An album of reflection and hope during troubled times…
The inevitable issues that the Covid crisis has delivered on the music industry has resulted in many musicians adjusting their approach in how they present music. At the same time, the psychological impact can’t fail to have an influence on the music being created.
One of the biggest hammer blows has been the curtailing of live shows, which is often the most crucial aspect of a musician’s financial livelihood.
Take the case of Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, who had originally planned to perform at Machina Bristronica in March. Followup shows in London, France and The Netherlands were also plotted out, but had to be cancelled as the lockdown came into play. This sparked off a journey that led to the creation of Scanner’s new album An Ascent.
“I became increasingly concerned that many friends and colleagues were struggling with anxiety” Rimbaud offers on the genesis of the new album, “a feeling of feeling disconnected and simply trying to remain sane in this lockdown scenario, whilst the media continued to relentlessly drown us all in overwhelmingly intimidating statistics and stories.”
With a lot of electronic artists looking at live-streaming performances, it occurred to Rimbaud that this approach meant that he could still connect with an audience. As a result, he staged a show from the studio broadcast on YouTube (which also fell on the date he was originally due to perform in Bristol).
As opposed to the almost physical soundscapes of Scanner’s previous album release (2017’s The Great Crater – see TEC review), An Ascent offers a series of compositions that are more reflective in nature.
“In many ways this strange and rather surreal global pause has provided some moments of reflection for many people” comments Rimbaud, “and demonstrated the warmth of human spirit and genuine intentions for positive social change, and a vast landscape of creativity, largely sitting behind studio and bedroom doors at present.”
Much of Scanner’s live performances come about with a large degree of improvisation, the music often dictating what direction to move in. But while this might suggest that performing leads off to some chaotic, discordant adventure in electronics, Rimbaud’s talents make sure there’s some sort of structure and form to the whole affair.
The result was a positive reaction to the YourTube show (which also featured a Q&A session post-performance). That in turn led to a conversation with Ian Boddy, responsible for the DiN label. “I was inspired to follow the weekend with a series of improvisations using the identical equipment to the broadcast. I spent the next few days simply performing direct to tape and finished up with over ninety minutes of new music.”
There’s soothing ambient moments on An Ascent evidenced by the title track alongside the likes of ‘Stranice’ and ‘Your Eyes Are The Eyes Of The People’. They offer a haven of sorts in which time is suspended and everyday concerns are shunted off to a corner.
At the same time, there’s more contrasting compositions, such as ‘Earwicker’ and ‘Auftakt’, that present more machine-like rhythms and a harder-edged slice of electronica.
Overall, An Ascent offers a haunting mood that acknowledges the cultural crisis that inspired it, yet never sinks into anything that could be considered bleak or lacking optimism.
Ironically, as Rimbaud himself acknowledges, this album would not have existed at all if it were not for the lockdown procedures that led to its creation.
An Ascent is out now: https://dinrecords.bandcamp.com/album/an-ascent-din63