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Rapoon – My Life As A Ghost / Rhiz

Zoharum

Rapoon - My Life As A GhostHallucinatory and suffused with a sense of being largely abstracted from place and time as it is generally understood to exist, Rapoon‘s My Life as A Ghost seethes with fluctuations in the space-time continuum. Drenched in reverberant FX, the album is in part a product of its era (it was originally released in 2004) whilst often being curiously adrift on notions of musical genre. Yes, it’s largely very ambient; for sure, there are funky drummings looped into occasionally bizarre dimensions; but it’s at once music rooted in the past — often a very long way back to a pre-notation, let alone pre-recording age) — and possessed of a forward-thinking shimmer that eludes precise location, geographically or in genre.

At times, My Life As A Ghost — surely a reference to David Byrne and Brian Eno‘s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts — bristles with the woozy rhythmic single-mindedness of Muslimgauze, as a track like “Neyyatt” or “Silver Comp'” steps relentlessly through a series of ear-bendingly repetitive cyclical loops peppered with abstracted percussion and spot dub FX fills. Other pieces are haunted drum’n’bass epics, unwinding with all the disturbed fervour that Robin Storey had deployed a few years earlier on the stonkingly bleak Cold War Drum’n’ Bass album. Vocally, tracks here are peppered with bizarre spoken word passages (“Adrift” is graced with part of Joe Frank‘s WFMU broadcast In The Middle Of Nowhere) and robotised fragments. “I was lonely until you downloaded me… you look like you’ve been having a hard time lately” states the female speech synth voice on “A Strange World”, its flat tones hinting at an ominous cyberpunk future (or past, come to think of it), words embedded in the shifting textures and drones and offset by a melancholy trumpet, hinting at melody.

Storey is also content to play with rhythmic expectations, stepping outside the four-square template on tracks like “BIG Land IN”, messing up the sampled beatbox breaths in a haze of layered, undulating reverberations and swarms of dusty reeds. Equally, “I Think I Was Happy” is content to unfold with a similar mood and auditory misama while settled to a heartbeat pulse of a solo kick drum, perhaps simulating the onrush of blood to the head along with a rattly sense of immanent dread. Here, the reedy finale skirls like a bagpipe band detuning rapidly as things collapse in a sweltering twirl of mixer controls and sampled demand to “Tell Charlene”, the title of the pumping next track which ups the stomping ante considerably. Rapoon as tribal techno works as well as might be expected, the floor-shaking beats rippling with a heat-shimmer of spasming echoes and delay trails that hold the door wide open for a wall-to-wall exercise in full-tilt trance, filters opening and closing in time-honoured style to occasionally brittle effect.

As with many recent Zoharum re-releases of the Rapoon back catalogue, there’s a full CD’s worth of bonus material, remixed from the My Life As A Ghost sessions, alongside some new music too. Some of this is familiar from the original album — “Vertical Moonlight” and “What’s Been Happening?” are extended and beefed-up stomps through “Tell Charlene” territory and “Terminus Gris” is a four-track tape whirl through moments from the first disc. Others, such as “Not Knowing”, have a crisp, modern feel to them that could of course be entirely illusory. “In Marakkesh” is a broad-spectrum virtual travelogue though a Morocco rendered larger than life in ethnodelic electronic intensity, suffused with Storey’s characteristically deft ability to craft soundscapes that never dishonour the cultures from which they draw so lovingly.

Rapoon - Rhiz

Rhiz, from 2002, is a yet more energetic album, fizzling with harsh beats, smooth grooves and pumping floorfillers. There’s a subcontinental feel to many of the samples Storey folds into the mix and a shuffling slyness to the way that orchestral snippets will loom to the foreground briefly before slipping below the surface on “Ho Gaya Can”, for instance. Rhiz demonstrates that while this is definitely dance music, it’s not going to be an easy or familiar ride, save perhaps for those familiar with the likes of Coil or Psychic TV at their most electronic and club-friendly.

So while all the tropes and sounds that might be expected are present and correct, the Rapoon elements of slathered effects washes that seem to hold themselves present for longer than might be considered reasonable keep things hallucinatory and otherworldly. On “Hunters And Pardesi” or “LagaKe Swan”, Storey gives Squarepusher or Aphex Twin a run for their polyrhythmic drum machinations, complex beats fracturing off in seemingly multiple dimensions while maintaining a straight-ahead propulsive intent.

Dense and determinedly obtuse at times, Rhiz probably set those dancefloors brave enough to test out its extremes of sequenced derangement a-spin with delirium fifteen years ago, and doubtless can do the same again. The twistedly repetitive vocals and staggered electro-tinged beats on the echo-haunted acid house “Last Stop” would be enough to do anyone’s head in at the best of times, but turn out the lights, whack up the volume and the strobes, throw in a sweating throng and things can only possibly get weirder.

-Antron S Meister-

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