Julia Reidy, photo by Joe Talia
This month I traveled across the pond for a family visit to the suburbs of Chicago, with an essential weekend in the city trawling the racks. We were planning on doing a day of digging on the Saturday, but noticed in the nick of time that this particular Saturday was the unholiest of days in our lord’s musical calendar – Record Store Day. Since nobody who actually likes music wants to spend a day in a record shop on RSD, we altered the schedule accordingly, hoping to pop in a day early and snag the best new second hand stock before locusts descend.
In the event, however, I ended up buying a load of stuff I’d passed over for their eye-watering cost in the UK, filling out some essential catalog gaps in my shelves. Loads of new LPs were £10-15 less than at home, where single LPs seem to be as much as £28 due to various unavoidable cost increases. Case in point: the absolutely essential recent repress of nyabinghi classic Peace And Love — Wadadasow by Dadawah was about £12 less than in the UK. This album is also my first Rum Music recommendation for April.
Anyway, we hit the obvious spots: Dusty Groove, Reckless, trotted down to Myopic Books, ate a Chicago hot dog (don’t mention ketchup), sat at the bar when we drank a beer (something only the dependent do in the UK ) and went to a terrific screening of experimental films by Benjamin Balcom – including one on Black Mountain College with a Charles Olson reading edited into non sequiturs and utterances – as part of a much bigger program saying goodbye to microcinema The Nightingale. It’s been a while since I traveled like this, and at The Nightingale I remembered the pleasure of being parachuted into small scenes, surrounded by new people with fabulously niche interests. I knew I was in a good place when the in-between material was a 16mm public information film about different kinds of transport.
Now, I’m writing from a public library in the Chicago suburbs, hoping to record the sound of American multiphonic train horn passing across Main Street, and will run in the woods later, where the birds sing different songs.
Patty Waters— you loved me
This one was a late entry, so I include it with the caveat that I haven’t fully processed it yet. It is a vinyl remaster that brings together tracks that have been released digitally on a label called Waters Sings, about which I know very little, along with two tracks recorded live at Lone Mountain College in 1974. I think the former tracks were also on the CD compilation You Thrill Me. They are claiming to be a missing link between her emotionally engulfing avant-garde albums for ESP-Disk, and more recent recordings of her, and I think I’d agree. Waters sounds settled and in complete control here; with every word her voice de ella is a painting. Additionally, there’s also the extended piano piece ‘Touched By A Rodin In A Paris Museum’. More recent recordings can occasionally feel brittle and sometimes overwhelmingly difficult, but the songs here are possessed of a warmth and ease. That’s not to say they’re Easy Listening of course, but are possessed of Water’s inimitable inflections that encompass sensitivity, grace, and the raw flesh of experience. She sounds strong and purposeful; fiery and loving in her invocations of her lust. If you listen to one song this month, make it the a cappella ‘My Man’s Gone Now’, a soul-gouging sorrowful blues that is jawdropping, and gave me the timeshift feeling of awe. It is both an exorcism and a prayer; sacred and profane. No streaming up yet but you can hear samples at some record shop sites and the digitals they’re sourced from are on YouTube and Spotify etc, but not Bandcamp.
The G – Zwarte Vijver
(NEXT Festival Recordings)
Recorded in 2018 at NEXT festival in Bratislava, Zwarte Vijver is two side long pieces by Belgian singer-mangler Èlg, a consistently underrated musician who made my favorite release on Hundebiss records about ten years ago, and who collaborated with the late Ghédalia Tazartès and Jo Tanz as Reines d’Angleterre for a Bo’Weavil LP which also comes highly recommended. Sonically, Èlg and Tazartes are a good match – they operate in similar spheres of not-songs, with different geographical and generational touchpoints. Here, there’s singing once removed, as if performing to an unknown audience neither in this world nor the next (despite it being a live recording to an audience in meatspace). There are murky (but not doomy) drum machines defiantly un-synced and off-beat, exploited for their percussive function but not their rhythm keeping capacity. There’s a distinctive weft to his recordings of him, something dry and claggy and tangled, and a sense in which a performance of songs looms in a blind spot I cannot quite focus on. I love it.
Shun Nakaseko- Secret of Sound
Two pieces here: the first is a recording of some really terrific car horns at a busy intersection in Nepal, recorded in 2010 — notable because a horn ban was implemented in Kathmandu in 2017. The intersection stretches from Kathmandu out to the provinces, and there are a cacophony of different horns here, with a breadth of improvising players. There are puttering beeps and pip-pipping; honked out Morse code patterns; long leans on the steering wheel blaring out drones; horns playing short multi-note motifs, and some even with melodies. It’s probably one of the best car horn recordings I’ve ever heard. The second piece ‘A Cricket in Sunflower’ is much more bare bones — a long recording of a cricket chirping on a boat, the rumble of the vessel offsetting the tiny chirrup. Nakaseko writes that it is “a recording of the chirping of a cricket that had boarded a ship alone. It makes sense that it would continue to chirp in this situation with no companions around at all. Hopefully his friends will hear his chirp when the ship arrives”. The Bandcamp listing also includes novelty merch: a $999 extra plastic ear thing to stick on your phone, which is ‘loosely assembled – best as an ornament??’ and only available “as a gamble”. Julia Reidy — World In World (Black Truffle)
Some years ago I was knocked sideways by a Julia Reidy show where they played solo guitar. Their fingerpicking was pure fire, and I loved it, especially since I have a soft spot for that kind of thing. However, I found it hard to connect with their last few releases, which were dominated by electronic washes of sound and a pastel palette, and which I struggled to connect to no matter how hard I tried. World In World is a kind of mid-point; an absolute triumph of just-intoned electric guitars. The just intonation lends the tracks an awkward and dissonant feel that settles after repeated listens. On ears attuned to equal temperament, it’s a bit like watching looking through a tinted window then trying to adjust to the world’s normal colours. It’s brilliant. There’s a somewhat lighter touch with soundscape and voice here too, so the strings are up front clanging their magic in the ears, without breaking the spell. It seems a difficult line to tread — to make the unfamiliarity of these tunings bewitching — but Reidy totally nails it. They hold space, ironing in the creases, and while it’s a little like a lot of things, it’s not a lot like anything.
Various Artists — Deep Cuts
Top comp of tracks from the contemporary Indian electronic scene, taken from across the country, mostly occupying the space around experimental electronics, influenced variously by metal and grindcore, hip hop and ambient, plus one (just one) instance of a breakbeat. The short opener of ‘Atman’ by Konflicts is great, and the lolloping awkwardness of kaaareeegar’s ‘Fify Four Nine’ is right up my street — dequantized presets and samples that trip and stagger. I want to hear more from manu_bhaiya, too, whose zoney and scraped ‘Vignettes 1-3’ should come on a spray-painted CD-R from 2004. A bit of searching around and most artists seem to be just getting established with one or two releases online, but some also just exist on less obvious platforms, like kaaareeegar, who has been posting mostly on Substack, and Jagernot from Chennai, whose hiccupping scintillations led me to their music making software DIN Is Noise that is partly inspired by central Asian string instruments. I’m not into everything here, such as the more ambient tracks by Soft Problems and KOKO, but this is a comp I desperately needed, to get me off the drudging superhighway of established feeds and search out artists and labels I’d otherwise miss .
Terry Jennings— Piece For Cello And Saxophone
Pretty important release incoming on Saltern: the first-ever release of an 84-minute-long drone work by TEM-affiliate Terry Jennings, composed in 1960, arranged in just intonation by La Monte Young, and performed by legendary cellist Charles Curtis in 2016 There are very few recordings of Jennings’ work out there, and what there is, is for piano, so this would be an important release even if it wasn’t completely brilliant. While Jenning’s piano work resembles Denis Johnson’s compositions, this piece feels more like an extension of the recordings Saltern released of cellist Charles Curtis’ work. In terms of its place in minimalism, this piece is not like TEM, nor is it as caustic as Conrad. It’s not tessellating like Riley, and it’s more sinuous than Young’s Trio For Strings (at least I think it is — that box set of 4LPs was priced very inaccessibly). Also, there is no saxophone on it, despite the title. It is, however, a shifting sand dune of strings in slow motion, anchored by a tanpura-like drone and clearly influenced by Indian classical music. Young’s leaking ego though, gets smeared over everything he touches (press release bio includes quotes from the 1980s stating he’s the most influential composer in America, and the jarring statement that “in 1962 Young founded his group The Theater of Eternal Music” — emphasis on the ‘his’, bleurgh). Dismiss this posturing though, because this is a transcendent work, one which opens up the possibility of drawing comparisons across a half century, to Éliane Radigue’s Occam works (which Curtis has played), or even all the way through to contemporary drone-preoccupied composers like Ellen Arkbro. It’s not out till July but extracts are streaming now.
Early heads up on this Hakuna Kulala album of work made on Africa’s first DIY modular synthesizer, a huge wall of home-made modules and FX units:
This eight-minute piece by dj sniff: