Posted on Sep 27th 2011 01:27 am
SCANNER + DAVID ROTHENBERG
You Can’t Get There From Here
Monotype Records 2011
11 Tracks. 58mins57secs
It is not the first time that Scanner’s Robin Rimbaud has confronted his elegant electronica with jazz. Only last year, his encounter with the Post Modern Jazz Quartet was received very favourably, while his extensive work has over the year lead him to collaborate with a wide spectrum of sound artists and musicians coming for extremely diverse horizons, from David Shea, Kim Cascone or David Toop to DJ Spooky, Si-Cut.db or Alva Noto. He has also performed live and produced sound and art installations all over the world.
You Can’t Get There From Here sees him collaborate for the first time with philosopher and clarinetist David Rothenberg. A professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute Of Technology in Newark, NJ, Rothenberg has published a number of books and studies on communication between species through music. He released his first album as a lead clarinettist, One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, recorded with pianist Marilyn Crispell, last year on ECM.
Published on the excellent Monotype Records, You Can’t Get There From Here combines electronic soundscapes, at times lush, at others much more restrained, and smooth clarinet and bass clarinet textures to create a particularly elegant and refined ambient soundtrack. Whereas Rimbaud’s contribution to the Post Modern Jazz Quartet often remained fairly discreet, adding light electronic treatment and textures to the formation’s original work, his input is much more central to this album as he provides Rothenberg with the bulk of the sonic backdrop upon which to layer delicate clarinet motifs.
Spreading over just under an hour, You Can’t Get There… never veers far from its original template, as defined on the exquisite opening piece, As Air Moves In, where Scanner applies some slightly metallic-tinted shifting electronics which, once in place, remain firmly settled in the background, while a pulsating bass recurrently flares up just below the surface as Rothenberg draws delicate phrases throughout. On the following piece, Where Do You Run To?, recorded live at the Punkt Festival four years ago, Scanner creates a much denser and sombre soundscape, which evokes the muffled rumble of a distant machine, placed sharply in contrast to Rothenberg’s light musical phrases, accompanied by occasional birdsongs.
It is the contradiction between Scanner’s often sombre electronic textures and the earthy tones or Rothenberg’s instruments which creates the particular tension that can be felt throughout. This is particularly the case on the Spartan title track or the rather beautiful Black Betwixt Darkness, as Scanner stands somewhere in the distance as he builds rhythmic patterns from odd bubbling electronics and places soft-focused sound waves as a backdrop for Rothenberg to carve pretty intense themes, or on the particularly introspective The Far Field, once again a fairly minimal piece for which the pair create an organic electronic set up.
Elsewhere, they assemble dreamier soundscapes and pieces. While the atmosphere is still relatively sober on Ready Ready, the addition of a looped female vocal gives it a strangely ethereal feel and is a soft counterpoint to the masculine tones of the bass clarinet. Equally on The Serpentine Way, animal noises and heavily treated recordings of human voices are built into the fabric of the backdrop to Rothenberg’s elegant motifs, while his use of both clarinet and bass clarinet, both appearing sharp and in focus, on Fabian Fox, contrasts greatly with Rimbaud’s dubbey and distorted contribution.
The mood remains fairly consistent all the way through as the pair create a pretty dense narrative which progresses slowly from one end of the record to the other. Rimbaud here sticks to minimal soundscapes, stripped-down beats and textured effects, leaving Rothenberg the necessary space to develop melodies and use the rich tones of his instruments to alter the mood of the record.
Clip for “Serpentine Way” from album “You Can’t Get There from Here” recorded by Scanner & David Rothenberg for MonotypeRec. label. Video by Tereza Stehlikova