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Rapoon – Vernal Crossing Revisited

Rapoon Vernal Crossing Revisited

It would be expected that an album developed with the idea of re-visitation in mind would heavily mirror the original. Tracks may have alternate versions, layers may be added or removed, but a pretty noticeable similarity would have to exist. The artist behind Vernal Crossing Revisited takes no such approach. Rapoon, known otherwise as Robin Storey, takes a unique and powerful approach to composing a sonic update to his 1993 album Vernal Crossing. Classic rock cover albums are more similar to their influences than the modern second CD of this album is to the original. Serene ponds of ethnic instrumentation emerge from this makeover as a fearful collision of nature and technology.

Rapoon is a solo multimedia artist who was a member of the influential experimental act :zoviet*france:. Storey remained a member of the group until 1992 when he began his solo project. He has released over seventy albums since the inception of Rapoon with a persistent motif of Indian and African rhythm and melodies blended with ambient electronics and an experimental mindset. He creates soundtracks for films, dance performances and even advertisements. Along with purely auditory releases, he has produced his own abstract animated films and has painted since the 1970s. Rapoon continues to incorporate all of these elements into his work to this day.

Robin Storey

Robin Storey

Years of sonic exploration are woven into each composition; influences range from kraut-rockers Can and Neu!, to Brian Eno and Twin Peaks. Yet, each Rapoon record carries the distinctive entrancing quality of drone. To begin artist comparisons, Rapoon could bear semblance to to Muslimgauze if the heroin were to be replaced with peyote, K. K. Null minus the industrial, or — to be more historically accurate — :zoviet*france: with a flair for ethno-ambience. Still, likening acts to one another will always fall short. Storey has a way with hypnosis. The infusion of drifting chords and the unyielding drums of the Indian subcontinent seems to guide the mind on a transcendental voyage. His albums, of course, don’t all follow the same pattern. Fallen Gods (1994) delivers calm layered loops while Palestine (2007) and To West and Blue (2013) contain tracks of oppressive weight that could be comparable to his collaborations with Mark Spybey as Reformed Faction.

Trying to find a pattern in the evolution of Rapoon’s discography is a challenge, yet each new release seems to echo back to its predecessors. Occasionally, percussion will return as a heavy influence, or perhaps minimalism makes a reappearance. Continuing the trend of unpredictability, Vernal Crossing Revisited presents a stark contrast between the mother and child albums. The mother, Vernal Crossing is a collection of looping and fading samples. Voices and drums vie with a cloud of synthesizers and effects. Despite the conflicting powers of machine and mortal, a potent essence of humanity remains at the forefront. Atmospheres build into small towns and rural outposts, while vignettes arise with each piece. A merchant rides across the countryside in “The Same River Once”, and ghosts inhabit the space between drones in “Yi-Tun”. The density of the tracks is pretty sparse: one drum beat, one sample, and a wind of ambient synth-drone comprise the foundation of most the album. This isn’t a crowded or anxious record, and generally the tone of the music retains a feeling of awe and mystery rather than fear or negativity.

The original Vernal Crossing is great music to listen to while relaxing, meditating, or working. This can only be partially said for the remake, which becomes somewhat dismal. Lively drums disperse before the gloom of the deserted industrial wasteland that is the Lynch-ian “In Murmured Tones”. Echoes of the previous disc resonate through a thick fog of darkly droning keys. When the album again picks up with “Again we See” and “Blue Green”, the human tone is trapped below a computerized drum machine, with the former ethnic trance turning into a surreal beat tape. When again the sound of acoustic drums is heard, it is split in half by the down-tempo “Where Stars Reflect” and first half of “We Hear the Sun”. The album marches toward its end quietly. Field recordings comprise a mosaic of brilliant and eclectic colors which blend natural sounds with more electronic effects and tones. Whether by artistic dichotomy or by the progression of music technology, Vernal Crossing Revisited compares a world devoid of electronics and a world infused with them. Spiritual and organic hypnosis finds itself turned into cold wanderings, compelled forward by the advance of Western civilization. The album may contain a narrative of cultural clashes, a more melancholy look back at a more pure time. Yet, the second CD could be seen as a new life to this traditional raga. The drums of India never fully cease their endeavor; Rapoon also avoids journeying into the dark pits where Reformed Faction or other, more death industrial, acts lead their listeners. Only in “-” does the light seem to fade, but even then, the album ends — quite literally — on a higher note.

Each half of Vernal Crossing Revisited is an hour-long mix of ambient and upbeat tracks. A familiar Rapoon gains a digital overcoat. Even though computerized beats have made an appearance in earlier releases, it feels somewhat off. Again, this could be part of the jarring disconnect between past and present, but in order to build a more unified album, it seems the electronic elements could have blended better with the tribal aspects. Despite changes in mood and subject matter, the entire record remains a brilliant work of spell-casting art. Robin Storey’s Vernal Crossing Revisited is just that: a revisiting. It isn’t a remake, but a return to a once-green pasture now crisscrossed with power-lines and cellular radio-waves. Journeying into the forests and onto the beaches or grasslands, one would be met with the same striking feeling that something has changed since the times of old — something profoundly inorganic has filled the atmosphere. Whether this feeling is shared by all listeners or not, Vernal Crossing Revisited has enough new material to make listening to the double album a fresh experience.

Track List:

Disc I: 1993 Original

01) The Same River Once
02) Sonol
03) Yi
04) Rains
05) Bol Baya
06) Dahina Ta
07) Anatapurrah
08) Vernal Crossing
09) Yi-Tun

Disc II: 2013 Remake

01) Again we See
02) Blue Green
03) The Water’s Edge
04) Where Stars Reflect
05) We Hear the Sun
06) In Murmured Tones
07) Deep Held
08) In Marked Walls
09) The Clouds Pass Quickly
10) To End

Rating: 4/5
Written by: Custom
Label: Zoharum (Poland) / ZOHAR 043-2 / 2xCD
Ambient / Experimental / Tribal