And stranger times I’ve never known, and I think I speak for many of you too. With all public work commitments cancelled for the foreseeable future, I might have imagined life might also be more relaxed and fallen into a slower place, but strangely it hasn’t.
This last month has been however been exceptionally busy, especially of course, with my recent birthday. But, for this year, it was a much quieter affair, with no celebrity parties on a private yacht in the bay, or dancing the hours away with super models in Ibiza. Instead it was cake, films, snacks, more films, and online exchanges with friends around the world. And to be honest, that was perfect.
May closed with a very entertaining online live performance with German musician Hainbach. We had been speaking about collaborating for some time and almost needed a good reason, and in fact this COVID-19 scenario encouraged us to use directly what we had at hand. So, after a rather playful suggestion from me that we have a sonic dinner, we did exactly that. I used contact microphones on the cutlery, on the plate, on the glass of water, and amplified and transformed these as we ate dinner ‘together,’ he in Berlin, me here in the UK. The sounds resulting were a kind of tribute to much of the music I grew up with and still love today, the strange electronic electro acoustic works of composers such as John Cage, David Tudor and Pierre Schaeffer. If you missed this, you can still watch it back here online.
In some ways, the biggest news of the month has to be the release of my song EP, The Spaces You Hold, with Dutch composer Michel Banabila. I wasn’t expecting shocked music press headlines such as “Electronic Wizard Sings” or anything like that, but German press did recently refer to me as a ‘singer songwriter,’ so let that be a warning to you all. And in many ways, it’s quite different from any other work I’ve ever released.
Songs have always been important to each and every one of us, but interestingly in my own career trajectory I’ve rarely written songs or considered the idea of being a songwriter. I have sung cover versions of Tuxedomoon, Severed Heads and Wire on past releases, and most recently, I released the tribute to my late mother Jayemme, but used a vocoder on this to disguise my voice.
Now, until this new release, I was never brave enough to reveal myself in such a direct and intimate way, but here you have it. Four songs, written over the last year with Michel. It was a risk. I can’t deny it. Like many electronic musicians it’s easy to hide behind the technology, but to leave yourself raw and open is extremely challenging. And this vulnerability appealed to me. This music will most likely surprise many listeners, but there’s an emotional depth and commitment within them from us both that we hope translates. There’s still an experimental edge to these songs, but enveloped within the song structure. It’s so different from anything that either of us have ever produced before that we also hope you will embrace the music with open hearts and open minds.
The Spaces You Hold EP is officially out on all digital services from 1st June, so you can have a listen at Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Deezer and so on. However, the best possible way to support artists as always is at Bandcamp. And on Friday 5thJune they are waiving all their fees again, so it’s the best time to support any artist. Remember, Fan Club members get all of these releases included as part of their subscription, and it’s never too late to join in the fun. Join up here.
I was utterly thrilled last month to repair my old Fostex 280 cassette multitrack recorder. I dutifully followed a YouTube tutorial video, took the entire machine apart, and was able to replace a 30-year-old drive that had perished with time. And, so it came to pass that I could listen back to old cassette recordings of mine from the mid 1980s onwards, which was an incredible moment of time-travel. Some of these sketches led towards the first Scanner album on Ash International in 1992, and it was surprising to rediscover how much work I actually recorded on this format. There must be at least 50 hours of unreleased material on these tapes that I have now imported and digitised.
Sharing some of this with my friend Lawrence English at Room40 label over in Brisbane Australia, he was very enthusiastic about what he heard, and suggested we release a special tape edition, so stay tuned for this later this year. This will feature a special mix tape featuring all unreleased works from the 1980s and early 1990s, accompanied by a digital edition featuring different tracks in their entirety.
And whilst speaking about new releases, by way of a leaked press release, my new album, An Ascent, has now been announced for released on 17 July on DiN records in the UK. More details on this once it’s closer to the release date. But suffice it to say I’m very proud of this indeed. It was recorded immediately after my first studio transmission in March 2020.
Over at Bandcamp, I will be making available two albums that I’m frequently asked about. Spore (1995) and Delivery (1997), will be exclusively available at Bandcamp in newly remastered editions, and featuring extra unreleased material. This work still remains some of my personal favourite material so you can add to your collection with these from 5th June.
I’ve written before about what a voracious listener I am. I listen to music as much as I possibly can all day, and if not creating it, am busily immersing myself in that of others. From new music to old music, it all means so much to me. Now, here’s the story of how a photograph proved to be the entry point into the work of enigmatic genius composer Tod Dockstader.
Earlier on in May I performed live from my studio, at the invitation of TONSPUR Kunstverein Wien. Tonspur set up a series of live performances by different artists to present these work in these challenging times. I performed a live set, then answered questions from the audience online, and finished with an encore. I uploaded the live performance section for you to enjoy here, but if you want to hear my rambling and answering questions, then just scroll down on the official Tonspur page and you can watch it in full.
I’m thrilled to have my work featured in this extraordinarily ambitious project Freq_wave: 7 seas, a new web-based interactive sound source, this month too.
“A freq_wave is a rogue wave: unpredictable, sudden, and can impact with tremendous force”, reads the introduction to Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s new online installation, and it features 84 sound artists and composers collaborating on the new climate project. “This is also an act of remembering. Our current health and economic crisis is inextricably linked to the long-lasting climate chaos, social inequalities and environmental injustices violently manifesting amongst many humans and other than humans around the world.”
As a listener, you can navigate with the play device and actually mix the different frequencies that focus on the complexities of marine degradation and pollution yourself. Many people have found that they simply leave it running for hours. I join a phenomenal selection of artists, including Jana Winderen, Jacob Kirkegaard, Peter Rehberg, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Zavoloka, Klara Lewis, Christina Kubisch, Anna von Hausswolff, Chris Watson, JG Thirlwell, Jim O’Rourke, Ryoji Ikeda, and just so many more. Released weekly until 1 August, Freq_wave 1: North Sea to Red Sea is available now.
So, it’s back to the studio. In the last months I’ve completed work on four full-length albums, and am currently working on two EPs with women singers too, so hopefully I can announce more on these soon.
As always, thanks for your support.
Best wishes Professor Scanner
::: listen :::
Soulwax: EMS Synthi 100 (Vinyl Factory)
Roland Kayn: The Man and the Biosphere (Reiger-Records-Reeks)
Demdike Stare: Embedded Content (DDS)
Beatriz Ferreyra: Huellas Entreveradas (Persistence of Sound)
::: read :::
Alasdair Gray: 1982, Janine (Canongate)
Spectres: Resonances (Shelter Press)
Alvin Lucier: Reflections (MusikTexte)
Robert Ashley: Music with Roots in the Aether (MusikTexte)
::: watch :::
Trying SO1: Andy Wolton
The Death of Dick Long: Daniel Scheinert
The Occupant: David Pastor and Alex Pastor
Autoluminescent – Rowland S Howard: Richard Lowenstein