The desert is a place of sunlight and shadows; a place of bedouins and fertile deltas; lazy, muddy rivers and ancient tales. Time stands still beneath the flaming orb of the relentless sun. You feel the need to whisper, despite the whining wind. It is a place of fakir and genie, supplication and purification. This is the realm of Vernal Crossing Revisited.Vernal Crossing was the third release from ambient ethnomusicologist Robin Storey, under his Rapoon guise, originally released in 1993. Storey had come to notoriety with his involvement from influential industrial outfit :zoviet*france:, before departing in 1992 and launching Rapoon. He was an early and notable contributor to the Soleilmoon and Staalplaat labels, whose esoteric releases would help bring the fields of drone, sound collage, field recordings and occultism to public consciousness.
To mark the 20th anniversary of Vernal Crossing, Storey and Zoharum Records have offered up a special treat: a deluxe double CD, featuring a remaster of the original, and a 2013 reworking of the material by Rapoon. Vernal Crossing Revisited offers a rare opportunity to both re-assess the state of underground electronic music in ’93, and a chance to clearly observe the present.Vernal Crossing is Rapoon at his most rhythmic, and the beats are the most obvious telltale sign of the tendencies of the time. The first disc, the remastered original, is made up almost entirely of treated Middle Eastern percussion. The dub toolbox of echo, delay and reverb are used sparsely, but effectively and for the most part Rapoon just lets his loops run on into infinity, relying on the hypnotic power of repetition. Vernal Crossing is like Muslimgauze minus the politics.
It reminds us of the exotic, worldly tendencies of the early-’90s, to sample anything and everything, before the self-consciousness of cultural appropriation had quite set its hooks in. With the recent success of the beat excursions of Vatican Shadow, and a newfound appreciation of the works of Bryn Jones, the time is right to unearth this time capsule. By contrast, the modern take is sharp where the original was impressionistic, intricate and varied where the first was hypnotic and lulling. The beats are impressive, and the drum machines sound great; so you can’t really say one is superior to the other, they just have different moods or flavors. I could imagine 1993’s version playing in cafés, bookshops, or yoga classes, while the newer version would work on more introverted, visionary dancefloors.Both versions have a backdrop of Middle Eastern instruments, prayer vocals, and layers of smeary digital drone. Rapoon’s mission, and methods, have remained consistent, and we begin to notice how he, and some of his prolific peers, helped usher in the future we are living in.
Vernal Crossing Revisited works quite well as a whole, spanning over two hours. I’ve had a number of reflective sessions listening to this, being transported to somewhere warmer, as the gloom of the Pacific Northwest sets in. This is excellent ambient music, great for reading or for walking around, lost in thought. Fall under the spell, feel the mantric beat, start to sway. Bring something otherworldly into your life, and discover the vast continent of Rapoon.