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Rum Music

Rum Music For July Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan
Jennifer Lucy Allan , June 28th, 2022 09:26

Jennifer Lucy Allan is back with a batch of free music, fern music, fallible music and the crushing weight of catholic guilt made sonic

Tapes at the top this month, with releases that have been in transit, buried in the stack, or that have fallen outside the rough and ready release dates I apply desperately but inconsistently to this column.

Firstly: am still listening to The Afrorack and await a follow up to this first album, which I hope extends into the epic territory which this first tape lays the groundwork for. Phew's done a punk tape – heavier than Aunt Sally, and in collaboration with Dowser N, they describe themselves as a "desktop punk unit". I feel like there's not been a few months passing without something from Phew of late, but she has been in a serious purple patch in the last few years IMO.

In an instance where I beg you not to judge a label by its name, I am also really loving the triplet of releases by Chinese underground musicians on a label run out of London called... wait for it... Dusty Ballz. (A tip from Biba Kopf). I have also been enjoying the woozy tape version of the Schisms album I wrote about a while back. It is the same session but in a totally different sludgy sonic space than the LP.

Finally, I got my mitts on the HaHa Tape I ordered ages ago – Oren Ambarchi's Tchatchkes. One side is a live show where he wheels around a brutal riff as if sawing it to pieces, the other is a collage of field recordings, at times in stereo with a slight delay on one channel. There's some imposing fogs of sound behind non-specific clattering, spoken subheadings and other bits and bobs. The odd spoken subheadings really make it.

HaHa Tapes appear to be going fast because there was a Bonnie 'Prince' Billy one, so I guess everyone knows about it now. I caused a right faff ordering in a rush from my phone – ended up with two copies instead of one and then I got them sent to the wrong address. It's only because I used the word 'faff' in my apology when resolving my mess that I was excused. Anyway, it's really a head above, top notch stuff on a tiny weeny label, not just the scraps that a cynic (me?) might expect to get palmed off with in these odd corners of the underground. Keep your eyes peeled and fingers poised here.

Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker – Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d‘amore
(Unseen Worlds)

My album of the year and we've only just passed summer solstice. Violinist Silvia Tarozzi and cellist Deborah Walker have excavated and reinterpreted songs from their youth in rural Emilia. These are versions of songs sung by the Mondine or Mondariso – choirs of female rice field workers from the North of Italy – which came about due to the emancipation of working class women and the birth of the resistance during World War II. Even with my language barrier, there is narrative bound into this album. There is a moment in proletarian struggle song 'La Lega' where, as the choir (the Coro delle Mondine di Bentivoglio) sing firm and in full voice like muscles flexed, strings pour in like mist under and around the women's voices, lifting them upwards as if they were all on a cloud transcending into the heavens. The emotional dynamics of this moment are so intense I found myself shedding a tear while shopping for shampoo. This album is full of these moments of reflection and lament; the flights of the heart; the toils of the mind and body.

Li Jianhong – Ferns
(Ramble Records)

Sounding nothing like the description suggests, this live album recorded in Lyon in 2018 is ostensibly about nostalgia for Li Jianhong's fern-filled home, Fenghua, China. However, none of that sets you up for what this actually is, which is a 41-minute distended riff-out that sounds nothing like vascular botany and everything like the sounds of stars collapsing and the decay of supernovae. Jianhong's vocals take a very obvious page from Haino's book, in his sibilance and roars, screaming as if possessed, and that suits me fine, thank you. Taken as a whole, it is absolutely ferocious. My attempt to connect subject and sound is to remind you, dear reader, why ferns are the best plants (apart from them needing little to no attention). Because they are older than the dinosaurs. This resonance – that situates ferns as complex plants extant hundreds of millions of years before the triceratops and the tyrannosaurus rex – starts to get close to the feel of this album. (Cheers Gabe for the tip!)

Valentina Goncharova – Ocean - Symphony For Electric Violin And Other Instruments In 10+ Parts
(Hidden Harmony)

Previously almost completely unknown, Ukranian electroacoustic composer and violinist Valentina Goncharova's work has come into the light following the release of two volumes of her work recently. In 2020 an album of solo work was released, and an album of collaborations (including with the late Buddhist experimenter Pekka Airaksinen). Ocean, however, is her magnum opus. It has a distinctive patina and textures that effect a sort of world-building. It's about flow and improvisation, built on the principle of 'as above, so below', and plays out like a soundtrack to an experimental 1970s documentary about watery ecologies, where the macro and the micro are encountered through miniscule bubbles and long Atlantic waves; where apparently empty water is revealed as populated by invisible organisms, or the heaving maws of colossal whales open onto feathery balleen. I'm currently reading Sarah Stewart Johnson's The Sirens Of Mars, and Ocean is the perfect soundtrack for her account of the development of extremophile biology – 2m long tube worms waving "like human arms", pink hair like organisms thriving in extreme heat in Octopus Spring, and even the life found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. If you want to dip your toes in before full submersion, start with the 8-minute long 'Om'.

Lotic – Sparkling Water

I am often guilty of passing over remix albums. They seem secondary, like margarine compared to butter. I do like being proven wrong though, and this Lotic EP has got me through the heart. There is a trumpet in it which flies like silver knives through crisp morning air; the tuba and trombone have a low throbbing swagger, and Lotic croons in an obsessive lexicon of lust-language that comes off both haunted and bloody. The space around these spare elements creates a raw spectacle, totally exposing Lotic and the brass to bold, bright lights, under which they thrive. Apparently, it was mostly recorded live in a studio where whatever sonic airbrushing there is, has been done with such a light touch that the imperfections manifest as exquisitely affecting, deeply beautiful, human fallibility in sound.

Folly – Gogmagogs
(TBC Editions)

In this curious dalliance between spoken word, storytelling and grimy Bristol rhythms, DIY sound samples are (re)purposed for an absurdist radio play that is on the surface about Francis Drake and whether English archaeologist, parapsychologist, explorer and "unhackneyed troubadour" T.C. Lethbridge has had a shave or not, but is in their words "a musical ode to the excavation of the Wandlebury figures in South Cambridgeshire". Folly is Isaac Stacey (of Copper Sounds) and Jack Wilson, with additional reading by Deirdre Canavan. The vocal sounds are inspired: I love the troll chant at the start of 'The Gods', and there's a really good section of 'Round Is The Important Word' where a little melody is made by chopping and looping recordings of someone doing that thing where you make silly sounds by wobbling your index finger over your lips. Lethbridge stuck iron bars in the ground, his theory being that deeper sections of sod indicated where it was dug back to create figures in the chalk. He was widely discredited, but, as Folly ask insistently in the final track on this: if there was no figure, then why did the bars stick in the places?

Limpe Fuchs, Paul Fuchs, Friedrich Gulda feat. Various Artists – It's Up To You
(Play Loud! Productions)

I've said it before and I'll say it again – I much prefer to watch free improvisation than listen to it at home. In free improvisation – the genre that-was-never-supposed-to-be-a-genre – there is sport to the interactions between multiple players, and a multi-sensory element to watching any one individual play solo or in a group that requires more than just listening. There are obviously massive exceptions to this, and this is one of them. Usually with home listening I snag happily on a flash of rhythm or suggestion of swing, but here I've found an energy running through the pieces. The original sleevenotes fly the Bailey flag – to play music that rejects conventional rules. It does this, flowing through vocal improvisations, parps, percussions and zoomy sounds from a couple of electric instruments. But genre happens, and here happens brilliantly, particularly in a piece where sax and driving cymbals break the seal into free jazz and sounds like desiccated fusion in a tangled groove. (I'd love to tell you the exact track and players but I think something between the credits or tracklist has scrambled, as the quartet track 'C3' isn't supposed to have a sax on it.) The 'various artists' who join Friedrich Gulda, Limpe Fuchs and Paul Fuchs include trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, bass player Barre Phillips, oud player Munir Bashir, drummers Gerhard Herrmann and Ursula Anders, and saxophonist Leszek Zadlo.

The Lloyd Pack – I Bet You've Got Some Good Stories
(Low Company)

These are self-consciously normie-outsider vignettes that are quaint and creepy in equal measure. And I get the impression that's exactly the response they're supposed to elicit. There is no obvious information contained in the sleevenotes, which instead are a report on TV actor Martin Shaw's stalker being convicted. 'Sue Ryder' (after the pepperoni pizza intro) is like a secret track on a bargain bin Britpop band CD – a song that's accidentally good having been considered far too weird for a breakthrough album. That feels like a diss, but it's what I'm hearing and I'm really enjoying it. The songs in general have consistently catchy guitar lines and melodies that sometimes spiral into pleasing resolutions or crescendos wrought by chord or key changes. Elsewhere it's spattered with detritus: stabby synth samples; a field recording of a blustery sporting event; kids chattering. I especially love the Henry Flynt hillbilly twang on 'Water Biography Babies'. Highly recommended if you like discreet music, but are British.

Ákos Rózmann – MASS / MÄSSA
(Ideologic Organ)

An absolutely monumental work – not just in its literal size (12 electroacoustic compositions totalling roughly seven hours) but in the evocation of scale it contains. Don't put it on in the background, don't put it on expecting to have a pleasant time – this is heavier than my Catholic guilt on Sunday morning after two nights on the tiles screeching my opinions at people. Rózmann describes it as his reflections on the Kyrie and Gloria part of a Catholic mass, which are sometimes obviously referenced, sometimes refracted into obscurity. Its textures are of blood and gold leaf; cassocks and shadows cast by stone soaring into sallow skies. It reminds me of William Golding's The Spire; of the story of the building of Salisbury cathedral where the spire was thought too high and that it would not hold. To be lifting the stuff of the deep earth stone so high into the heavens was a sort of madness. NB: There are about as many lines in this review as there are hours of this music. Good luck.


ICYMI Queen of the Damned Diamanda Galas has a new album out called Broken Gargoyles. It's jaw-dropping. More here.