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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Scanner - Mass Observation [Room 40 - 2018]

Originally released in the early 1990s, when the modern world of personal communication via the use of mobile phones was born, Mass Observation appeared- the album is probably the most known & far-reaching release from this Uk electronica project. It blurred together various snippets of stolen conversions, official instructions, private chatter & emergency services banter, with a shifting & morph sound soup hazed beatscapes, swirling electro texturing & ambience. Here on Room 40 is a full & expanded edition of the release- coming as either a CD or digital download.

Mass Observation first appeared in 1994 on Ash International- as either a 12-inch vinyl or CD. The album became one of the first releases to blend together the slowly rising mass communication culture, with often broodingly dense & at times eerier electronica. This new expanded edition takes the original three-track release, & converts it into a single track that comes in just shy of the hour mark.

Back when this originally came out I recall reading write-ups about this release, and been fairly curious- though not enough to pick it up, as at that point in my sonic life I was only dipping my toe in experimental electronica/ & more long-form ambient releases, & Mass Observation seemed to take things a bit to far for me. And as the years have passed I promptly put the release to the back of my mind- so when I saw Room 40 where reissuing this I just had to give it a look.

As we were only sent a CDR review copy of the album, Iím not sure if this release has been remixed or altered in any way, aside of course from the mixing together of the tracks- so I canít really comment on how this differs from the original version- so please do keep that in mind as you read my review of the release. Though apparently this is a longer expansive mix of the material, which has been unheard until now.

The single fifty three minute track featured here is a wonderfully dense, shifting & often disorientating sonic journey- which surprisingly ,considering its age, sounds fairly undated. There is no real firm & set structure running through the whole piece- giving the whole thing a fairly lose & free feel, yet itís not chaos or just random flotsam & Jettison. Through-out Scanner creates a compelling, at times moody & at other times overloading sonic soup- that moves with itís stolen audio elements from airline instructions, onto sales calls & work mate banter. Through to arguments & late night friend chatter, onto official emergency services chatter, and beyond. Around this shifting & morphing mass Scanner weaves an often subdued & subtle blend of skittering beats 'n' pluses, electro-ambient drifts, moody keyboard lines, and atmospheric mood-scaping- which nicely builds, then dips, nearly fades, then buildings once again.

Itís great to have Mass Observation finally back in print, and in a way Iím glad I waited until now to hear it, as I know I certainly appreciate it more now than I would in the early í90s- as I just wasnít ready for this type of loose & morphing type of composition.  In conclusion, if you enjoy densely & shifting immersion in experimental electronica & creepy ambience, Iíd certainly recommend this release.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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