Rum Music For August Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

In the cruelest month for releases, Jennifer Lucy Allan writes from a static caravan, on lost minimalism, childhood nostalgia and Mosquitoes

August is my least favourite month for new releases. Firstly, there’s not much out. Secondly, the summer is a time for nostalgic, communal listening, where friends and family agree to disagree on various strains of 1970s pop, classic rock, dub, Devo, whatever – just not usually anything that sounds like a cave, anything sad, any unruly jams, or anything particularly thoughtful, and definitely not anything that consists mostly of someone hitting every part of the drum except the drum head. All these sounds get me going at any other point in the year, but not in the grass-stained days of summer.

Luckily, I am no longer in summer listening mode, because I am in a static caravan in Llandudno. Right now, I’m nursing a coffee made with a coffee bag (new to me) and Co-op basic milk chocolate. The old fridge is humming and there’s a damp chill in the air that I associate exclusively with the North West and Wales, the sort that will make the bedding smell fusty by next year. My parents and my uncle Nigel (actually not my uncle but my godfather, and also a geology encyclopaedia) have gone out to Conwy Castle and left me here working.

As they left the rain started clattering down as if waiting specifically for them to start their day outdoors. The sound on the caravan roof is spectacular, a chattering pitter-patter that eases in and out as the rain modulates between great grey sheets of soaking wet sound and the hissing of persistent drizzle that casts the tree-matted hills through a grey-blue filter. I’ve been listening to it as I write, so my first musical recommendation of the month for August is the sound inside a static caravan in the rain. The rest of this month’s list you can listen to from the comfort of your own home.

Winfried Mühlum-Pyrápheros – Musica Nova Contemplativa

When someone claims anything like ‘essential forgotten minimalism’ my eyes roll so far back in my head I can see directly behind me. My best hope when handing over a crisp £20 for this was that it would at least provide me with the feeling that my personal library of minimalism was closer to completion. Reader, I was so gloriously surprised – this record is bloody gorgeous.

Winfried Mühlum-Pyrápheros was a visual artist, and these compositions, based on a system of his own devising (which is printed inside the sleeve) were meant as extensions of his paintings. Originally released in 1970, it is mostly organ and violin, and comes off both zoney and moving, its tones stretching out as if in resonant corridors. This is the same label – Blume Editions – that has released various Julius Eastman pieces and I am now completely sure it’s worth checking any and all music they release.

Ain Bailey & Jockel Liess – Call and Response 1

I have of late been surprised to learn much too far down the line that people I’ve chatted to many times have their own small record labels, and Adam Matschulat is one. I shouldn’t be surprised at most of these discoveries, but it is always pleasing to discover other people’s excellent endeavours. Matschulat’s label is called Resterecords, and this latest is a split between Ain Bailey on one side and Jockel Liess on the other, framed as a call and response. I have to say it’s the Ain Bailey side, ‘Five Car Train To Fremont’, that has really got me. The first few minutes remind me – probably only because it basically uses repeated spoken word that includes the word ‘CAR’ – of Charles Amirkhanaian’s ‘Church Car’. Its patterns of repeated human speech and synthesized sounds trip off all sorts of associations with all my favourite sound poetry. After that it gets squelchy like a PC internal CD drive thrashing around in a soggy back alley. But it never gets too rigid, scooping out a heart of human crooning in the cables.

Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods
(Freedom To Spend)

Increasing numbers of releases from the fecund reissues market, (which has almost become just ‘the market’ at this point) are of records that aren’t really easily classifiable by genre, sitting somewhere around outsider sounds, new age, pop – not rum, but absolutely not conforming to any mainstream sensibilities. Instead, there has been a rush of discoveries of the singular imaginings of someone on the outside looking in, which is what private press records are often all about.

This Ernest Hood record is one of those. Some of it sounds like the backing music to a mid-70s TV series about life in a suburban town, but perhaps that’s too glib a comparison, and it only takes a couple of plays to uncover deeper resonances. It’s pleasant when heard in the background, with slow drifts of ambient sound, and field recordings of children playing. After a closer listen it becomes stranger, more curious, as a narrative emerges. The record becomes a way of looking at a personal history through sound. It is curious and magical.

Nour Mobarak – Father Fugue

This is the second time in two columns I’ve mentioned Nour Mobarak, but honestly I couldn’t leave this out. I mentioned her 7” last month, and little did I know we would be blessed with a full length just a few weeks later. I thought about just adding a throwaway mention at the end of the column but quite honestly this is one of the most compelling slabs of thinking-in-sound I’ve heard in a very long time. Side One is a wild split stereo experience in headphones, with one channel of sound recordings and a capella ear worms, the other a conversation with her polyglot father who has a 30 second memory. Side Two is a collection of improvised song.

There is a vicarious satisfaction for the listener in hearing someone’s ideas realised so concisely and directly in sonic manipulation. This is what I live for.

Mosquitoes – Vortex Veering Back To Venus
(Feeding Tube)

London trio Mosquitoes are the next point in the lineage of British post punk that we’ve been waiting 20 years for. There is a presence to this stuff that I really struggle to get a good grasp of, to hold in my hand and understand, and it’s this that I think makes them so compelling a listen. It’s not that they’re a bit anonymous, or that it sounds fragmentary, or loose, as they are all and none of these things at once. To call it loose is to imply it could and should be tighter. To call it fragmentary implies that there’s stuff missing, and there definitely isn’t. It’s fully baked, with effects that render room acoustics like a corrugated metal shed, repeating basslines eddying behind serrated guitar, some talking-in-your-sleep vocals that are straight out of Deptford circa 1980, along with a smattering of rim shots, sludgy fuzz, echoes and a whole lotta hiss, crackle and pops of mysterious origin.

They have been err, buzzing around for a while, and have been picked up for the next 12” by Feeding Tube records. It’s on heavy rotation at mine, and I’m annoyed I didn’t get the earlier ones when I had the chance. There’s also barely anything online about this lot, including samples of this new 12”, so please listen to a chunk from an earlier release above.

Keith Fullerton Whitman – STS
(self-released on Bandcamp)

New one from the Gandalf of the modular, who ought to always be listened to because he actually knows what he’s doing with buttons and wires instead of just shoving cables in till it sounds good and hoping you don’t fall in a hole. I once saw this happen to someone live, where the modular wouldn’t stop sounding like a wet otter flapping on a mudbank. Embarrassing. No such risk here. This revolves around the title of the 8-channel installation it is a reduction of – STS. The things this can stand for are listed as a pleasing all-caps text poetry description which runs to roughly three screens in length.

Frode Haltli – Border Woods

I honestly thought in my precarity I was not into the generously funded world of Scandinavian experimental music, but hearing this record, I think perhaps I was just feeling jealous and not able to deal with what appears to be security and prosperity (but which is probably less than that if you don’t sound like Robyn). I saw Frode Haltli play at the HCMF in Huddersfield about a decade ago, and he was a standout for me back then. He plays accordion, with Emilia Amper  on ancient Swedish keyed string instrument, the nyckelharpa.

This is all quite sparse, with one idea executed in each track – a polska that trips up on itself to tangle the two instruments around one another; ‘Wind Through Aspen Leaves’ sounds like just that (with Håkon Stene and Eirik Raude on percussion); wood and stone; and the standout for me, ‘Quietly The Language Dies’ a delicate and moving wordless lament.

Cyanching – Shadow of a Shadow
(Bezirk Tapes)

A real brooder here by Cyanching, a Taiwanese composer living in London. It’s her first album, and there’s some real classy moments and some really fierce ones, grasped with an anxious torque. It sounds like heavy black nimbostratus just about to burst, and when it does it releases a mind-melting squall of power electronics that fades to helicopter blades. I like this comment she makes about being Taiwanese and making music related to her heritage: “This music is all about present ideology, so why do I need to use ‘traditional’ Taiwanese sounds?” 

It’s released on Bezirk Tapes, part run by tQ’s tape columnist extraordinaire Tristan Bath, but I’ve never met him and nobody sent me this and asked me to cover it so you can’t call nepotism on me.

Peter Laughner – Peter Laughner
(Smog Veil)

Finally, I’m putting something in here that I actually haven’t managed to get hold of a promo of because there’s also a huge email backlog at source, and which I haven’t bought because it’s expensive. But judging by the blistered palms on show, there are a lot of people rubbing their thighs in anticipation.

If you’re into Laughner you probably know about this already, and if you don’t it’s probably because you’re not into him. In case you’re on the fence, here’s the short version: lad from Cleveland, played in Rocket From The Tombs and went on to co-found Pere Ubu, and wanted to do for Cleveland what ‘Brian Wilson did for California and Lou Reed did for New York’. But he sounds like none of these people. He died of acute pancreatitis in 1977 at the age of 24 because of his various drink and drug habits, which proved too much even for close friend, Lester Bangs. He left behind some music writing which would be completely unacceptable now, and the tapes collected here. It’s been ten years in the making and will be pressed in one edition only, as a CD set and a 5LP box set priced accordingly (and nearly sold out), likely to soon be out of reach forever.

Some Fragmentary Footnotes On Other Occurrences

One of my favourite shows at Supernormal was this, proper rum music that I missed when it came out earlier in the year because at the time I was concerned more with the maritime funnel than the psychic type of funnel referenced here. ICYMI there’s a new Pharmakon out, and Kevin Drumm has released another thing, this one connected to a GoFundMe. Still trying to get my head around this Trilogy Tapes release. Answers on a postcard, but make sure you send it from somewhere deep in the Japanese underground.

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