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Kim Cascone / Scanner - The Crystalline Address

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Artist: Kim Cascone / Scanner

Album: The Crystalline Address

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Feb. 23, 2003

An Open E-Mail Addressing Prerequisite Failure

[ Preamble. Kim Cascone is known for his work in the minimalist field of experimental electronic music, microsound. He is founder of microsound.org. Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, has flirted between field recording-based work, sound installation, and dance rhythms, having made his mark by utilizing the random snippets of analogue cell phone conversations in ambient composition (and live performance – this is a bygone era, however, as digital phones dominate today's airwaves). Both artists investigate random chance operations with different strategies. Cascone utilizes a Max/MSP patch that (basically – and it is always changing) spurts forth random assemblies of pre-prepared sound, while Scanner works with the sound of the random, through field recordings, radio, etc. ]

To: The Crystalline Address
From: tobias c. van Veen

Re: The tenacity of Cascone's aural acrobatics revolve around the ability to pirouette a cascade of sounds, to dance beams across the highest spectrums and purvey particles of sonic dust in the circulation of microsounds. Scanner, on the other channel, plays between a tendency toward New Age ambient, house and techno rhythms, and the diverse employment of field recordings, including his earlier analogue cellphone based collages. While Cascone's "sound" is aurally perceivable through a clairvoyant assembly of paths in random soundscapes, Scanner's random array of "sounds" means that his influence on this disc is much more difficult to discern than Cascone's obvious panoply of inobvious sounds. Scanner's address is missing – crystalline? If clairvoyance derives from "clair" – clear – and "voyant" – to see – perhaps what we can see in this collaboration is the required position of the listener as an audio clairvoyant, a clairsonant: having the supposed power to hear objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses. We can see the necessity of hearing the attempt at what is only fathomed and conjectured – through the titling of the album – of the work's collaborative status.

What does this clairsonance entail? What sense does it carry through air?

1. The absence of a distinct "sound" assignable to "Scanner" – Scanner, insofar as the designated performance name of Robin Rimbaud implies a movement through frequencies, here is heard as the movement of "scanning" itself, without clear assignment or designation, without a solid sense to stand upon. "Scanner" is heard, "scanning" – radio sounds moving between stations, high beam drones, lo-fi field recordings, abrasive interruptions, and deep bass tones – heartbeats pulsing from twilight (yet, already we perform the designation of sound through an inference that remains only a sense intuition, perhaps a temporal intuition, maybe even of duration).

2. The balance of the presence attributed to the dissolving sonography we designate to "Cascone" – The bubbling, gurgling, high-pitched doves calling for their bits and bytes, incorporating the spinning wheels of a randomized Max/MSP patch.

This opens several possibilities for listening.

1. That Scanner "scans" the totality of the mix prepared by Cascone – His treatment is not "within" the production of the totality, but a scanning of the audio surface.

2. That Cascone applies his Max/MSP random-patch mixing strategies to a series of Scanner's sounds.

3. That Cascone and Scanner add layer upon layer to the other's work – although this sounds unlikely.

4. That [1] and [2] are mixed and applied to the other – In a random composition of random particles, this yields, as remainder, a minimum level of cohesion necessary for this duration of sound that seems to see neither end nor beginning; that interrupts rapidly its own direction; that settles into no pattern; that only remarks its own sonic landmarks through a similarity to previous works of Cascone – but not to previous works of Scanner.

Scanner is thus a random element of this collaboration.

On the other channel, one senses, intuitively with a clairsonance, that there could have arisen an exploration of higher intensity between the fleshmeeting of Rimbaud and Cascone (but did they actually meet in flesh? We can only infer from liner notes). Cascone's sounds are similar to those used in Dust Theories, and the composition operates as remainder to Cascone's generalized random-composition (or non-composition) strategy. Save for a few sounds that appear to be the musings of Scanner, his influence – perhaps the bass rhythmatics, subdued, a dub torpedo stretched to silicon breadth? – is at times inferred, but not felt.

As one should be able to perceive, in all senses, from this writing, this is a highly clinical selection of sound. Aside from a few glitched moments, bass tones, and radio squelches, the transaction between Cascone and Scanner is one that attempts to negate its own touch. Is this the sound of machines making love without properly lubricated hard drives?

Or is this a snapshot of what is to-come when bits and bytes commence with a relationship on their own terms – terms of endearment that we simply cannot sense nor touch, because we remain as analogue as the cell phones Scanner now can no longer sample?

Perhaps this work is too soon for us to begin to commence its hearing; its random recurrence of memory referents to Cascone still obscure the subtle intuition we have – as it must be the case, we hope – that Scanner has performed an action of sonic presence. Unless he has only removed sound, unless he has acted only as subtraction. Unless his mark is that of the negative random element, as sonic sponge, or aural erasure, removing sounds, perhaps replacing or transforming sounds, but adding none.

Moreover, without asking the artists – and would that actually answer any of these questions? – we cannot know the "answer;" for we still have not been able to hear the question. And whether this failure of the listener in her or his clairsonance is a failure of the work or a failure of the listener is a failure that in its own failure of designation cannot be attributed (and so, addressed, even to the crystalline network of addresses, but here, we just wish to hear one address): thus, even in failure, the failure fails, and perhaps all that can be heard is the echo of this failure with the work's own posing of this failure of designation or address, this very failed question.

Perhaps this work is failure, in the sense that Cascone speaks of when he says: "the aesthetics of failure." The definition of post-digital music.

Must we fail the work to love the machine? Must we fail each other, arms embraced, to love the work?


By tobias c. van Veen

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