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Scanner + David Rothenberg: You Can’t Get There From Here

img  Tobias Fischer

You Can’t Get There From Here is the collaborative effort of electronic musician/producer Scanner and jazz musician/philosopher David Rothenberg. Scanner, who has worked with musicians like Radiohead and Laurie Anderson, constructs the songs with complex layers of found-sounds, environmental samples, deep bass-heavy beats, and mesmerizing percussion loops. Rothenberg’s jazzy clarinet improvisations move between lyrical Middle Eastern-tinged motifs, pensive blues lines, and atonal fluttering. The result is a sedate set of songs that straddles lounge music, free jazz, and experimental electronic music.

On “Tlingit Death Song,” Rothenberg waxes philosophically about the inevitability of death over a treated bed of hand percussion and bass clarinet. “You Can’t Get There from Here” brings together free-jazz clarinet musings and sedate electro-blips.  In “The Serpentine Way,” Rothenberg improvises over ghostly synth stabs and reverb-heavy bass drum hits.

For the most part, You Can’t Get There From Here is texturally driven mood music. Despite the glossy production and occasional beat-heavy anchor, most of the tracks have the feel of free improvisation. There are few harmonic changes or reoccurring melodic motifs. Compositions like “Compounding Daydream” begin and end mid-idea, offering a brief (and often dark) psychological snapshot.  These aren’t “songs” as much as they are powerful ambiences. Scanner’s nuanced production at times creates a sense of eerie vacancy (“The Far Field”), and at other times comes across as lounge music with a Lynchian twist (“Where Do You Run To?”). In the album’s title track, he colors Rothernberg’s sporadic improvisation with faint radio sounds and vinyl crackle. In “Fabian Fox,” scraping metal sounds are buried amidst a complex web of drum loops and muddy bass.

Repeated listens reveal endless layers of color: faint cymbal hisses, analog synth hums, quiet found-sound tapping, etc. You Can’t Get There From Here closes with its most powerful composition, “The Waves and the Beat.” A busy, beat-heavy number colored with the sounds of ocean waves moving between the speakers, the song is the most architecturally complex track on the album. Winding through chord and section changes it’s the only piece that feels more like a journey than a mood.

Throughout, Scanner’s jaw-dropping craftsmanship and Rothenberg’s emotional invention make for a powerful and evocative combination. You Can’t Get There From Here is the kind of music that reveals itself slowly, over the course of repeated listens. The closer you listen, the more you hear.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Scanner
Homepage: David Rothenberg
Homepage: Monotype Records

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