Battersea-based ambient composer Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, took his curious pseudonym from his compositional tool of choice: the cellphone scanner. He quickly earned a reputation as a boundary-pushing experimentalist, wedding scanned vocal samples with sparse electronics and other textural elements that underscored the strain and isolation associated with modern telecommunications technology. Though Rimbaud worked increasingly toward other, more musical compositional devices, his first several releases went heavy on the lifted convo, attracting commentary from postgrad pocket theorists as often as music critics.
Although he admitted to a having a certain voyeuristic fixation as far back as his childhood, Rimbaud began exploring it through music significantly later in life, when he acquired a police scanner from the Brixton Hunt and Saboteurs group (a sort of wargames/survivalist collective) at a surprising discount. He recorded a number of albums — such as 1992's Scanner, 1993's Scanner 2, and 1994's Mass Observation, all released on Ash International, a label he co-founded — and completed remixes for Oval, Scorn, and others.
Though not as varied or complex in his approach as some of his peers in the European electronic music avant-garde, Rimbaud's probing experimentalism and developing focus won him high praise among the more cerebral of the electronic music set, resulting in a number of commissioned performance and composition opportunities that brought him in contact with the likes of David Shea, Bill Laswell, Oval's Markus Popp, and Karlheinz Stockhausen (the last of whom Rimbaud counted among his admirers). By the end of the '90s, his scope had widened significantly. His usage of slow, crushing breakbeats and ominous textures aligned him with the illbient scene, and he collaborated with DJ Spooky on 1999's The Quick and the Dead. Lauwarm Instrumentals, released the same year, incorporated burbling electronics, somber drones, neo-orchestral ambience, and full-on drum'n'bass.
Rimbaud would only become more active during the 21st century, with collaborative work as frequent as proper solo productions. His prolific work with others is highlighted by 2002's The Crystalline Address (with Kim Cascone), 2006's Tinnito (with Rolf & Fonky), 2007's Twisted Artifacts (with Pete Lockett, as Parallax Beat Brothers), and 2010's Blink of an Eye (with the Post Modern Jazz Quartet). He also played guitar in Githead, a band led by Colin Newman and Malka Spigel. Rimbaud has worked with several choreographers and scored music for ballets; some of these works have been released on albums such as Nemesis (2002) and Timelapse/(Mnemosyne) (2011). His music, solo or otherwise, has become more lush and cinematic, often incorporating neo-classical elements. In 2016, he made a surprising turn toward pop music with Scanni, a collaboration with singer Anni Hogan. The Great Crater, an eerie ambient album themed around strange circles visible in Antarctica, and the organic, rhythmic full-length Fibolae were both released near the end of 2017. In 2019 Rimbaud teamed up with clarinet player Gareth Edwards for Footfalls. ~ Sean Cooper & Andy Kellman