Rum Music For August Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Jennifer Lucy Allan hears strings to evoke fog, sleep and the resurrection of a 200-year-old instrument in this month's Rum Music

WaqWaq Kingdom

In the heat that never seemed to end I watched the butter melt and the plants die. Working was like wading through syrup. I could not concentrate. I skipped and bounced my way through perhaps hundreds of things and struggle to settle my ears.

Along with a plough through the usual new releases, this has included an afternoon digging back into dub and South American psych. I’m still caning the Los Jaivas record I wrote about last month, and it prompted me to go back to artists like Traffic Sound, Lula Cortes and Kaleidoscope (the Puerto Rican one).

I also just ordered my second lockdown batch of dub from Honest Jons, which includes a copy of Augustus Pablo’s Rockers Come East, an album of 1980s digi-dubs, where the title track is downright cute, with chirpy synthesizer melody. It is my August earworm.

However, dub represses do not a column make, so here are the other things that stuck this month. There’s loads of different types of strings, for some reason, along with releases from a really top handful of some of my favourite labels at the moment – Unseen Worlds, Astral Spirits, Phantom Limb, and Black Truffle.

Silvia Tarozzi – Mi specchio e rifletto 

(Unseen Worlds)

A suite of luxurious avant-garde songs and sketches by a long time collaborator with Eliane Radigue. The label write up compares this to Maria Monti’s Il Bestiario and Franco Battiato, and these are spot-on references (and musicians I am a massive fan of).

Tarozzi first set poems by Italian writer Alda Merini to music (Merini’s ‘Aphorisms’ contains the lines: "I sample sin as if it were/

the beginning of well-being") then removed those words and replaced them with her own lyrics. The songs now have the same luxurious and gauzy unreality that I love Battiatio and Monti for, structured as if Tarrozi is crafting intimate emotional dioramas. She tiles miniature rooftops in sung patterns; wiry shrubbery in plucked strings; shapes of birds in watercolour skies with soaring vocals and synthesizer washes of colour. I grow more attached to it each day.

Sarah Hennies – Casts

(Astral Spirits)

Charles Amirkhanian’s Church Car without the church! A reissue of one of Astral Spirits’ early releases back in 2014 by Sarah Hennies, along with a forthcoming new release by her, called The Reinvention Of Romance. Casts worries at isolated sounds – repetition of the word car; a hi-hat, a vibraphone, with subtle absorptions, reflections and augmentations of the sounds, whereas The Reinvention Of Romance worries at strings.

I’ve come to love Hennies’s minimalism, for the way her compositions are designed around repeated movements that never quite repeat the same sounds. Astral Spirits has been killing it of late too, from Crazy Doberman to a second release by the collaborative duo of Lea Bertucci and Amirtha Kidambi, which I have yet to catch up on.

Eiko Ishibashi – Hyakki Yagyō

(Black Truffle)

Hyakki Yagyō is calming, but not ambient; it’s not outwardly obvious that it’s composed, but neither is it improvisational. It’s wormed its way into my dreams because I have had multiple very successful naps to it. While I sleep, it acts like a guide, adding colours and shapes to my half-conscious state, without waking me from reverie. I now recognise it like something well-loved from my past.

I’m struggling to put my finger on an accurate way of describing these two sub-20minute pieces, either because at time of writing it’s over 30 degrees, or because this record is a feeling. I hear the tension of arrival is in a softly tooting flute, and the loose clattering of percussion as its release. There is filmy electronics, delicate instrumentation, and a repeated verse by 15th-century renegade Buddhist poet Ikkyū Sōjun.

Gordon Koang – Unity

(Music In Exile)

Gordon Koang was born blind. After he started out busking on the streets and selling his own CD-Rs, and his local reputation grew into regional fame thanks to some music videos he made going viral online. He then got so massive he was sometimes called "the Michael Jackson of South Sudan". His songs contain Neur rhythms, and are sung in English and Neur.

Koang recorded this when he was waiting for an asylum application to be processed in Australia after conflict broke out again in Sudan. Since it was finished he has been granted permanent residency (opener ‘Asylum Seeker’ sets the words of the immigration board to music, their coldness offset by Koang’s bouncing tunes). File alongside things like The Space Lady, Abner Jay, and Ata Kak, for its straightforward energy and Koang’s irresistible charm.

Ellen Fullman & Theresa Wong – Harbors

(Room 40)

There are many types of fog in the San Francisco Bay, which pour into its bowl like dry ice. The spring fogs are advection fogs, caused by moist air on the waters of the bay, or, by warm air pushed up the hills to cooler climes. The winter fogs are tule fogs, named for a Spanish-Aztec word for the bullrushes around which it gathers.

This album is an evocation of all these fogs, conjured from Ellen Fullman’s long-string instrument and composer Theresa Wong’s cello. Within the breathing of the drones, there are sounds that emerge like horns through the fog and a bow is dropped like the cawing of seabirds wheeling. It is album that is deeply of the landscape it was made both for and in. The three parts are distinct and very beautiful – brightly resonant in the higher register, and dense and opaque like heavy cloud in the low end.

WaqWaq Kingdom – Dokkoisho

(Phantom Limb)

New EP-length release from a duo I love, of Kiki Hitomi and DJ Scotch Egg. They make rushing, bouncing bangers, teeming with samples and structured for short attention spans, although Dokkoisho is a slightly less raucous workout than their bright and bombastic previous EP. Each track still contains multiple drops and fist-pumping moments amid the skipping drum machines, scrambled J-pop chorus lines, and magpie grabs from high-life and dub. Hitomi explains: "Dokkoisho is a Japanese word, an informal interjection roughly equivalent to the heavy sigh in sitting down after a long day of work. It is used in daily life and also for the shout in Sumo matches and Kabuki. It has the meaning that you will continuously carry on.”

Notably, DJ Scotch Egg has another release worth mentioning too, namely a slot on the buttons in the tectonic rhythms of a new 12" on Hakuna Kalala.

Rhodri Davies – Telyn Rawn

A telyn rawn is a type of early Welsh harp that is strung with horse hair. There’s no surviving examples of them, just archival documents that suggest what these early instruments were like, so Rhodri Davies, wanting to play one, went about getting one built, extrapolating from descriptions in early Welsh poetry.

This album’s 18 short improvisations on the instrument are brilliant. There is play and twang, a sense in which the instrument is being tested and sounded. Sometimes it sounds wobbly like a fawn on new legs, in other moments it has grit and shuffle. To make an instrument that hasn’t been heard for 200 years, and then play brand new improvisations on it is bold and refreshing – a forward movement that brings the past along.


Totally missed this Malvern Brume album on Alter, which I ought to have written about a month ago. Keith Fullerton Whitman has made a YouTube playlist of the entire Creel Pone catalogue, truly a gift. Finally: a short composition on wine and lockdown.

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