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Rum Music

Rum Music For June Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , June 22nd, 2020 08:01

The many prongs of free jazz are the focus of Jennifer Lucy Allan's trip around the Rum Music solar system this month, along with big synths, hot licks, and carbonated music

Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris

Life on screen is fast and full of pain, while out here along the Essex coast it feels like lockdown is definitely over. It definitely should not feel like this. I am anxious. This may or may not be connected to the fact that there's more jazz in my column than usual, because I have found comfort, unexpectedly, in free jazz and improvised music. Perhaps I find in it a reflection of the uncertainty of this present moment, unpredictable directions, anxieties, a thickness of emotions.

Previously the capacity for home listening to long form free jazz and its affiliated styles has required peak mental fitness. It has often been a joy experienced live, when I can see a player interact with an instrument in ways intentional, incantatory, magical and mundane; where I can see the play, the push and pull, the power. But something has changed and I'm loving it.

Enjoying listening like this, without a visual, has been a reminder that my ears have changed with time and experience. Listening and learning is elastic, and nothing in hearts and minds is set in stone. This capacity for change makes me hopeful, for the BLM movement and for a future. The more we listen, the stronger, sharper, more attuned we can become. We can change our minds.

Firstly this month, some brief news in the realm of big drops and entire discographies, Roland Kayn has a Bandcamp now, Emeralds have uploaded their entire catalogue, Moor Mother has been releasing more than one record a month, and the weekly TakuRoku drop continues. Highlights so far include Valentina Magaletti, Harrga, and Wojciech Rusin, regarding the latter, I bought a 3D printed bubble pipe from him earlier in lockdown. Would recommend. Listen to samples of all of the TakuRoku releases in a row here.

Carman Moore – Personal Problems
(Reading Group)

In the evenings while reading in my chair, I have enjoyed the easy piano motifs and gentle grooves of this soundtrack to a 'meta-soap opera' called Personal Problems, by New York composer Carman Moore. It includes the soundtrack from 1980, along with improvisations based on the score recorded in 2019.

Personal Problems was made by independent filmmaker Bill Gunn with writer Ishmael Reed, and Steve Cannon. The trailer for the film is here. But that's not the most interesting aspect of the project. This story of marriage and affairs starred Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, an actor, culinary writer and anthropologist, who was also an NPR correspondent and one-time member of the Arkestra. In 1970 she wrote an influential recipe book in called Vibration Cooking, which sounds like a gleeful no-nonsense takedown of recipe books that made you feel like you needed a degree to make a decent meal. In it she apparently refers casually to Christopher Colombus as 'Chris', and dismissed the need to measure ingredients out, instead promoting cooking by taste and intuition.

William Parker – Trencadis (A Selection From Migration Of Silence Into And Out of The Tone World)
(AUM Fidelity)

New York bass player and composer William Parker has released a sampler of tracks ahead of a ten CD album of his compositional suites that's arriving later this Summer. For anyone less prolific this sampler would be called a full album.

I'd often thought of Parker as a prolific player with power and swing (and as an even more prolific sideman, with everyone from Cecil Taylor to Peter Brotzmann) but I had perhaps neglected to recognise his compositional chops. This sampler has changed my mind, as its breadth is really exciting, his compositions often sparse and elegant whether on piano, strings or vocal arrangements. I'm looking forward to the box set.

Bonjintan (Sakata / O'Rourke / Di Domenico / Yamamoto) – Dental Kafka
(Trost)

This is the second release by Bonjintan, whose name translates roughly to 'ordinary person'. Personnel is: Akira Sakata on sax, clarinet and voice; Jim O’Rourke on double bass; Giovanni Di Domenico on piano and hohner pianet, and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto on drums.

On the title track there are squalls of growled vocals; urgent swings of sax; bass and piano with a rhythmic swish of cymbals like breakers. The raw vocals of Sakata have teeth, and elsewhere there is a thrillingly erratic swing and the furious free jazz chase of the sort I associate with much older jazz bands. I've had it on repeat.

Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris Earthseed (FPE Records)

I am an enormous fan of sci-fi writer Octavia Butler's Earthseed books, and this is the third album Chicago flautist Nicole Mitchell has made that is rooted in Butler's work, this time a compositional collaboration with the composer and performer Lisa E. Harris. This album is "their own sonic Earthseed," an interpretation of the Afrofuturist poetry and philosophy that spills from the book's prophet and protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina.

It is a sort of avant-garde opera in its form: vocals, bare strings and flute patterns trace themes around poetic axioms. It is clear and luminous, in its text and in its airy instrumentation. There is much wisdom in Mitchell and Harris' words: "We shape our shared reality/ Crisis is our teacher."

Mdou Moctar – Mdou Moctar Mixtape Vol 2
(Sahel Sounds)

These Tuareg licks are like neon lights. This release is more a live album than a mixtape, 40+ minutes of my #1 favourite living guitarist, the Saharan shredder Mdou Moctar. "LOUD is the lowest volume" state the sleevenotes and I urge you to crank it up, it really comes in hard this one.

Sorry not sorry for covering everything Moctar releases.

Powell – aƒ18

Hats off to Oscar Powell for presumably annoying a large portion of his fanbase and making some music(ish) which switches the compelling clunk and shuffle of his post punk sampling oddball club steppers for something with that same awkward humour but which uses whole new sound palettes and structures. This impenetrable series is described fairly accurately in the write up as "carb✻nated music" and I think a Badoit extra sparkling water would pair nicely with it. It's part of a multimedia project with artists Michael Amstad and Marte Eknæs which seems to be sound and video mostly, and there's something impenetrable in the descriptions about 'folders'.

Do not confuse this with up-tight conceptual computer music. It may be wrapped in the sort of lexicon that usually makes me feel disappointed in the whole practice of art (not an exaggeration), but I listened to all of these tracks in a row without tab-hopping out. I think this is because there is loads of humour and human-ness in its bubbling, fizzing sounds and scattered arrhythmia. It's more like Mark Leckey's GreenScreenRefridgerator than Hecker, shall we say. The TP has run-out engraving that reads: "the hope is that the confluence of these forces will form a hysterical smile," and it really did, actually.  

Nídia – S/T
(Principe)

You should have heard this 12" already, as it's rightly being bigged up across the board. It is the best £4 you could spend this month, hands down, although she also released full album Não Fales Nela Que A Mentes this month, which is a less pumping, more intricate affair, and is also brilliant.

On S/T, moments of rushing euphoria rub up against marching bangers that make me yearn for the crush and wriggle of sweaty dancefloors. There is so much comfort in these peaks.

Phew – Vertical Jamming
(Disciples)

I have definitely started using the phrase 'music to work to' in derogatory terms lately due to the prevalence of boring Spotify ambient, but then this three track wonder by Japanese stalwart Phew arrived and sharpened my concentration levels exponentially. These tracks were recorded between 2014-2015, in the years following Fukushima and a change in the Japanese government that meant Phew didn't feel like singing, so as a result, she recorded solely with an oscillator, or synths. 'Cheers' is particularly mind-expanding and power-enhancing; a real epic trip I've listened to four times today.

If you don't know her already, Phew's been in the game since 78, when she was in a punk band called Aunt Sally, and since then has been pretty consistently making albums or collaborating, but doesn't quite get the recognition she deserves. This is a sideways entry point to a discography that has some brilliant tangents.

@xcrswx – Call Time/Hard Out
(Feedback Moves)

A 7" from one of the greatest new duos in town. I am very happy to see a proper release from these two. The unpronounceable @xcrswx is Crystabel Riley, on 'drum-/human-skin', and saxophonist Seymour Wright. It's high intensity – when I saw them they play in the middle of the floor, as hot bodies circled, Riley whacked a tom in a gorgeous flurry while Wright's reeds squealed, then some hallucinatory pedal manipulation happened off-stage and their sound grew and took flight before my ears.

Nice contrast in recordings here, with 'Call Time' a mashup of phone recordings, while 'Hard Out' is a hi-fi live recording from Oto. Coarse and fierce and radiant.

Maggi Payne – Ahh-Ahh
(Aguirre)

This is embarrassingly late – somehow it slipped between column writing but I had become so accustomed to its presence I thought I had already covered it. There is much to discover with Maggi Payne, too much for a few measly paragraphs to contain. She's primarily a composer, but also an acclaimed mastering engineer and artist who has worked in film, video and choreography.

Aguirre have released two distinct collections of Payne's work. Ahh-Ahh, is a collection of work made for collaborations with artist Ed Tannenbaum in the mid 1980s, along with a more subtle and understated collection of electronic works on Arctic Winds. It is the former I love, for its bombastic, rhythmic workouts that have so much pomp, and stand in contract to the hissing and whooshing of Arctic Winds. I would love to see these programmed with the video works they were made for. Totally essential.

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