Recording artists have been using found sounds and ambient noise in their works for decades, but few have done it in ways more innovative or controversial than Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner. Beginning in the early ’90s, Rimbaud, who is based in London, has used cellphone scanners, police radios and other devices to record electronically transmitted conversations and turn them into musical compositions. His work tests not only people’s notions about what constitutes music, but also people’s notions of privacy. It’s a little disconcerting to think that your cellphone chat with your girlfriend might wind up as raw material for an avant-garde electronic composer.
These days, Rimbaud’s become known as a “conceptual artist” who composes film scores, sound installations and various more high-brow projects in the art world. He also records with a experimental band called Githead. But he’s still trolling the ether with his cellphone scanner, too. On his latest Scanner album, Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges (released earlier this year), he even sings a little–but the snippets of ghostly, disembodied, electronically transmitted voices are still in there. If every word in the dictionary had its own soundtrack, Scanner’s music is what you’d hear when you looked up “alienation.”
Here’s a video for a track from “Rockets.” Creepy stuff, huh?