To West And Blue
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 054-2 CD (2013)
Rapoon is Robin Storey who was half of zoviet_France for the first couple of years of its history, so if you are familiar with that particular project, then you don’t need me to tell you where To West And Blue is going to rest in the canon of ambient music and you’re probably already well aware of Storey’s ouvre besides.
Drift. Ennui. Dereliction. Quite honestly, I feel like I’m lost (in a good way) whenever I put this album on the cd deck, so gossamer is the content – perhaps that’s the intention.
The opener, “East Window Lights”, is a carpet of church organ, medium pile. Storey withholds melody to create an ever-so slightly enhanced perception of colour like when you are halfway through a 36 hour fast and/or consuming over six cups of coffee a day. A constant reassuring thrum of backwards tape, or the digital approximation of same. Palm fronds swaying in a slight breeze in early summer; around 21 degrees celsius. Does this piece of music have an abstracted sense of Englishness? The title is intriguing; implying a romantic night-time cityscape of electric light, and though l like the sudden pads which end the track, I’m forced to concede that it could just as well simply be a banal view of the wall from his chair in the studio.
In the next piece, “Solace”, the piano feels its way across the wastes of ambience, and I like the way the brass sounds which I initially took to be trumpet around the two minute mark, reveal themselves to be synth. We then experience some great thumb piano, and the apocalyptic groaning of the very earth itself rending in two. Surely this is the sound of the rending of time and space? Also, I could swear that Storey has inserted the Dr Who TARDIS sound way back in the mix for a joke? Girders swing at you out of the blackness, barely missing your nose. “Solace” later sounds like tongue drums – at least it is reminiscent of rainforest tribal music from endless bbc documentaries to me, at least. Towards the end there are clusters of piano melody – almost like Storey left in some evidence of him trying out ideas…
The third track, “The Gold Of Salvation”, is pure synth pad drone fx. This would definitely complement nocturnal “altered states”, and I don’t mean the film – in fact it reminds me of the thrill of hearing Future Sound Of London for the first time 20 years ago. Soporific. And short. Next, “A Heavy Door Locked” foregrounds metallic sources grinding in the distance amplified by delays while analogue synth bloops and digital vocal effects cut in from the outer cosmos. Fluttering sci-fi eeriness. Stockhausen bloop. EMS-style bit-blurt.
“Broken Eagle, Broken Sunset” could be described as voxsynth drone; quite fast-moving comparatively. Vocal samples float around, usually exotic singers. No surprises here. Rolling onwards without proscribed destination which is fine when you are in the woods. I could use a little more variety in the source material and detail in the production personally but otherwise still a tasteful and useable addition. To my mind this goes on a little too long and maybe outstays its welcome for me with its heavy repetition although its long quiet ending makes sense structurally as far as the album as a whole is concerned.
Track six “An Angel’s Breath” I almost mis-read the title of this on the car’s information screen as “An Angel’s Breakfast”. Now that would be quite an interesting subject to guess at but the angel’s breath in question here seems to consist predominantly of Storey’s ever-present digital delay (did he acquire an Eventide Harmonizer 20 years ago and just get seduced by the superb quality of the reverbs and delays?) And lifted choirs, birdsong with no real momentum, but hey I ain’t complaining. If you aren’t looking for momentum, then that’s not a problem. I have no wish to hark back nostalgically to the Brian Eno epoch because I think music and technology have moved on farther than makes any of that stuff relevant now, but just to contradict myself I will say that it reminded me of Popul Vuh’s soundtrack music for Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo but you shouldn’t read anything into that.
The title track which completes this album, “To West And Blue”, has a very confusing, yet pleasing, set of counter-rhythms with an almost motoric feel. Indeed, it’s fourteen minutes of blissful effulgence. A digital ocean washing up on an analogue beach. Great late-night listening.