Rum Music For February Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Jaw-dropping group jazz from London, psychedelic harsh noise from Japan, and a whole lot of torn up blues, are just some of the things Jennifer Lucy Allan investigates in this month’s expedition to The Zone

Leila Bordreuil

These days, I am mostly sat at my desk watching two great tits hack away at the fat balls in the feeder, while Philip next door water pistols the squirrels and cats. In an effort to get out of this rut and conjure that special grotbag je ne sais quoi of the out-out I so dearly miss, myself and Moats have turned our shed into a pub/venue called THE BASTARD. I built a bar from scrap wood, he painted a sign on a bit of old laminate flooring.

We had our first club night with exclusive guest list of me and him (if your name’s not on the electoral register for this address, you’re not coming in), and carted out a load of pedals and a drum machine. We bought cans of Tyskie from the shop just before closing for that authentic experience, and kept our coats on while dancing as if we were in an unheated warehouse with other people.

Half-way through the night, feeling fuzzy, we realised it was not actually really loud – the levels were just really wrong. Everything was both quiet and also breaking up as if it were in the red. It made me realise that not only will I never become a sound engineer, but that a very noisy gig would nowadays seem a lot louder than it ever has done before, because I’m just not used to anything being too loud to shout over. The first time I took my youngest sister to an gig (N.E.R.D when she was about ten) she freaked out about the volume, stood in the stairwell of the balcony clutching the handrail, and to be honest I’m expecting us all to feel like that when we get back – normal gigs will either be overwhelming and frightening, or freshly invigorating.

One of the first I’d like to feel terrified by is Senyawa. Their latest album, which I raved about last month, is being released by loads of different places, part of their commitment to ‘decentralising’ what they do in order to support a wider network of artists, labels, musicians and other collectives. Apparently they also have a beehive under the studio dinner table, where they’ve been harvesting honey, as well as making Senyawa sambal. There’s a bit of a thread on what they’re doing here.

In other news, the last Bandcamp day seemed to bring a spate of labels upping massive chunks (if not all) of their catalogues, including Consumer Waste, Important, and Sun Ark. Sun Ark is worth a trawl through in particular, with releases by JD Emmanuel and a cassette I’m glad to see knocking about again just because the artist name is ‘Sadistic Candle’. Top marks. Richard Pinhas has also been uploading stuff, at time of writing you can get all nine of the out-of-print releases he’s put up recently for just under £40.

Here at Rum Music I’m also extremely saddened to hear of the deaths of Ghédalia Tazartès and Milford Graves. Tazartès was a particular favourite of mine, and it brings me great sadness that I’ll never see him perform live again. I went back to one of the finest experimental collage and vocal works ever, to pay my respects: Une Eclipse Totale Du Soleil.

Kan Mikami – I’m The Only One Around
(Black Editions)

I have lusted after this album for ages, but it was only ever released on a CD in Japan, in 1991 and often the listings were for CDs listed with ‘NO OBI STRIP!!!’, so I am ecstatic to have a copy of the reissue in my hands. I’ve been listening to Mikami’s raw late night blues for years, not knowing a word of what he was saying, but loving the gnarly gristle of his playing and singing. All that’s changed now, because not only does this Black Editions reissue mean I can hear stuff I’ve been yearning for, but there are full translations of his lyrics. They’re fierce and bawdy (‘A Kerosene Stove For Two’), others more like documentary (‘Movie Number 69’) or confrontational (‘Up The Chinmey’). When Mikami sings he slices, gouges, stabs – his are fleshy, oozing wounds of songs – while his desperately plucked guitar garrottes you. In his fragmented and aphoristic autobiography, he writes that: “The songs are the evidence of my secret agonies and my searching for a new world of music, of the doubts that constantly nag at me.”

EP/64 – EP64-57
(Avon Terror Corps)

Suitable only for playing loud – don’t even think about having this on in the background. This in-your-face live recording is of shifting collective EP/64 who for this performance were (almost) stripped back to core members – it includes Dali de Saint Paul on vocals (Harrga/Viridian Ensemble), Dan Johnson on drums, and Ben Vince (Housewives) on sax and electronics. It’s overwhelming in its ferocity, the sort of energy that can only come from people, in a room, together. Good lord, I miss it so.

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt – Made Out of Sound

My general preference is to hear Bill Orcutt solo, rather than collaborating. As such – and I don’t intend this to come off as negging these lads – I was not expecting to be quite so knocked off my feet by a new album by Orcutt and Chris Corsano. Happily, my expectations have been shown the door, because Made Out Of Sound is an absolute belter. It sounds like weather; like a storm brewing and breaking. Corsano’s drums course and curl and bustle and blow like the wind, Orcutt on electric is sharp like hailstones then trickles and flows like rainwater. They both play as if charged with a static energy, there’s this terrific sense of a reaching and rushing forward; of drums on guitar, on drums, on guitar. A beautiful tumbling sound that makes me feel alive.

Helena Celle – Copy Music
(Outlet Archive)

I had never heard of Helena Celle before, but went a-searching after she came up on the Counterflows line-up and got properly stuck on this. It’s like the suburban objects to Francis Plagne’s Rural Objects, although maybe Celle’s objects have been left out in a (Glasgow) back alley (the specific image I have is of a discarded Sega Megadrive outside The Old Hairdressers). Sounds are damp and decayed, from the hollow kicks or mechanistic whirrs, synthesised claps or rushing water that sounds more like its coming from a grimy tap than a glittering stream. Sometimes sounds like it’s been extracted from the mouldy carpets of the working men’s club acid rave of my dreams; or is the contents of a rediscovered DAT tape of adventurous 1980s computer game music. I love the white noise and melancholic bonging on ‘Angel of a Stranger’; the whack-a-mole rhythm and atomic melody of ‘Give My Dance’; the acid stabs of ‘Darling You’re My Number One’. Infinitely listenable and rather special for it. All made with a Roland Sound Canvas, if gear is your thing.

Black Top Presents: Hamid Drake/ Elaine Mitchener/ William Parker/ Orphy Robinson/ Pat Thomas – Some Good News
(Oto Roku)

Some Good News is that this album is out and you can hear it too. All killer no filler line up here – quick cuts and slow fades between swaggering groove and fat jazz swing to angular free improvisation. It’s a 2CD/DL of two 50+ minute pieces recorded at a 2019 show at Café Oto, where Black Top (vibes player Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas) joined up with bass player William Parker, vocalist Elaine Mitchener and drummer Hamid Drake. ‘Put The Brakes On’ is a suite of imaginary spaces, the galactic Black Top electronics swirl in while Mitchener putters and yelps like a meteor shower, as Drake, Parker and Thomas’ driving rhythm section erupts. There’s a terrific spiky groove that Thomas locks into about ten minutes in, and a theme that settles into a sort of woozy lollop. If that piece has a galactic aura, title track ‘Some Good News’ is more of a smoky downstairs freak out, with echoes of trad that are totally rewired. It breaks to a beautiful pause, with a solo by Parker that prompts a u-turn in the mood and a whole different vista opens up – a jaw dropping moment.

Leila Bordreuil – Not An Elegy
(Boomkat Editions/Documenting Sound)

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Boomkat’s Documenting Sound series has produced some of the best lockdown releases, encouraging people to work outside their comfort zones, or in this case, just outside. Cellist Leila Bordreuil’s Not An Elegy was recorded on location in the subway at Ralph Avenue in Brooklyn, and it’s hard to listen to without some melancholic nostalgia for the day-to-day sounds of public transport that are Bordreuil’s backdrop and collaborator. There is the scream of train brakes and the echoing voices of people on the phone. The environment drives the playing – the rush of an arriving train drives a more intensive push and pull of the bow; the resonance of the subway architecture augments the instrument’s low end. At one point in ‘For Tamio’ two strings played together form pulsing ‘beats’ which are shredded into raw, growling lumps, leaving only softness, before the whoosh and scream of a passing train swallows her playing momentarily, like an accompanying string section. The title is correct: this isn’t an elegy, it’s a reminder that I might be at home but lots of people are not. The trains are still running, people are still going to work, life has not stopped completely. There’s no embed for this one but you can listen at Boomkat. (NB: Bordreuil also collaborated with Kate Carr on a Late Junction sessions recently – you can still hear that online here.)

Ariel Kalma – The French Archives Vol. II
(Black Sweat)

French musician Ariel Kalma’s Bandcamp is regularly added to. Releases are called things like Saxoridoo or Tantric Sax, and artwork contains CGI fractals, buddhas and other contemporary psychedelic signifiers. Don’t let that put you off though, Kalma is always good, always curious, always engaging – a blissed-out psychonaut who can take you with him on his inner space journeys, and one who I always feel must be an exceptionally attentive listener to find such fruitful zones of aural contemplation and sonic exploration. (Also, Tantric Sax is a great record!) If you remain afeared of the fractals, the French Archives is a good place to start. Vol. II is the second 4LP archival set of his work on Black Sweat covering his earlier work. The first covered the 70s, and this new one stretches a few years further, covering 1975-1986. It is a collection of really brilliant stuff that balances the zoney, the trippy, the playful and the unexpected: Delirium GRM collects experiments from when he was a studio assistant at INA-GRM studios in France; Rue De La Gaite is an album largely of collaborations with Gnawa musician Brahim el Belkani who was staying with him at the time; Dream Stars is a recording of a piece for the Paris Planetarium in 1977, and Kula Confidential was recorded when he lived on the Haleakala volcano on Maui.

Masonna – Freak

This was out mid-December, and I linked to it last month without comment, but the chaos and lack of hope in the current has drawn me back to it over and over again. Freak was originally released in 95 in an edition of 36 cassettes clad in gold paper (and was also included in the box set Exploring Self-Corrosive Noise With Coquette). As harsh noise goes, it’s rich and melodic, not particularly abrasive. The sleevenotes really nail it, describing “cascades of electronic noise, a psychedelic touch and vocal belching”. Either my ears have finally come around to these textures after years away, or this one’s really good – it’s hard to tell with the current distortions to normality, but I feel soothed by detecting in it a reflection of myself and the world. Bonus is that the sleeve is an extremely pleasing shade of mustard and contains a poster of Masonna that I have put up in the kitchen.


Some repress/reissue notes: Firstly, a World Of Echo pressing of the second release by pulled-apart minimal post-punk(ish) trio, Mosquitoes. Secondly: a fancy deluxe reissue of everyone’s favourite Swisswave band Grauzone, who haven’t just got that one song about a sad polar bear. Various fancy versions and special editions of this one, not too spendy either, from WRWTFWW (who did Midori Takada). T-shirts are all gone though, gutted. Blank Forms are also releasing a load of Don Cherry stuff, which will get a write up nearer the time.

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