Rum Music For May, Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

This month Jennifer Lucy Allan opens her ears to new music for gamelan, old music on the Atari ST, and fresh Manc workouts

Upon finishing this month’s column I noticed that lots of what’s snagged me lately has been rhythmic or repetitive, whether that’s gamelan or featuring a drum machine. If I was a philosopher I’d say this has something to do with me looking for something to lock onto in a time when everything else seems to be slipping through our fingers.

I have found hope in the fact that while much of the music industry remains on lockdown the highways and byways of experimental music are as busy as ever.

Arguably, little experimental music that would fall under the remit of this column was ever part of the ‘music industry’ proper, as to be part of that suggests access and engagement in an infrastructure that typically excludes or revolts artists who tend to shy away from convention and/or mainstream expectations. You can unpick those generalisations I’ve made later, but it remains important to say that there is so much stuff coming out – so much good stuff – that choosing things to put in this column has become more difficult, not less difficult, than it was.

Lots of what comes under my remit here is music that is made on zero budget and/or in people’s leisure time, so to those who are finding the headspace to keep recording and releasing, I salute you. If you have not made anything, don’t sweat it, my intellectual pursuits have maxed out at one Mubi film and about 40 episodes of Star Trek TNG.

Some important news to note: Cafe Oto are making moves to get themselves and their community of musicians through the crisis with a new label called Taku Roku, which releases new material by a diverse set of musicians. There are over 50 releases lined up, and the first batch includes Rum Music favourite Dali De Saint Paul’s Harrga duo, Ashley Paul playing with her partner and daughter, as well as Steve Gunn and Malvern Brume (aka Rory Salter, whose music I’m really only now picking up on). At time of writing the first batch had just dropped, so by the time you read this, the second batch may already be out. All releases are digital only, with proceeds being split 50/50 between venue and artist.

Amplify also continue to release music at PWYW as part of their 2020 lockdown festival on Bandcamp, and the promoters Qu Junktions have released a £5 album to get them through lockdown with some B-sides, rarities and new jams by artists on their roster, including The Bug, Rashad Becker, Elysia Crampton. While Bulbils continue to comfort and soothe.

I am hopeful, and I am grateful.

Clemency – References
(2 B Real)

This is my most played record of the month. Clemency is Bethany Clements Patrick in Manchester, and her sound on this EP reminds me of Joe or Beatrice Dillon: blindingly simple but with really brilliant source material.

My favourite moments of listening this month have been the minute or so of ‘Biblical Names’ where the light-swallowing satin bass drops the floor, and the marching band snare cracks like a flare. I made my partner stand in the living room and wait for it to snap in over the tabla beat, saying, "Wait, no wait… THERE!" At which point he went back to his own computer and bought a copy.

It is minimalist in its production – no baubles or flashy bollocks to be seen, just hard working back to basics machine music with a pro selection of real world samples that really pull their weight. If we gauge the price of our records like we do our clothes (price per wear) this was also my bargain of the month. Love it.

Mosquitoes – Minus Objects
(Ever/Never Records)

One of my favourite bands back again with another 12" that will undoubtedly fly out and be gone everywhere within the month. Caustic dubs and wailing voices that search for space in the static; nervous skittering that fidgets under a layer of dust in a hollow acoustic space. It’s a much more oppressive and distracted affair than the rhythms that came through in previous records, which is not a negative comment at all, but it does sound like having a hangover in a deserted factory in the exclusion zone.

I like the whirring, clanging guitars, and close mic’d whispered voice of ‘Minus Object Nine’ so much I wonder if the best way to listen to this record is backwards, so that you would be listening to the post-punk sound palette pulled apart, rather than built up from debris on loose scree. Tracks are appropriately long for my concentration levels right now, and rarely top three minutes.

Klein – Frozen

Is Klein’s latest album named after the Disney film? Or is it about something more figurative? Who knows, but what I like best about this is: she’s on guitar! There are sketches which centre around one cathartic 15-minute soundscape called ‘U Got This’. On ‘Another Dust’, there are repetitions of industrial loops and a guitar hit for rhythm, not played. There’s also a piece for Mark Duggan, the 29 year old shot and killed by police in Tottenham in 2011; a three second finale; wrinkled and scrambled low bitrate audio; reassembled fragments of conversation; and ghostly lamentations on ‘Understand Our Tracks’. It’s as if Dean Blunt made a Nurse With Wound album.

R. Weis – Cassette Assembled Scores For Dance: 1991 – 1993

Weis is a new one for me, thanks to TQ zine (no relation) for putting me onto his stuff. He started out doing sound poetry and tape manipulations; other of his releases include the sounds of glass, audio of a parrot, and a dog’s bouncy ball. This is a digital/CDr release of his scores for dance music, with a DIY, tape music patina that has tight form and rhythm. The jump cuts, worried loops and anxious crescendo of ‘Shattering Light’ are curious, compelling. It is one of my favourite tracks of recent months.

When I finish writing this column I will be going deeper to check out a release of his called Mystery Of The Egg.

The Dorf play Phill Niblock – Baobab & Echoes
(XI Records/Umland Records)

‘Dorf’ means village in German, and this group is a sort of German Maher Shalal Hash Baz, a band of around 25-30 musicians led by Jan Klare. This performance, of Niblock’s Baobab and Echoes, are played by 35 musicians, and as such comes on like a swarm of bees. The last time this music was released was in 2018, by a Canadian string quartet called Quatuor Bozzini.

(This video shows the quartet performing to what sounds like a backing track, which sometimes happens with Phill’s work, but, as the album info says, they all performed together.)

Get your dense string drones here.

Kopy – Kopy

I met Yuko Kure in Osaka, where we had a long conversation and somehow shared many jokes without speaking one another’s language. We may have been making fun of our respective boyfriends. She was the boss of the serve-your-own-sake joint, able to pour a perfect meniscus which one bowed to drink instead of lifting the glass. Holy.

At that time she was DJing as DJ Crazy Yuko, and she is also in a few bands, one of which is a drum machine and noise box duo called Turtle Yama. She’s been doing bits of solo stuff as Kopy for the last few years. She’s got an infectious, ‘Let’s go!’ vibe, is supremely unconcerned with what is right or proper, and as such has a hyperactive fizzing energy in her drum machine workouts. This is her first solo EP as Kopy, after a split 12" and CDr. Its snaps and wriggles are going down very nicely, thank you.

Michele Mercure – Pictures Of Echoes
(Freedom To Spend)

Pictures Of Echoes is the second volume collecting Michele Mercure’s self-released music, after 2018’s Beside Herself. I have been cooking to it a lot. Opener ‘10,000 Cranes’ is like a Bladerunner car chase; ‘Rhythm Of Life’ is the theme music for a Sims tropical oasis in the desert expansion pack; ‘Dreamplay’ could be from Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to Michael Mann’s The Keep.

It all sounds like shimmering computer renderings of hyper-real utopian landscapes, made on synths, drum machines and her Atari ST. They conjure really vivid images and colours for me. I love the trip.

Dewa Alit – Genetic
(Black Truffle)

The gamelan is a really special instrument, I think of it blasphemously like an epic human Buchla, in that it has a sound of its own, and no matter what you do, it will never sound like anything other than a gamelan. It also has a feel, an energy and a character.

A gamelan is singular, but contains many players – playing in one is a spiritual group experience. As I understand it, there is not an awful lot of new music written for gamelan, tied up as it is in religious and ancient traditions, which makes this an extra special release. It is performed on Dewa Alit’s Gamelan Salukat, a 25-member ensemble performing on instruments specially built to their designs, using a unique 11-note scale.

Okkyung Lee – Yeo-Neun
(Shelter Press)

Handbrake turns in a musician’s style are always welcome in this column. I kept checking back on my audio player that something hadn’t gone wrong because the dreamy opening to this record was not the sort of sound I associated with firebrand cellist Okkyung Lee. I expected to hear her dragging her bow over the strings to make them growl and complain, and there is a bit of that later on, but this is cool and fresh, totally unexpected. Instantly went in for a second listen. There is something ultra soundtrack-y and maybe even (dare I say) ambient in its cool moods.

Here she has composed for, and is playing with, the Yeo-Neun Quartet – an experimental chamber music ensemble founded in 2016 and led by Lee on cello, featuring harpist Maeve Gilchrist, pianist Jacob Sacks, and bassist Eivynd Opsvik. This excellent Crack mix gives some hints and direction on the Korean music that Lee is talking in, about and from.

Diamanda Galas – Litanies of Satan
(Intravenous Sound Operations)

Finally for this month, your polite reminder that Litanies Of Satan, the 1982 debut album by Diamanda Galas, has been re-possessed by its proper owner, remastered, and is out again after being tied up in ancient contracts.

Now Galas has control of her archive, Litanies Of Satan is the first to be reborn, hopefully in the dead of night, and has been remastered to some degree which the label and Galas are really talking up. I’m always sceptical about such things but if anyone should be reanimating it’s Galas. Her music is that rare thing which is actually deserving of words like ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘iconic’.

The remaster is incoming here, and in July there’s also a new work for solo piano due for release.


This quartet Lil’ Jürg Frey nailing a live show via Animal Crossing. Completely mesmerising.

Lil' Jurg Frey Live 5-2-2020 from lumpen on Vimeo.

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