Rum Music For October Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Jennifer Lucy Allan's Rum Music returns for another trip around the zone, with new sounds from everyone's favourite pianist nun, traditional music of South London, and thresholds conjured and transgressed

Antonia Nowacka and Sofie Birch, by Filip Preis

In the two months since the last column, I’ve had a sort of revelation. Something has changed. Post Covid I’d lost my mojo. I still loved music, but hadn’t experienced the hot rush of excitement when falling into a new wormhole. I hadn’t done a deep dive into any odd or forgotten zones for a long time and kept hitting a wall every time I tried throwing myself into one. I had even failed to really get into yodelling, usually the sort of sonic sinkhole that’d see me soaring over Discogs catalogues like a hawk; feeding on defunct blogspots and ripping tunes from YouTube. I thought I had run out of road in the same way David Toop had in 1997, when he couldn’t listen to anything except a Tōru Takemitsu album.

I explained my problem to Laura Cannell during a long chat. She said maybe I "needed a new angle". I drew a blank. What sort of new angle? Was I going to have to start making music? Would I start a band for the first time in my life, in my tender mid-30s? Should I begin drawing up an exit strategy from music writing altogether?

I walked around not talking about my loss of sonic joy for a while, then last month, while sat in traffic on the highway outside Bogota in the back of an immaculate 1980s Chevy Swift, I remembered a piece I’d read in a magazine when I was a mostly unpaid, very green music writer, aged 19 or 20. The magazine’s editor had written that issue’s editorial front piece, moaning about how achingly difficult and utterly crap it was being a music journalist. It made me furious – I was sat there struggling to get anywhere, and here’s some negative Nancy sat in their little castle, so sad to have to listen to a billion records and go to gigs for free. How ungrateful, I thought; how short sighted. I remember thinking: if I get anywhere with this writing thing, I’ll never, ever be like that. But I realised – as a shiny blue lorry slowly crunched into the back of the car – that I was turning into a real negative Nancy! I was becoming everything I despised!

The realisation – as the drivers negotiated for repair around stopped traffic – was enough to snap me back to reality. The car wasn’t seriously damaged, and we set off again after half an hour. Thus, as we wound through the hills, past cows and roadside arepa stands with salsa blaring out of the stereo, I found my new angle. The new angle is: an inbox full of music is no bad thing! The new angle is: get over yourself! The new angle is: Be thankful! Be joyful!

So here I am, back after what feels like longer than two months, having counted my blessings, exorcised my doubts, "found my joy" as they say in the wellness community. The proof of this was two fresh deep dives into zones I had hitherto been absent from. A slow excursion around the friendliest of dubs (80s and 90s digidubs by Prince Jammy and Augustus Pablo, among others) and a return trip to my favourite place: the Japanese underground of the 80s and 90s, this time scoping out the one hit wonders on the Cragale label.

And so here I return, refreshed and with what feel like new ears, but is in fact psychological restoration. I am cured! Let there be Rum!

Antonina Nowacka And Sofie Birch – Languoria


I feel I have known this album much longer than the few weeks I have spent with it. At one of the Unsound festival venues it was played in between the acts, and I had a moment of recognition, where I felt it was a record I had loved for years. I’ve said it before in this column and I’ll say it again – Nowacka has such a distinctive voice and way of singing that makes me feel she is singing from beyond a threshold. She opens a small portal to a world not quite the same as this one. Birch’s contributions only intensify this feeling, softening space and generating an aura in gossamer electronics and acoustics, shadowy echoes and vocal reflections. For fans of Joanna Brouk. Don’t sleep! (Well, do, but only once you’ve hit play).

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Jerusalem

(Mississippi Records)

All hail a new album of previously unreleased album of recordings by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou. There’s never been quite enough Emahoy, and notably, this album trails one arriving next year that will be a whole album of her singing. As well as hearing her voice here, Jerusalem also contains home recordings and hard to find tracks from her 1972 album Hymn Of Jerusalem. Some of the pieces here open up a style with less spiritual weight than the well-loved tracks from releases like Spielt Eigen Kompositionen but it remains incredibly distinctive – she moves around the keys with a skipping gait that is all her own, and which is complimented by the way her compositions tend to pause-and-tumble… pause-and-tumble. She makes some of the most beautiful music ever made.

Dale Cornish – Traditional Music Of South London
(Death Of Rave)

Croydon’s favourite son, Dale Cornish, in fine fettle. Cornish genuinely surprised me here, with acoustic guitar playing and singing folded in among the thickets of his signature electronics. I love surprises, so this is probably my favourite Cornish album, ever. I particularly love the framing – because what is traditional music of south London in this day and age? Cornish’s answer is this, his own collection of urban folk music – harsh electronics; the sound of clubs from the other end of an alleyway; bedroom monologues. Works best if you think of it in terms of Harry Smith’s archetypes for his American Anthology Of Folk Music, i.e. there are ballads (the stuttering finger picking and slow drawl of ‘Norman Lewis’), social music (the click n’ slap electro minimalism of ‘Great Storm’) and songs (the radar pulse and dry half-rap of ‘My Geography’).

Loula Yorke – Florescence


Sound artist Loula Yorke’s opens with ‘Silverweed’’s space bleeps and starfalls, which coalesce into crisp, primary coloured analogue synth shapes more Mondrian than Rothko. ‘Bastard Toadflax’ contains crunchy, agitated rhythms that feel like they’re berating someone or something, and there is a fresh sort of pointillism in the geometric plink-plonks of ‘Bee Orchid’. There is a gentle synth-pop centrepiece which contains a smothering of vocals, but otherwise Yorke hasn’t loaded this up with any extra stuff, and it’s all the better for it. Floresence is solid: a wonderfully fresh and boingy analogue synth album.

Loren Connors – Airs


The last batch of Recital releases have all been tremendous – it is celebrating its 10th birthday with Autumn Fair a family affair combining the contributions of 44 guests who are friends or family to the label such as Patrick Shiroishi, Charlie Morrow, Sarah Davachi and many others. There’s also an album of lost Derek Bailey sessions with Morrow from 1982. However, I’ve plucked out this Loren Connors release to write about as it has proved a perfect autumn salve as the seasons change. Originally recorded in 1999, it was released by Recital in 2015, and now it’s out again with an extra ‘lost’ track. These pieces are brief and elegant, choreographing the space as much as the notes, like calligraphy on silk. It could be the literal soundtrack to a quiet film of leaves falling from the trees, the slow dance of rust and ochre foliage settling onto bare ground. Essential.

Aylu – Profondo Rosa


Argentinian producer Aylu’s Profondo Rosa is like a 10 course tasing menu of delicious small plates of in which the electronics and sampled acoustic flavours come through strongest on repeated listens. Sugary plinks and plonks in ‘Lilla’, are followed up by a grid of more umami clicks and pops around plucked strings in ‘Grigio’. ‘Bianco’ is coarse, falling apart like salt beef, with a sharp edge on the snare that cuts through like a vinegary pickle. ‘Arancione’ has a violin through line like a single string of spaghetti, and ‘Giallo’ breathes, literally, in and out. ‘Argento’ is the unfurling smoky flavour of a sipped peated whisky while sorrowfully paying the bill. (NB: This album has the best artwork of the month.)

The Apostles – Best Forgotten

(Horn Of Plenty)

I’m fairly illiterate in anarcho-punk, but a reissue of one of The Apostles’ better-known albums called it the London Calling of that punk subgenre. Make of that what you will, but they’re hardly obscure and have a relatively comprehensive Wikipedia page. They are, however, pretty new to me. Formed in London in 1979, the initial line up played zero shows, but still managed to feature in a few zines. Andy Martin joined in 1981, and they recorded a demo and played a gig, after which all other members left, whereby Martin reassembled a group. Latter members of the group included the late Ian Rawes, best known for the London Sound Survey project, and whose early collages are included here alongside recordings pulled from tapes recorded in squats in Islington and Hackney between 1981 and 1983. They are particularly jangly, lo-fidelity recordings, that definitely sound like they were recorded in squats – fag ends in the four-track and milky tea rings on the soggy amps.

Lori Goldston – High And Low


Cellist Lori Goldston (of Earth) has been releasing a steady stream of solo records in the last few years. All are killer excavations of the gnarled and ecstatic possibilities of the instrument’s timbres, but none of them quite seem to be getting the praise or audience they deserve. If you haven’t clocked albums like Things Opening or On A Moonlit Hill In Slovenia yet, you’re seriously missing out. She’s plugging away, making brilliant record after brilliant record. Here’s another one, containing mostly amplified cello, which changes the envelope of the sound a lot: like thickening the soup by chucking handfuls of grit into the pot. There’s really rough quality to the strings, like tree bark, and a lot of power languishing, sometimes threatening, when the cello is amplified – Goldston kicks out an extended roar in ‘Aloft’, but reins it in to draw out more nuanced possibilities in ‘Crossing Over Place’.

Richard Thomas – The House Rabbit Of Jesus Green

Richard Thomas (of Secluded Bronte and many other projects) estimates that he made around a thousand pieces of music over lockdown, some of which are collected on The House Rabbit Of Jesus Green (who is named Pablo and actually exists). He (Thomas, not Pablo) describes it as a fever dream of pop, but it exists as pop music largely in the sense that it’s a welcoming, stimulating and uncomplicated listen. It unfolds in 20-minute-ish chunks, without track demarcations, which imbues a stream of consciousness or diary-like feel to the operation. Important to note here that what’s collected is not ephemera or discarded material, but an unstoppable flow of ideas laid down like demos, which pass as a montage of half-dirges, fat riffs, atomic electronics, crunchy synth stabs; landscape ambience, reversed guitar lines, fresh little finger-picked instrumentals, and in one case, layered whorls of glass playing. Don’t worry if there’s an idea you don’t like – another will be along in a minute. One of my favourite albums of late, suitable for playback any time of day, and existing somewhere in the lineage (if not the sonic universe) of Francis Plagne’s Rural Objects. (NB: Also out recently were two Secluded Bronte live albums, from Zurich</> and Supernormal, the latter of which was my favourite show of the festival, even though I left five minutes before the end to avoid passing out from the fearsome heat inside the Vortex venue.)


Bobby Would – Styx

(Kashual Plastik)

Yeah, yeah, I’m three months behind on this. I was late picking it up anyway, and then there’s the new two-month lag on Rum Music. I’ll never catch up. Cheers to All Night Flight for the last push on getting this in my hands, because it’s really good, unmissable if you’re into the general lo-fi experimental sad song scene, with a murky sort of Space Raiders psychedelic aspect (in the 10p crisps sense, not the cosmic alien sense).

And finally, an early heads up on this Faust and Keiji Haino collab coming out via Old Heaven in China in December. Just two tracks up at time of writing, but get a load of how wonky ‘It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl’ is.

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