Skylla (Vula Viel Records)

Ruth Goller

Released July 29, 2021

The Guardian 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2021




Ruth Goller’s ‘Skylla’ shines a long-awaited light on one of the most important musicians to have driven and revolutionised the UK jazz and improv scenes over the last 16 years. The bassist, vocalist, composer, environmentalist and now solo artist, draws inspiration from deep within to create a stunningly original and beautiful piece of work.
Hailed by the Guardian for her “thunderous bass-guitar hooks’, Goller helped lay the foundation for the UK’s jazz renaissance whilst playing in many of its most influential and popular bands, from her years on stage with Acoustic Ladyland and Melt Yourself Down, to more recently Let Spin and Vula Viel, whilst performing and recording with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Mercury-Award nominee Kit Downes, Sam Amidon, Bojan Z, Marc Ribot, Rokia Traoré, and Paul McCartney.
On ‘Skylla’, Goller in some ways returns to the pure untaught instincts that drove her as a teen punk musician. Working with different tunings for each song, Goller composes instinctively based on what she hears in every moment. As Goller puts it, “at that point muscle memory doesn’t work anymore so I have to trust my ear completely”.
Coming from the border region between Italy and Austria, Goller grew up fascinated by the differences and similarities in the intentions behind speech. This ear for words has influenced her approach to vocals; improvising them through streams of consciousness around her bass playing, focusing on the sound and feeling, and almost inventing a new language through abstraction. As Goller puts it, “Music is a language and I always want to learn as much as I can about it”.
Initially Goller recorded all vocals alone, before inviting accomplished and celebrated vocalists Lauren Kinsella and Alice Grant to lend their additional voices to particular pieces; with the knowledge they would rise to the challenge of singing words free of language to irregular tunings. The final contribution came from Kit Downes, who produced and mixed the album.
Intimate voice and bass guitar entwine in improvised tandem on Goller’s debut album, exhibiting a confidence that reflects her experience at the vanguard of the European jazz scene. A work of uncanny and original beauty on which Goller has reached deep within to find pure honesty and musical originality. As ECM Reviews put it, Goller “unravel(s) an intimacy so deep it (feels) almost blasphemous to be privy to its wonders.” 

Track Listing:

1. Often they came to visit, even just to see how she was (M1) 02:55

2. In more turbulent times, she managed to take the perfect shot (M4) 02:12               

3. What’s really important she wanted to know – part 1 (M6) 04:25

4. What’s really important she wanted to know – part 2 (M7) 03:51    

5. What’s up is not what’s real most of the time (M5) 03:44               

6. When they came closer she realised they were alien creatures (M3) 03:49              

7. The shine of gold was too strong (M8) 03:27                

8. When she curled up they started dancing (M2) 02:53           

9. He was painting her face with colours she had never seen (M9) 01:15            

10. I is One (M10) 04:09     


Ruth Goller: electric bass, double bass and vocals

Alice Grant: vocals (3, 5, 6)

Lauren Kinsella: vocals (4, 6, 7)

All music written and recorded by Ruth Goller.
Produced and mixed by Kit Downes
Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid
Artwork by Paula Rae Gibson
Design by Pedro Velasco

This record is dedicated to my father Paul Goller


Bass guitarist Ruth Goller has played bone-crunching punk jazz, harmonically mysterious Ghanaian ritual music, improv and avant-bop, but this uncategorisable venture, inspired by Greek mythology and aided by singers Lauren Kinsella and Alice Grant, joined iconoclastic ideas about guitar tuning and intonation (reminiscent of Derek Bailey) to ethereal, multi-layered vocal sounds sometimes suggestive of 1980s Laurie Anderson, to startling effect.

John Fordham (The Guardian)