Ruth Goller: Skyllumina review – jazz bassist enters beatific and slightly terrifying new sonic world

Estimated read time 3 min read


In the last twenty years, you may have witnessed Ruth Goller, a bassist from Italy, performing with numerous groups in the edgier side of London’s jazz and improvisational music scene. She has played with bands like Acoustic Ladyland, Melt Yourself Down, Sons of Kemet, and Let Spin, and collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Alabaster DePlume, Marc Ribot, Rokia Traoré, and Damon Albarn. Goller typically plays complex, agile basslines on her short-scale Mustang bass guitar, utilizing a pick.

In this individual undertaking, she has crafted a distinctive soundscape. Using a detuned bass, she repeats mesmeric patterns to produce eerie harmonies – solemn, reverberant, unearthly clangs that could resemble gamelans, temple gongs, or steel pans. She also showcases her vocal abilities: on her debut album as a leader, Skylla (released in 2021), she harmonized with Alice Grant and Lauren Kinsella. However, on this project, Goller takes on all vocal responsibilities herself. Utilizing multi-tracking technology, she fearlessly creates harmonies reminiscent of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, resulting in a collection of slightly unhinged nursery rhymes.

Each track features a different percussionist, with Tom Skinner providing inventive rumbling for the eerie and poetic opening track “Below My Skin,” Mark Sanders adding shimmering cymbals for the major-key chant “Reach Down Into the Deepest White,” and Hütte’s Max Andrzejewski contributing sketchy, textural drums to the gorgeous chorale “All The Light I Have, I Hand To You.” At times, Goller switches to bowed double bass, sawing away beneath the hymnal “She Was My Own, She Was Myself” featuring Bex Burch on kalimbas. Other times, she returns to her roots in hardcore punk, as seen in “How to Be Free From It” where she joins forces with pianist Emanuele Maniscalco, known for his work with ECM, taking on the role of a brutal thrash-metal drummer. Throughout the album, Goller and her guests create a childlike, angelic, and slightly unsettling atmosphere.

:Also this month, new releases are available.

Panoptikon (XKatedral) by Swedish sound composer Maria W Horn is a site-specific recording made in a disused prison. Featuring a choral quartet and organ drones, it is an expansive yet austere work which explores notions of confinement, claustrophobia, solitude and torture, particularly on the title track’s throbbing Gregorian electronica. Daniel Herskedal is a Norwegian composer and tuba player whose intriguing album A Single Sunbeam (Edition Records) starts like a colliery band playing in ultra-slow-motion and slowly mutates into a Peter Gabriel-ish investigation of ritualistic rhythms, unusual vocal effects and ambient soundscapes, played at sludge-rock tempo. Saxophonist Rachel Musson has made a name on London’s free improv scene, but her compelling new album Ashes and Dust, Earth and Sky (Lludw a Llwch, Daear a Nef) sets ambient drones, narrative tenor sax solos and harmonised horn arrangements against field recordings made in London and west Wales.


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