Rapoon - Seeds in the Tide Volume 4 [Zoharum - 2015]Robin Storey's Rapoon project is one of the most well known and prolific in all of the soundscape genre. Having enjoyed Volume 03, I was pleased to receive the 4th installment in the 'Seeds in the Tide' series, another collection of rare compilation pieces and obscure tracks from Rapoon's long history. To the completist fan, this likely ties up a lot of loose ends.
As with the previous volume of "Seeds", this music is a bit rougher and more live in feel than your average Rapoon album, evidently the result of improvisation with guitar pedals, in many cases. The rough-hewn hardware feel does the music good, for the most part, though the style is undoubtedly simple, without much layering.
Breaking from the tradition of bite size track lengths, the album starts with "Seven Pillars of Fire", a 20 minute piece with heavy tape hiss, which progresses fluidly through a number of freeform ambient movements, from lush synth pads to downpitched shamanic chanting. It seems as if it could be a live recording, but it is not credited as such. It was apparently originally released on a limited CDr run in 2005. I imagine someone out there has been aching to hear this release.
It has the feel of a pagan forest rite, and a well paced narrative flow, rushing and drifting textures unfolding and swelling in an out of the thick bed of static. Its hypnotic repetitive style recalls the industrial tape loop pieces of the 80's (though Storey may be using digital means to create these sounds, by this point in time). The texture is muddied and imperfect, distorted and degraded in places, but in the gloom appears the faint image of a waterlogged oneiric world. This track is something like a self contained album, a well considered story of an EP. If you enjoy Nurse With Wound's "Spiral Insana", you will be pleased to find the same air of mystery and sequential progression through many environments ("rooms").
The other 10 tracks on the 1st CD are from various artist compilations, and range from 3-8 minutes in length. "Hosanna" brings further tape loops, this time of warm, consonant strings, single chords from classical music prolonged indefinitely, stretched into a deeply soothing cocoon of softly reassuring energy. It is therefore comparable to William Basinski, Nocturnal Emissions or Wolfgang Voigt's work as Gas. It is a pleasure to be suspended within these unchanging repetitive environments. "Hosanna #2" is more fitting to its title, centering around a loop clearly sampled from a church choir, slowed and blurred into haunting sluggishness and distance, aligned with a softly murmuring aquatic synth.
Though the following tracks are culled from different releases, many themes and loops recurr in multiple tracks, with the choral church vibes continuing through "Vertical Drift" and the all-too-brief 3 minutes of "Plainsong", evoking an empowering rising sensation. Later in the disk, "Telling" centers around a choir as well, slowed here to glacial pace, the voices sounding like deep troll groans.
The 6th track "Untitled" interrupts the feeling of the album considerably by adding spoken vocals which speak of existential and scientific matters. It resides in a place somewhere between the morbid mysticism of Coil and the blind positivity of a new age meditation tape. The lyrics are not too awkward, but unfortunately, are awkwardly performed, indecisively mumbled and placed utterly dry and uncompressed into the mix, leading to an indecipherable result. The vocalist is apparently Christophe Demarthe, an artist with few appearances to be easily found. His vocal tone ranges from introverted and restrained to a brazen theatric croak. In any case, he doesn't seem totally comfortable with conveying the meanings of his words with his voice.
Most of the album isn't quite as distinctive as the opening 20 minutes. While it is pleasant, it isn't always engaging, and brings few new ideas to Rapoon's long discography. As I feel the pace begin to drag with tracks like "Full Moon Eye" and "The Moment Screams", I am inclined to say this is a non-essential Rapoon release.
The 45 minute live recording which spans all of disk 2 is curiously vintage and industrial sounding, with a rigid, dry drum machine sounding out repeatedly amidst the ambience, a martial feel not unlike Laibach or Deutsch Nepal. It has a darker tone than the uncharacteristically guitar shred oriented live show included with Volume 03, a somber, droning hypnosis in which a quavering minor chord hovers in smokey light. It is one of the best things in the collection, as it draws from a large amout of different sonic material, never remaining too fixed in any sound palette. Memorable moments include one featuring a Harold Budd-esque chorused piano, sounding a descending melody repeatedly, crashing into a heartfelt consonant resoltion.
It's far from the most pointless odds and ends collection I've heard, but I'd still question whether Storey really need put this out, and would prefer to listen to a Rapoon album with a more concise track ordering, and trajectory from beginning to end. Though the included live set is of high quality, putting a lengthy set in a compilation like this feels like a cheap way to add running time. Hearing so many of Storey's lost minor pieces has ironically made him seem less mysterious.Josh Landry