Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light
By: Eric Greenwood
Scanner (a.k.a. Robin Rimbaud) abandons his digital voyeurism and phone-scanning fetish long enough to create his first genuinely accessible dance album. His prolific output in the 1990's was comprised mostly of intercepted snippets of phone conversations backed by sparse electronics and techno beats as a sort of commentary on the irony and perversity of technological disconnection. Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light is likely to be viewed as his 'sell-out' album just because it is his most approachable, but Scanner doesn't even remotely verge upon the quasi-commercialism of maverick techno nerds such as Moby.
Adding 'funk' to his moniker is mildly confusing as Scanner clearly avoids anything resembling what Americans think of in terms of 'funk.' No "Jungle Boogie" samples for certain. Scanner may not be afraid to crossbreed genres like a mad scientist, but 'funk' it up he does not. His music is icy cold- just the sort of detached serenity you'd expect from a bald British electronic experimentalist, but at the same time it's also hypnotic and, in some cases, even danceable. 'Electronic minimalism' is what the cultural critics in his circle call it, but Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light is far too dense to pocket in such terms.
"I Am Calm" opens the album with frenetic jungle. Everything sputters in a mass of orchestral noise. Ghostly keyboards hang in limbo above skittering beats and frenetic piano samples. The intermittent repetition of the voice-over narration adds a human element to the controlled chaos, despite its irony. If the music is any indication- he is anything but calm. "Light Turned Down" is a subtle nod to early 1990's house music, but its textural ambient layers prevent it from shaking its experimental sheathing, as if to say "no ravers, please." The sampled voices are barely audible but still hint at Scanner's past. The music tries to soothe you, but the voices remind you that something ominous is afoot.
The smoky keyboards on "Cosy Veneer" enhance its gloomy character. The music bounces along in a repetitive rut, but the spongy digital effects shuffle just above the surface, suspending your attention for more than six minutes. "Automatic" must be the song that inspired Scanner to christen himself with the 'funk' suffix because it's the one with the most outgoing dancefloor appeal. The female voice that lustily repeats the name of the song balances out Scanner's immaculate beats with a hint of deviance. "Ice That Abandons Me" acknowledges hip-hop with its street-wise beat, but Scanner blunts the edge by mixing faux-strings with real violins and stuttered percussion.
Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light is far too safe and cozy to break any barriers musically. Scanner has merely shown his mastery over styles you're already familiar with (even though he does intertwine them in a few strange new ways). I'm sure this album is just a blip on Scanner's radar; he is probably three projects past this one by now, but he had better hurry up and release them because the lowly masses are catching up faster every day.