Music

Scanner: The Great Crater

Scanner gives an Arctic problem an appropriately icy soundtrack.


Scanner

The Great Crater

Label: Glacial Movements
US Release Date: 2017-09-29
UK Release Date: 2017-09-29
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner -- sometimes he is William Orbit, and sometimes he is Brian Eno. Other times still, he can be Bruce Gilbert, making mysterious noises that occasionally take on musical properties. When he straps on a guitar, it can be another genre altogether. For The Great Crater, Rimbaud has taken the most minimal route to create some of the most compelling electronic music of his bountiful career. The results are as stunning as they are frightening. When you consider the source of the music's inspiration, its eerie quality is easily magnified.


Three years ago, scientists flying over Antarctica spotted a large, circular anomaly that they took to be a meteorite crash site. When they started digging within the area, they found instead an underground "hot spot" full or lakes and melting ice. As you might have already guessed, this isn't cheerful news. Polar icecaps are supposed to stay cold. When large scale melting such as this is underway, you're not going to feel like humming "I'm A Believer" through your kazoo. Any sense of optimism you'll manage to summon for yourself will inevitably come with a side of despair, or vice versa. Rimbaud understands this, obviously, and has sculpted his latest slab of music accordingly under the supervision of -- wait for it -- Glacial Movements Records. Who says we can't experience a little aural beauty while we're all drowning?

"The album explores an immersive, fragile and moving exploration of themes inspired by this simple tale," goes The Great Crater's press release. What does that mean, exactly? It means you would be doing yourself a great disservice by not listening to this album through headphones, or secondly, through a beefy sound system. Laptop or monitor speakers do not cut it for this release. The sounds are too detailed and immersive for such weak means of projection. If you want to step down into this crater, you'll need to hear all the frequencies that come with it. It's alright if you choose to listen to The Great Crater in background fashion. It'll remain a good album as such. But if you put a little more effort into the listening, it'll become a great album.

"Cast to the Bottom" starts off The Great Crater with an echoey whisper, and the album's overall dynamics rarely rise above these hushed tones. The one exception is "The Scar", the album's longest song at nearly a ten minute length. This is where the music starts to lean over to the sinister side of electronic ambient music. Somewhere around the halfway point Rimbaud introduces a sawing synth effect not unlike the Jaws theme. With approximately 90 seconds to go, large sheets of choral noise continually get in your way, adding to the imposing, cavernous sound. The surrounding tracks do everything from ambient sequencing ("Forming Circuits") to shapeless soundscaping ("Deep Water Channel"). There is a moment of sunshine before the plunge on "Exposure, Collapse", recalling Music for Airports, though "Katabatic Wind" throws a bleak blanket over the mood eventually .

If you're wondering what scientists are going to do about this Arctic hot spot, know that you're not alone in your uncertainty. The Great Crater concludes with "Moving Forwards", a conclusion one wouldn't exactly call negative but also seems unable to offer up a clear path to an improved future. Scanner/Robin Rimbaud is is more than 25 years into his career and is still discovering ways to maximize the effects of minimal electronic music. If humanity and the weather can get their act back together in tandem, this ambient music milestone could become less grim with each subsequent revisit.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image