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Rum Music

Rum Music For September Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , September 30th, 2019 06:38

In a hot September for releases, Jennifer Lucy Allan picks out bagpipe drones, bubbling modular, and other vague music

It’s September and the weather is supposed to be changing. Only it’s not. I am in the South East and it is still hot, the water out in the estuary a bath-time 18 degrees. While it is a depressing harbinger of things to come, I’m prepared to exploit it as a hook for this column, by saying that September is not just literally hot (a bad thing), but also figuratively hot (a good thing). It is a great month for releases, one where the fringes come out of hibernation, when there are so many releases 1 September is like the starting gun at the Grand National.

Weeks ago, I began writing this column about Bristol having a purple patch, but I’m not the only one to have noticed, and Noel has got it covered over on his NWB column – I would recommend heading over there and picking up the No Sleep Till Avon comp on the way. I was going to write about how Bristol experienced a tsunami in 1607, and then talk about how the aural sludge and sonic debris coming out of that city sound like the landscape that made it. It’s good job I didn’t really, because while this column’s image could be re-appropriated as a visual interpretation of a woodland rave, the revellers submerged in soundwaves, it is also a terrible journalistic error to make hand-sweeping associations between music and whatever landscape it came from. This neglects the fact that lots of us can’t or don’t engage with much of the natural or urban features in our locale. And it is lazy. But, as the seasons continue to loom, disrupted and terrifying, I ask this sweaty September, what about music as weather?

The most mind-blowing fact that reverberates around my head constantly is that sound and weather are basically the same thing – pressure waves. If you could turn those bagpipes (see below), or modulars (see below) or bass bins down loud enough you would be making weather. I dream of a dub low enough to make it onto the weather maps; fuck the brown note, I want a low pressure front fat enough for the Met Office to issue a yellow weather warning. What would Francis Beaufort make of that I wonder? I’d like to see the Beaufort scale rewritten for low end… Add it to my list of semi-fictional projects that I intend to complete but will in reality never begin.

Julia Reidy – In Real Life
Sarah Hennies – Reservoir 1
Haino/O’Rourke/Ambarchi – In The Past Only Geniuses Were Capable Of Staging The Perfect Crime (Also Known As A Revolution) Today Anybody Can Accomplish Their Aims With The Push Of The Button

(Black Truffle)

Radical opener here because Oren Ambarchi’s recent triple header on his label Black Truffle all deserve a mention, and together they really show the breadth of what he’s building over there. I am extremely excited to see something new by Australian guitarist Julia Reidy, who I got onto because Frances Morgan mentioned her on Late Junction. Live, Reidy plays American primitive in the Fahey mould. On record she is something else entirely – here this means lush digital landscapes, with glossy digital polish for those non-slip textures.

If you like your piano unadorned, hit that Hennies. I really don’t want to make it sound like this is cute or pretty in any way, but structurally and tonally it just keeps making me think of fairy lights. What I want you to understand from that visual analogy is that it is both beautiful and illuminating.

There is a deleted entry for this column that is just the song titles on the Haino/O’Rourke/Ambarchi written out as prose. Tracks are best described as SIC (dad joke). ‘Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously Decorously To Make Something Beautiful And Then To Smash It Decorously’ is, well, decorous, but also moody and loose. The opening offers a false sense of softness and security, but it properly prowls, snarling and circling, before the whole clawed mass attacks, tearing off your ears then leaving. I am convinced the low end that opens ‘Head-On Collision If It Still Has Bones It Shall Move Forward (Which Is Different To Progress)’ could be classed as a weather front if played on the right sound system.

There are no embeds for these, but it’d clog the column up anyway. Click here for Haino/O’Rourke/Ambarchi. Click here for Hennies. Click here for Reidy.

Klein – Lifetime
(Klein)

This site’s already written a review of this record but it is so good. I’m tipping it as my album of the year, and the rich autumnal release schedule has only just begun. Klein’s sound has really come fully formed on this one, its pace, this insistent prodding of sound and speech is unlike anything else knocking around at the moment. While she might have cemented a sonic identity here, there is nothing solid about this – it is dynamic, moving, conversational and collaging. Her stuff has always been right at the edges of wherever it was, and I struggle to see previous releases as managing to deliver what she way trying to say; to fully cohere or materialise. This on the other hand, does all of those things – a powerful, direct, forceful piece of art. There is a marching band sample that marches throughout; there is incessant harmonica next to intensely personal recorded conversations that feel voyeuristic for the listener. I always loved Klein’s readiness to let structures collapse, to worry fragments and respond, without trying to tidy the ends and edges. She perhaps got lumped in with Hype Williams, or was discussed as being somehow connected to dance music, but to me she’s always been more of a collage sound artist. She is like Ghédalia Tazartès in her approach on this release, but what she’s talking about is the Black British experience. It’s radical, original, and brilliant. I am so excited and ready to hear what comes next.

Bass Clef – Hard Lessons Hardly Learned
(Open Hand Real Flames)

Some people have been plugging away for years making consistently amazing music. Bass Clef, aka Ralph Cumbers is one of those, his synth workouts as Some Truths have a lush torque and sandpapery roughness, his NTS shows are incredible (he themes shows as organ music, birdsong and slowed down D&B intros, songs about trains and steel drums). Achterhaven 148 from last year is something I honestly think I’ll be whacking on full volume in a decade’s time. Hard Lessons Hardly Learned is a two track almost-album length record, populated with woozy stabs and sassy snaps, as cicadas buzz and ponds bubble. The water’s always warm with Cumbers.

Yoshi Wada – Lament For The Rise And Fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile
(États-Unis / Superior Viaduct) 

The reissue boom may have peaked but that doesn’t mean there aren’t absolute essentials still lurking. Yoshi Wada’s drone masterpiece with voice and bagpipes is a particularly intense and enveloping entry in that particular sonic history, and for my buck, is one of the most essential drone releases of all time. With a title that sounds like it’s ripped straight from a gnostic text, it was recorded in an empty swimming pool in New York state over three days in 1982. Wada also slept in the swimming pool overnight, which he says was a “hallucinatory experience”. Listener, you do not need to sleep in a swimming pool to wig out to this one.

Donkey No No – The Psychedelic Peel
(Feeding Tube)

Fuck your big room Ableton ambient, this is the kind of ambient I can get behind, in that it sounds like everyone and everything is only vaguely present at the time of recording. Someone casually cracks open a can of beer at the start. Someone else has forgotten to switch the fake shutter sound off on the digital camera. A child chatters to someone in the background. Voices and a bowed cymbal sigh; a violin softly laments and guitar plucks loop like ripples in water. Together, the sound and feeling of a long exhale. I have no idea who is playing on this, nor do I want to know as it might put me off. Apparently they’re called Donkey No No, and that means it’s a yes, yes, from me.

Bonus feature: Artwork drawn in felt tips where the artist misjudged the typeface so that there’s not quite enough room for the word Psychedelic and too much room for Peel.

Jim O’Rourke – Steamroom 46
(Jim O’Rourke)

This is the latest sonic emission from the O’Rourke home studio, the steamroom, recorded and released on the same day, and a definite winner. I once went through them all for a piece about full catalogue downloads on Bandcamp, and I can confirm that, actually, they’re all great. While I would recommend dipping into this list at any point, 46 is feeling pretty sticky to me after a week of immersion. It opens with a sound like the tannoy which features on the cover art being switched on after years of silence, and from its mouth comes a great chorus of machines awakening to sing and chatter in exaltation.

Yes, these should be available as a subscription, and yes, he’s already said he doesn’t want to sell or make them like that. They’re ready when they’re ready.

Fahmi Mursyid – One Instrument Sessions
(One Instrument)

Fahmi Mursyid is a contemporary composer from Bandung in Indonesia, and this is the third in a series out of Germany called One Instrument, which imposes a set of restrictions on its composers to use only one instrument per track. They can layer sounds and adjust volume, but effects beside reverb and EQing are verboten. Every time I listen to this I think it is a little too polite for my tastes. It is, perhaps, just nice, which is something I should not be averse to. Also, I say I’m unsure about it, but I’ve also listened to it more than anything else this month. It is warm and gentle, and in the hands of Mursyid, the restrictions become a joyful and simple way of showing the incredible range of sounds from traditional Indonesian instruments like the Saron, a type of ornate Sundanese xylophone made from bronze and wood.

In short, I learned something and I enjoyed myself.

Various Artists - Strain Crack & Break: Music From The Nurse With Wound List Volume One
(Finders Keepers)

Finally, how could I not mention this? The Rum Music column might not exist if it wasn’t for the NWW list. Finders Keepers have undertaken the unenviable task of compiling one track from every artist on it in a multi volume compilation, made in collaboration with Nurse With Wound’s Steve Stapleton. Finders Keepers’ Andy Votel told me he’s not sure how many volumes the compilation will run for, and also that he wanted to call it ‘Nww That’s What I Call Music’. I thought I knew the list well, but the first volume, which collects French artists on the list, is bringing big surprises. Since almost nobody knows the NWW list in its entirety outside Stapleton and his then bandmates Fothergill and Pathak, I suggest you get on this immediately.

Some fragmentary notes on other occurrences

Eliane Radigue’s first synth work is also coming back out, I mentioned a slab from her archive a couple of columns back, this one is equally essential. I was late to this but it didn’t seem to get picked up much elsewhere, a reissue of fairly cheesy new age mantras and drones record by a former Grange Hill actor. Finally, not sure what I think about horrible counter-cultural sounds that rail against consumerism being exquisitely packaged into unaffordable box sets but whatever, if you’re a noise fan with a 9-5 this is what you might consider ‘essential’.

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