Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
On the first listen of Cultural Forgeries, the meaning of album’s title became starkly apparent. The tracks herein transport the listener to a different time and place, and in that sense Rapoon is “forging” the music of different cultures around the world. During “Banjo Arabiata”, I am in a temple, or watching a documentary about migrant workers. The themes in “Suit toot” may have been borrowed from an island civilization.
A follower of Rapoon will notice that it represents a sharp change in direction from much of his previous work. Most of the tracks on Cultural Forgeries feature electronically processed acoustic instruments, where the instrument is recognizable but altered in some way. A crisp pick attack might be cut off completely, or delivered backwards. Or, backwards muted guitar notes sometimes take on the role of a percussion instrument. The album as a whole is diverse and each track features a unique but limited palette and often a different instrument. Rapoon’s minimal arrangements are refreshing and intentional-seeming. There is no waste, nothing left in “for the sake of it”.
Through each of my 10 listens, “I saw a man” hit a strong clear emotive core, and I am certain it’s something I want on my hypothetical deathbed playlist, even before I heard the voice sample that ends the track: “the man must be dead”. Peasant, restful harmonies alternate with tense moments that remind me of the transient nature of life itself. Like much of this album, its beauty emerges through nuanced modulations in reverb tails and long delays. It resonates with delight and wonder, but doesn’t rest too long on the tonic and isn’t confined by a standard time signature, which leaves the listener guessing and eager to receive the next moment of tension or release. A dark middle section clears the way for the end to remind you that yes, it really is working out perfectly, in spite of the pain, loss, and fear. There is beauty, and a higher order is at work.
Overall, Culural Forgeries an extremely strong, distinctive release, with variety of material that is mostly cohesive. That said, I offer a couple critical notes. “Slender...in clouds” features soulful blues guitar licks, but much of it amounts to free form soloing which is a bit unfocused. It doesn’t measure up with the otherwise powerful album. The only other track where I’m missing a skillful execution of the instrument itself is “The Summer Lies Heavy”. A violin is bowed in such a way where I have the urge to lower the mid/high on my equalizer due to the harshness. But these notes are merely the wabisabi on what is a powerful timeless record.