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Rapoon / Rapoon and Promute – Fall of Drums / Machine River

Zoharum

Rapoon – Fall of DrumsDrenched in reverb and flecked with voices from the Eastern aether, Fall of Drums is Robin Storey‘s third or so new Rapoon album in the space of a year, but the first on Zoharum since To West and Blue in 2013 and various re-issues which the label has put out recently. Over four lengthy, stretched-out tracks, the album sets about creating a hallucinogenic landscape of languorous percussion and the sort of electronic haze which seems almost thick with fragrant smoke and coated with a resinous fug of ages.

This is no polished, sonorous TV-friendly soundtrack-fodder though; the music here is somewhat unlikely to adorn a mainstream documentary on any ancient subject or travelogues from the Western Sahara to Bangladesh (Dead Can Dance and anything involving Ofra Haza and occasionally Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan seem to have that particular vast imaginary territory sewn up as far as music directors are concerned, regardless of the frequent cultural divergence between music, musicians and subject matter). Not that Rapoon’s music isn’t eminently cinematic; rather, Fall of Drums is the sort of soundtrack which is best appreciated with internal visual accompaniment, an inner space journey which roams at hypnogogic camel’s pace across a psychogeographical landscape where the time constraints of most films would be left demanding action and pacing which is well outwith the raison d’etre of this music.

The rustle of electronics and the keening of pipes operates at a tangent to most so-called world music; Storey’s application of sounds which have become signifiers of dusty ambience, of ancient exotica incarnate, delves deeper into the heart of the matter, shifting textural nuances with the deft application of a musician who has been warping sounds and expanding mindscapes for a good long while. This attention to detail and to the sonorous among the abstract and the placement of spare rhythm in places where others might opt for continuous intensity or rampant clutter marks Fall of Drums as a record which belies the expected motion and perhaps danceability which its title might at first indicate.

Instead, echoed dub reverberations are everywhere, ghostly trails and complex layers which roll and occasionally roil with all the befuddled and baffling segues of a deep, disorienting desert dream which never reveals its obvious meanings. Too queasily involving to ever become so ambient as to disappear into the background, Fall of Drums would prefer to sway and sidle closer to the parts of the listener’s brain which nag and gnaw at the eternal and embrace the juxtaposition of the familiar and the mysterious. Once established, they glide inside while layered string ripples, sampled percussion, attenuated terpsichorean chants and motion-pressing djinni of the machines make their own distractions, there to set up home for the duration, as if their presence had always been thus and so.

At a shade over thirty minutes, “The Heat Beguiles” is the album’s longest and perhaps most beautiful track, a piece which unwinds and reveals itself with a sinuous yet ineffable grace. By the time the music has passed from hallucinogenic drum snippets into a swirling, resonant cloud of paradisical choirs from beyond, it’s possible to believe that there is a better world, but one which resides, like it seems to here, at the confluence of music and dreams.

Rapoon and Promute - Machine RiverMachine River could perhaps be described at a pinch as musique concrète in dub, as Storey manipulates and arranges the various sounds supplied by Shaun Sandor (AKA Promute) alongside his own into a psychedelic vision which possesses some affinities with Fall of Drums – especially when heard straight afterwards. On closer listening it’s apparent that the spaces occupied by Promute’s electro-acoustics lend the album a different mood, and when the various sitar, piano and guitars make their deracinated presence felt, the relative clarity here is like stepping into a brighter space, though one still held in thrall to the meditative and haunted by the eerily spectral.

The smeared tones and burbling words hint occasionally at kinship with the atmospheric elevations of Popol Vuh‘s cinematic work with Werner Herzog; once again with Rapoon, it’s easy to parse the arrangements as music which only lacks a visual component because the listener provides their own. Promute’s instrumentation is stretched, layered, re-composed and perhaps revealed in a new light by Storey’s attentions, their partnership added to by occasional obscured and extirpated vocals of Des Kashyap and Storey himself.

The two long twenty minute or so tracks which close the album let the collaboration spread its wings and soar, the unnerving, uneasy processed words advancing and recoiling like a force of nature among the scattered bones of the instrumentation. Plangent sitars, lightly-tumbling rhythms and (un)prepared pianos spar gently with the insistent machine elves in the echo chamber of the senses, their discordances hinting cheekily at strange delights and dooms to be revealed. These arrive all back-masked and recursive, drone-fed and hazy, muttered words and scraped strings stretched into delay FX glissandos leeching through from a parallel liminal worlds of music where melody and timbres are similar yet subtly altered and estranged. Pay attention and the effect is hypnotic, dragging the listener across the divide and into Sandor and Storey’s alternate universe, one from which it may not be possible to return unchanged.

-Linus Tossio-

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