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Rapoon - What Do You Suppose? / Project Blue Book [Zoharum - 2015]

Rapoon is the ritualized soundscape project of Robin Storey, veteran of industrial/surrealist sound collage group Zoviet France.  His music is known for its primitivist 'found music' feeling, and highly evocative, transporting quality.  Zoharum is re-issuing Rapoon's 1999 album "What Do You Suppose? (The Alien Question)" in deluxe form, with an extra disk of material included as well, titled "Project Blue Book".

"What Do You Suppose?" is not unlike other albums by Rapoon, in that the central elements tend to be ethereal loops of synthesizer or tribal drumming iterating hypnotically, melodic ostinati cementing themselves magickally within the listener's mind, reverent spirit focusing tools of purification and clarification, possessed of a balanced, monophonic simplicity.

What sets this album apart is the presence of dialogue samples pertaining to the subject of UFOs, government cover ups and other conspiracies.  Some of these samples end up being funny, and not funny because the ideas presented are particularly absurd or far-fetched: I wouldn't be able to tell you whether the CIA has really been covering up the existence of extraterrestrials on our planet or not.  Instead, these samples are funny because of the sensationalism of the journalism sampled, phrases like "I'll show you who's been selling drugs to your children".  As such, the album contains the naivete of vintage television, and so the overall tone of the album is lighter in places than the purely abstract enigma of many Rapoon recordings. 

I'm fairly neutral to the inclusion of these samples, as they seem to tread familiar ground within the social discourse of the psychedelic / paranormal / hippie communities, whose tirades extend from countless youtube expose compilation videos to TV series like "Ancient Aliens".  Several of the samples included are apparently testimonials from military officers.  Of course, it would be difficult to determine the authenticity of any story simply by hearing it out of context, on an album like this.  An album could hardly hope to serve as a useful tool for education unless the liner notes consisted of copious citations and context, which these do not, at least not in this re-issue.  How much you find yourself effected by these samples will surely depend on how prone you are to this kind of speculating.  The album does a better job at generating at atmosphere of anticipatory dread than it does to really illuminate the truth of 'the alien question' itself.

"How Many of You Did Not Know That" is characteristic Rapoon at his best, a haunting suspension of a moment of classical music in the tradition of William Basinski or Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project, the voices of mellotron ghosts fading into the depth of the water, a prolonged sensation of anticipation that becomes anxiousness and finally dread, the underlying discomfort one feels at the inevitability of being surrounded by infinite unsolved mystery.

The 2nd disk, titled "Project Blue Book", was supposedly created from the same source recordings as "What Do You Suppose?", but in reality has little discernably shared material with disk 1, coming off more like an entirely new album in the same theme/style as "What Do You Suppose?".  These tracks feature jaw harp playing, hand drumming and haunting circular ambiences which, as far as I can tell, are unique to this disk, and appear nowhere on the original album.  Military testimonials appear here and there, but are much less of a focus than in the case of disk 1.

The feeling of this disk is generally looser, more empty and ambiguous.  There are moments when it seems the inclusion an entire extra disk as such was gratuitous, as this disk feels less like a cohesive trip, and less focused.  The album varies between vaporous emptiness, calm and sparsitude, and occasionally forays into thicker, darker atmospheres with tracks like "Dark Gods Breathing", which I vastly prefer. "The Truth Regarding UFOs" utilizes the same testimonial found on the first track of disk 1, and thus seems redundant.

I wouldn't count either the original album or its bonus disk variation among my favorite Rapoon work, but they should certainly satisfy rabid fans who never want to leave the unique atmosphere of Storey's music.  He has made a very large amount of music, at this point, and some of it is beginning to sound a bit casually thrown together, to my ears, but the tone and integrity of his music is undoubtedly still intact, and the analog feeling sound textures remain beautiful and multifaceted.

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

Josh Landry
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