Rum Music For November Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Senyawa say no to streaming services and the unGoogleable Heavy Metal finally drop their fifth album, as Jennifer Lucy Allan sends her latest report back from The Zone


This month I have been deeply disappointed to discover how early nights, healthy eating, and regular exercise contributed to my general sense of wellbeing earlier this year. After five weekends away on the trot, bookended by Unsound in the first weekend and Le Guess Who in the fifth, I’ve not slept, eaten or exercised properly, and I feel terrible. I’m dragging my feet towards the end of the year, flaking out, and ignoring my inbox, which after a holiday can be best described as looking like a London skip (they get fly tipped as soon as you turn your back). I’m hoping someone will set the whole thing on fire soon.

As I’ve become increasingly grumpy and morose, my listening has followed suit, so there is something abrasive in most of this month’s catch, be it emotional, political or timbral. The flip of this is that I’ve simultaneously become almost completely intolerant of that which falls under the general umbrella of ‘ambient’ music, with a small a. Partly this is because (she says while hand-waving animatedly in the general direction of most music ever made) I feel that the zone of so-called ‘experimental’ music is being overwhelmed by electronic music that isn’t actually experimental, it just has no immediate dancefloor appeal and no obvious song structure or singer.

Without carving out territorial boundaries here, what I’m roughly talking about is feeling there is a difference between music that is made of something that reaches forwards, and music that does not. I could write 10,000 words but I won’t, I’ll write this short introduction instead and insist that my discomfort amounts to a lot of music that’s called experimental but feels made to clock up tiny fractions of pence by getting playlisted on Spotify as music to work to. Saint Brian of Eno casts a long shadow over this music (although he is often misunderstood) but the long and short of it is that I’ve never been into music for how easy I find it to ignore while at the coal face, so right now it’s just getting in the way. In conclusion: don’t send me any ambient music till 2023.

There have been so many pinpricks of hot bright light this year but overall it’s been a really fucking weird one. Next month I go out blazing with my end of year Rum Music column. Between now and then, I’ll be praying for the return of my mojo in time for Christmas.

Akiko Hotaka/ Takuya Nishimura/ Ikuro Takahashi – Live
(An’ Archives)

This is absolutely my album of the month. Recorded between 2015-2016 but not released anywhere until last year, these live recordings somehow manage to fuse that gnarly low-slung PSF sound and that of Maher Shalal Hash Baz. It is exactly what the doctor ordered as the nights grow cold and lonely and I get grumpier and grumpier. I just haven’t wanted to listen to anything else for over a week now. It’s got that raw spirit which sounds like flesh exposed to a night sky; the guitar is played with bloody fingertips, all anguish and fury. It has the restlessness or hesitancy I love in Kudo’s band that manifests as a reluctance to stay locked to the beat – why would you, when you could stay locked to the feeling instead? The credentials here make all this unsurprising but nonetheless fucking brilliant: Hotaka was a member of Maher Shalal Hash Baz and has released handfuls of sweeter DIY pop CDRs; Nishimura’s CV includes Ché-SHIZU, and Suishou No Fune, among others; Takahashi has played in or with Ché-SHIZU, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, LSD March, Kousokuya, High Rise, Fushitsusha and others.

Maurice Louca – Saet El-Hazz(The Luck Hour)
(Northern Spy/Sub Rosa)

I heard Maurice Louca’s ‘Salute The Parrot’ blasting out of venue speakers at Le Guess Who? before a lunchtime gospel session, and was reminded of how it is a track possessed of such impressive weight it’s almost impossible to play in a DJ set, because it just makes everything else sound small. This album has that incredible control over dynamics and detail, but is closer to his solo work, but boasts a fierce cast of musicians, including Lebanese improvisors ‘A’ Trio, plus Anthea Caddy, Khaled Yassine, and Christina Kazaryan, among others. It’s intended not as a collection of separate tracks but as a long form composition split up, and is totally engrossing, with moments of understated drama and bold turns in its pace and patterns. Most of all, it is absolutely beautifully recorded: there’s an audible breath taken on the title track where the sound of pick can also be heard upon the strings; an anxious sharp rising tone I associate with the sci-fi image of a laser weapon being fired up; a caustic scratching of an object on an instrument’s body; the clattering of sticks on wood, mapped together by repeating motifs. It was out on CD in September, and is out on vinyl this month.

Heavy Metal – Heavy Metal 5: (Live) At The Gas Station Fighting The Devil
(Total Punk Records)

The ever-unGoogleable hard-chug punks finally drop their fifth long player, and boy have I been waiting for this. What you might call the single, ‘Motorbike’, has been knocking around on Bandcamp all year, and finally the rest of the record has been delivered. What I love about this lot are the extensions and deformations of the punk template. It stands on a studded ground of fast drums and tightly locked rhythm guitar and insouciant oi! vocals, but there’s always something more interesting going on, often in the form of a totally inspired lead guitar line. On ‘I Am Something’ there’s a lonesome rockabilly lean; ‘No Air’ picks up a looping melody; opener ‘Motorhead’ has a screaming guitar that, when it slides out from behind the dirty chug is totally Suicide meets Brown Acid. The only problem is, I can’t find a stockist in the UK. Someone, please sort this out.

Anne Gillis – "…"
(Art Into Life)

I hadn’t checked the digital racks at Soundohm for a while, which was an error. Not only are there currently bundles of heavy French hurdy-gurdy motorik trio France, but there’s also a new Anne Gillis album on Art Into Life (who released the 5CD box set of her work back in 2015). Gillis’ work is unheimlich, possessed of a genuine strangeness I don’t often hear elsewhere. In this there is a signal that sounds like the feedback from a phone signal near a mic; moments that could be lost DIY pop from the GDR or an Icelandic classical station; the blurred transmissions of ham radio. It’s tempting to say this sounds like spinning the dial on a long wave radio, but I imagine it being more like what Hollywood actor Lucille Ball heard when she reported picking up radiowaves in her tooth filling in 1974. Its textures are not those of white noise but various other forms of distortions: alarm sounds, tape hiss, crossed wires and Gillis’s voice, appearing sporadically in different guises, as if in a different period costumes.

Pamela Z – Echolocation

(Freedom To Spend)

Regular readers of this column might remember coverage of Pamela Z’s album A Secret Code earlier this year. I’m happy to report that this year will be bookended by Freedom To Spend’s reissue of her self-released 1988 album Echolocation – a fine end to a year that’s shone a necessary spotlight on her work. Echolocation is an absolutely essential avant-garde pop album, and is in a lineage that includes the work of Laurie Anderson, but with post punk angles, textures and stylings too. ‘Two Black Rubber Raincoats’ is operatic synth pop driven by drum machines and a chorus that really stretches into the clouds, but it’s the a capella vocal pieces that are standout – particularly title track ‘Echolocation’, and ‘Badagada’.

Futoshi Moriyama – Yūtai​-​ridatsu ± (Plus​-​minus)

(EM Records)

After a few weeks of listening I still can’t figure this record out. It is possessed of a sonic imagination I cannot comprehend. The symphonic textures of the many layers of soft synths give it the feel of a soundtrack to one of those friendly oddball computer games from the early 00s – ‘Nico Electro’ could be interlude music from Katamari Damacy or a Sims expansion pack. So far so good, but I do keep going back to it as it has such startling uncanny textures – just when you think it’s all pastel valleys, it drops some farm animal sounds. It conjures a landscape suggested by the pink and gold cloud-covered mountains on the cover, which are being enjoyed by the grinning ghost-cat character. The more I stare at this artwork the more correct it becomes.

Senyawa – Membaladakan Keselamatan
(Senyawa App)

Senyawa are making what they want to see in the world. After a decentralised album release which saw it come out through many different labels all with different artwork, they’ve now built an app to release an album of guitar and vocals. Membaladakan Keselamatan can perhaps best be described of Senyawa’s take on heavy ballads. While it’s also out via Bandcamp, the app is a bid to escape streaming services and proprietary distribution platforms, and you know what, it works really well. (My congrats to the UX designer!) I’m not sure I want all my favourite bands to have their own app, but most of my favourite bands are not at all committed to manifesting their politics in the delivery and distribution of their music like Senyawa, so that won’t be a problem. The lyrics, according to the rough translations, are positive political poetry – potentially a bit cheesy actually, but not when delivered in Rully Shabara’s fierce growl, or backed up with Wukir Suryadi’s vigorous attacks on an acoustic guitar. Get the app here.


Earworm of the month:

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