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Rum Music

Rum Music For September Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , September 27th, 2021 10:26

Insect percussions, haunted workouts, hungry shells and phasing saxophones in this month's bumper back-to-school edition surveying sound and music's outer limits and inner spaces.

Annea Lockwood, photo by Sam Green

Rum Music is back after a brief summer holiday, so I'm making this back-to-school edition a bumper sized column, with some bonus nods to other top releases in some of the entries. When I haven't been listening to the music gathered below, I've been out and about, falling in love with London again.

I went to see some free jazz, which I'd not seen for so long I'd forgotten how it can be like watching competitive sport. Pat Thomas, John Edwards, Steve Noble and Seymour Wright whipped up a storm so completely invigorating I wanted to whoop and gesticulate – it was a wrangling; a battle; a showdown and it took all my energy not to start jumping around and cheering on my favourites to win the round.

A few days later I went to General Echo Sound System, my new favourite night out – a reggae dub disco in a working men's club, an all-ages dancefloor and the best vibes of almost anywhere I've been, no qualification. Sistren Shirley was a top selector and I spent my whole night trying to Shazam things surreptitiously but getting distracted by the desire to dance. Someone make a skin for Shazam please, so it looks like I'm checking my emails.

The day after I went to Dialled In, a one-day festival with South Asian underground collectives Daytimers, No ID and Chalo. The dancefloors were euphoric, and I had some truly euphoric moments hearing a boosted Asha Bhosle song transformed into a total banger, as well as juicy techno from Debonair b2b with Bake, and the speediest chopped up cuts from the incredible Aisha Mirza, who (I think?) dropped a chunk of 'Wuthering Heights' in the middle of the set and caused a total interpretative dance meltdown. I cannot begin to describe the scenes at this moment, I was completely blindsided; utterly speechless.

This triptych made me sweet on the city again after living in Southend On Sea for five years. I have fallen for what it offers my ears and my dancing feet, and for what a luxury it is to be able to walk out and see all this music. It's not just London either – I've been spinning tunes and head-nodding to synth workouts in Pewsey in the shadow of its chalk horse; record shopping in Glasgow (shout out to Monorail and Good Press) and planning trips to Manchester and Krakow.

I feel post-pandemic, even if that's not the case yet, and have come to a new appreciation for live music, dancefloors, and the social spaces in which I experience this music. I have begun letting go of the last 18 months, reconnecting not just with friends but also remembering the way they all dance, while also sadly reacquainting myself with the depths of hangovers past. I feel knackered again already, but also smitten with this city again. Dear Lord, may I never again take these things for granted. Amen.

Annea Lockwood – Becoming Air/Into the Vanishing Point
(Black Truffle)

I programmed (and was blown away by) 'Becoming Air' at Cafe Oto a few years ago, and also became fully indoctrinated into the Annea Lockwood church of good vibes. 'Becoming Air' is a collaboration with trumpeter Nate Wooley that uses extended technique and electronics to loosen his control and allow "the letting go of sound to be itself" in chapters that fixate on the trumpet's full breadth of potential sounds, from a single muted and elongated note, to sibilant air from pursed lips pushed through a mouthpiece. It builds to an intensity of interfering notes in which pulsating 'beats' and dissonance reverberate furiously as if they were chained beasts. 'Into The Vanishing Point' is a piece developed with New York piano and percussion quartet. Its starting point was a text on the collapse of insect populations, and the sound world frequently conjures the clacking of mandibles, the frictions of exoskeletons, the piano a monstrous human imposition upon the brittle percussive sounds.

A second note to also check out the incredible Amelia Cuni record on Black Truffle. Such a strong label this year I can barely keep up, but Cuni is a trained Indian dhrupad singer, her voice has a softness, a particular gossamer malleability to it.

Ka Baird & Pekka Airaksinen – FRKWYS Vol. 17: Hungry Shells
(RVNG Intl.)

The late, great Finnish experimental music pioneer Pekka Airaksinen was a warm and mischievous character, whose classic underground album Buddhas Of Golden Light I reissued on Arc Light Editions some years back. That record is jaw dropping and totally out there, such bold and unexpected handbrake turns in pacing that are also present here, and truly unique drum machine programming recognisable as Pekka's from the first sweeping cymbals. This collaboration with experimental vocalist Ka Baird has one track with those mad, fizzy drums, but also a much broader sound palette. It is a suite – for Hungry Shells on a cosmic shore somewhere – that pulls from breathy, gurgling washes of sound and wriggling bleeps and chatter. Baird is a brilliant pairing for Pekka, someone on her own distinctive sonic trip wherever she appears. FRKWYS series never disappoint, but this one's a particular highlight – totally odd and deeply charming.

YPY – Fremde Füße

Phase pattern sax-heavy club sounds from YPY, aka Koshiro Hino, who you might also know as label head at Birdfriend tapes or as the leader of Japanese band goat (not to be confused with the pagan psychedelic band Goat). Described as 'weird version remixes' of saxophonist Yoshio Ootani's album, it is possessed of Hino's signature sound – the neat frictions and tightly locked loops of energy that that are a feature of his entire YPY back catalogue. This tape is also released in a batch with two others that are also great – the woozy Paradise Siberia by PPTV, which sounds like someone's trying to recreate a Blue "Gene" Tyranny record but has only heard it through their neighbour's wall, and the scintillating computer-scapes of re:linear by OCCA, which reminds me faintly of Raster Noton CDs circa 2004.

Hviledag ¬ – Et Simuleret Minde Om Hele Verden
(Forlaget Konmod)

A very limited cassette (maybe ten?) of woozy reel-to-reel vignettes, short reveries with bells, gongs, gunky squelches, fuzzy and distorted could-be-choirs and sounds that wash in and out like water. I often think there's loads of 'this sort of thing', but this one is sticky with the textural uncanny of old magnetic tape reanimated, as looped and layered sounds recorded decades ago become a threshold or portal to a past we can only commune with through our ears. (c.f. Kristen Gallernaux's book, High Static Dead Lines). This feeling is only amplified by the fact I have no idea who Hviledag is (it means 'rest' in Danish, and the title translates to A Simulated Memory Of The Whole World), nor have I any idea what breadcrumb trail of hyperlinks led me to this hazy oasis in the first place. (NB: the digital release is just the sample, not the whole thing – email them for a cassette.)

Kristen Gallerneaux – Strung Figures
(Shadow World)

Speaking of Kristen Gallerneaux she's recently released a suite of fuzzed-up bangers based on a book about cats cradle and its indigenous origins. Doom-laden heralds, crunchy kicks and crispy snares pulled taut make for a satisfyingly haunted and propulsive workout. Within the weaving of rhythms there's the sound of an amplified bag of soil from the site of an early 19th Century poltergeist outbreak in Ontario; handclaps recorded in the resonant spaces of the Teufelsberg Domes, Germany, and instruments that include but are not limited to ceramic bells, a field organ, a conch shell, and 'Chelyabinsk meteor shards'.

Powell – Piano Music 1-7

For reasons of my own technological failures this is all I've had on my phone for weeks, but I haven't minded one bit, despite the fact the piano is my second least favourite instrument after the ukulele. Powell continues to alienate most of the fanbase he picked up while going big on XL, not just with a whole new set of sounds but a new way of making music and new, sentimental moods. This uncanny piano music is made by applying stochastics (aka probabilities) to a basic Grand Steinway sampler, and it is both very listenable and curious. It forms its own patterns; generates its own personality. Powell's music has, in whatever guise, always contained chance and play, but this also reaches into the fresh territory of melancholy that now, through tragic serendipity, stands in tribute to the dearly departed Peter Rehberg.

Marina Rosenfeld – Teenage Lontano

I have a soft spot for gatherings of amateur vocalists. In this case, it's a crowd of teenagers singing works by the artist Marina Rosenfeld. Teenage Lontano is a reworking of György Ligeti’s Lontano with electronics and teenage voices, and 'roygbiv&b' loosely arranges song fragments prompted by a mishearing of the rainbow acronym ROYGBIV. The former has an eerie fragility, the massed and imperfect surface of their drone occasionally broken by a single individuated voice lifted into the sonic field. The latter is absolutely beautiful and deeply affecting (although I might be projecting my own teenage fears of performance onto the choir here). It is a haze of earworms that knot and swirl: a murmuration of Aguilera and Jess Glynne recorded at South London Gallery in 2014. So much sound art doesn't translate well from the gallery to album release, but this is a towering exception.

Blak Saagan – Se Ci Fosse La Luce Sarebbe Bellissimo
(Maple Death)

Loving this soundtrack-y synthesizer suite by Blak Saagan aka Samuele Gottardello. Its sound is swollen with luxuriously layered synths, with enough 70s in its stylings to give it a menacing Giallo swagger, and elsewhere chugs along in a cruise-speed glossy library-funk. I love the dirgey gyration of 'Scuola Hyperion', the Tangerine Dreaminess of 'Achtung! Achtung!' and moments that have that cosmic-portal-opening-in-a-1980s-midbudget-production feel. It is apparently about the 1978 kidnapping of former prime-minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigade – tracing the 54 days from Moro’s kidnapping on 16 March 1978 to the discovery of his body in the boot of a Renault 4, however, I'm not sure you need any of this information to enjoy this record or have a meaningful encounter with it.

Shizuka – Paradise Of Delusion
(An' Archives)

Took me a while to get hold of a copy of this as I slept on it for way too long and struggled to get it in my clammy grabbing hands (thankyou Kim for your sacrifice). I'm afraid it went at such speed it might be difficult to find one (the digital DL is just clips) but it is around. Shizuka were around the febrile 1990s PSF-ish Japanese underground, contemporaries of Fushitsusha and the like. The bandleader Shizuka, who they took their name from, was also a well-known doll maker in Japan. The opener is like Mizutani at his sweetest: the guitars glow, the voice bleeds and reaches for the moon, pushed out of tune by its wobbling sincerity, overflowing with pain. I guess a lot of it is post-rock adjacent, if you want to be blunt about it. It has all the heaviness; the expanded rock and roll lament; the build to resolution, but none of the production values. The second side opens with a more upbeat indie spring, with drums that jollily canter along but are haunted by the echoes of empty space. Shizuka croons; Shizuka bleeds; Shizuka takes the top of your fucking head off.

An' Archives is another label that's been faultless this year – I've also had LSD March on heavy rotation, and fans of Haino's early output absolutely must check out Shūko No Omit.

Various – Duppy Vaulted (2011 - 2021)
(Duppy Gun)

Penultimate pick is this latest Duppy Gun drop, which has been firing me up, big time. I'm properly stuck on these cuts from the vaults – 19 tracks that never made their way onto official releases. Cameron Stallones and M Geddes Gengras are easily identifiable on the buttons in places, particularly on tracks like standout opener 'Snapbacks' by MC I Jahbar with Big Flyte and Velkro. (Killer MCs with Sun Araw-ish bloops and wibbles is basically my dream musical project). Elsewhere Lupo goes for a more heads down shuffle; G Sudden gets a gnarly stripped back riddim to tear up, and Sniper ducks and weaves around a weird and friable groove.

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Pass Over Musings
Maher Shalal Hash Baz – 第1集

The final, perfectly played bum note of this month's column is a hand-made repress of the first two Maher Shalal Hash Baz cassettes, housed in a printed cardboard box, that contains sleevenotes and a mini zine of words and poems. I visited Glasgow recently, and after an hour browsing and chatting in Monorail walked over to the counter with a stack to whittle down, there behind the desk was this mysterious MSHB box, which meant I had to jettison some late era Congos and Hasil Adkins from my haul. It was the right thing to do, as it feels only partly like a music release, also a talisman of sorts, and a beautiful curiosity. I love Tori Kudo not just for the music but in principle: the principle that anyone can and should make music. His assembled band sound at times like a sloppy Velvets in Matrix Tapes mode (the recording quality and guitar especially), and in other places they play the more familiar naive private waltzes I love them for. It's so life affirming to hear playing like this, the sound of people sharing music, and the tunes have Kudo's familiar hiccupping chug and melodic charm. This isn't up for streaming, but there's also three albums of NY Tapes just out on Kudo's Bandcamp that contain some recordings from these sessions, so here's the first of those.

AOB: How much pal? Pound a bowl.