Rum Music For March Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Jennifer Lucy Allan returns with her latest Rum Music dispatch, this month featuring, the magical hidden sounds of Trondheim trams, highlights from the London “non-music” scene and more

Paul and Limpe Fuchs

It is spring and the iris are blooming. In the garden there are bulbs bursting into flower that I cannot remember planting, and when I drove to the coast last weekend the fields of East Anglia were vivid green for the first time since last year. I picked a creamy tulip and put on all the folk records on the shelf (which have been recently recategorised into genres). Every time winter breaks its grip, I feel I’m discovering gardens and greenery for the very first time again.

In this edition’s intro I have two publications to bump: the first, Basta Now is by French novelist and poet Fanny Chiarello, her style is freeform and unencumbered – there’s a weightlessness to the way she’s ploughed through this leaden, unforgiving task, which is properly Sisyphean. It slips and slides, thinking out loud in the writing, and is a very personal compendium of artists and their workings. It is distinctly about the present moment and only incidentally makes note of composers from the past, particularly if they are no longer working, and the author brings her own politics (and tastes) squarely into the frame. There’s a radical anti-speciesist line through the whole section on the natural world, whereby the participation of animals in sound art is found to be troublesome, and there are thoughts sketched out as if in real time about what’s actually going on when different artists use their voice in a variety of ways.

Switched On: The Dawn of Electronic Sound by Latin American Women

is a book that has not yet arrived, but which I’m waiting for as I write. It looks to be a very welcome text that brings the work of academic researchers digging into the history of women in electronic music in Latin America squarely in front of an audience who is interested and ignorant of this history, which is little known in Europe. It contains essays, interviews and ‘interludes’ by some legendary composers I have heard of and plenty I have not, and looks to have some incredible photography to boot.

Christina Kubisch & Trondheim Voices – Stromsänger

Trams! You’d never in a million years guess that the space-holding, oscillator-suggesting drones that populate this new album by Christina Kubisch are in fact the sound of trams. They are joined by improvising choir Trondheim Voices, in sympatico compositions and responsive improvisations from the singers. Kubisch – sound artist of note for decades – discovered a chorus of electromagnetic wave recordings when travelling around Trondheim and listening to the city on custom built induction headphones. When she picked up the otherwise undetectable electromagnetic fields of the tram, she found sounds so resonantly musical she took the recordings to Trondheim Voices, the choir she was working with. The recordings she made with them and the tram were then played back and recorded again, over and over, creating the first part of this album: a glassy, ethereal, minimalist dronework constructed from multitudinous channels in frictionless layers of sound. The tram recordings sound like oscillators; the voices undulate – sometimes fusing with the trams in a slow churn of sound – and lift briefly from the massed sonics like whale fins in the open waters of an Arctic sea. The second part hangs more on the contrasts in the sounds, where harsh saw wave-like recordings with a piercing density to their signal, draw lines around the softness of voices sing-speaking a score. Taken together, this album feels as if Kubisch has revealed a thin place not just in the middle of the city but in the middle of a commute: an album made all the more magical because these sounds have been there all along, hidden under our seats on our commuter trams, humming along undetected within the hulking, clunking body of a carriage on rails.

Anima Musica & R. Carlos Nakai – Atlantic Crossing
(La Scie Dorée)

I adore the soundworlds of instrument builder, composer and percussionist Limpe Fuchs. One of the most played records in our house in recent years has been her 1987 album Via, which I mention because there are moments on this reissue of a tape from 1988 that echo the vocals there, and which might even be drawn from the same pieces in one way or another. Anima Musica was the project Limpe started with her partner Paul Fuchs in the 60s, and here they play with indigenous American flute player and composer R. Carlos Nakai, whose playing is breathy and woody; nimble and decorous, acting at times as a through line between the thucking and clanging of their distinctive percussions and Limpe’s playful, roundabout way of singing (which I just can’t get enough of). Additional note here to say that Limpe has also released not one but two piano albums recently, both of which possess the same charm: she has this way of not really getting to the point or constructing an incidental sort of structure on the fly, which manages at once to be easy, inviting and stimulating, like a really good conversationalist.

Still House Plants – if i don’t make it, i love u

There seems to be no middle ground with Still House Plants: either you think they’re one of the best bands of the 21st Century or you run a mile from their tumbling loops and repetitions. You probably already know which side you fall on. I like them a lot, but I think I like this album the best of all. It contains a barely-detectable maturation of their sound, by which I mean there is perhaps more coherence here (although that’s a loaded term both ways, I guess, particularly with this group). Their structures are made of triggers and units; elastic tempos almost always of a lurching kind as if they were hypermobile, and this album has more segments within each track where the sound thickens and becomes almost solid; almost songs. Previously the joins between each actor in the triptych were fleeting and spidery; unsteady and sometimes teasingly so in their pleasing, halting moments of synchronicity. Here it feels like the contact points have doubled or tripled in surface area, although the time signatures still stretch and distort at will. While I love the gangly stunt-falls of previous albums, this one’s got so many feelings – see the vocal in ‘Sticky’; the watery rushing of cymbals in ‘M M M’; breathless guitar in ‘Pant’, and the love letter to I don’t know or what, that is ‘no sleep deep risk’.

RNA Organism – R​.​N​.​A​.​O Meets P​.​O​.​P​.​O
(Mesh Key)

There is something endearingly uncouth and unselfconscious in the clunkiness of this album that makes it really fucking cool. It is brilliantly odd and lumpen, quite a contrast to the chiselled cheekbones and tweed tailoring Sato wears in the Bandcamp profile photo. I love the distant wailing in ‘Nativity’, which has a similar energy to my neighbour who has no idea the walls are so thin, and who sings with an unencumbered tuneless gusto. ‘Yes, Every Africa Must Be Free Eternally’ is more a nod to early Jamaican dub, with the melodica over chunky rhythms. Despite the many comparisons and connections available – to a certain type of post punk; to private press experiments with tapes and crunchy drum machines; to dub and to Vanity Records – it walks with its own gait entirely, neither one thing nor the other but its own complete self nonetheless. Mesh Key strikes again.

The Scrapes – The Sun Never Rises On Mount Sorrow

Fourth album by gnarly string duo The Scrapes, aka Ryan Potter on electric guitar (mostly) and Adam Cadell on violin (mostly). I’ve followed Cadell for a while, originally hearing his music after someone recommended him in response to me writing about liking violin players to sound like they are carving meat on a butcher’s block (Flynt – who Cadell studied with – and Conrad, etc). The first side – ‘Windward’ opens in less serrated form, emotional but not sweet; leaning into rousing moments that sounds like the first light hitting the floor of a wide valley. Then, night falls, ominously in this landscape with no shelter, and they build on and are anchored by lurking drones that’ll cut you to ribbons. Side B, ‘Leeward’ finds motifs and lifts them skyward.

Regan Bowering – Solos for Spaces

Alright, I know it’s March and this came out in December but I am still covering this because a) this is my column b) it is only out every two months, and c) the December one is my EOY list. Release dates are fairly all over the place until you get onto a label that has actual staff these days anyhow, but that’s another essay for another time. This is, to my mind, just one in the steady stream of releases coming out of the healthy "non-music" scene happening in London right now, which I’d describe as a loosely affiliated group of artists who record and perform sound that usually has something to do with indeterminacy and/or (field) recordings with all the bits left in. There were two new ones on Infant Tree recently, and this by Regan Bowering, a percussionist, improviser and artist who I see around and about Cafe OTO. It’s her first solo album (on Bezirk, a label co-run by former tQ Spool’s Out columnist Tristan Bath) and I like it: a troubled negotiation between controlled and out-of-control feedback, escaping from combinations of snare drum, amplifiers and microphones. The gritted textures of ‘Grain’ loosen into pure feedback tones that sound like saxophones – tip!


Perhaps AOB should be given solely over to bagpipes and hurdy gurdys. I cant get through a month without another experimental take on these instruments passing unnoticed. Carme López’s Quintela on Warm Winters was mentioned on The Quietus already but I love it too. It’s a narrative suite for Galician bagpipe (I was already sold at Galician bagpipes) that takes cues from López’s research into traditional oral music from Galicia (I’ll take two!) but also from Oliveros and other hefty minimalist composers (I’ll take it all). The ‘Epilogue’ is the highlight, setting up a reedy canon-like pattern and weaving motifs like basketry:

Finally, I arrived almost a year late to the excellent compilation When The Frog From The Well Sees the Ocean (Reports from English UFOlklore) which came out last summer on Folklore Tapes, and which I heard on the stereo at World Of Echo recently. The track that secured the sale was Jaycock / Burge’s ‘What Monica Saw’.

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