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Rum Music For January Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , January 24th, 2022 09:57

Muscular guitars, bakery based sound poetry and percussive patterns from Indonesia feature in Jennifer Lucy Allan's first roundup of the new year

Jessica Pavone

As we all roll reluctantly into another fucking year I am taking a loose view on what qualifies for inclusion in this month's column. December releases always miss out due to end of year roundups taking front and centre, and I now submit about four lists to three organisations. So, really this column should be called 'January 2022 but also about two months of things missed in the great stampede towards Christmas 2021 and a few things I got early coming out in February'. However, despite the blurred edges on this 'January' column, let me reassure you that there's no drop in quality, and some of what's in here I am confident will be heading into my end of year 2022 lists.

In this period of temporal flux, I got thinking about the nature of time as it pertains to The Zone. The release schedule for non-commercial music is always out of whack with industry best practice, but all the same, December/January is a difficult time to release. This means late October-early November is a bottleneck for new releases, as is March/April. Summer remains a bad time to release. January/February is a bad time for getting anyone to buy anything. Added to this, release dates themselves are becoming messy. For many fans I suspect they have all but ceased to exist (especially for those not in 'The Music Industry'), now that vinyl pressing delays mean digital releases are up a full six months before LPs arrive, so what you see as new stock in a record shop (which I use often to find music that might not be on digital platforms) will have been streaming for months. Bandcamp too, is weighted towards discovery, with patchy functionality around drilling down into new releases.

Sometimes, release dates feel like vestigial limbs that only those who make, write about, or promote music need (which is probably why the Bandcamp function I need isn't there either). However, when it comes to music from the edgelands, a month or two here and there doesn't really matter to your average Rum Music reader/listener, and while I guess there are some people who still have those personalities that are built around knowing stuff before everyone else, but otherwise, does anyone really care exactly when it came out?

All the same, I continue with this farce, because putting "January" at the top of this month and "February" at the top next month feels like a way to continue the illusion of time passing in a linear fashion, that I cling on to in my writing life, saving me from collapsing into a jumble of discrete sonic objects and mismatched linguistic passages, and nobody wants that, do they?

John M. Bennett – A Flattened Face Fogs Through
(Editions Basilic)

Hands down my track of the month is the one minute long 'Cake'. A 60-second fever dream about icing and dead fish, where John M. Bennett says – intonation tipsy as if ready to burp: "When he cemented the basement drain I knew the house was lost, and... uh... you better start baking!" It doesn't transcribe well, but I have laughed out loud every time I have played it: recording a radio show; walking along the street; on public transport; alone at my desk. Bennett is better known as a poet, and part of the mail-art scene. He is also a Dr of Latin American literature who has edited manuscripts by Burroughs, among many other accolades. His way with language has such a specific and bizarro style, containing images that often play with scale; juxtaposition; absurdity. His sentences contain verbs and objects, but in a way that conjures a truly joyful expedition into the surreal and the grotesque. There are lots of visceral textures – crusts and oozes and sticky things – and sensitive appendages like noses, tongues and eyeballs, meeting in suburban landscapes and domestic environments: in gardens and at lunches; in bed with pillows or in a car in a snowstorm; the aforementioned baking sessions. Behind this there is a palette of sounds more commonly associated with new age meditations, but rendered ungainly and odd: chimes and marimbas, and some sort of bamboo flute.

Ann Eysermans – For Trainspotters Only

Is there an unusually large crossover in Quietus readers between people who read this site and people who like trains, or is that just Luke Turner? This Ann Eyserman album puts (mostly solo) instrumentation alongside train sounds. It doesn't argue for recordings of an engine or a train horn to be thought of as music, but finds beauty in their textures all the same. I guess conceptually, if not in its scale, it's in a lineage with a project like Alvin Curran's Maritime Rites, particularly in its duets with industry. Eysermans resists the obvious route into this concept, which would be pairing engines with powerful or machine-like instruments. Instead she makes unexpected timbral parings: the first two tracks pair diesel locomotives with a harp. My main takeaway is that this album is not what you expect, and you should give it a listen: it doesn't feel like a clashing of sound and music at all, and is really exciting and beautiful. It strikes me too, that the white noise of the engines with the gentle instrumentation might make perfect music for babies.

Wojciech Rusin – Syphon

Wojciech Rusin is an artist and musician who makes bright and wiggly 3D printed pipes and flutes (for sale at the Pipe Shoppe). His previous album The Funnel (which I absolutely loved) was the first in an alchemical trilogy, containing a menagerie of gnostic creatures (tag urself): the 'eagle of arrogance', the 'horse of impatience', and the 'dolphin of lust' among other disastrous personality types. Syphon, the second in his trilogy, comes from the same sonic cosmos. Soprano Eden Girma opens the album, singing in Latin of 'the mirror of truth', and Emmy Broughton sings a story of burning camps, blood waters rising and a man doing a litany of beastly things, one of which is lowing like an ox. Elsewhere, synthetically generated harpsichord and his own pipe chanters rub up against digital glitches and whirrs, which are broken up by field recordings of woodland birds and sploshing water. Rusin describes it as 'speculative medieval music', and its sonic imagination is that of science-fiction set in alternative pasts or regressive futures – this might be music for the Strugatsky's Hard To Be A God, or compositions performed by whatever mad composer remains in residence at the cathedral at Cambry in Riddley Walker. It comes from a place where glass, chrome and computers are sunk in the iron, mud, and architecture of a century past that might rise again. It is truly, madly, deeply up my strasse.

Emily Robb – How To Moonwalk
(Petty Bunco)

Cheers to Bryon Coley who recommended this. Also not-cheers as I think that is why the vinyl sold out pretty quick and it has a really brilliant owl on the cover. It is an album of muscular, overdriven guitar workouts by Philadelphia guitarist Emily Robb, and it appears to be her first full length solo outing. She plays in a number of Philly bands anchored in heavy psychedelic rock, including Astute Palate, Lantern and Louie Louie. Listening through those in sequence the tone of her guitar becomes easy to pick out – frankly it lords it over the stage, with a swagger that fills the frequencies with tough and totally ripped tone that snarls and flashes its teeth. Notably, this album is also recorded by Bill Nace, and has the determined grit and grime of Body/Head. It is a sound that is hard and well-weathered but with a hungry sort of raunchy energy, like Iggy Pop might sound if we turned him into a guitar. More please Robb!

Uwalmassa – Malar

Some of the most exciting underground music of the last few years has come out of Indonesia, from the broad output of tape label Hasana Editions to the radical distribution models of Senyawa. This label, DIVISI62 are a third locus, specialising in rhythmic and percussive music rooted in traditional percussion and gamelan sounds. The label is based in Jakarta, and Uwalmassa is the name the collective release under, although who exactly is in that collective is not stated in sleevenotes (I guess it includes other artists releasing on the label, such as Wahono). A previous release under Uwalmassa was an 'alternative study of gamelan', which rearranged its complex patterns, and Malar extends those percussive preoccupations into a full length album of dry, taut rhythms that often unfold in structures perhaps more commonly found in techno – 'Rantas' leads with tintinnabulations, gongs are added, all pauses as if to take a breath, then come back harder, multiplied, with stiff kicks. There's other sounds doing work here too – beds of glassy elongated tones and non-verbal vocal sounds. It's heads down dancefloor material, if it is dancefloor material at all, and is perhaps better taken as a suite of structured compositions exploring gamelan through patterns of metallic tones.

Jessica Pavone – When No One Around You Is There But Nowhere To Be Found

This four track pulls together four tracks that each drill down into one or two sound sources. In the track 'Only In Dreamz' Pavone is working out (or chasing) a dream, with her voice shadowed by plucked strings; 'Performance Novel' sounds to my untrained ear as if she is drilling down into a narrow portion of one bow position; in 'Aedant' the vibratory reverberations of a single note are exploded and multiplied into elongated and overlapping waves of sound that interfere with one another. It is minimalist and stark, except for the more structured progressions of the standout title track, and it's great, as was her last release Lull from October, which is perhaps a more soothing counterpart to the explorations here.

Donkey No No – BLOOM
(Feeding Tube)

BLOOM contains Donkey No No's set for the excellent Quarantunes live streamed event series, plus a half hour piece recorded in August 2021. Last time I came across Donkey No No I had no idea who was in the band, and I recall it being a more lolloping, unruly affair than the pleasant pastoral outing than these Quarantunes recordings, which is awash with birdsong and the sound of a sunstreaked springtime. The half-hour additional piece, isn't as gentle or optimistic, and is possessed of a more pensive mood, feeling more like it comes from an evening indoors. They are a trio, of Jenifer Gelineau on viola, Omeed Goodarzi on guitar and Ted Lee playing cymbal. They have over 40 releases under their belt, pretty much all on Feeding Tube, and I'd recommend this one if you enjoy, but want something more easygoing than eg. the Swedish free-folk zones of Discreet Music and Enhet För Fri Musik.


There's a big FMP book coming via Trost, pre-orders open here. My top tip: shipping to UK is pricey as it's over 2kg, but if you team up with a pal and get two to one address, it cuts it almost in half per-person.

The Dead C continue to make archival recordings from Xpressway and other labels available on their Bandcamp, one of the latest is this tape from 1989, which is a bit of a 'Dead C does a Ship Of Theseus' in that it is "a weird kind of alternative version" of their first album, which has no shared content with it except "sort-of" alternate versions of some tracks.