Scanner: Electronic Garden

After dozens of releases under the Scanner name, Robin Rimbaud releases a live recording that is oddly worth the trouble.


Electronic Garden

Label: Bine Music
US Release Date: 2014-03-04
UK Release Date: 2014-03-31
Label website
Artist website

Live albums from electronic artists are peculiar things, especially when there is zero crowd noise in them. To me, Bruce Gilbert's Ordier and Qluster's Lauschen sound like they were recorded as studio albums and, had I not read their descriptions online, would have been none the wiser about their in-concert nature. Robin Rimbaud can now join this group of curiously quiet live recordings with his Scanner release Electronic Garden. It was recorded in small outdoor amphitheater in Dresden, Germany back in 2007. Some the material happens to be variations on existing Scanner tracks while a great deal of it is completely improvised. And why it sat around for seven years is most anybody's guess because it's quite good.

More than 20 years ago, Rimbaud earned a reputation from intercepting phone calls, recording them, and meshing them together in a primordial sample soup. Throughout the years, he has used the Scanner name to cast his net wider and wider. His "music" has become even more nebulous with deep, cavernous sounds and unnerving silence. He dipped his toe into more conventional waters with the supergroup Githead, an offshoot of Wire and Minimal Compact. But all the while, his moniker stretched the limits of sound and manipulation. To listen to a Scanner album is to allow yourself to wander. You don't revel in the uncertainty, you learn to ignore it completely. Because when you are deep in those moments, a finely-tuned sample is just as grand as a well-placed guitar chord. Electronic Garden is full of these magical passages. For almost one hour, you can get lost in one of Scanner's most aptly titled albums. It really is a garden – everything is colorful and in full bloom.

It also lets you know, right from the first track, that this release is going to be a sprawler. "Muster" lasts for more than 10 minutes and gets off to a near-silent start. For a while, only the slightest samples and thes softest keyboards are there to guide you. Then the stutter-sampled human voice enters with ... a drum cadence? "Muster" grows slowly, like algae, to a euphoric height with some none-too-subtle synthesizers. Then it segues into the barely-there "Immaculate, Air". Electronic Garden's momentum goes through spits and starts from there. "Backwood" can strike the listener as an appealing centerpiece since it rides on a tangible beat (and it has sampled voices, presumably lifted from telephone calls), but then "The Nature of Being" lies just around the corner in all its 14:44 bewildering glory. To say that this track has a shape is to say that an oval has corners. This is the moment in Electronic Garden where you, the listener, should feel free to release your grasp on whatever labels and prejudices you might have about electronic music and let it float you.

To call the three remaining tracks “falling action” is not to discredit their existence. After such a dizzying high, they help let you down gently at the garden's exit. To leave you hanging in the air after "The Nature of Being"'s conclusion would be more than just a little confusing. But perhaps herein lies the advantage of doing a "live" album of electronic music while outdoors – reading the crowd, gauging the atmosphere and responding accordingly. If that's what's really going on here, then Rimbaud is a far better artist than any plug-and-chug monkey with a budget.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.