Song from the End of the World is a particularly apt title for this collection of ambient drones and soundscapes, so downbeat is its tone and so glacial is its nature. However, the end that we assume is envisaged by English sound-artist Rapoon is one that comes with a whimper rather than a bang – Song from the End of the World conjures a feeling of resigned acceptance regarding the apocalypse of all apocalypses, rather than one of furious denial, melodramatic pity or unhinged self-destruction.
What makes this record more remarkable is that Rapoon manages to convey the same sense of dread, wrongness and inevitably contained within the real-life story that inspired it: the recent decision by French scientists to revive a dormant mega-virus that had been found in the permafrost of the Russian Arctic, where it had sat undiscovered and undisturbed for more 30,000 years. Aside from the obvious terror that such a decision evokes in us, it also heralded further horrors: it opened the world’s eyes to the potential for climate change to awaken more dangerous viruses locked away in areas of the far north, where frozen soil or permafrost is rapidly melting. So far, so end of the world…
However, rather than tell this story through spoken word or lyrics, Rapoon takes a non-narrative approach and musically and sonically expresses our emotional responses to these nightmarish decisions and scenarios, and intertwines the results with heavily textured soundscape/soundtrack pieces that aurally paint a picture of the post-apocalyptic end-point of these decisions and scenarios. Sometimes, his oh-so-slowly evolving drones seem like the heartbeat of the world, the changing of the seasons, the passing of untold years – as if we’ve been taken to a place where time is measured in centuries and millennia, rather than hours and days, and the end of the world is actually just part of a cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Sometimes, his pieces seem like audio snippets of the few survivors living out their days, the sound quality ragged and raw and grainy, as if overheard from afar or delivered via radio. Sometimes, they seem like field recordings of the empty cities, deserted lands and frozen wastes of this end-point, a place where synthetic sounds and industrial clangs and recordings of real-life wildernesses collide and comingle and create something unsettlingly new. Taking Song from the End of the World apart song-by-song is really beside the point – it functions as a whole, with each track bleeding into the next, and its moods and atmospheres seem designed to follow a plan. All that needs to be said is that if you’re after something that’s dark, down and nightmarish without being abrasive or noisy, then this is the thing for you.
(Originally published on Cyclic Defrost, 25/5/2016)