The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Rum Music

Rum Music For March Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , March 23rd, 2020 10:06

Jennifer Lucy Allan considers new releases from Argentinian musique concrete composer Beatriz Ferreyra, some snap & tickle from Dale Cornish, and a collection from lesser-spotted Japanese cassette label birdFriend

This is the first but not the last time I will write a column during a pandemic. I could reflect on how this specific global situation applies to the music I cover in Rum Music, but we know why we're here, so I'll just get the fuck on with it, shall I?

My first selection this month is a compilation which isn't streaming but is available on CD or vinyl from Bandcamp. Bird Cage: Birdfriend Archives is a compilation on EM Records and it really shines. (And not just because the sleeve is mainly gold.) Koshihiro Hino is also known as YPY, is an excellent human, and is also the leader of Japanese band Goat. (Not the Swedish group Goat, the drum & noise patterns band Goat, and no, I don't know why the former are more famous either because the latter are much better.)

Hino has been running a cassette label for years, much of it never reaching these shores except by personal package, so I was thrilled to see this bumper release land, collecting tracks from across the label, on the impeccable EM Records. The tracks are tight and fun, sketches with drum machines and noise boxes knotted together for minimal workouts. Shimetta-inu has a fizzing DIY bombast in giddy squeaks, UNBE has a twitchy, loopy, energy, and Hino goes hard as YPY on 'The Damo UFO'. On Side C/D things get more zoney with the cresting crystal sounds on the New Age jam by H Takamaki, and then goes for the small hours with rolling cymbals and bass motif on Bonnounomukuro's ' Enter The Exit', which could go on for ever.

It's had my head nodding and foot tapping with its awkward and/or unnatural rhythms, I love it. I reckon if you're WFH home with kids this will keep both you and your progeny happy.

Another album not streaming but available to buy digitally from Bandcamp is Golem Mecanique's Nona, Decima et Morta. This is the work of Karen Jebane, and her music was once made to be played on huge concrete horns installed in a remote French valley for Échos festival. It's also on Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ, and the press release opens with a William Blake quote. That really is all you need to know about this henge of a record to get a feel for what it sounds like.

Heavy and gothic, chants rise like curling smoke above long sustained tones from organ and a custom built hurdy-gurdy made by La Novia's Léo Maurel. O'Malley says it "sounds like an arcane goth/ spirit interpreting Phill Niblock's string pieces", with appearances by Mediterranean folk musician Marion Cousin guesting on vocals. (On the subject of Échos festival, this record of resonant instrumental 'mantras' played on those horns just came to my attention a couple of years after the fact, and went straight in my basket.)

And on to the stuff you can listen to right now.

Beatriz Ferreyra – Echos+
(Room 40)

This is a gorgeous new record by Argentinian composer Beatriz Ferreyra. She is a member of the GRM, and one of my favourite from that school, as she sometimes goes in for the heavier stuff. Her work is dense, almost industrial.

This new album contains some of the creaks and fizzes I consider identifying features of musique concrete proper, but these are just watermarks in these compositions. The body of Echos+ is wrought from breath and voice, removed from their sources and made unnatural, un-bodily, lacking normal inhalations.

The lapping of partial missives is like ripples on water, and forms rhythmic passages. Ferreyra's techniques seem not to be about making echoes, but imitating them with studio techniques, with the resulting feeling that we, the listeners, are not bodies with ears but walls of a cave receiving and reflecting sounds.

It seems important in the necro-culture to make abundantly clear this is not a reissue of old work but brand new pieces, which only adds to the excitement. I played the title track three times in a row when I first put it on. TIP.

Triple Negative – God Bless The Death Drive
(Penultimate Press)

I keep missing this lot live which means I keep missing out, I hear. The first time I got hold of a Triple Negative album, me and my mate Louis listened to it twice in a row at the wrong speed, but I enjoyed it just as much once we'd got it back up to pace, concluding that the best rpm for enjoyment depended on one's mood. Anyone else feel like there's something brewing re: a new generation of oddball gnarly post punk bands of various stripes? If there is a second wave coming, this lot are at the vanguard, maybe a bit off to the side.

Without wanting to trivialise their work, it is the sort of record I like listening to when I have to go and buy shoes. It pipes in a stagnant, seething, undertow – a dirty and alive algae of sound, to counteract the hot discomfort of strip lighting and mass manufacture in the New Look shoe section. It reminds me I don't really have to do this, and I have not been totally consumed by the man. It can compete with Mars on this front, meaning it's definitely going somewhere.

Sven Ake Johansson – Schlingerland / Dynamische Schwingungen
(Cien Fuegos)

This is an important reissue of free improv percussion from the 1970s. Johansson uses the kit so the sound accumulates like clouds, gaining enough of a fullness to make you wonder why we would ever need to hear other instruments again. While Johannson was primarily a drummer, like many in the extended FMP family he had other strings to his bow – poetry, visual art, and some Fluxus-oriented compositions and experimental compositions too, including this concert for tractor engines, which is very soothing if you're into old engine sounds.

Xenia Pestova Bennett – Atomic Legacies
(Diatribe Records)

Contrary to what your ears might tell you, these recordings by pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett are all entirely acoustic, made on a modded piano made by Andrew McPherson called the Magnetic Resonator. She says: "Electromagnets are installed above the strings of a regular concert grand without physical contact with the action, allowing for control of minute details of shimmering resonance, fragile pitch bends, sliding crescendi from silence and sustained 'bowed' sounds that the performer can shape directly from the keyboard. For a pianist used to the inviolable earth-bound principles of attack and decay, this magical package provides the fuel to grow wings and discover flight."

The tracks are crystal clear and glassy, in fact, some of it sounds more like minimal compositions on glass harp rather than any sort of piano, until those crystal sounds tumble into the familiar rumbling thunder of the piano's low end. The MRP, to my ears, allows for fluxes between the lush swells of grand piano and acute controls that create synthetic sounds, in a subtly theatrical push and pull between physical resonance and digital sound, and a space between the two that cannot be parsed. This description suggests it is perhaps coolly avant-garde, but there is melancholy in 'Actinium' and heart-swells in 'Tritium'. The title track 'Atomic Legacies', features strings as well, and is in a lineage of dense minimalism I can really get behind. Pestova Bennet brings proper feelings.

Container – Scramblers
(Alter)

Ren Schofield can be relied on to kick out the loudest best jams, a solid veteran of crunchy bangers who really ought to be able to continue doing his thing. He just had a load of shows cancelled, and has a new record out, so get on this one. (If you buy on Bandcamp, Alter is giving all income straight to Ren, and the same applies to Cremation Lily releases.)

I can't think of any bad Container shows, all I can think of are good ones. Last time I heard him I was having to leave Supernormal early to get me and my sister home, we left during his set. The sound was ricocheting around, setting off all the car alarms in the gloomy parking area as light flashed above the tree line. It was extremely satisfying.

Gerycz/Powers/Rolin – Beacon
(Garden Portal)

I'm pleasantly enjoying Beacon which is 'nicer' than what I'd usually cover but the Garden Portal label has been on my radar of late. This one's probably for people who don't like most of what I write about in this column, or those looking for a hammered dulcimer fix after falling in love with that luminous Michael O'Shea record, and/or anything that sounds remotely American Primitive. I don't so much like the bits where it gets a bit post-folk and instrumental-sentimental ('Songbird') but Jen Powers' dulcimer in 'Cracked Steps' had me sold on a grim morning, and the grim morning after that, and the grim morning after that...

African Head Charge – Churchical Chant Of The Iyabinghi
(On-U Sound)

Tough monochrome steppers on an album of outtakes by African Head Charge, the On-U Sound double-don duo of Adrian Sherwood and Jamaican percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah. This was a collaboration that Sherwood said was about painting in Eno's 'vision of a psychedelic Africa', but it's not got the same sonic 'otherness' that quote implies. To me, African Head Charge have always been a counter-argument to 'World' Music collaborations, flipping the table of tidily exoticised 'east-meets-west'/'north-meets-south' tourism projects that skim and gloss traditional music and techniques. The tracks on here are all outtakes from other records, sharper and heavier than the scuffed sounds of albums like Environmental Sounds, with some sweetness and sweeping phasers in the mids.

The so-called genre (aka marketing tool) that is 'world music' shouldn't really exist, which is an essay for another time, but it's worth mentioning that this was made in the midst of world music's commercial hey day, which makes it feel all the more meaty and radical.

Dale Cornish – Thug Ambient
(Dale Cornish)

Top notch snap and tickle from Dale Cornish (bonus: dressed in lovely outfit on the cover). I have been waiting for this to drop for months – it's my favourite of Dale's releases, hands down, from the locked patterns and machine movements of 'Radium', through the groaning steep and tensile synthetics of 'Suomi' (a nod to the fact it definitely sounds like some of my favourite Finnish electronic music) through to the, well, nagging kick and inhale and clap of 'Nag'.

I spent a while trying to describe Cornish's distinctive palette, and was rolling around ideas of "tensile synthetics," which of course means nothing. I finally identified what I meant was that this record sounds like the skin they cover androids in during the opening credits of the Westworld TV series – synthetic, imitative of organic materials (by which I mean real instruments), coolly futuristic, lab-built but still moist.

Tori Kudo – The Last Song Of My life
(An'Archives)

Maher Halal Shash Baz, the Japanese ensemble that Tori Kudo runs, fundamentally challenged and shifted my notions of what makes music good, and what music makes me feel something. This release is instantly recognisable as his work – characteristic hiccupping wind instruments, hesitant brass and keyboards always playing catch up. Everyone is out of sync, lolloping in the same wonderful waltz. It's like Kudo's version of Gavin Bryars' Sinking Of The Titanic in more ways than one: the repeated orchestral motif, and the morbid title, The Last Song Of My Life. I feel like I could write an essay about it, but so that this column's slug doesn't end up as 'death', I'm going to tell you a story about Jens Lekman instead.

Once upon a time, I went to interview Jens Lekman in Sheffield. I was Jen and he was Jens and how we laughed. Then I mentioned Maher Halal Shash Baz as I'd read he liked them. I had fallen for their record with Bill Wells, and wanted to talk to someone about it. He went solemn, looked me straight in the eye, and said, with feeling: "Nobody has ever said those words to me in this country" as if they were a secret code. I was 20 and felt smug as fuck for knowing an obscure Japanese band, but later realised, once the swelling in my ego had gone down, that maybe Maher Halal Shash Baz is a secret code – about the true value of feeling in music, about virtuosity being optional, and what makes life itself worth living.

AOB

I once went on residency on the tropical island of Madeira, where I had a productive and relaxed mood that is now completely foreign to me. What I wouldn't give to return to that sunshiney headspace. This year's residents have made a sample pack, get it here. The Viridian Ensemble cassette I was raving about late last year has gone into a second pressing with different artwork, there's just a few left. Laura Cannell has collected 100 bell sounds and is releasing them via Bandcamp in various forms and iterations. Sun Araw has uploaded loads of old stuff to Bandcamp. I listened to Heavy Deeds yesterday, it still sounds fresh.

People with tours cancelled include Lea Bertucci, William Basinski, Russian Circles, Fly Pan Am, Container, Cremation Lily and loads more. Counterflows is cancelled and is doing ticket refunds so buy stuff from the artists they had lined up or consider donating a portion of your ticket back to the fest. Gabriel Szatan has a thread of clubwise steppers and rollers etc. available here, and Temporary Residence have started one too. There's also a Google doc of musicians offering remote tuition which you can see here. If you have disposable income, now is the time to spend it. You can't take it with you.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.