Rapoon - Cultural Forgeries [Alrealon Musique - 2014]
Robin Storey's Rapoon project has gone through many an iteration since the early 90's, generally representing the peaceful ethno-ambient side of the artist's often mysterious and primitive soundscapes. Hand drums, gentle pads and indefinite repetition are the central elements of most Rapoon recordings. This 2014 recording "Cultural Forgeries" has a direct, untreated acoustic sound at times, which contrasts classic recordings like 1993's "Vernal Crossing".
Many of the tracks, especially on the 1st half of the album, feel like unedited improvisations on unfamiliar instruments. The title "Cultural Forgeries" is apt, as it seems like Storey picked up an instrument from a foreign culture and simply attempted to create sound, without much direction or expertise. While the texture of the instruments is nice, and often coated in an endless artificial verb, which sounds quite expensive and has a very pleasant shimmer, the music feels significantly more meandering than typical Rapoon, and doesn't sustain an atmosphere or tone quite as well. I found my attention wandering from the music, which is fine for sleeping or just unwinding, but not for focused listening.
Later in the album, the pieces feel less raw and improvisatory, with "Along the Calling Path" representing the degraded tape loop based approach I heard on Storey's classic albums. The dusty, wistful melodic twangs of ancient sounding guitar-like instruments in "Je Veux D'l'amour" are equal parts ritualistic and cinematic, and wouldn't be out of place in the soundtrack of a period piece like HBO's "Rome", or, in the musical world, an artist like Herbst9. There is great gestural interplay between plucked strings, trumpets and flutes, with careful and measured silent space between. While I've never heard these sounds in Storey's work, they're not out of place, as undoubtedly he was one of the individuals who first helped to cement this style of music in modern culture.
In conclusion, this is a nice sounding recording, but overlong at 15 tracks / 74 minutes, and not one of Storey's most powerful. I admire the experimentation with different instruments, and at its best, the album has a brightly conscious feeling, emotionally aware of humanity's long history. Ultimately, I'm just a little confused as to why some of the more unfocused improvisations, particularly the ones that are 6-7 minutes in length ("I Saw A Man"), were put here in this untreated form. It doesn't feel like the best use of time. There's plenty of lovely texture and emotionally charged tone to be found here, but I think something like 1/3 of the tracks could have been reduced or totally omitted.Josh Landry