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Scanner

by Luke Wainwright

In the land of ubiquitous cell phones, it’s hard not to eavesdrop on the chatterboxes around you. Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, a British sound artist, has taken technology-abetted voyeurism to another level. Dubbed a “telephone terrorist,” he rose to notoriety in the late ’90s by filtering “found” cell-phone snippets into his darkly ominous electronic soundscapes. It was William S. Burroughs meets William Gibson. (Privacy advocates should be reassured that, by altering the voices through speed and pitch, Scanner rendered the callers anonymous.)

Overall, Scanner’s music can be filed under ambient, techno and house, but it hovers closer to the more abstract and minimalist realms, where mind-expanding, free-form atmospherics are favored over rhythm-driven, fist-in-air grooves. Although it’s been dubbed “intelligent trance,” don’t let that get in the way of enjoying it.

Scanner is a slippery character whose activities find homes in both trendy clubs and grant-supported multimedia shows. His CV includes collaborations beyond the usual suspects (DJ Spooky, for example), with names such as filmmaker Derek Jarman, singer Bryan Ferry and multimedia artist Laurie Anderson.

With his latest release, “Wave of Light by Wave of Light,” recorded under the new moniker of Scannerfunk, Rimbaud has moved toward a slightly more accessible sound: Think Moby in his most restrained moments. But his edge is still sharp as ever.

Spinner’s first performance in Tokyo next week is part of “Jam: London-Tokyo,” a large-scale cultural event organized by the British Council that was first held in London this summer and will now encamp at Tokyo Opera City. In keeping with the event’s bicultural mix, Japanese techno DJs Susumu Yokoto and Nobuki Nishiyama will be in the house, and the music will be complemented by D-Fuse, mad visual scientists from the U.K. who’ve done work for artists such as Leftfield, Ritchie Hawtkin and — surprise, surprise — Scanner.

Pack your bags for a journey into pulsing time and space.