A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Cultural Forgeries is a pagan festival, held in Miles Davis’ Sanctuary.
Cultural Forgeries is an ethnographic trawl through the vision inducing music of the world.
Cultural Forgeries is an unplugged album, (sort of), from Robin Storey, formerly of Zoviet:France.
Cultural appropriation is a weird thing. On one hand, as artists and musicians, we take inspiration from all over, and want to pay homage and explore ideas raised by art from all over, regardless of origin. On the other hand, we don’t want to co-opt other people’s struggles, as if we’d lived them, as a way to seem “cool” or “with it” or “down”. Consider the cases of some white kids adopting gangsta rap to seem tough and from the streets, or another buying some Putumayo world music sampler at a Starbucks to seem more worldly, as they sip on exploitative brews, as illustrations of this tangled skein.
Robin Storey has been taking inspiration from cultures from all over for over 3 decades, beginning with his industrial terror outfit Zoviet:france, and as Rapoon, since 1992. In that time, he’s covered a ton of artistic ground, from harsh noise to smooth ethnological trance to dark ambient, releasing over 60 records on a laundrylist of underground labels.
For all that, this release from our friends Alrealon Musique is an anomaly, in that Robert Pepper, of PAS Musique, asked Storey to make an ‘unplugged’ record. He set to work with a field recorder and a small orchestra of world instruments, from banjo to bodhran, pocket trumpet to mouth harp to squeezebox to slide guitar. The results don’t feel exploitative in the slightest; instead, it’s like a meander through The Secret Museum Of Mankind – a guided tour through the trance music of the world.
For much of his career, Robin Storey has been approaching world music through recordings, bending, warping, and stretching exotic recordings, and spreading them across a framework of whatever style he is working in, at that moment. It’s refreshing, here, to hear him playing instruments live, and capturing the results, which gives a much more “live” and authentic air to the procession. This is helped, in no small part, by excellent performances on the sundry sound making devices. Album opener “Donnez-moi Une Cigarette” wouldn’t sound out of place on Miles Davis‘ Bitches Brew, and is of a similar lonesome quality to “Sanctuary”, from that record, and then cast into an eternal funhouse of echoing mirrors, slathered in bubbling dub delays:
He’s good at the Bodrhan, an Irish frame drum, on “Bodhran and Ran”, which he captured solely by sticking the field recorder inside the frame drum, to capture the natural resonance. For DJs and Producers looking to get their hands on some live groove, you’d be advised to take a listen here.
“Banjo Arabiata” has a lonely, mystic Turkish quality to it, that also brings to mind the trance Americana of Daniel Higgs. We are reminded of the vast amount of miles that the banjo has traveled. Originally from Africa, traveling to the American south and the Middle East, fusing a commonality between Appalachian hillbillies and Scottish settlers, African sharecroppers and freak folks.
“Suit Toot Coconoot” summons Pan with a cacophany of whistles, bringing to mind the discordant jajouka of The Cell soundtrack.
“I Saw A Man” and “Slender… In Clouds” are the albums pinnacle, for me. “I Saw A Man” is a coccooning chorus of droning squeezeboxes, that bring to mind the epic harmonium explorations from American Hillbilly mystics Pelt, which is then cast in a slight, delicious cloud of chorus and delay. I love the wheezing rasp or hurdy gurdy instruments, bearing a similarity to a rough and weathered human voice. The pump of the bellows sounds like our own lungs, while the rustic associations with pump organs brings an air of dirt floors and open ceilings to the sanctimony.
“Slender…In Clouds” has the same endless, mournful existential blues quality as one of our favorites, Loren Mazzacane Connors, transforming Delta slide guitar blues into barbed wire Aeolian harp zen gardens of sweat and deliverance. The bend and slide effortlessly matches the human wordless moan of desire, as any fan of the real, good blues can tell you. Robin Storey’s a sweet, soulful guitarist, on a 1958 Hofner Congress, simple and refined, like a more ethereal Blind Willie Johnson.
I could go on and on, but i won’t. Suffice it to say, the rest of the album is a continued exploration of interesting and unique instruments, which are then treated with a variety of studio manipulations, while never losing sight of the original source material. “The Summer Lies Heavy”, “Along The Ceiling Path”, “Sway… Down Down”, and album closer “Murmur now… finis”, are some personal highlights. But the whole thing is really, and creates a lovely, hypnotic lull, when allowed to play from start to finish.
It’s nice to hear Rapoon getting loose and organic; one more reflection of the atavistic return i’m always speaking of, as evidenced by the continued surfacing of industrial techno and ritualistic music in every genre. But it’s not every day you find such an immediate connecting thread of Industrial Music, dark ambient, club musicks of all styles, and delta blues and mutant cool jazz. Such a thing is to be applauded, and delved into, as much as possible.
Robin Storey shows us that we can be inspired by anybody, but we always, ultimately, make that thing our own. In the process, he shows that we are more alike than different, and looking for similar things. Looking for ourselves, reaching for the stars, singing to the skies.