for the Bine imprint opens with a track that must count as Robin Rimbaud’s most intimate and ‘human’ sounding composition to date. For one thing it features his vocal debut (albeit a wordless one) in which the renowned conceptual electronica artist plays against melancholic acoustic guitar lines supplied by Michael Gira (of Swans and Angels Of Light fame). The usual landscape of crunchy interference and wayward blips remains present, but the inclusion of such direct and organic music steers us well clear of anything that’s come before in the Scanner discography. Next up, ‘Pietas Ilulia’ continues to dismantle listener expectations, embracing piano and string orchestrations to the same degree as the more familiar digital elements and bitcrushed beats. After this piece, the air of cinematic drama continues with ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’, which boasts a vocal from acclaimed soprano Patricia Rozario (best known for her work with John Taverner). Comparable to Max Richter or Johann Johannsson, ‘Through Your Window’ and ‘Broken Faultline’ prove to be highly successful exercises in modern classical fusion, weaving the luscious orchestral instrumentation with full-blooded electronic production – and the novelty of ‘real’ instrumentation shouldn’t overshadow the programmed material on offer here; Rimbaud presents a rich tapestry of found voices, environmental recordings and even radar transmissions, making this as accomplished and ambitious a Scanner album as he’s ever released.

  4. Groove (DE)

    Accessible yet going against the grain: the new Scanner album easily oscillates between sample experiment and warming pop atomsphere. Besides electronic vibes, radar waves, voice samples and field recordings there are also guitars, opera singing and string arrangement injecting the record with warmth. On “Soleil” Robin Rimaud even sings himself delicate melodies over strings and ambient harmonies, accompanied by Michael Gira, head of New York post-punk band Swans. The latter inspires the arrangement with loopy guitar plucks, creating an intimate folk atmosphere that smoothly links organic and electronic. In between, there are darkly chattering tracks with a touch of industrial and Trentemøller, and there are even hints of dub. On “Anna Livia Plurabelle” Scanner even tries fusioning classic and ambient, but the melancholic opera singing of soprano Pàtricia Rozario slightly overloads the track with its emotions. A catchy, atmospherically dense album you wouldn’t have expected from Scanner and therefore fits his previous releases on Binemusic perfectly.

  5. Westzeit (DE)

    After two maxi singles, Robin Rimbaud delivers a new full-length album on Binemusic and changes direction to rigorous. “Sans Soleil” already surprises with a prominent guest as Swans head Michael Gira strums the acoustic strings, while Scanner himself lends his vocals to this almost completely electro-free minimal gem, even though it’s more a humming than singing. And as more Scanner typical structures emerge later (on “Yellow Plains…” for example), they are more symphonic than usual, while “Through Your Window” even features Nyman-inspired (and slightly bombastic) strings along its electro crackieness. Singer Patricia Rosario also contributes to the album’s special status among Rimbaud’s oeuvre.

  6. The Silent Ballet (US)

    Perhaps one of the most important factors in the subliminal attraction of an album is to what extent the artist and the listener have any common influences that shaped their music and their listening habits, respectively. The more an artist is able to speak to or exploit that shared collective memory, the more accessible the music becomes for the listener. Combine this with the stereotypical flavor of some instrumentation used to emulate the right emotions – just think of that string section suddenly blazing through your neighborhood cinema’s THX system when the tears could use some jerking – and you have the makings for an album that offers a low threshold for a wide audience. Robin Rimbaud, the driving force behind Scanner and also guitarist of the extraordinary avant pop Githead collective, has the touch to comprise a wide array of the elements in a cohesive tapestry of audible streetscapes. The moniker Scanner is a souvenir from Rimbaud’s earlier years when cellphones and police scanners were utilized when performing live. On Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges, static and fuzzy crackles are omnipresent both in the background as well as subconsciously in the gritty rhythm that interacts with the album’s cinematic beauty. As the sonic electro-acoustic film of Scanner’s first release in two years on BineMusic unfolds, Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges brings the listener past a minimal acoustic guitar that guides warm male vocals who scare the glitches lurking in the safe Badalamenti background, when the listener might find herself reminded of Aus’ ambient cupboard IDM blended with The Matrix’ or Blade’s grungy trip hop breaks. Fading, elongated vocals are mostly dancing in weightless clouds on the first half of the album where a “Hero of a Paper Boy” is seemingly “Clubbed to Death” by a bit-crushing effect. On the closing half of the release, the emphasis lies on the orchestrated classical (mostly strings and piano) instrumentation and the strength of percussion with a striking contrast to the lo-fi breaking patterns and the warm ambient infused with processed spoken samples. These elements offer the listener a view of the album from a safe distance, which allows you to absorb the emotion and feeling in a laid back manner. Even a few takes of subtle self-assured sliding guitar solos in the background that might seem oddly placed at first find their way after a few listens of these eight epic-length compositions that clock in just over the hour.Besides a back catalog and collaborations large enough to fill a medium sized cabinet, this London resident has built himself an international reputation as cross-media artist, and Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges is the audible proof of his expertise as a musician. Involving a truckload of genre-based elements without driving the listener mad is not easy, but this album is gentle and soothing and will turn any one hour commute into your private road-movie. Its eclectic flavors are guaranteed to have you reminiscing over bands or tracks you forgot, places you might never have seen or visited before. (Jurgen Verhasselt)

  7. (Blog)

    Robin Rimbaud spent his life listening to others. In his early works, Rimbaud tuned into the airwaves to pluck out pieces of radio, mobile phone conversations and police broadcasts. These were intricately edited and folded back into his compositions, producing an experimental genre of his own, often gathering international admiration from the likes of Aphex Twin and even Stockhausen. This is yet another one of Rimbaud’s albums as Scanner, adding to his e-n-d-l-e-s-s discography (seriously huge), spawning collaborations with DJ Spooky, Alva Noto, Kim Cascone, and Vitiello among many others. And Rockets, Unto The Edges Of Edges does not disappoint. The album starts off with vocal samples, strums of guitar and Rimbaud’s own gentle singing. That is until the kick drops and bounces away. The distorted bits and pieces of voices continue to dominate the background of Scanner’s recordings. We are, after all, eavesdropping. This mixture of acoustic instrumentation and electronic treatments evolves, introducing a full on string ensemble conducted in the rhythm of solid beat and bitcrushed percussion. And by the time I arrive at track three, titled Anna Livia Plurabelle, which is full of classical operetta vocals by the acclaimed soprano Patricia Rozario, crying in angst, I realize the grandiose accomplishment of Scanner’s work, painting a cinematic masterpiece from lost and found fragments. The rest is just as beautiful. Speckles of found voices, radar transmissions, and environmental recordings are hardly intrusive in this purely musical piece. “The ghostly presence of William Burroughs and philosopher Bertrand Russell weave their way through some of the pieces, opening into the dark heart of “Yellow Plains Under White Hot Blue Sky”, an epic, almost menacing work, with corrosive voices, noises and abstract shapes over a primordial electronic beat, that continues to build and ignite with bowed strings into a picturesque precise explosion.” Although I can’t say that I’ve heard every album by Rimbaud, I can definitely agree with the critics that this is his most mature and personal album to date. A soundtrack to a voyeur’s life finally turned inwards. This is organic, this is digital, this is modern classical at its best. Completely unexpected and highly recommended for fans of Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Pick up your copy from the Essen (Germany) based BineMusic, while I scratch this winner onto my upcoming Best of 09. Need I say more?

  8. Blurt (UK)

    It’s been 15 years since Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner) came to the attention of the English tabloids, who in a characteristic fit of self-righteous SHOCK! and OUTRAGE! branded him an “audio perv” and a “telephone terrorist” for his unusual creative process. Using a radio-frequency scanner, Rimbaud appropriated the sometimes banal, sometimes intimate and sometimes incriminating conversations of unwitting cell phone users, which he incorporated into austere, unsettling electronic soundscapes that mapped the urban environment and blurred the lines between private and public space. For Rimbaud, these recordings raised interesting questions about the intersections of voyeurism, surveillance, power, language and technology, but newspapers such as the Sunday Mirror didn’t quite see it that way, summing up his work with dismissive, pun-tastic headlines like “DJ ROBIN BUGS LOVERS FOR HIS PHONEY ART.” While Rimbaud is still best known for that early controversy and while his continued use of the Scanner alias forever links him to those first releases and performances, by the late-’90s his projects were rapidly becoming more multifaceted, centering less on his notorious device. Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges is the first full-length Scanner album for four years, and it continues to underscore the considerable distance Rimbaud has traveled since his days of tabloid infamy. In fact, it’s hard not to see the opening track (“Sans Soleil”) as a conscious subversion of expectations. His exercises in telephone terrorism could be caricatured as distanced, disembodied and anonymous — with Rimbaud removed from his human raw material, remotely manipulating it with clinical, post-human detachment — but the funereal “Sans Soleil” turns that aesthetic on its head. Here Rimbaud is a physical, affective presence at the heart of the track and its primary components are surprisingly organic: he actually sings, emoting wordlessly while guest Michael Gira strums a spartan, acoustic dirge. And notwithstanding its minimalist framework, the track remains hypnotically compelling as Rimbaud fleshes it out with electronic detritus, choral elements and sampled voices. In the broader context of the album, though, “Sans Soleil” is somewhat anomalous; the remainder of the record features rather more expansive and textured compositions in the vein of 1999’s Lauwarm Instrumentals, which accentuated the accessible side of Rimbaud’s work over his more challenging, abstract-experimental orientation. Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges has a wide-screen cinematic majesty, often blurring the lines between styles, genres and traditions: synthetic and organic, classical and popular, eastern and western. Particularly striking is Rimbaud’s attention to rhythm and melody throughout. Framed by Tangerine Dream-y passages of spacey ambience, “Through Your Window” immerses strings in weighty, tribal earthiness, and “The Last European” balances ethereal piano arpeggios with dubbed-out industrial funk. “Pietas Ilulia” and the immense “Yellow Plains Under White Hot Blue Sky” build to a climax with whipping strings, driving beats and lush Frippertronic guitars, before evaporating into amorphous atmospherics. Although these days Rimbaud isn’t so prone to pilfering the words of unsuspecting subjects with his scanner, he clearly remains fascinated by the human voice and language and by the possibilities they offer as ingredients in his work. Integrated via myriad samples, voices function here both as texture and as discrete entities: single words or complete phrases, highly processed or relatively untreated, whispered or clearly enunciated — all add further intriguing dimensions to these soundscapes. “Pietas Ilulia,” for instance, is prefaced by a dusty archive recording of what appears to be the philosopher Bertrand Russell holding forth on the psycho-social value of competition; individual spoken words in Korean and Croatian introduce “The Last European”; and the ghost of a muezzin’s call floats over the echoing, hushed speaking voice that opens “Yellow Plains Under White Hot Blue Sky.” Nevertheless, an example of the human voice at its most pure and sublime is at the core of one of the more memorable tracks as Indian soprano Patricia Rozario graces “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” whose elements of aquatic ambience reflect its Joycean title. This is among Rimbaud’s most fully realized works thus far, distilling aspects of the myriad medium- and genre-crossing projects in which he’s been involved over the last several years (soundtracks for theater and dance productions, audio-visual installations, multimedia performances and so forth). Above all, Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges puts to rest the idea that Rimbaud is simply “that guy with the scanner” and emphasizes that he’s a versatile artist with myriad strings to his bow.

  9. Normanrecords (UK)

    Scanner. Love the old stories about his DJ by proxy nights around the globe where he used to send mates out with a laptop of his stuff to DJ in different cities ’round the globe while he sat on his arse watching Glass Smash Face Aids (Eastenders) or some such toss. We’ve a new CD by him on BineMusic and it’s a remarkable departure. ‘Rockets, Unto the Edge of Edges’ begins with a cyclic guitar loop courtesy of Mike Giro from Swans Way which is then overlaid with haunting atmospherics, some subtle glitch and Robin Rimbaud’s very own beautiful tender voice. It’s a thoroughly impressive introduction from a man I only ever saw as a fringe minimalist prankster. There’s strong elements of techno & electronica still in place but he plonks a rich piano & strings over the clunky breaks of epic ‘Pietas Ilulia’ which transforms gradually into a symphony with some dirty ass DHR style splatter beat. Will appeal hugely to fans of Apparat & Digitonal. ‘Anna LiviaPlurabelle’ is like a passage from Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 with this astounding aria backed with the most graceful piano tinkles & gliding ambient strings. Later on things get a bit more industrial, squelchy teutonic beats whilst a tweaked laptop spits glitchy effects and sinister backward masked vocal samples. I’ve no time to investigate further than T5 but believe me, this is absolutely flooring stuff. CD only.

  10. Decks Records (DE)

    In his most intimate and forceful recording in years Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner maneuvers across fresh terrain that embraces the traditional – guitar, vocals and string arrangements, and the more eclectic – hundreds of found voices, radar transmissions and environmental recordings. A beautiful comeback of a great talent.

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