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Ruth Goller: Skyllumina

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Ruth Goller: Skyllumina
The Italian-born, British-based bassist and composer Ruth Goller has been rattling jazz's cage since 2007, the year she joined Acoustic Ladyland. The band was in the vanguard of what became known as "jazz punk," although its sound was closer to metal than classic punk, and the lineup included tenor saxophonist Pete Wareham and drummer Sebastian Rochford. Four years later, Acoustic Ladyland disbanded and Goller and Wareham morphed into Melt Yourself Down, where they were joined by tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and drummer Tom Skinner, both on the cusp of forming Sons of Kemet, which also included Rochford (and which opted for a tuba player rather than a bassist). There is not enough space here to list all the bands Goller has been associated with since then, but the roll call is as strewn with star dust as it is lengthy.

Given her achievements, and the high reputation she enjoys on the British jazz scene, it is surprising that it took Goller until 2021 to release an album under her own name, unless, as might well have been the case, she was simply too busy to have the time for it. Intimate and dreamlike, Skylla (Vula Viel) was at the far end of the spectrum from Goller's trademark, thunderous bass-guitar lines. It was also beyond category. People loved it and Skylla picked up rave reviews. Goller played double bass and electric bass on the album and, with Alice Grant and Lauren Kinsella, was one of three singers. There were no other musicians.

Skylla's follow-up, Skyllumina, on the estimable Chicago-based label International Anthem, inhabits similar terrain and was born out of a similar creative process, including Goller's detuned electric and double basses, which figured large in Skylla's creation and live performances. But there are significant differences. Perhaps most consequentially, this time out Goller has involved drummers and percussionists. A different drummer or percussionist accompanies her on each of the ten tracks. Most of the players—the aforementioned Skinner and Rochford plus Mark Sanders, Jim Hart, Max Andrzejewski, Bex Burch, Emanuele Maniscalco, Will Glaser and Frank Rosaly—are people Goller has played with before. Just one, Rosaly, was suggested by International Anthem.

With the exception of one track featuring Kinsella, Goller takes all the vocals on the album. She has never trained as vocalist, considering herself first and foremost a bassist, and she says she approaches singing intuitively. And therein lies some of the album's charm. The singer becomes the song, and the song the singer.

The video below (with Goller in the skull mask) provides a better introduction to Skyllumina than any amount of words could. "Below My Skin" is the album's opener and lead single. Goller says the track is about intimacy and sensuality; about being so close to someone that you lose the boundaries of your own body; about being elevated to another level of consciousness. But you do not need to know that to be moved by it.

Breathtakingly beautiful, Skyllumina is a perfect off-the-wall masterpiece. Hopefully, Goller will take it on the road and give it the same sort of theatrical presentation as she did Skylla. Stay tuned.

Goller talks about Skyllumina in an interview that can be found here.

Track Listing

Below My Skin; Reach Down Into The Deepest White; Of Snowhere; Next Time I Keep My Hands Down; All The Light I Have, I Hand To You; She Was My Own She Was Myself; How To Be Free From It; From Breaks To Shreds, It’s A Short Path; Don’t Follow Me; I Have For You.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Ruth Goller: electric bass, double bass, vocals; Tom Skinner: drums, electronics (1); Mark Sanders: drums (2, 3); Jim Hart: drums, vibraphone (3, 4); Max Andrzejewski: drums (5); Bex Burch: sanza, llimba (6); Emanuele Maniscalco: drums (7); Sebastian Rochford: drums (8); Will Glaser: gongs (9); Frank Rosaly: drums, percussion (10); Lauren Kinsella: vocals (8).

Album information

Title: Skyllumina | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: International Anthem Recording Company


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