Scanner: Fibolae Review

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Scanner: <i>Fibolae</i> Review

It feels dismissive to mention that Fibolae, the latest full-length from U.K. electronic artist Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud), is his first studio album to be released in eight years. That suggests a recluse that sweats over every last sample and beat placement, needing the better part of a decade to get it just right. While there’s no doubt of the care that Rimbaud treats his work with, he’s not been sitting still since 2009’s Rockets, Unto The Edges of Edges. In that time, he has produced music for multiple art installations, theater performances and his own live shows, as well as his collaborations with Wire’s Colin Newman, Polish ensemble Kwartludium and many others. The question isn’t, “What took him so long?” but rather, “How did he find the time to do this?”

The other remarkable aspect of Fibolae is simply how good it is. Considering his busy schedule, he would have been forgiven for tossing out a bunch of dance tracks or unused pieces from his last eight years of work. Instead, Rimbaud has gifted us to a rich, emotional work that is steeped with righteous fury and terrifying calm. That sometimes arrives in the form of one track, like “Spirit Cluster,” a slowly flooding array of percussion rumbles and syncopated tones shot through with the glow of what sounds like the hum of a gentle brass band. “Nothing Happens Because of a Single Thing” jingles nicely with a repeating windchime melody but is rudely slapped aside by a trap-like beat.

For the most part, Rimbaud aims to keep these two elements separate, either leaving them on either end of a song as with the blossoming ambience of “Eyeout” that melds into cacophony or just sticking with one mode. One soothes while the other riles. The choice is to face the blows of his tribal drum playing or ride along the burbling waves and drones he has laid out like an elaborate table setting.

Lately, I’ve been opting for the latter. The more sedate material on Fibolae isn’t entirely soothing or restful. There’s too much pulsing life flowing through each track. Yet they provide a level of calm to my spirit that is much appreciated as we hurtle toward the end of a trying year. Once that clock strikes midnight, however, the bluster of “Savage Is Savage” and “Inhale,” the bookends on this marvelous album, will surely rouse me to action, fangs exposed and eyes gleaming.