Rum Music For August Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Woodwind multiples, early Indian electronic music, caustic Brazilian reworks and John Fahey as you've never heard him before reviewed by Jennifer Lucy Allan in this month's trip into the lesser travelled interior

I’m going to take the opportunity to use this edition of Rum Music to plug Late Junction, the radio show I present for BBC Radio 3, because we’ve had a really top run of it lately and I’ve been absolutely loving making it.

This week I recorded a programme that has as its centrepiece a Wolf Eyes mixtape made by the heads that are Nate Young and John Olson to mark the release of their 300-and-who’s-counting-anyway album. It includes almost nothing I’ve ever heard of. I also have an exclusive track from the forthcoming album by Rum Music favourites Laura Cannell and Lori Goldston (thus far only heard by tQ’s Sound & Vision supporters, who received it last year as part of their subscription) and dig out a handful of tracks from my recent light excavation of French, Occitan and Breton psych folk made in the 1970s and 1980s.

We have also had live sessions from African Head Charge’s Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah in the studio with Gaika, and there’s a repeat running soon of a recent show featuring a session between Joan La Barbara doing a remote file-swapping improvisation with bass player Ruth Goller aka Skylla. It goes out live on BBC Radio 3 on Friday nights between 11pm and 1am, is presented by me or Verity Sharp, and can be streamed online for a month afterwards. Listen here.

Plug over, let the Rum begin.

Various Artists – The NID Tapes: Electronic Music From India 1969–1972


I’m stoked to hear this collection of early synth music made in the late 60s at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, which has far more head-noddingly heavy pieces on it than you’d expect from early institutional synth experiments. NID had an electronic music studio containing an early Moog synthesiser, and this collection brings together work made there, by S.C. Sharma, Atul Desai, Gita Sarabhai, Jinraj Joshipura, I.S. Mathur, and one piece by David Tudor, who helped set the place up when he visited. There is much play in the sounds collected, notably in the mischievous manipulated voices and filtered laughter in one of Gita Sarabhai’s pieces, and there are a few heavy, noisy workouts too, including the David Tudor tape feedback piece that is, frankly, Pan Sonically dense and industrial, as is the rising tone of Jinraj Joshipura’s ‘Space Liner 2001 I’ and the deliciously clanging slow shred of I.S. Mathur’s ‘Once I Played A Tanpura’. S.C. Sharma’s work is all rhythmic bloops – both ‘Dance Music’ pieces are in a lineage with other solo synth experimenters like Mort Garson or Martin Bartlett, and over everything there is the comforting duvet of vintage fuzz to the warm Moogy pulses, that ripple and shift in melodic bloops. In all of it, whether melodic, noisy or minimal, there is at once a formal and playful energy in the music. I realise this assertion veers very close to the ‘hot but cold’ oxymoron often rolled out in bad music journalism, but here I really do mean it, to mean a quality that often applies to early electronic music that is being made on an object producing sounds that have not yet been fully codified as style, genre, or form, and which therefore carry less baggage than other instruments. The music is being adopted into, rather than imposing traditions, but while it is not yet throttled by predefined expectations, it is also coming from an institutional setting. Undoubtedly an essential document of electronic music history, with some really banging pieces to boot. For more on this history, there’s also a book coming out, and the documentary that spawned the release (by curator Paul Purgas and producer Alannah Chance) is still up to stream, or you could read tQ’s interview with Purgas here.

Mary Jane Leach – Woodwind Multiples

(Modern Love)

This album is the best new acoustic minimalist composition I’ve heard this side of CC Hennix’s last; it presents simply, but is divinely paced, beautifully captured. I keep thinking I’d like to hear it soundtracking Meshes Of The Afternoon. Some background: Mary Jane Leach has been part of the New York downtown scene since the 70s and has been totally instrumental in preserving the work of Julius Eastman, spending years tracking down his scores so that his work could be reinstated in the canon here in the 21st century (she co-edited Gay Guerrilla, a collection of essays on Eastman). Her work on Eastman left her own composition neglected for a while, but in recent years has returned with a handful of releases on Italian label Blume, and two (including this one) on Modern Love. This, like the majority of her work, operates around microtonal composition for single instruments or single types of instrument, and the pieces on it were composed between 1985 and 2020. The instruments include four bass flutes, nine oboes, nine clarinets, and seven bassoons, manipulated and looped like Moebius-strips via tape phasing and overdubbing. Listen for the pulsing sound of microtonal beats as two woody pitches fall almost together.

Anne Gillis + XT – Our/s Bouture(s)

(Art Into Life)

Japanese label Art into Life have had a strong run of it lately – Angus Maclise archive tapes, Akio Suzuki’s beautifully refreshing soundscapes, and the mellow piano pieces of Colette Roper, originally out on Dieter Roth’s Verlag label. They also just released this collaboration between fairly legendary French musician and performance artist Anne Gillis, with the duo XT, who are saxophonist Seymour Wright and drummer Paul Abbott. It delivers on caustic promises, the fattened sections moderated by manipulated space and silence. This is Gillis’ M.O. and what often makes her music so enigmatic: her compositional agility, moving around ferocious intensities of accumulations of industrial grade soundscapes and the detail of near-silence, which makes her and XT a roaring good combination.

WaqWaq Kingdom – Hot Pot Totto

(Phantom Limb)

I just love WaqWaq Kingdom – they are so giddy and spangly, and their magpie-like Hoovering from genres and styles is becoming a really distinctive hot pot (yep, that’s the album title) of bubbling bass and candy crush tops. They call it ‘minyo footwork’, which is a thing now (see also J/P/N by KASAI on Chinabot), but it’s more like minyo dancehall. This new one’s about ecological collapse, but occasionally via Kiki Hitomi’s lyrics, sometimes features more lateral takes – the first track takes from sumo wrestling calls, and the tongue-twister title takes from two words: hotpot and ottotto, the latter meaning the Japanese equivalent of “oops” – something you say when someone nearly takes a tumble. Highlights are the gamelan jangle and soda pop fizz over low rider bass on ‘The Tower’; the candy crush drop and snap on ‘Eye Candy Man’; Hitomi’s high velocity flow on ‘Buri Buri’, and the rubbery dancehall swagger stretched over the whole production to make the album bounce.

John Fahey – Proofs And Refutations

(Drag City)

This is a previously unreleased album recorded in 1995 and 1996 when Fahey was, more or less, in the pits. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not barrel scraping, but a crucial contribution to the years where there was a sloppy and feral nihilistic energy to the music. Around this time Fahey also made the incredible Womblife, along with City Of Refuge, and presumably this album, Proofs & Refutations, which is a defiant turn towards the gnarled and experimental, edging away from the tight traditional fingerpicking he was known for. A couple of years after this Edwin Pouncey made a trip to the states to interview Fahey for The Wire, writing one of the most sensorially visceral scenes that has ever opened a piece of music journalism – Fahey is slumped on a motel bed, a bear in a grubby lair, shovelling hot buttered microwaveable popcorn into his mouth, surrounded by overflowing brown paper bags of rubbish, CDs without cases and sleeveless LPs, along with prescription meds, an inhaler, an amp and a guitar. It is this scene I was transported to when smacked round the face with the opening slab of spoken word on Proofs & Refutations, which has given me whiplash and is worth the price ticket alone. It’s called ‘All The Rains’ and it begins as a jaw-dropping herald, drawled and intoned by Fahey, then segues into absurdist sound poetry. It’s like Fahey doing John M. Bennett. The rest of the tracks are a more traditional: plucked blues a little loose and languorous; lonesome night-time tunes played as if under porchlight with fireflies.

Deafkids – Ritos do Colapso

(Rapid Eye Records/Nada Nada Discos/Lovers & Lollypops)

Save for face-melting finale ‘Selva Pulsatil’ the larger part of this album comes off like a collection of DJ tools for brutalist samba sets or a sample pack for high velocity Latinx-influenced grindcore. Ritos do Colapso reworks and remixes material from the three EPs of the same name this Brazilian trio made and released digitally in lockdown (which don’t seem to be on Bandcamp any more), and two tracks made for the computer game Cyberpunk 2077. Most clock in at just a minute or two, and are pared down, relatively relaxed percussive workouts (relaxed when compared to the dense energies of their live albums or previous caustic onslaughts, anyway). Highlights are the insistent pummelling of ‘A Caça’ and the coiled metallic loop of ‘Difusão’, which is straight from Bruce Gilbert’s sonic palette. I am very interested in this lot, snagged on the controlled fury and bubbling velocities they produce. I don’t think they’ve made their best record yet, but this is far more than a decent stopgap. Steve Von Till from Neurosis is into them too, if you needed a further recommendation.

Prison – Upstate

(Drag City)

Ending this column on the confession that I have an unquenchable thirst for all that falls vaguely under the banner of sloppily played psychedelic rock. Get a half decent chug going and I’m good for hours. I like there to be a big blousy riff of some sort, maybe a galactic wig-out or a drawn out kosmische section. I like overdrive and missed cues, or a part where everyone falls totally out of step but they left it on the record anyway. Prison are not as amateurish as I usually like, no sir, but neither are they tediously tight (which would make this sound like a load of clean and tidy session musicians playing by rote). They are headed up by the major head Paul Major, member of Endless Boogie, purveyor of obscure records and private press gems, and a man with really a beautiful haircut. This is a cut and thrust through a bit of pub rock, doom, a cruise through the spaceways and a lot of decent slugging away by all involved. A highly effective dose for those who partake.


High Rise are in my top three favourite bands of all time, one of those that saved me from meltdown by providing a full-frequency onslaught that could absorb all the rage slash upset of one particular period of life, and Black Editions is continuing their High Rise reignition with 1992’s Dispersion. It’s Nanjo’s idea of an easy pace I guess, in thickening pedal-to-the-metal garage riffs. The weight of this reissue has been as if the label is trying to evoke the heaviness of the music quite literally with glossy cardboard and vinyl, it weighs a ton. In other essential reissue news just in: Room40 is reissuing Annea Lockwood’s 1970s magnum opus, Glass World.

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