Scanner :: Colofon & Compendium 1991-1994 (Sub Rosa)

Lone explorer of this terra—or rather aether incognita back then, Colofon & Compendium consists of sketches and “thinking processes” undertaken in the early nineties and have not been heard before, linked by short pieces originally commissioned for a Mowax compilation but never included and three singles.

scanner-colofon-compendium-91-94There is, believe it or not, an actual “Singularity University” in Silicon Valley, run by a couple of charlatans calling themselves “futurists,” whose “lethal doses of banalities, inanities, and generalizations”, warns one critic, “ought to carry advisory notices.” As mankind’s media and its message continue to meld, much more germane, compelling research insights are offered by the early works of Professor Scanner, now compiled in handy compact disc format by the ultimate modernist/postmodernist archival label, Belgium’s Sub Rosa.

We used to vent about the dark nights of our soul in religious poetry, like St. John of the Cross. These “dark nights” represented the hardships and difficulties the soul meets in detachment from the world and the craving for union—with the Creator, with our communities, with somebody, anybody. Now we do it in blogs, vlogs, and over the telecommunications lines. Scanner, London’s Robin Rimbaud, whose portfolio now bulges with installations, commissions and collaborations, remixes, and social and cultural criticism, famously took his name from the device with which he plucked random cellphone conversations from the air in his earliest recordings. While others were sampling pop tunes, Scanner was sampling the vox populi. Gaining a name, he also gained well-deserved renown for his mix of unlikely spoken word and ambient music.

Lone explorer of this terra—or rather aether incognita back then, Colofon & Compendium consists of sketches and “thinking processes” undertaken in the early nineties and have not been heard before, linked by short pieces originally commissioned for a Mowax compilation but never included and three singles. The result is smooth-flowing, kitchen-sink theatre, a soundmap of London angry, amused, boorish, bitchy, comforting, confrontational, distraught, drunk. The city is a nexus where weirdness has accumulated over time and although there is no way for the listener to know, it all seems to be coming out at night. It certainly benefits by being listened to at night.

Musically, Scanner pulls out all the tricks, easing us through a difficult patch with a jolly, cheap drum machine, underscoring noir drama with sampled orchestral strings or cruel industrial rhythms, surprising us with a hybrid baroque-tribal dance, buoying our spirits with some truly graceful ambient. In the end, he succeeds in creating one of those uncommon moments when a themed album reaches upward to achieve its ideal reason for existing. Far from retrospective, this is a new, vital work sprawling with perspectives on how the new social networks are both exploding old structures from within and exposing the same raw strengths and weaknesses we have borne from time immemorial.

Colofon & Compendium 1991-1994 is available on Sub Rosa. [Release page]

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