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Rum Music

Rum Music For October Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , October 30th, 2019 09:02

Jennifer Lucy Allan fills her plate with shrimp, brutalised stringed instruments and sounds from broken voices

Before Rachel Carson wrote the world-changing Silent Spring, she also produced three luminous books on the sea. In a recent collection of her writing there is a quote that sings. “My first impressions of the sea were sensory and emotional,” she writes, “and the intellectual response came later”.

In a month where dance music Twitter has been frothing about a freshly minted genre they don’t want, in an article that is a classic example of a man who should have passed the mic, Carson speaks of gut feelings, of tingly reactions, of trusting our ears before our brains do the analysing. It’s how I’ve been inhaling music of late. I ask myself yes or no, before I ask why.

I am now an official presenter of Late Junction in its new Friday night slot, and I am deep into the ebb and flow of the Rum Music column. What this means is a lot of music, an ocean of sound, you might say, to discard, keep, love, despise. With so much to get through, this Carson quote has become a mantra, instruction, and quality control check.

In so-called experimental music, things are given a free pass because they’re wilfully obtuse, scattergun, or composed of a load of crashing about. But crashing about does not equal avant-garde, and just because you’re making experimental music doesn’t mean you’re excused from making something that is enjoyable, or wonderfully horrible, to listen to. This of course, comes with the caveat that some of us are masochistic listeners, and are thrilled by the sound of what others might call horribly unlistenable.

There is a whole lot of music knocking around right now that gives me an instant buzz, that sticks out and snags, and that deeper listening to music that does this so often has resonance beyond the instant effect of its sound. Rum Music casts a broad net.

Harm A. Drost - Speech After The Removal Of The Larynx
(Folkways)

This is my Rum Music Halloween entry. Fans of body horror step this way. If you’re one of those people who watches spot squeezing videos on YouTube then step this way. It is an instructional record from Folkways, which was released during the 1960s, that documents and records how to speak again when your larynx is removed, and it’s being pressed on vinyl again soon. The way to do this is by various constructions of the throat while exhaling, and results in squeaking and squelching, soggy oesophagus’s equally fascinating and grotesque.

I however, am extremely squeamish, and so can’t stop pressing play and then immediately turning it off. More info here.

Tunes Of Negation – Reach The Endless Sea

I adore Shackleton, and I am officially appointed as spiritual advisor to queen Heather Leigh, so when I heard these two were working together I lost my shit. It seemed so unlikely, and it made perfect fucking sense. Why not bring together a fierce pedal steel player to sing in a new ensemble put together by bass music’s funnest uncle? Additionally, let’s name it after a poem by 13th century mystic Jalalu’l-Din Rumi, and add two percussionists: Takumi Motokawa on keys and gongs, and Raphael Meinhart playing mallets, among other things.

In recent years Shackleton’s moved from excavating the heaviest bass workouts to something more like Coil, with heavy gnostic overtones and his heady version of ambient. He’s been working out this territory like he’s mapping a wilderness he first hit on in all it’s lushness back with 2016’s Devotional Songs. This is a psychedelic shackling of two greats for cosmic elevation.

Bill Orcutt – Odds Against Tomorrow

Any day there’s a new Bill Orcutt out is a good day. Listening to him twanging those strings is like being smacked in the face with a tin plate loaded with meat from a carvery serving up nothing but manly emotions. Orcutt’s guitar tone is clear and lustrous, and radiates a prickly heat. It sounds here like expensive hand cream in winter; like a freezing plunge pool after a sauna; like fur coat against bare skin. I could continue, but I ought not to. I probably lost you at ‘hand cream’.

While there’s the usual reliable slabs of feral blues and pranged out lullabies here, it’s the title track that has got me blubbering. It may be one of the finest cuts of Orcutt I have yet to taste. It has a motif that makes my subconscious rise and throb in recognition, but I can’t put my finger on it. Is there a German word for déjà vu caused by the emotional affect of half a melody?

RMP & Wahono – Dehumanisasi/ Dealienisasi
(Divisi62)

Continuing the thread of Indonesian experimental music that has been stitched through this column in the past few months, comes another TBC banger from Divisi62 in Jakarta. This one’s a split by RMP and Wahono, which is supposed to be out already. It is late, but I know it’s going to be really good.

Give it me, please.

Jana Winderen – Pasvikdalen
(Jana Winderen)

Jana Winderen’s field recordings are not about capturing the sounds we know, but those that are invisible, hidden, subterranean or out of normal hearing range. Sonically, I recognise Pasvikdalen as a sort of follow up to her piece on shrimp – The Noisiest Guys on the Planet. (At least she recorded what she thought was the sound of shrimp, and this eventually resulted in her working with a global network of shrimp scientists.) That was released back in 2015 and has this month also been uploaded to Bandcamp. This recording was originally composed for an installation, commissioned by Dutch conference and festival Sonic Acts. Describing it she writes: “Underwater there is very little known about the soundscapes created by living creatures, and few understand the details of variations between the various grunts, knocking sounds and rumbling sounds that cod, haddock, pollock, other fish and crustaceans produce.”

Dolores Catherino – N^SCENT
(Dolores Catherino)

Maximum hat tip to my feral guru Uncle Music, who is the only person I follow on Bandcamp. Mostly I just watch him buying endless Steamrooms and Kevin Drumm drops, but recently he purchased a whole discography by this person, Dolores Catherino, who turned out to be an MD from Alaska who makes polychromatic microtonal music in her spare time, somewhere between new age and transcendent drone, and it’s $7 for everything she’s ever done. I have no idea how he found it.

Her website is a hand built HTML rabbit warren that will be familiar to fans of Laurie Spiegel or Steffen Basho-Junghan’s Robbie Basho site, and it’s on there that she has documented her research. You might want to put aside an evening for this lot.

Adam Cadell – Tampering With Tampere

What happens when you turn up to play a show in a punk dive bar and play the experimental fiddle music you learned to play with Henry Flynt? Heckling of course! No matter, you nail the show anyway, sounding like you’re attempting to slice through all your strings at once and make an enraptured sound powerful enough to lift the whole cranky congregation through the roof. That’s a crude way of describing Cadell’s effervescent sounds, these meditative slabs of brilliant strings. I find him to be 100% reliable, not a dud in his back catalogue.

I once saw him play at a seafront bar in Southend, and when I told him and his partner I was a Henry Flynt mega fan, they said they had some Flynt scores in the boot of the car. I got so zoned at the show I forgot to ask afterwards and still have pangs of regret. (Loads of them are online, but I wanted to touch them, okay?) If you’re a fan of Laura Cannell, Henry Flynt or Tony Conrad (who also have pretty flawless back catalogues), get on this, pronto.

Linda O’Keefe – Silent Spring
(Flaming Pines)

Field recordings are great, but often they’re an either/or: human or nature. The latter can sometimes come off as, ‘Ahh nature’ fetish documents or relaxation material. Linda O’Keefe’s Silent Spring however, is doing something totally different, in collaging sound recordings to think about how the changes demanded by climate crisis will change our soundscape.

Her compositions are made from recordings taken at a hydroelectric dam in Iceland, wind turbine farms in the Terra Alta region Spain and acts of sounding and listening in the Brazilian Amazon. Aside from the appeal of the political thinking-in-sound, its patterns of sound repeated and overlapped, water, whirring, breathy voices, and birds are extremely pleasing.

Robert Ashley – Automatic Writing
(Lovely Music)

Patron saint of the TV opera and godfather of walking the line between absurdity and profundity in avant-garde music, here’s another chunk of Robert Ashley’s back catalogue on official reissue from Lovely Music, this one with the voices and minds of Ashley, Cynthia Liddell, Mary Ashley, Mary Lucier, and Barbara Lloyd, and Alvin Lucier.

Automatic Writing is an unassuming and subtle entry in Ashley’s back catalogue, and one that occupies time and space in mutterings, and pottering around on various instruments. A perfect soundtrack for peaceful faffing and the wasting of time in the small hours of a night. I have it on repeat. It seems to be arriving at all the usual shops – Norman, Boomkat, SoundOhm, Juno etc.

Dome – 3
(Editions Mego)

I have always regretted not splashing out on the extravagantly produced Dome box set Editions Mego put out some years back. It was pricey as fuck, way beyond my usual range, and thanks to Tecogs inflation, it remains so. Ergo, this one-by-one series of reissues from Mego is very welcome. 1 & 2 are out, 3 has just arrived, and 4 drops next month.

There’s a Dome track for every mood. I used to regularly drop 'Virtual Sweden' on the few occasions I warmed up a club that was going to go full bum dungeon. 'Rolling Up On My Day' is one for gloomy morning coffee. It’s like tape music made with hand tools. One of the things that links all my favourite Dome tracks is that they could go on forever, the beginning and end seem somewhat arbitrary, and the loops settle and get comfy. If anyone’s listening, I’d like some 10 hour Dome loops up on YouTube by the end of the week.

Some fragmentary notes on other occurrences

In my continuing quest to stay on top of and/or get a handle on all the great stuff coming out of Indonesia, I’m listening to this, one track with more to come in 2020. This Viridian Ensemble cassette on new Bristol imprint TBC Editions is my current luminous jam. The Bill Laswell & Coil collabo, City Of Light is out on vinyl for the first time. Who, what, where is this?

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