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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Early Surveillance Ambience

From Trawl (né Scanner (né Robin Rimbaud))

The early work of Scanner, especially in the early and mid-1990s, was a study in surveillance. Long before Siri and “OK, Google” tricked us into having our microphones on all the time, long before Edward Snowden revealed the extent to which the National Security Agency and other organizations are listening in on us, Scanner was plucking audio from the ether and lending it a deep sense of drama with a contextual electronic score.

That the voices he recorded were hardly high fidelity was part of his process: they bled into his electronics. Where exactly the glitchy downtempo music ended and the glitchy conversation audio began was not exactly clear. Scanner recently rereleased a project from 1996, a single that he’d recorded under the name Trawl. At the time he perceived a distinction between the more ethereal nature of his Scanner work and the dubbier, more club-friendly aspects of Trawl’s music. In time those differences may be less interesting than the commonalities, the way found vocals and sonic portent can combine to create a much darker reality, the way a musical backdrop can take a somewhat brittle conversation — in this case largely about hiring a cab for someone — into a tense observation about interpersonal politics and verbal microinteractions.

In addition to his own “Trawl, Disappearance,” the release features two remixes, one (“Wireless Rupture”) by Bill Laswell and the other (“Enter Exit”) by Mick Harris. All sales of the record share income with John Everall, the founder of the label that originally released the music, and who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Writes Scanner:

John was pivotal early in my career in supporting and encouraging me so this is a modest gesture of support. All monies received will go towards his forthcoming funeral costs, and after this sad day arrives, frighteningly soon it seems, all remaining monies will go towards Cancer Research UK.

Album posted at scanner.bandcamp.com. More from Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, at scannerdot.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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