Rum Music For May Reviewed By Jennifer Lucy Allan

Multiple lo-fi drum machine projects and mumbling punks in this month's trip around the Rum Music universe, plus orchestras warming up, a soundtrack to a Japanese staging of Jean Genet's Prisoner of Love, and more


Flung out of NZ all the way to me in the big smoke this month was a book-cum-zine publication edited by The Dead C’s Bruce Russell with Luke Wood (a duo who have released a couple of albums together on VHF and elsewhere). It is a series of essays on records the writers fell into, and were changed forever, in one way or another. It’s called A Record Could Be Your Whole World: Vinyl records as the total artwork of the late 20th Century. “We live our lives, but records give them shape and meaning,” Bruce writes in the intro. Amen. 

Before the records though, more books, because I am finding a certain musicality in all this writing. I read: Johanna Hedva’s Your Love Is Not Good (has some good made-up contemporary art practices and I learned a few traditional painting terms along the way); Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt-Ups (essential reclaimed Burroughs for sex fiends – TIP!); Jesse Jarnow’s breathless Heads (incredible side-facts and cameos throughout, and had me asking: what exactly is the difference between a biography of psychedelic America and a book about the Grateful Dead? I have no complaints). 

On the stack is: a mysterious book titled LRD by Grant Maierhofer; the translation of Christoph Dallach’s oral history of Krautrock, Neu Klang; Sophus Helle’s new translations of Gilgamesh and Enheduanna, which leaves in the gaps (à la Anne Carson) and makes these works look like text scores. Gilgamesh, by the way, is not actually called Gilgamesh – it is formally identified by the first line on the tablet, which is usually translated to something like “he who saw the abyss”

I also played a show in Norfolk with Laura Cannell’s Modern Ritual, where her artist/potter sister Sarah threw pots live on stage as I read about how we’re all made from Clay ahead of its publication in July. In the downtime between soundcheck and show I went to The Book Hive (which has a high feral shelf index), and picked up Hannah Levene’s Greasepaint and Oliver Zarandi’s Soft Fruit In The Sun – the latter bought on a whim because the cover endorsement says it is “like getting a hug from David Cronenberg”. 

Takashi InagakiPrisoner Of LovePurge

Takashi Ito’s 1981 short film Spacy is a recursive basketball court burned onto my synapses, a recurring image – an eyeworm? I want to inhabit it, doing lay up after lay up after lay up (no rebounds). The soundtrack to it was by Takashi Inagaki, released on Purge back in 2020. The same label returns this month-ish with more Inagaki, this time for Ito’s staging of Jean Genet’s Prisoner Of Love, a memoir recounting Genet’s time spent with Black Panthers and in Palestinian refugee camps. It begins with the scratch of a pencil writing, layered spoken texts (in Japanese) that fill the sound field; the scratch of a bowed string through a tinny amplifier, radio feedback, a hollow wind. Would your experience of this album change if you understood Japanese? Probably. Do you need to know Japanese to get something from this record? No.  

Bobby WouldRelics Of Our LifeDigital Regress

I am very fond of the specific fug of Bobby Would. Droll dirgey vocals like a long drag of a rollie in the greasy beam of light in a dark pub on a sunny day; guitars like a crisp half a cider. Something about this one means I have found in it an unlikely comparison to Roy Montgomery’s recent exploits, but one where Montgomery’s heart-on-sleeve flights of romantic abandon have been utterly bleached out; weathered into pale forms and hardened to gristle by the daily grind. 

Ibukun SundayField Recording In OrchestraSelf-released

Would I rather listen to an orchestra playing or an orchestra warming up? I struggle to answer. Occasionally Late Junction has recorded live sessions at Maida Vale studios (RIP), and I have crystal clear sonic memories of navigating the hallways. The doors to the large hall would fly open as people rushed in and out, and the sound of a whole room of instruments tuning up and finding their form would drift down the narrow corridors. I love the unpredictability of that sound: the way instruments barge into one another; the way players halt mid-flourish. It is a one-off composition nobody is consciously making. Ibukun Sunday knows all this, I think, and has rightly released these short field recordings as an EP. There is a trumpet soaring momentarily above the hubbub with a flighty scale; a piano tumbling frantically; strings coagulating into a very weird sound bed, before righting themselves to come together like a flock of birds. Perhaps the magic is in the fact this exact piece of ‘music’ will never happen again, or maybe it has something to do with the promise of what is to come. Is this music, or non-music? (The answer to this last one is always: who cares?) 

Bacon GreaseConceptfort evil fruit

Bacon Grease is Andrea Knight in Orlando, who is also in duo Greasy Bitches. Love the name-title one-two of this release: Bacon Grease – Concept. Is bacon grease the concept? Is the artist name a descriptor of the music? I don’t find it particularly greasy, although it does have a meaty sort of quality in the thump of the kicks. It’s got that lo-fi punk energy: mumbled vox all echo and breath, snaking like smoke around daisy chained synths and effects pedals kicking out gloopy acid squelch, the slime scaffolded by fuzzed-out drum machines. Knight has a lot up on Bandcamp, but just a couple of releases in physical formats, meaning you’ll get nowt if you go looking on Discogs. (Someone fill in that artist page!) If you like this, I also recommend the similarly crunchy sound of (Liv).e’s recent album Past Future, because both have prompted some Alan Vega comparisons in their vocal delivery and the crunchy sound quality.

KopyHeart FreshTAL

If that doesn’t sate your thirst for excitable synths and drum machines, I highly recommend this album by Osaka’s Kopy. I met Kopy on my first trip to Japan about seven years ago, I really liked her and we got on, despite having almost no shared language. Perhaps it had something to do with her ability to pour a perfect meniscus on self-serve sake, or just generally high levels of energy occasionally well-channelled into sarcastic jokes. I’ve really liked the raw propulsive force on her self-released EPs over the last few years, and so am glad to see she’s been picked up for this full album on German label TAL. I love the tightly wound torque on the whirring piano and ricocheting tabla sounds on the intro to the flurrying opener ‘Night Sarkas’; the melodic loop on ‘New Walk’ which could be a rudimentary cover version of something from Selected Ambient Works. There’s an equally dense mass of reference points possible – from Aphex Twin to the hyperspeed of Shangaan Electro and Balani Shows – but rather than bringing these things in with a knowing nod, Kopy seems to move through them greedily with a hungry joy. She tries on sounds like so many outfits, styled as masses of bright, inventive track hybrids made from all the presets she could get her hands on, only slowing down for the pensive and reflective closer ‘Moonlight Pool’. 

Jennifer Walshe, Tony ConradIn The Merry Month Of MayDrag City

The recordings on this album constitute the final studio recordings made by Tony Conrad, collaborating with composer and vocalist Jennifer Walshe. These two were good friends, and I can hear the play of being in a room making music with someone you really like. The title track is the one – a belted out drawling repetition of the track title, as Big Tony saws away on the strings, and this gut string thud of bass drops in occasionally to remind you how big the sound field could be. Walshe’s lyrics lean towards repetitive prosaicisms; mundane and conversational monologues (“everything will be fine/I think everything will be fine” on ‘Wake Up’) often ground down into absurd, apparently freely associating texts. Conrad is the organ grinder and eccentric accompanist – on ‘He Only Had One Paw’ he plays like Henry Flynt’s hillbilly blues. The engine at the heart of this is a duo whose friendship always seemed to me to cycle around a certain shared mischievous energy, a love for playing with the textural (and textual), and a ferocious glee in performance. There is, unsurprisingly, an absurdist bent to the whole thing – they’re like knee plays for suburban surrealists; Instagram reels for avant gardists; folk songs for the extremely online (‘O My God’) or drunk (‘The Day of The Fair’). The context for the what and how of the recordings are, let’s say, distorted. Notes I will reproduce in full here, recount their friendship thus: “[They] first began working together after they ran from service as servants of King Pepy I at the end of Old Kingdom Egypt. They were subsequently monks in Carolingean Gaul during the period roughly 820 to 850, Venetian courtesans at Pope Eugene’s court during the mid-15th century, and prisoners on what was then Van Diemen’s Land in 1843, where Walshe tried to secure Conrad’s escape using ‘remote viewing’ techniques. The unfortunate outcome of the latter incident resulted in Conrad’s work as a stage magician in Australia in the 19th century, where in trying an audience riot, they both accidentally ingested leprosy vectors and subsequently lost three legs and two arms between them.”


1) Table Of The Elements has joined Bandcamp, good news because its releases were mainly on CD, meaning fantastic music languishes on this most underrated format. 2) Vainio heads: Olento is out on vinyl (again? Depends how you count the limited Sähkö 2LP). 

Final tip is for the third in my absolute all-time favourite series of comps from Now Again, collecting heavy psychedelic ballads and dirges. The series began with the unbeatable Forge Your Own Chains, ran through Tickets For Doomsday and now hits the triple with Pale Shades Of Grey. Some knowns on here, like WITCH, Ofege, and Kaleidoscope (the Puerto Rican band sampled on Beyoncé’s ‘Freedom’, not the British group) as well lesser knowns like Image, about whom I found out almost nothing in an initial swizz around online. TIP!

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