Rapoon: Song From the End of the World
Glacial Movements Records

Of course every Glacial Movements recording is by definition chilly, but that aspect is pushed to an even greater extreme on Robin Storey's Rapoon outing. In certain moments bone-chilling winds howl with such violent intensity, they threaten to drown out the musical content altogether. As an ex-member and co-founder of the legendary outfit Zoviet France, Storey is an experienced hand at sculpting powerfully atmospheric material, and there's certainly no shortage of it on Song From the End of the World.

Much as he did with his 2007 release Time Frost, which imagined Europe covered by ice, Storey uses a narrative as a foundation for his musical conception. In this case, researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research are poised to revive a mega-virus they've discovered in the permafrost of the Russian Arctic that's lain dormant for 30,000 years. Though the scientists offers reassurance that safety precautions will be taken, they also acknowledge the risk of viruses being released in areas where soil or permafrost is melting; ultimately the contention is that the goal of knowledge acquisition trumps all else, regardless of the threats involved. It is in this somewhat foreboding spirit that Storey presents his Song From the End of the World.

The recording takes no time at all asserting its dynamic self. In the scene-setting “We Travelled in Waves,” bell strikes punctuate an opaque swirl of rhythmic convulsions and muffled voices, the whole collectively conveying the woozy impression of an hallucinatory dream-state; at almost sixteen minutes, the ultra-evocative opener, as texturally rich and detailed as soundscaping gets, stands as a microcosm for the recording in its entirety. In places the material takes on the character of a fading radio transmission, a last desperate communication from an outpost wrestling with the ravages of disease and psychological instability. Occasionally an instrument sound, such as a lonely piano or plaintive string instrument, rises to the surface, and chant-like vocalizations also add a primeval tone. Said details aside, Storey's focus is on the total sound design.

The recording amounts to a rather remarkable addition to the Glacial Movements catalogue. At no time does Storey rest on his laurels and lazily steal from himself; each of the nine settings, while fitting naturally together, presents an unsettling, brooding world unto itself. In fact, these mystery-laden soundtracks are so suggestive, visuals are hardly necessary.

May 2016