Rum Music For February Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Pianoisms from the pacific northwest, gothic doll makers' demo tapes and a Tuareg classic in the making in this months' Rum Music.

@xcrswx & Lolina

Two years ago I made the new year’s resolution to catalogue all my records and tapes and CDs on Discogs. This January I finally achieved it. The unexpected result is that I know exactly how much money I have effectively lost by playing them in bars, at parties, and generally treating them as less than museum objects. I don’t want to ever not play my records or fret about their value over their contents, but when I stared that difference in the face, it didn’t half sting.

In the tapes I found loads I couldn’t remember much about: things kept from reject boxes in music magazine offices; others bought at fairs on a whim, or sent in for review. One or two had been sat languishing for a decade or more, so I formed a ‘wtf’ stack and have been processing it. I rediscovered things too, like this really sloppy and brilliant Sadistic Candle tape.

A very early Entr’acte cassette sounded mighty fresh, but the Nocturnal Steam tape snapped in the player (not a band, just recordings of trains at night). Others went in the out bag: a tape of rain and a very small piece of metal being rubbed on something; a low machine hum, which had no chance against the tape deck whirring (it needs fixing). Another was a field recording, but of an actual field. You win some, you lose some.

Seeing these accumulations of music also made me wonder exactly what my listening habits would be like I did not need to know new releases; if people didn’t give me things and I didn’t buy things on a whim. Would I have dug a deep and narrow hole through some dark corner or still be marching around in the somewhat wider pit I occupy now? I might only listen to Japanese underground bands operating between 1982-1999, and spiritual jazz made in the mid to late 1970s. But here I am, and I’m glad of it, because the first months of the year have been like a glorious balloon drop of new music from all corners.

Otto Sidharta – Kajang
(Sub Rosa)

My top sonic moment of recent months was with the title track from this new album by Indonesian electronic music pioneer Otto Sidharta. Namely, the giant wibble that comes in over strings that are curling and overlapping like air currents. It’s so brief and blubbery I kept doing a double take on whether I even heard it. It sounds like a big jelly in the zero gravity strings and I fell absolutely in love with it. A fist pump moment, totally celebratory. The other tracks are more obviously part of his oeuvre, as documented Sub Rosa’s previous collection of his earlier work (Indonesian Electronic Music 1979-92). That was rooted in rougher-hewn electroacoustic treatments that I’d always found genuinely experimental – by which I mean to say, it sounds like someone actually experimenting – but some pieces didn’t hold my attention. Kajang collects more recent pieces, made between 2015 and 2020, and if that first collection showed a demonstration of tools and techniques, this album proves them in hi-fidelity electroacoustic tailoring.

@xcrswx & Lolina – FIXES / FM
(Feedback Moves)

Make-up artist and musician Crystabel Riley is one of my favourite drummers of the moment, loose and propulsive with a minimal kit and joyful athleticism to her playing. As a drummer she describes herself as ‘drum/-human-skin’. The dashes are connections: her playing creates a direct route from skin to skin. Here she is in her duo with Seymour Wright (which is currently one of few ways to hear her on record) on a split release with Lolina (of Hype Williams fame). The @xcrsw track ‘FIXES’ began as three recordings made for Lolina’s NTS residency in 2020 (they later collaborated on an audiovisual piece broadcast through Cafe OTO in 2021, and performed there more recently). It’s a stuttering, agitated diptych, chopped but not screwed; all clatter, snap and stutter. Wright’s sax emits barely recognisable gobs of sound, then there’s a brief window of relatively fluid improvisation. On the flip, Lolina’s ‘FM’ is a woozy collage on loop (a little like a vocal-less version of Joseph Hammer’s album on PAN) that sucks you in and spits you out, too soon.

Annelies Monseré ¬– Mares
(Horn Of Plenty)

This exists in a hinterland somewhere between La Nòvia in France and Discreet in Gothenburg, and I don’t just mean because it’s from Belgium which is literally in between those two places. Sonically it draws on traditional folk styles, with occasional medieval-sounding melodies, but does it from a sometimes miserable, sometimes hopeful, but always fog-filled landscape where layers upon layers of haar-dense atmospherics are built from various drone-ish sources. It’s got a cover of folk standard ‘Sally Free And Easy’, which I guess is a manifesto for where its coming from, but its best moments are in the densest, most eerie sections, which come from a combination of keyboards, accordion, and harmonium. ‘Shells’ is a macabre standout.

Neil S. Kvern – Doctor Dancing Mask: Pianoisms

(Freedom To Spend)

Neil S. Kvern never played live (out of choice) and he released this cassette in 1983 mostly to friends and by word of mouth. I will put a pound in the swear jar for saying this, but it is hypnagogic, (and also hypnopompic). I don’t mean to tag it with a passe genre, but to indicate that a number of tracks feel like they genuinely originated in the space between sleeping and waking. It reminds me of the jetlagged headspace when you’ve woken up at the wrong time and access a clear and unflustered type of consciousness; moments of insight when you haven’t yet woken up enough to get in your own way. Kvern was explicitly inspired by the minimalists, although the concert hall high culture of someone like Glass is downshifted here to a tactile Pacific Northwestern lo fi minimalism, imbued with the hiss and play of whatever the imperfect techniques were by which he captured some of these overdubs and spontaneous compositions (some of which would have been made with support from Eugene Electronic Music Collective and Soundwork, a public-access studio and performance space in Seattle). I find some loose comparisons to be drawn with Ariel Kalma’s early work if he’d had a piano not a sax, and one or two tracks are giving me hints of “Blue” Gene Tyranny’s Out Of The Blue (praise indeed). Extra points for the fact ‘The Conclusion’ is half way through the tracklisting. Is the rest just a dream?

Wolf Eyes – Difficult Messages

Strictly for the heads comp from the trip metal camp, pulling together extracurricular productions from the ever-shifting sites of collaboration around the Wolf Eyes lads proper. Culled from the recent splurges of limited 7"s and one-off lathes that have been popping up (occasionally boxed), collaborators and side projects on here include: Nate Young and John Olson as Stare Case; Aaron Dilloway and Gretchen Gonzales in U Eye Trio; Raven Chacon in Wolf Raven; Alex Moskos and Young as Time Designers and Short Hands. Some really attentive playlisting has gone on here, emphasising the textural and tonal breadth of the material: there are sketches that include nothing but delay drenched voice and what’s (nearly) a bass motif; a relatively dinky drum machine workout; a muss of sonics that sounds like you knocked a shortwave radio down a well; mangled trance and a firing range; a pleasing TG-like pulse ‘n’ groan from U Eye Trio, and tripped-out ricocheting cackles and acid stabs, among other aural experiments. If you only liked Burned Mind, this will make no sense to you whatsoever. Hate to point this out to the oldies in the room but at this point these lads have been making music (and art) fairly relentlessly for over a quarter of a century. Happily, this comp’s exploratory jams and loose joints indicates the old hounds have another quarter century in them (at least).

Moussa Tchingou – Tamiditine EP
(Sahel Sounds)

Tchingou is a 29-year-old guitarist from Niger, one of the most in-demand musicians for celebrations in Agadez and influenced by Bollywood music. On the original Music From Saharan Cellphones compilation – a release that essentially cracked open and built an American and European audience for a whole region’s music – the standout track was Mdou Mcotar’s ‘Tahoultine’. It was already massive in the mp3 sharing scene around Niger, but it had a totally different energy to his raucous debut Afelan. Tchingou picks up where ‘Tahoultine’ left off, continuing a lineage of Tuareg electric guitar, propulsive percussion and autotuned vocals that bring a distinctive shimmer to Tchingou’s style of desert blues. The four tracks have a torque like perpetual motion; move steadily towards a destination you never want to reach, and with those gossamer refractions in the voice and electronics its sited in the distorted air between horizon and sky. In Herzog’s Fata Morgana the opening scenes feature looped footage of a commercial plane landing at a desert airport, which is exactly what Tamiditine sounds like to me. It’ll be named in the same breath as Moctar and Tinariwen in ten years’ time, you watch my words. A classic in the making.

Shizuka – Heavenly Persona

(Black Editions)

After An’Archives’ drool-worthy editions of Shizuka’s Lunatic Pearl And Paradise Of Delusion, Black Editions follow up with a 2LP set (plus limited cassette only available on Bandcamp) reissuing the band’s only studio album, Heavenly Persona (originally out on PSF in 1994). It weighs a ton, and not just because of the triple gatefold and heavy card stock. Led by and named after their lead singer, the late doll-maker Shizuka Miura, this is the only time the band – who also included Fushitsusha members Jun Kosugi and Maki Miura (who’d also played in Les Rallizes Dénudés). The controlled acoustic space of the studio lends the band a whole different vibe than say, Paradise Of Delusion. It dials up on the ‘alternative’ gothic rock sound, and tidied up, Shizuka’s vocal here sounds frail, without the obfuscations of wibble and flutter on live recordings. At moments she sounds utterly, and quite upsettingly, despondent. On Bandcamp, Black Editions also put up a cassette repress of Shizuka 4 that was gone within the week. Shizuka 4 is "an apocryphal set of Shizuka’s unaccompanied solo bedroom recordings," and one of a handful of self-released cassettes that very few people have ever seen. It’s this I’ve had on most of all. Loose and impossibly vulnerable, these demo-style recordings have a childish charm, her voice sounds in a lower register than other releases, and without amplification the great cloud of gloom that usually bears down is lighter, if not lifted. The obvious comparison to draw is with LRD’s Mizutani, but this more rudimentary; more naïve, and frighteningly lonesome. Find it if you can.

Tony Conrad/Arnold Dreyblatt/Jim O’Rourke – Tonic 19-01-2001
(Black Truffle)

The 100th release on Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle is a corker. Forty minutes of strings mulled and extended; agitated and accumulated. I can’t think of much I don’t like by Tony Conrad, but this feels like an essential part of his later discography. It documents a one-off trio between Conrad, Jim O’Rourke and artist/composer Arnold Dreyblatt, at venue Tonic in New York, in 2001. They had never played together before and they never played together again, and yet the flyer for the concert promised ‘massive, ecstatic, pulsating overtones,’ apparently. The bendiness in some of the shifts and progressions here are astonishing: the pitch changes occasionally happen on the edges of perception, or sunk in such a thicket that they’re difficult to discern. A slight dissonance resolves amid teeming soundfield, as if Conrad’s dragging the whole crowd of strings up a hill and down again. At this point Conrad said he was interested in ‘working on the sound from inside the sound,’ but he evidently didn’t mean that in the same sense as Eliane sometimes described it: there’s nothing calm about this, with the first half close to cathartic and possessed of an intensity that quietens my noisy mind. The final ten minutes undoes the weft: a cloth imperceptibly turned back into a loose pile of yarn before your very ears. A maximalist meditation: totally full on.

Rosso Polare – Bocca D’ombra

Last entry for this column is one that’s all about breathing space – mostly in the Italian countryside. With Bocca D’Ombra you can go for a walk while sitting down: you could do worse this month than listening to the huffs and puffs of ‘Albanella’, which are decorous with bird sounds, slow dirges, and amateur brass. Rosso Polare are Cesare Lopopolo and Anna Vezzosi, and they write about how folklore and a human-nature connection is at the root of this album. However, while there’s scope to think deeper about the latter – a cock crows in sync with a horn parp, night insects accompany a frantic hardware thud – I found it at its best when I shut off my thinking brain and just listened, inducing a thoroughly pleasant trip. Time out of mind.


Book news: A proper edition of Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations is out.

To Blod or not to Blod? At time of writing, details of a new one called Där Ska Barnet Vara had just arrived at distros, described as having a "strong presence of death".

This is incoming in April on RVNG Intl, but listen to ‘Smoker’s Yes No’ right now: it’s part Jim Trott from the Vicar Of Dibley, part David Blamey’s OK cassette:

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today