Upon completion of a cursory internet search for the meaning behind the phrase Yasam Rose, you’re presented with images of the titular cargo vessel, for which this recording by instrumentalist Beni Giles, trading as Adhelm, takes its name, travelling up and down the Thames, along with details of it’s mooring in the East End’s Royal Victoria Dock. One of a number of general cargo vessels that continue to service the capital’s ever dwindling trade empire, the ship cuts a forlorn figure, sturdy, rusting and persistent in its duties. Inspired by TS Eliot’s long form musing The Dry Salvages, written about the river’s cacophonous and often violent effluvia plagued history, this opaquely captivating album bears witness to the persistent allure the river retains upon the city’s inhabitants and the obscurities to be found beneath its murky depths.
Taking its place in the growing lineage of nautical freight themed recordings, whereas albums such as post rockers Boxhead Ensemble’s soundtrack to the Aleutian shipping documentary Dutch Harbor took a more conventional orchestral approach and Slint’s Good Morning Captain restructured Coleridge’s Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner into a terrifying cautionary tale concerning male aggression, this is beyond esoteric in its delivery, seemingly comprised of field recordings made on trips to the river and the vessel’s rotting dank hull. Frenetic rumblings of pipe, plastic and metal thump up against one another, firmly placing the audience, alongside Giles, deep within the swaying bowels of the industrious craft on perilous tides.
Whereas Eliot’s verse steadily floats away from the Thames to discuss such arcane themes as Lord Krishna, the moons of Mars and the perils of the Edgware Road, the record remains doggedly anchored at its stretch of the river as reverberations of foghorn, grinding gears and clanking pipework dredge up the slurry. Beneath the deceptively immobile grey ambient swell rattles a turbulent stream of unease, an impatient watermark of temporal dread as damp strings are pulled taut by the wind, and faint echoes of human voice ripple and foam as a pattering of rain hits eroded lead and tin. Buoyed by its own adventurous disposition, its knotty metallic strains evoke the illusive rhythmic protestations of groups like Ex Easter Island Head and Einstürzende Neubauten plus the gravelly topographic decay associated with Christian Fennesz.
The amalgam of contrasting sounds that shape the structure of these irregular compositions, act as stand-ins for the bustling workforce who continue to make a living upon its waters and those who previously thrived. Each thud and bang calls forth images of diverse humanity and it’s impact upon the rivers history. In Mudlarking, her wonderfully exploratory tome from last year detailing numerous bounties obtained by scouring the riverbanks, Lara Meiklem wrote of the thrill she felt discovering new objects in the slurry beneath the rocks and bone littered shore, saying, “I was a time traveller and a daydreamer. I searched for treasure and communed with the past. I lived in other people’s lives through the objects I found.” Beneath shifting sediment, Adhelm has given voice to the disembodied and subjugated.