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Utility Fog


Your weekly fix of postfolkrocktronica, dronenoise, power ambient, post-everything improv... and more?
Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.
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Playlists are listed with artist name first, then track title and (remixer), then [record label]. Enjoy the links.

Sunday, 28th of December, 2008

Playlist 28.12.08 (10:10 pm)

Best of 2008 part 1! Excitement builds. Pretty much all of this stuff, tonight and next week, is covered in this bumper 2008 post

Shearwater – The Snow Leopard [Matador]
iTAL tEK – Deep Pools [Planet µ] {technically this came out in 2007 on Square, but it’s on the 2008 album and it’s a nice juxtaposition with the Shearwater piano…}
Scuba – Suck [Hotflush]
aus – Moraine (Bracken Remix) [Preco]
Starkey – Escape [Planet µ]
Cardopusher – Double Dragon [Lo Dubs]
Zomby – The Lie [Ramp Recordings]
brael – Morning [mobeer]
brael – Blue Field [mobeer]
Sunken Foal – Dutch Elm [Planet µ]
Avey Tare – I’m Your Eagle Kisser [Rare Book Room]
Why? – The Fall Of Mr Fifths [Anticon]
Youthmovies – Polyp [BLAST First (petite)]
Department of Eagles – Around the Bay [4ad]
Final Fantasy – Blue Imelda [Blocks Recording Club]
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 1,000,000 Died to Make this Sound [Constellation]
Autistic Daughters – Richest Woman in the World (feat. Chris Abrahams) [Kranky]
Fennesz – June [Table of the Elements]
Machinefabriek – Dauw [Dekorder]
Spartak – The National Single [sound&fury]
Mirrored Silver Sea – Ghost Blossom [sound&fury]
Burning Star Core – Beauty Hunter [Hospital Productions]
3ofmillions – the hand of god [space dairy records]
Children of the Wave – Something good [Sensory Projects]
polyfox and the union of the most ghosts – hang by a thread [skyhut] {download from skyhut for free!}
Oren Ambarchi – Highway of Diamonds [Touch]
Seekae – John Duncan [self-released]


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Sunday, 21st of December, 2008

Playlist 21.12.08 (10:01 pm)

Argh. It’s the Christmas show! Luckily, it’ll be three hours of music completely unrelated to this adopted pagan holiday. Breathe a sigh of relief.

Robert Wyatt – Alliance [Hannibal]
Stars – your ex-lover is dead (final fantasy remix) [arts & crafts]
Final Fantasy – Ultimatum [Slender Means Society]
Final Fantasy – The Ballad of No-Face [Blocks Recording Club]
Squirrel Nut Zippers – Ghost of Stephen Foster [Fontana]
Andrew Bird – A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left [Rightous Babe]
Abelcain – Black Bone Orchid (remix by Cdatakill) [Ad Noiseam] {sampling Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet…}
Distance – Present Day [Planet µ]
Fieldhead – birthday celebrations [no label]
Adrian Klumpes & Machinefabriek – second dew [sound&fury]
Scissor Lock – scribbles [sound&fury]
The Declining Winter – yorkcitythree (Fieldhead remix) [self-released]
The Declining Winter – yorkcitythree (The Remote Viewer remix) [self-released]
Seekae – Forest Fire [self-released]
Seekae – Long Time Fish Pie [self-released]
Himuro Yoshiteru – wet you [tngrm]
Boards of Canada – Hi Scores [SKAM]
Gescom – Key Nell 2 [SKAM]
Funckarma – Lignite [dub/Sending Orbs]
Funckarma – Magaz Stinged [n5MD]
Richmond Lamarr – merlynstone [self-released]
Daedelus – Our Last Stand [Ninja Tune]
DJ Food – Dark Blood [Ninja Tune]
London Funk Allstars – Junkie’s Bad Trip [Ninja Tune]
The Herbaliser – Mrs Chombee Takes The Plunge (DJ Food Re-bake) [Ninja Tune]
Dave Brown – 8 Words Dissolved In Eyes (Gettysburg) [NOW now Festival sampler]
Silver Bone Tone – ATS [demo]
Persistently Plastic Things – Hallucin [self-released]
Ohana – One on Four [Imperative Residence]
Youthmovies – Magic Diamond [BLAST First (petite)]


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Sunday, 14th of December, 2008

Utility Fog’s “2008” post, incorporating the year-end ridiculously-comprehensive listening list and other lists! (10:30 pm)

I’m defying all recommendations to the contrary, and sticking this all in one post! It’s huge, but I like it like that :)

If there’s one thing I can take away from 2008’s music for me, it’s beauty and mystery. Many of the artists I’ve discovered and many of the releases I’ve treasured have featured utterly odd song structures, and harsh noise crossed with delicate loveliness. But there’s also been plenty of rhythm – with the best of dubstep grabbing me for days on end, and some exciting breakcore and idm appearing later in the year – and melody, from the likes of Department of Eagles and Andrew Bird, not to mention the wonderful Why?. All in all, 2008 seems to have had a lot going for it.

I tried to put together a short list for this year – FBi wanted 5 and I gave them 6 after much deliberation. However, even that list was quickly put together before I did the complete one below, and as I scoured my hard drive and playlists, I kept on discovering more and more! A top 10 is impossible, but here’s something like my:

Top 21 releases of 2008

3ofmillions – immediate [space dairy records]
Autistic Daughters – Uneasy Flowers [Kranky]
James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes [Tompkins Square]
bleeding heart narrative – all that was missing we never had in the world [tartaruga]
The Bug – London Zoo [Ninja Tune]
Burning Star Core – Challenger [Hospital Productions]
Cardopusher – Unity Means Power [Murder Channel]
Department of Eagles – In Ear Park [4ad]
Fennesz – Black Sea [Touch]
Mirrored Silver Sea – Continual Ascension [sound&fury]
Nico Muhly – Mothertongue [Bedroom Community]
Scuba – A Mutual Antipathy [Hotflush]
Shearwater – Rook [Matador]
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 13 blues for thirteen moons [Constellation]
Spartak – Tales From The Colony Room [hellosQuare]
Sunken Foal – Fallen Arches [Planet µ]
Vert – New Thing At Novara [Sonig]
Why? – Alopecia [Anticon]
Youthmovies – Polyp EP [BLAST First (petite)]
Various Artists – Living Bridge [Rare Book Room]
Various Artists – Recovery [Fractured Recordings]

The all-important “What I discovered this year, embarrasingly” list

Hans Appelqvist
{I heard a track of his on a Wire Mag comp earlier this year and knew I had to investigate. Mainly while in Europe and Japan in the middle of the year I managed to snaffle up his back catalogue. A somewhat mysterious style of acoustic instrumentation meeting electronic studio effects, it’s just my kind of thing. Nothing came out this year though.}
James Blackshaw
{Phil from Norman Records has been raving about this guy for some time, so while overseas I thought I’d give him a try. While visiting Sound323 I had a listen to 2006’s O True Believers, which turned out to be the perfect starting point. Blackshaw is an apparently self-taught guitar picking hero, and his cyclical quasi-baroque compositions at their best are wonderfully hypnotic. Luckily Tompkins Square have been re-releasing his old stuff, so I’ve now got a complete set, and the 2008 release is very fine.}
Andrew Bird
{I’ve been aware of Mr Bird for ages, and admired his contributions on the Squirrel Nut Zippers albums, but it took an awesome solo performance at the Vanguard near the beginning of the year (violin, loop pedal, voice, whistling and guitar) to force me to grab his whole back-catalogue almost in one go. A great ear for clever lyrics, interlocking melodies and a slight exoticism about the whole thing. Best album is Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs, but just about everything is great – see below for the one 2008 release!}
Burning Star Core
{OMG brain implode. While visiting Volcanic Tongue in Glasgow I was fortunate to hear Challenger (his main 2008 record) on the stereo. It was a rainy day and we’d traipsed out there especially to check out the racks of esoteric weirdness, and I’m very glad BxC was playing. C Spencer Yeh, a classically-trained violinist (once upon a time, much like me on cello), is an absolute master at evoking the beauty of noise: From harsh string scrapings to evolving distorted guitar drones, the occasional krautrocky jams, terrifying vocal emanations, and computer-mediated broken-down samples, the BxC experience is unpredictable and pretty much unlike anything else even in the experimental/noise/drone world. Needless to say I now have 6 of his CDs on my shelves and various other rarities downloaded…}
The Chap
{How did I miss this one? Popfrenzy put out their last album here and I think I dismissed it as something silly and too disco. I assumed it was what it could’ve been, but it turns out to be so much more. They have a dab hand in melodic indie rock, some great string arrangements, electro-oddness, and yes, very silly English vocals. But they’re somehow endearing, and zany like the uncle you begrudgingly accept as cool despite the Dad jokes and generation gap. Um. No really.}
Dälek
{I still need to a proper retrospective on these guys. Industrial hip-hop, inspired as much by My Bloody Valentine or Spacemen 3 as by Public Enemy, Dälek’s music thrills me to the core. Swathes of noise and heavy beats, with the heavy impetus and experimentalism of (say) krautrock (see their collaboration with Faust) and politically-charged lyrics. The outro to their track “Abandoned Language” from last year, growing out of a chaos of sampled strings, is a thing of beauty. They’ve been remarkably consistent over 10 years of production, and still pack a lot of punch.}
Lucky Dragons
{Well, I actually bought the first Lucky Dragons album, on 555 Records, back in 2002 when it came out. At that point 555 felt like the greatest label in the world, and this band sounded great. I was totally thrown by Dark Falcon at the time though, and in hindsight it seems quite ahead of its time, with naïve indiefolk songs scattered in the middle of glitchy breaks and field recordings. When the new album came out this year, I grabbed that one off the shelf and discovered how great it actually is. When they came out for TINA and played at the Paddington Uniting Church I was able to grab the important albums in between, and in particular A Sewing Circle collects a huge amount of their material and showcases their brilliance. The newie isn’t quite as exciting, but that’s ok. They manage that strange balance that The Books have perfected, of sounding scattershot & accident-ridden, yet being in many ways immaculately constructed. The computer is ever-present but organic humanity shines through it all.}
Machinefabriek
{To be honest I’m only just getting to know the work of Rutger Zuydervelt. Boomkat’s 14 tracks did a little retrospective on him, which might be a good place to start. I had assumed he was too minimalist for my taste, but I’ve been leaning more towards noise and drone this year (not really surprising for a fan of Fennesz, Mego et al), and what I’ve heard so far of his work is beautiful, melding acoustic instruments and copious glitchery with glacial timespans, but with plenty going on to hold the ear. There’s some great back-catalogue stuff (e.g. the 2CD Weleer), but see below for a 2008 release.}
Tape
{Tape can be a little hit-and-miss, and had always seemed to err on “miss” to me, promising more than they delivered, but perhaps with the help of their latest album (see below) I’ve gained an appreciation for their pretty instrumental pieces, especially when noise squalls over the melodies. So yeah, OK, I was wrong – they’re great.}

And now… The list! – split into compilations, reissues, and the rest…

Top compilations (there were quite a few!)

Various Artists – bip_hop generation vol. 9 [BiP_HOp]
{Surprise new entry into the series (actually there was one in 2006), this one featuring Kammerflimmer Kollektief and Adrian Klumpes amidst an altogether very fine lineup.}
Various ArtistsMary-Anne Hobbes – Evangeline [Planet µ]
{Excellent mostly-dubstep compilation from the BBC DJ, made infinitely better by the inclusion of a track from Ben Frost’s Theory of Machines.}
Various Artists – Imaginational Anthem Vol 3 [Tompkins Square]
{Tompkins Square also put out a boxset of all three Imaginational Anthem comps this year, so you can now have 3CDs’ worth of guitar-picking goodness, from the ’60s to the present! Volume 3 is notable for a gorgeous new piece from Greg Davis!}
Various Artists – Living Bridge [Rare Book Room]
{Stunning, easily compilation of the year except for Recovery(!), with brilliant tracks from Avey Tare (that one still spins me out), Palms, Samara Lubelski and many many others.}
Various Artists – Magnetism, That Electricity [Highpoint Lowlife]
{Released as double vinyl and also on limited CD in Highpoint Lowlife’s now-trademark DVD box packaging, this compilation has a surprisingly consistent sound across Mandelbrot Set’s postrock-with-violin-and-electronics, Fisk Industries & The Marcia Blaine School For Girls’ electronica, capped off by a 19-minute hodge-podge of everything from Marcia Blaine member The Village Orchestra.}
Various Artists – Noise Room [Sonig]
{Documenting “an autonomous surround sound space built for pre-recorded musical works and sonic experiments” (i.e. audio installation works), this features brilliant contributions from Adam Butler, Mouse on Mars, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Jason Forrest and many others.}
Various Artists – Recovery [Fractured Recordings]
{Hard to beat this one, equal top with Living Bridge, with some amazing contributions, gorgeously packaged as ten 7″ records with individually created line-art, in a lovely box. Fennesz covering a-ha would almost be enough on its own, but Jóhann Jóhannson works his magic on OMD, and for a while I could not stop listening to Robert Lippok & Caroline Thorpe doing George Michael’s “Freedom!”(!) Full tracklist here.}
Various Artists – Teaism [Static Caravan]
{Tea-themed comp curated by Inch-time, with a truly wonderful contribution from Pimmon, delicious new Tunng and lots more…}
Various Artists – Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow Vol. 1 [sound&fury]
{I have a track on this, but so do some genuinely excellent people, including Pretty Boy Crossover, Part Timer, Scissor Lock and an amazing track from Spartak, as well as a number of very fine o/s artists. It’s great that Adam D Mills is concentrating on making sound&fury such a great label.}

Reissues of the year

Gas – Nah Und Fer [Kompakt]
{All four of Gas’s classic ambient/minimal/post-classical albums in one lovely box. I never had the courage to buy them back in the day, as I’ve always been a bit allergic to minimal techno and 4/4 in general. Nevertheless, I think even in the olden days I would’ve liked the submerged, looped samples of German orchestral music that Wolfgang Voigt constructs his music from here. Deservedly iconic/iconoclastic.}
Not Drowning, Waving – Claim [Liberation Blue]
{One of the best NDW albums, although I’m a big fan all the way through. Great to see these albums getting re-released, albeit with little fanfare.}
Saddleback – Everything’s a Love Letter [Preservation]
{Yes, I’m playing on this one, but not as much as on the second album. The beautiful first album was reissued this year with Everything’s Open to Interpretation tacked on the end – reworkings by various Preservation types in fine style, with particularly excellent contributions from Aaron Martin, Post and Richard Skelton.}

Everything else!

13 & God – Live In Japan [Art Union]
{When I was in Japan in July I was surprised to see this on the shelves. Excellent live performances of all the tracks from the album plus (appropriately) the Notwist remix of Themselves’ track “Out In The Open”.}
2 Foot Yard – Borrowed Arms [Yard Work]
{The wonderful Carla Kihlstedt’s trio put out an album that’s almost impossible to find. Thank goodness for Downtown Music Gallery. See more from Carla below; she’s the violinist in the impossibly wonderful Tin Hat (previously Tin Hat Trio).}
3ofmillions – immediate [space dairy records]
3ofmillions – golden calf [hellosQuare]
{Adrian Klumpes, no longer playing in Triosk (RIP) or Pivot, has formed this astounding new trio with Abel Cross and boy-wonder Finn Ryan, taking the keys/bass/drums jazz trio, augmenting it with effects pedals galore, and chopping it up even more in the studio. Awesome.}
65daysofstatic – The Distant and Mechanised Glow of Eastern European Dance Parties [Monotreme]
{The only release from the Sheffield band this year, as they’ve been touring with The Cure. This EP contains some radical reworkings of a track from the last album, with a nice rave/drum’n’bass feel. Check out their awesome remixes of the four Cure singles from this year as well, on the Hypnagogic States EP. Making latter-day Cure sound not just good but cutting-edge is an achievement!}
Abelcain & Cdatakill – Passage [Ad Noiseam]
{Partly a reissue of the two artists’ split 12″ from a few years back, this is fleshed out to a full album with newer tracks and remixes by each of each other. It’s billed as a collaboration, and is one of the best breakcore releases of the year easily. Love the sampling of Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet on the last track too!}
The Accidental – Knock Knock [Full Time Hobby]
{Didn’t particularly like the album, but the Tunng and Benge remixes on this 7″ are great!}
Shoeb Ahmad – Sea Songs, Dead Ends & Sleeping Pills [sound&fury]
Shoeb Ahmad – In The City (EP) [hellosQuare]
{Shoeb runs hellosQuare, which has grown into one of the most exciting labels in Australia, but his solo work and collaborations (including Spartak, below) are awesome too. The album is quite song-oriented, conpared to some of his glitchy/ambient experimentation. The EP (a 3″ CD housed in a beautiful crocheted sleeve) features three tracks from the album remixed by Cleptoclectics, Bracken(!) and Inch-time}
Alias – Resurgam [Anticon]
{Alias has reliably produced excellent tracks for Anticon and Anticon-related artists for many years, and his latest album has some stupendous beats, as well as a great collaboration with Why?}
Oren Ambarchi – Destinationless Desire [Touch]
Oren Ambarchi – A Final Kiss On Poisoned Cheeks [Table of the Elements]
{Two wonderful vinyl-only releases from our Oren. The Touch 7″ includes a Fairport Convention cover. Beautiful guitar processing, organs, smattering of vocals… It seems like every time Oren puts out a new release he takes a massive step forward, and considering how high the bar has been after the last couple of albums, that’s saying something. The Table of the Elements 12″ is part of their guitar series of one-sided 12″s, marbled vinyl with a stunning etching by Savage Pencil on the flipside. Oren’s long piece is a thing of scintillating loveliness.}
Animal Collective – Water Curses [Domino]
{Almost forgotten from the start of the year, four brilliant bits of freak folk or whatever. Can’t wait for the new album!}
Ass – My Get Up And Go Just Got Up And Went [Headspin]
{Ass’s self-titled first album floored me last year, and the new one is very welcome round these parts, with more gorgeous guitar picking and soundscaping. Static Caravan gave both albums a release outside of Sweden.}
Atlas Sound – Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel [kranky/4ad]
{We had to wait till near the end of the year for a new Deerhunter album, but Bradford Cox’s solo album more than made up for it. I think it’s better than the Deerhunter, with bedroom/laptop productions and the rapturous singing style he’s developed.}
aus – Lang Remixed [Preco]
{Best remix album of the year, with a stellar entry from Bracken, the surprising inclusion of State River Widening, and on-form tracks from Ulrich Schnauss, The Remote Viewer, Dosh and more…}
Autechre – Quaristice [Warp]
{I wrote an article for Cyclic reviewing this album in the context of my Autechre fandom. The limited edition’s extra tracks, plus even more extras on Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae, resulted in some excellent material as usual.}
Autistic Daughters – Uneasy Flowers [Kranky]
{Four years after the debut release from Dean Roberts & co comes the new album. With help from Chris Abrahams on a couple of tracks, this is the best example yet (from a very strong back-catalogue) of Roberts’ melding of experimental music and subtle songwriting.}
aXXo – Silvah Bullet [Killtone]
{awesome dubstep/dub from a couple of indie/eletronic types… I know who but I ain’t telling}
Bar Kokhba Sextet – Lucifer: (Masada) Book of Angels Vol. 10 [Tzadik]
{Zorn’s original Bar Kokhba album took his the “Radical Jewish Culture” of his post-Ornette Coleman jazz quartet Masada and reconfigured the music for chamber ensembles. The Bar Kokhba group features the wonderful Masada String Trio, and cellist Erik Friedlander is one of my heroes. I haven’t found the music from Masada Book 2 quite as thrilling, but these renditions (along with the Secret Chiefs’ – see below) are probably the most convincing yet.}
Because of Ghosts – This Culture of Background Noise [Feral Media]
{Recorded at thee mighty hotel2tango in Montreal, the new album finds BoG surprisingly unchanged; I guess they always had the classic postrock sound anyway. Some nice tape effects and of excellent strings from Godspeed/Silver Mt Zion members.}
Benga – Diary of an Afro Warrior [Tempa]
{Not the highlight dubstep album of the year for me, nevertheless this was great, and included the insta-classic collab with Coki, “Night”.}
benoît pioulard – temper [kranky]
{The lovely Lexy Savvides drew my attention to the pseudonymous Thomas Meluch’s brand of folktronica, combining an almost Elliot Smith-like ear for folk songwriting with shoegazey washes and crunchy beats. It’s worth saying that Kranky is the perfect home for Benoît Pioulard, and Jessica Bailiff is an obvious comparison point.}
Andrew Bird – live in montreal [self-released, available from his online shop if you’re lucky]
{See above regarding my late entry into Andrew Bird fandom. The self-released Fingerlings albums’ live versions have always been highlights, so it’s excellent to have a whole live album to put in my 2008 list, in advance of January 2009’s Noble Beast!}
Guy Blackman – Adult Baby [Unstable Ape]
{Sometime Japan-resident Blackman, head honcho of Chapter Music, presents a surprisingly non-experimental album of twee pop, recalling a Melbournian Belle & Sebastian perhaps, bringing off a kind of prosaic poetry that’s somehow heightened by the flat affect of his vocals.}
James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes [Tompkins Square]
{It’s great, having discovered Blackshaw only this year (see above), that his 2008 album is one of his best, this time incorporating piano on a few tracks (which he plays in much the same style as he does the guitar), and some wonderful violin again from Fran Bury.}
bleeding heart narrative – all that was missing we never had in the world [tartaruga]
{A remarkable record, and deservedly high in my best of list. From out of nowhere came a label with incredible production values (beautiful packaging!) and a band with an incredible ear for just about everything beguiling in music at the moment – from Godspeed-style postrock with strings to glitchy cut-ups and sheets of noise, and unintuitive song structures. Full marks.}
Maga Bo – Archipelagoes [Soot]
{A release from the middle of the year which passed me by for some reason, until Soot label-owner DJ /rupture put a couple of tracks on his latest excellent mix CD. Maga Bo has used rappers and musicians from all around Africa to put together a gritty world-hop album, complete with some great kora playing on a couple of tracks.}
The Boats – Stenography [self-released split EP with Pan Am Scan]
{The Boats can tend to be a little hit-and-miss to me, sometimes edging too much into minimal electro or something, and then sometimes being beautiful folktronic indie or (not surprisingly) Remote Viewer-like electronica. Their tracks on this new EP easily top anything I’ve heard from them in ages – lovely songs, lovely production.}
Bowerbirds – Hymns For A Dark Horse [Dead Oceans/Longtime Listener]
{Mainly for “In Our Talons”, it has to be admitted, but they do that melodic folky thing very nicely.}
Bracken – Eno About The Need [Ears Hoping]
{Last year after an amazing debut album as Bracken, Hood’s Chris Adams decided to release a mostly-ambient companion piece in a limited edition of… ONE (1). A unique piece of vinyl, it travelled the world via MySpace connections (neatly excluding me – oh well) and eventually made it back into his hands. Luckily for the rest of us, he released a limited (but less limited) edition CD version this year, mastered from the returned vinyl, and it’s got a couple of brilliant tracks on it. My chats with his brother Richard (see The Declining Winter below) suggest that he produces way more music than we ever hear, and I must say I’d pay $$ for more of his Downpour material, but there have been a number of top-notch Bracken remixes this year (search this page!), so I can’t complain.}
Brael/Tokyo Bloodworm – Living Language & Remixed by The Remote Viewer [Moteer]
{You’ll notice this label mentioned all over this page. Run by the Remote Viewer, the Manchester-based Moteer manages an extraordinarily coherent sound over disparate artists, including the two collaborators on this release, who are from the USA. Mostly the vibe is delicate electronica with organic elements, consistently avoiding any insipidness… This album is a little more post-rocky, with some lovely vocals and piano scattered through.}
brael – Brael [mobeer]
{Almost at the end of the year, this double-3″ appeared via Mobeer (see below for a discussion of this label). Nice to hear one half of the collab above on their own (they’re a duo themselves). There are a couple of meandering vaguely-jazzy that are nice enough, but there are also a number of brilliant tracks. The opener’s got lovely glitch-beats; there’s a lovely remix of The Remote Viewer’s 2005 track “last night you said goodbye, now it seems years”, and disc 2 opens with a vocal piece called “Blue Field”, sporting a great melody that gets reversed and chopped up later. Caps off a great year for this mini-label.}
Brassica – Microvictories [tartaruga]
{Second release from Tartaruga, after the amazing Bleeding Heart Narrative (see above), this time it’s fairly experimental folktronica. Microvictories suffers a little in comparison, but comparisons being odious, it should be judged on its own, and as such it’s a very fine album indeed, one of those that requires a few listens to appreciate the detail that’s there.}
Breakage – Callahan [Digital Soundboy]
{Drum’n’bass producer Breakage has been edging towards dubstep on his Digital Soundboy imprint for a little while, and the two tracks on this 12″ finally turned down the tempos and took it all the way. They’re not quite up to Clarendon/The Shroud from last year (drum’n’bass that sounded like Burial) but nevertheless really great.}
Brethren of the Free Spirit – All Things are from Him, through Him and in Him [audioMER.]
{Collaboration between James Blackshaw and lutenist Jozef van Wissem, highlight the baroque and oriental/exoticist nature of Blackshaw’s own music (note that during the Renaissance European music was exposed for the first time to eastern and Middle Eastern sounds). Some pretty esoteric stuff on here as well as some real beauty.}
The Bug – London Zoo [Ninja Tune]
{Of course we’d heard half of this by the time it came out, and the various remixes from last year are absolutely awesome (especially Loefah and Kode9), but this is undeniably quality, with the various MCs’ depictions of the worst humanity has to offer. Tippa Irie’s “Angry” is new and mind-bogglingly catchy, and among others Roll Deep’s Flow Dan contributes some killer rhymes over Kevin Martin’s industrial dancehall/dubstep/grime.}
Burning Star Core – Challenger [Hospital Productions]
{See above for BxC rave. He had a couple of other CDR/cassette releases this year, but Challenger seems to be the main 2008 album, and it’s amazing. Buried piano chords under squalls of noise, strange etherial beauty, and a notable absence of violin (as far as I can see)… Challenging indeed, but probably not a bad introduction to Burning Star Core’s visionary noise.}
Brian Campeau – Then Came The Sun [self-released]
{Brian’s long overdue for a new album, and apparently that’s well on its way. This three track EP showcases his talents on guitar and vocals, not to mention production, and serves as a reminder of how lucky we are to have inherited him from Montreal… Oh, and I think he stole an ostinato from Björk’s “Possibly Maybe”, but if so it couldn’t have found a better home!}
Cardopusher – Unity Means Power [Murder Channel]
Cardopusher – Mutant Dubstep Vol. 2 [spectraliquid]
Cardopusher/Rotator – Fighters Unite/Jump Da Fuck Up [Peace Off]
Cardopusher/Matt U – Parrilla [Red Volume]
Cardopusher/Pacheko – ThisTroy EP [Mashit]
{An album, an EP, a split 10″, a split 12″ and a split mp3 release from Caracas, Venezuela’s Cardopusher (now based in Barcelona). Cardo has been making top-quality breakcore for a few years, and has found his way into the dubstep scene along with a number of other breakcore artists. These releases feature everything from relatively mainstream dubstep to all-out hardcore; “Fighters Unite” is a brilliant kind of distorted dancehall, and Unity Means Power mashes all the styles together, with some utterly brilliant results. Murderation!}
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig! [Mute]
{There was a time when I pretty much couldn’t stand Saint Nick – approximately from Kylie & Murder Ballads until (but not including) Grinderman. There were a few moments of brilliance (e.g. “God Is In The House”), but mostly he seemed to have just gone stale. I still love the Birthday Party and Bad Seeds up till Let Love In, and Grinderman seemed like a ramshackle return to form (albeit a bit disappointing live). Dig, Lazarus, Dig! manages to carry through some of that energy, and I’m surprisingly impressed with some of Warren Ellis’s arrangements here too. We’ll treat each album as it comes, okay?}
Cex – Dannibal [Wildfire Wildfire Records]
{Technically, this is a “reissue”, since it came out in 2007 on (self-released?) cassette. However, it was released on 12″ vinyl in 2008 and Cex has a special place in my heart (and on my shelves, it has to be said). All the tracks on this are apparently built out of Steely Dan, and much though I don’t know anything (really) by them, you can still catch bits of ’70s-rock vocals and tiny slivers of ’70s guitar riffs. Basically it’s ultra-granulated, pulsating post-hop/post-techno/post-postrock, in keeping with Cex’s direction over the last couple of years. Always fascinating to see where Rjyan will go next…}
The Chap – Mega Breakfast [Lo Recordings]
The Chap – Builder’s Brew (mini-album) [Lo Recordings]
{See above re my belated discovery of The Chap this year. Finding their older albums, I realised I’d heard a few of the standout tracks and already loved them, and this album is just more goodness, from the weird disco indie of “Fun and Interesting” that makes you wonder how a band with such a great string section can use them so sparingly, to jangly guitars and electronica.}
Children of the Wave – Carapace [Sensory Projects]
{Lexy pretty much says it all here – this Melbourne duo know just what they’re doing as they hide their melodies after minutes of ambient burblings, field recordings and cut-ups. A mysterious and rewarding release.}
color cassette – small town smoker [mobeer]
{Last year the Moteer guys (see earlier in this post) hit on the insane genius of release 3″ CDs attached to custom-printed beermats, and thus Mobeer was born. A number of double-3″ releases have come about (see The Remote Viewer below), and this one is a perfect example of Moteer’s sonic watermark – Color Cassette are from Lexington, Kentucky, but their sound fits Moteer to a tee. One of my most recommended releases from the label this year.}
Comatone & FoleyTrigger Happy [self-released through Vitamin]
{I’ve been hearing about this stuff from both Alon (Foley) and Greg (Comatone) for some time. Both were very excited to be working with the other – Alon being the drummer in Gauche, as well as having toured Australia non-stop for months on end with Keating The Musical(A), and Greg making very classy idm/drill’n’bass as well as mastering many a Feral Media release. Trigger Happy is always better than I remember it being, with tricky time signatures, unexpected bits of guitar and live drums, and human melodies all the way through. Anyone interested in Australian electronica should grab it.}
Current 93 – Black Ships Heat The Dancefloor (remixes by Matmos and Foetus) [Durtro Jnana]
{I’ve yet to really get into David Tibet’s Current 93 really, but I heard about this project ages ago, and it was nice to finally get it. To be honest I wasn’t in the least bit interested in Matmos’ synthfest album this year, but they do two lovely remixes here, featuring Anthony Hegarty in bearable mode (pretty rare for my taste) plus piano and nice beats, and J.G. Thirwell does a couple of very Foetus versions…}
d_rradio – d_rradio and remixed [Distraction]
{d_rradio’s earlier work was kindof glitchy folktronica. On their first album proper, they verged more towards ambient electronica, and the results weren’t as interesting to me. But the remix album had some great moments, particularly from The Matinee Orchestra.}
Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – Angles [Sunday Best]
{There are people who seem to think I shouldn’t like this. But I happen to enjoy Pip’s beat poetry and pretensions to hip-hop, and Dan le Sac’s laptop-chopped beats and samples. It’s all in good fun, and heck, anybody brazen enough to sample and loop Radiohead, and allow the loop to resolve at the climactic point, scattering amen breaks everywhere, in a song entitled “Letter From God To Man” has to be on to a winner.}
dBridge – The Gemini Principle [Exit Records]
{It’s been a while since I’ve heard a top-notch new drum’n’bass album, so it was a real pleasure to discover dBridge this year. The Gemini Principle reminds me of early Icarus in some ways, and also LTJ Bukem.}
The Declining Winter – Goodbye Minnesota [Rusted Rail]
The Declining Winter – rmxs [not on label?]
{The lovely Mr Richard Adams, truly a gentleman and a scholar, kindly put Angela & me up when we were in Leeds for one night in the middle of the year. This fact, and the fact that we ate one of the best Indian meals ever with him in Bradford, should not be taken as biasing me in any way towards his music. Indeed I’ve been a fan of Hood for yonks (see Bracken above) and purchased all the Declining Winter stuff as it came out. Anyone who likes Hood will like this stuff, and it’s excellent that having once told me that he was unlikely to have a solo project, Richard’s come out with something as special as this. Acoustic guitars, effected drum loops, autumnal strings, and even vocals, all with that lovely home-produced aesthetic extending to the sleeves. Warms the cockles of my heard it does.
And then, on the 18th of December a little parcel arrived from Leeds (well, I’d ordered it), containing #58 (I think) of 75 of a special limited xmas Declining Winter remix CD. Most of the tracks were already available last year, but there’s lovely new ones by Fieldhead (see below) and Strategy. Bonus!}

Department of Eagles – In Ear Park [4ad]
{The first Dept of Eagles album is always going to have a special place in my CD collection, with its combination of madcap postrock/electronica/folktronica(?) with some astonishingly beautiful songwriting. Since that album, Dan Rossen joined Grizzly Bear, and a fine thing too, except that it meant a long wait between Department of Eagles albums. Anyone who heard “Deadly Disclosure” (not on this album!) and “Balmy Night” on their MySpazz ages ago knew that this was going to be a doozy, and indeed it is. There’s still a bit of experimentalism in the production, but mainly this is just unbeatable melodic songwriting and Rossen’s exquisite vocals.}
Deerhunter – Weird Era Cont. [Kranky/4AD]
{I like this “bonus album” a lot better than Microcastles, although both have some good stuff on offer. See Atlas Sound above for more commentary, but I do miss the incredible energy on show when I saw them in Montreal in early 2007…}
Derwent River Star – The Winter Dark [Heavy]
{I met Robin, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire in Derwent River Star, about a year ago. He told me he’d been working with Tony Dupé, which all-in-all is enough to sell any project, and the resultant album is a beautiful mix of postrock’s expansiveness and a kind of Aussie folk-pop.}
Distance – Repercussions [Planet µ]
{Distance made one of my favourite dubstep albums of last year. The new one has its moments but doesn’t quite stand up to the first; however, it ably makes up for that by including a second CD of (I think) his entire output for his own Chestplate label – chugging guitar riffs and neo-classicisms to a dubstep beat, awes!}
Dosh – Wolves And Wishes [Anticon]
{More famous among some people now for touring with Andrew Bird (see above), Martin Dosh is a very fine arranger and multi-instrumentalist, and an interesting fit for the Anticon label… His albums have never really touched me, as such, but I do keep going back!}
Ebola – Mutant Dubstep Vol. 1 [spectraliquid]
{One of the movers behind Brighton’s Wrong Music collective, Ebola’s brand of squelchy breakcore doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I’m enjoying his forays into dubstep (without losing the dark sarcastic edge).}
end.user – left [ohm resistance]
{I must admit I expected a little more of the only new Enduser (end.user??) album for this year, but mostly it seems to be more of the same – machine-gun drum’n’bass beats and dark shit, but without as much character as some of his more interesting earlier tracks. That said, it’s really great, it’s just Enduser’s bar is set very high! And “Sublime (feat. Sol Thomas)” is in truly sublime. I wish I knew who Sol Thomas was.}
Lawrence English – Kiri No Oto [Touch]
{I’d say this is easily Lawrence’s best work yet. It’s no coincidence that this is released by the same label that put out Fennesz’ masterpiece this year; Lawrence (who runs Brisbane’s world-renowned Room40 label) is exploring a similar sonic realm, and there are some lovely windswept oceanic sounds here.}
Epic 45 – England Fallen Over [Make Mine Music/Thomason Sounds]
{Originally released in 2005, this Japanese re-release of my favourite Epic 45 CD features bonus tracks and remixes from the likes of The Remote Viewer and randomNumber.}
Fennesz – Black Sea [Touch]
Fennesz – June [Table of the Elements]
{Released very late in 2008, Black Sea instantly became one of the top albums of the year. Fennesz perfected his aural techniques years ago (he was already doing magic back in 1995) but his compositional skills are something else. There’s a beauty and poise in these works that demands attention, and it’s great to hear collaborations with Anthony Pateras (Melbourne) and Rosy Parlane (New Zealand).
Perhaps even more awesome is Fennesz’ short single-track entry into Table of the Elements’ guitar series (see Oren Ambarchi above – this one’s translucent vinyl though!). With gorgeous textures impeccably recorded with a depth of field that recalls Machinefabriek (I know the influence flows in the other direction), this should be a compulsory companion to the album.}

Fieldhead – introductions [no label]
{This arrived with the Declining Winter Xmas remixes CD (see above), and comprises four lovely ambient glitchwerks by Paul Elam, who plays live with The Declining Winter. Three of the tracks remind me strangely of Machinefabriek, although they’re not quite as expansive, and one has a nice clicky Moteer-beat and delayed guitar with it. A nice introduction to an artist I hope we hear more from soon!}
Final Fantasy – Spectrum, 14th Century [Blocks Recording Club]
Final Fantasy – Plays To Please [Slender Means Society]
{Well, I’ve been a fan of Owen Pallett’s since Tomlab released Final Fantasy Has A Good Home. Much like Andrew Bird (see rave at top), he works wonders with a violin, loop pedal and voice, and his string arrangements for any number of different indie acts are sublime. 2008’s two EPs are oddities for sure, but I find the twists and turns of his compositions and arrangements take a while to sink in, and I can now fully endorse them. And his performance at the Vanguard on the 12th of December was… astounding. Unforgettable.}
The Flashbulb – Soundtrack To A Vacant Life [Alphabasic]
{2005’s Kirlian Selections was an incredible melange of genres, centred around breakcore of a kind, but mixing in classical, a kind of gypsy-jazz, funk, indiefolk, and ambient… I say this because this year’s album goes for a similar effect, albeit not quite as successfully to me. Also notable for the fact that he uploaded the album to torrent sites himself upon releasing it. His blog contains some interesting discussion on the fallout from this decision – and also an awesome anecdote about (now-)President Obama!}
Foals – Antidotes [Transgressive]
{I guess Foals are basically shouty prog-punk, but it’s good and fun shouty prog-punk! The album’s good, but the Keiran Hebden versions on a couple of singles, and some other nice b-sides are even better. Andrew from Youthmovies used to play with them, but wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I prefer their stuff, but Foals do what they do well.}
Bill Frisell – History/Mystery [Nonesuch]
{I have some serious catching-up to do with Bill Frisell, who I’ve heard of in connection with John Zorn (he was in Naked City after all) but also as an inspiration for the off-kilter country, classical and other exotic influences on Tin Hat (Trio) (see Carla Kihlstedt above). This album has definite Tin Hat overtones. Oh, and he’s worked a fair bit with Jim Woodring, which helps…}
Funckarma – Dubstoned EP1 [Highpoint Lowlife]
Funckarma – Vell Vagranz [n5MD]
Funckarma – Dubstoned vol. 2 [Ad Noiseam]
{Funckarma are still the idm kings. I was listening to Gescom’s original Keynell EP the other day and thinking that Funckarma are the only people really successfully extending the wonderful crunchy, complex beats and beautiful melodies from that period of Autechre. This year’s been relatively quiet for them until late in the piece. On (so far) two EPs on two different labels they’ve been exploring the influence of dubstep on their already bass-heavy sound. Only a few tracks truly sound like dubstep, but that’s cool. The album (on yet a third label, typically from these guys) they do a bit of dubsteppy stuff and one or two tracks that are as close as they’ve ever gotten to drum’n’bass, and there’s plenty of tricky programming and lush sounds to keep us happy!}
The Future Sound of London – From The Archives Vol 5 [FSOL Digital]
{Another batch of amazing unreleased FSOL!?! How do they keep doing it? They also released the long-awaited Environments album that was meant to be the ambient follow-up to the first Amorphous Androgynous album, and then followed that up with a second Environments album… crazy. I’m never one to complaing about more FSOL…}
Girl Talk – Feed The Animals [Illegal Art]
{I’ve never really liked Girl Talk’s brand of mashup that much in the past, but this album has some masterful juxtapositions, and a great flow… Finally I’m convinced.}
Gonzales – Soft Power [Universal France]
{Chilly Gonzales, aka Jason Beck, has been forging his own brand of kitsch for years, and by rights I shouldn’t like it all. But I have for ages, from easy-listening-meets-Berlin-underground to silly wonky hip-hop to more lounge. Oh, and one CD of utterly gorgeous quasi-fin-de-ciècle-Parisian Solo Piano numbers. The new album is intended to sound like a ’70s production, and to a large extent succeeds. A couple of tracks are too close to collaborator Jamie Lidell-style soul for my liking, but mostly it’s great pop, with great piano and funny lyrics.}
Hauschka – Ferndorf [Fat Cat]
{OMG, another subtle album of post-classical mini-masterpieces from Hauschka, so unprepossessing it threatens to get swept under the mat when it should be left at the top of the pile for frequent afternoon listening. Again with the prepared piano, and more prominent string arrangements… Really lovely.}
Heidi Elva – ships and trees [self-released, through Vitamin]
{I’ve started playing cello live with Heidi recently, but that should just be treated as a mark of how much I love her music, rather than some kind of bias. I didn’t know her when I received her first demo CDR (last year? earlier?) but I saw it was produced by Brian Campeau and was interested. Quite different from the other two or three female singer/songwriter/harpists out there (see Serafina Steer below), Heidi’s music is built from simple parts, looped and pieced together with sparse arrangements that create some dark and quite riveting. And Caddie Brain’s cello parts do deserve singling out as they’re an integral part to a number of tracks…}
The Herd – Summerland [Elefant Traks]
{Admission: I play on a couple of tracks on this album. It’s still good though! I’ve known the Herd boys since before they were the Herd, as I contributed a track to the second ever Elefant Traks compilation, Food To Eat Music By. Two of them remixed FourPlay for our first remix album (er, because there’s a second on the way…ish…) and it was lovely to get asked to play on this album. This means I heard “The King Is Dead” before you, almost definitely :P They’re not just politically conscious and eloquent, they’re excellent musicians! Or vice-versa, it’s up to you.}
High Places – 03.07-09.07 [Thrill Jockey/Mistletone]
{Yes, I like this more than the album proper! I first heard this album in an awesome record store in Shibuya, Tokyo called Warszawa, and was… rather puzzled. The cute dinkiness can grate at times, but they’re really quite charming. Along with Lucky Dragons (see rave above) and others, they’re pursuing something like a “nu-naïve” (new in relation to what? Don’t ask me, I just coined the term) school, in which songs are constructed from seemingly childlike parts in a seemingly childlike manner, but actually amount to something quite sophisticated.}
ii – landlakes [Feral Media]
{Melbourne duo ii are adept at being un-pigeonholeable, but let’s call them postrock. Alright, let’s not, that’s unfair. Their live sets are generally entirely improvised, and both produce sounds from guitars and pedals that you shouldn’t be able to produce in that way. Jon Tjhia is a brilliant drummer, producer and creator of sounds (with a charmingly odd presence in certain parts of the interwebs), and Alex Nosek contributes equally, and equally-untraceably, to a sound that can got from compact indiepunk to ambient glitch and make you rewind twice to try and work out how…}
Immune – Not Until Morning Remixed [Eglantine Records]
{I don’t know much about this French indie(tronic?) group, but rather awesomely you can download the whole remix album for free! And it features not only a brilliant Bracken remix, but a nice woozy glitchy one from David Fenech and typically expansive postrocktronica from aMute.}
iTAL tEK – Cyclical [Planet µ]
{This Brighton-based producer started off making something like breakcore and/or energetic dark idm, but has settled nicely into the dubstep scene with a couple of 12″s and a fantastic debut album. See also an excellent track on the Evangeline comp, mentioned above.}
Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi & Dan Rathbun – Ravish [twelve cups records]
{All three of the artists credited for this album are members of the avant-prog-metal band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, but the music here isn’t as scary or noisy as they could be. It’s all music composed for theatre/performance pieces, and there’s some gorgeous, complex stuff, with unusual instrumentation and arrangements. Strongly recommended if you can find a copy.}
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – Mutations EP [Ad Noiseam]
{Not sure this is quite as good as the Planet µ album from a couple years back, but it’s lovely all the same… A million miles from Jason Kohnen’s Bong-Ra stuff, the closest reference here would be Amon Tobin I guess – dark and cinematic. Bring on the new album!}
Richmond Lamarr – shake point one seven [self-released]
{Very impressed with this Melbourne producer’s self-released EP. Lovely sampladelic trip-hop; nothing much more to say except thumbs up – you can see that it’s appeared a fair bit in the playlists!}
Leila – Deflect EP [Warp]
Leila – Blood Looms and Blooms [Warp]
{It’s been ages since Leila’s previous releases on Rephlex, but this album makes you hope the next one’s just around the corner. The production skitters around all sorts of electronic production, from trip hop to idm to dub and even drum’n’bass briefly (on the EP), and there’s a well-chosen selection of singers on a few tracks. I picked this up while travelling overseas, and at one point it took me two days to realise that this chunk postrock riff I’d had in my head was actually the track “mettle” from this album! Top-quality wide-ranging stuff.}
Lucky Dragons – Dream Island Laughing Language [Hawks and Sparrows/Mistletone]
{As mentioned in my Lucky Dragons spiel above, I prefer their earlier work – but this is still great! I love the a capella number near the end, and the strangely organic-sounding loops. As with High Places, these guys make deceptively simple-sounding stuff with a lot of depth.}
Lymbyc Systym – Love Your Abuser Remixed [Mush]
{After a lovely postrocktronic debut last year, these guys follow it up with a decent remix album. As usual, the standout is from Daedelus, sampling, er, I think Rachmaninov…}
Machinefabriek – Dauw [Dekorder]
{Another artist raved about above, I’m just getting my head around the wonders of Machinefabriek, but this album is widely recommended as one of his best. Combining bewitching acoustic sounds (including what sounds like an impeccably-recorded bowed cymbal?), glitchscapes, guitar and more, with a real musicality, this really shouldn’t be missed.}
Aaron Martin – River Water [Preservation]
{Kansas-based Aaron Martin is a multi-instrumentalist, who plays banjo, guitar, cello (yay!) and more, and includes burbling field recordings among the folky multi-tracked loveliness. His second album for Andrew Khedoori’s Sydney-based label is even better than his first. I’m a sucker for obvious studio interventions in stuff like this (what I still like to think of as “folktronica”), but Aaron is impressively adept at the opposite – harnessing technology to create something bucolic and natural-sounding. I’m honoured to have a track on the flipside of him on a forthcoming sound&fury 7″ (as part of the passeridae series). Aaron’s track is superb.}
Mira Calix – the elephant in the room: 3 commissions [Warp Records]
{I have an embarrassing history of underestimating the work of Chantal Passamonte, and it’s usually my loss. This album is a case in point, although it may in any case be her best work yet. Combining contemporary classical composition, found sounds and electronic techniques, she’s created some highly accomplished pieces of beauty and experimentalism.}
Mirrored Silver Sea – Continual Ascension [sound&fury]
{sound&fury have had a great year re-launching as a label after the sad closure of their Sydney store a while back. Among some very strong releases, this turned up out of the blue and floored me. The product mainly of Melbournian Tim Condon, the album reminds me in some ways of two other revelations from this year: Burning Star Core and Bleeding Heart Narrative (see descriptions elsewhere in this post). Drones, noise, occasional drum machines, more noise over buried melodies. You can (and should) buy it here, where you can see a quote from someone familiar saying something strangely familiar…}
Juana Molina – Un Día [Domino]
{Best album yet from Argentina’s comedienne-turned-experimental songstress. I’ve enjoyed her previous outings on Domino, combinations of analog synths, loops and a definite South American sound. This album seems to bring some of the music back into focus in some ways, as well as highlighting the technology and her lovely voice.}
mom – little brite [moamoo/art union]
{A duo who do postrock/folk-thingy reminiscent of Mice Parade, among others… Some very pretty stuff here, nice rhythms and song constructions.}
Nico Muhly – Mothertongue [Bedroom Community]
{Nico Muhly’s first album compiled some impressive chamber compositions, nicely utilising studio techniques to highlight (in a sense) the connections between his contemporary classical work and experimental electronic music. The new album is equally compelling and adventurous; three multi-movement works, each exploring the voice in different ways, from the Steve Reichisms (perhaps) of “Mothertongue” to the updated baroque sound-pallette of “Wonders”, and finally to the wonderful post-folk of “The Only Tune”, a re-setting of an old murder ballad.}
My Brightest Diamond – A Thousand Shark’s Teeth [Asthmatic Kitty]
{Not much to say about this except that it’s a very fine follow-up to her first album; recalling Tori Amos or Kate Bush at their most experimental, Shara Worden has an amazing voice and is not only a multi-instrumentalist but also gathers some very fine musicians to play on her albums. If I was more into pop/song-based stuff this would be very high on my list…}
The Notwist – The Devil, You + Me [Domino Records]
{a long-awaited follow-up to the much-loved Neon Golden, it’s a solid effort, if a little schmindie at times. Odd Nosdam did do a brilliant remix of “Sleep” on a 7″ though…}
Odd Nosdam – Pretty Swell Explode [anticon]
{David P Madson is an integral founding member of the Anticon collective, and was one third of cLOUDDEAD; his remixes have always been very interesting, and for all that this 2CD collection is “just” a collection of remixes, EP tracks and alternate versions, if anything I find it more satisfying than his “proper” albums to date. The Thee More Shallows remix is a highlight, but Nosdam’s woozy drones and wonky beats pull the whole thing together into a coherent album.}
Ohana – Dead Beat [Imperative Residence]
{Shouty prog-punk (or math-punk?) seems to have found its era, and Ohana, from the northern suburbs of Wollongong, are excellent exponents thereof. Repetitive interlocking guitar lines and strident vocals…}
Paavoharju – Laulu Laakson Kukista [Fonal]
{Despite being beguilingly weird, this second album from the Finnish freak folk group was somehow disappointing… The music does sound like it’s being broadcast from a long-list Indian colony on the moon, but it’s too short, with too many tracks taking a similar tack, to be quite as excellent as one feels it could be. I’d like them to be even stranger, over a few more tracks – but I realise that’s a strange complaint, and I like what we’re given…}
Parenthetical Girls – Entanglements [Slender Means Society/Tomlab]
{A very late entry into this list, and another band I’m just picking up on. This album features full string arrangements and avant-pop songwriting that can’t help but recall Final Fantasy and Dirty Projectors. I’ll have more to say about this in early 2009 when I’ve fully digested it.}
Part Timer – (etc etc…!)
{Well, no official releases as such, but the usual bewildering amount of tracks sent direct to me, plus remixes of Heidi Elva, entertainmentforthebraindead and more, give John McCaffrey a deserved place in this year’s listing.}
Pattern Is Movement – All Together [Home Tapes]
{I don’t know much about these guys, but they combine math-rock with quasi-operative vocals, and it’s all strange and weirdly compelling. I think it’ll be sometime in 2009 when this sinks in really…}
polyfox and the union of the most ghosts – paintbat flies into carrot fields [skyhut]
{What a spin-out. I picked this up for free at a recent Castings gig. You can download the whole thing for free here. Hailing from the Central Coast (between Sydney & Newcastle), Nicholas Joseph French is making a kind of wilfully obscure music, but on this release it’s semi-acoustic, with shoegazey bits, jangly guitars, odd little vignettes, piano… undescribable but excellent.}
Pikelet – Dication EP [self-released]
{Some lovely home recordings while we wait for the second album, which from the sound of recent live gigs is going to be awesome. Evelyn should be a national treasure.}
Portishead – Third [Universal]
{Everybody seems to think this was a disappointment, but I guess I was never that sentimental about their earlier output, and who can deny that the “The Rip” is a truly awesome song?}
Qua – Silver Red [Someone Good]
{I like this a lot more than his Q&A album, although there are a few nice tracks on the album. This EP takes some excellent free drumming by Laurence Pike and mashes it up along with various other sounds into a cross between Steve Reich and Icarus. Lovely.}
The Rational Academy – A Heart Against Your Own [Someone Good]
{From way back at the start of the year, this Brisbane band created a curious mix of Sonic Youth-like indiepunkpop and more experimental postrock/electronic elements, with help from Lawrence English, John Chantler and others (not surprisingly, since Someone Good is Room40’s more pop-oriented offshoot).}
the remote viewer – i can’t believe it’s not better [mobeer]
{After three years, The Remote Viewer return with another self-effacing album, over two 3″ CDs on their lovely Mobeer imprint (see somewhere earlier in this post). Like their first album, there are no track titles, and the music mostly tries its best to hide from your consciousness; but these guys are past masters at the understated, and really it’s a sin that such loveliness should be of such limited availability. There are some great touches, like 2 1/2 minutes into the last track on the first 3″, where ambient keyboard pads succumb to an overdriven randomly stuttering drum loop, or the lovely lonely banjo on disc 2’s second track finally being joined by its brother, and some muted piano.}
Ulrich Schnauss – Stars [Independiente]
{The only release from our electronic shoegaze master this year, with an unnecessary edit of the title track, a b-side and two really nice remixes…}
School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms [Ghostly International/Speak N Spell]
{Annoyingly, I initially pegged this as likely to be mediocre, because I recalled them guesting on a Prefuse 73 album. Stupid hey? Actually the pure, folky vocals of the Deheza twins and Benjamin Curtis’s psychedelic shoegazey postrocktronica make for a kind of arcane new-old sound that’s kinda thrilling.}
Scuba – A Mutual Antipathy [Hotflush]
{While the remix 12″s Paul Rose has been putting out at the end of the year are garnering much attention, I’m not really taken by the minimal techno crossover that dubstep’s so keen on at the moment. The album itself, though, is lovely warm dubstep, and a few of pairs of tracks nicely juxtapose early-’90s idm aesthetics with today’s dubstep. It’s an album I’ve come back to quite a bit through the year.}
Seaworthy – Codes Adrift [sound&fury]
{Cameron Webb’s been in the Sydney music scene for years (*ahem* about as long as me?), starting in indie bands, and Seaworthy’s been going for a venerable time too. This two-track CD is as minimal as it gets, but I love how on the second track digital cracks start appearing, somehow adding something really emotive to the mix.}
Seekae – The Sound of Trees Falling on People [self-released]
{Released late in the year, this Sydney trio’s debut album is mostly really nice shoegazey electronica. As such, it has an unfortunate habit of blending into the background a bit, and can sometimes be, well, just nice shoegazey electronica, but the best tracks have tasty glitchy beats and a great shape to them. Plus the solo piano final track is a real beauty. No doubt these guys are a band to watch…}
Señor Coconut – Around The World With Señor Coconut And His Orchestra [Third Ear]
{Atom™ has been plying his trade as Señor Coconut for some time, and ever since he moved to Chile he’s been incorporating Latin music into his chopped-up electronica. Señor Coconut, though, tends towards deadpan imitations of real live Latin music performing, er… unlikely covers. Among the slightly embarrassing pleasures here are Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Prince’s “Kiss” (with Art of Noise’s version never far away), and there are some fun electronic manipulations in there too…}
Shearwater – Rook [Matador]
{Easily comes up to the expectations set by Palo Santo – timeless arrangements and emotive singing. The Snow Leopard EP was great too, and despite my gripes about an all-import chord being messed up in their Talk Talk cover, the choice is illuminating – the Talk Talk influence has been obvious for some time after all.}
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 13 blues for thirteen moons [Constellation]
{Unbelievably, I almost forgot about this one. In fact, for some reason every time a new Silver Mt. Zion record comes out I tend to have a dim view of their recent output and go in with low expectations. This time round I listened back to their whole opus and realised that I’m really pretty fond of it all. The first (real) track on this album is a wonderful marching piece of folk-rock, starting with the folky Americana of a girl chanting “1,000,000 died to make this sound”, and when Thierry Amar’s chugging double bass line enters it’s pure perfection.}
sj esau – Small Vessel [Anticon]
{SJ Esau’s first album was a distinctly odd choice for Anticon – indiefolktronica of a distinctly odd English bent. The second album takes a similar tack, with acoustic guitar, violin & cello here and there, studio cut-ups and a general haphazardness. If anything a slightly better effort, and there’s a couple of really great songs.}
Richard Skelton – Marking Time [Preservation]
{A true revelation, this album. Skelton has apparently released a number of albums under other names, but this is the first many of us had heard of him. He plays strings, guitars and occasional piano & drums, creating emotive drones and scratchy drawn-out melodies speaking of loneliness and loss, but also of peace. Accurately described by by Shaun Prescott as “perfect really loud on a rainy day”.}
Son Lux – At War With Walls & Mazes [Anticon]
{Anticon is the label that keeps on giving, this year, and Son Lux’s album was yet another surprise present. Slightly reminiscent of a more indie, (slightly) less pop Gotye, it combines emotion-filled vocals and piano with overdriven drums, sampled orchestrations and well-programmed electronics.}
Spartak – Ostpolitik & Ostpolitik versions [hellosQuare]
Spartak/John Chantler – split 3″ CD [hellosQuare]
Spartak – Sunstrokes [hellosQuare]
Spartak – Tales From The Colony Room [hellosQuare]
{Ah, Spartak. See above for my rave about Shoeb Ahmad, half of this group and the dude who runs hellosQuare. Evan Dorrian is an old school friend of Shoeb’s and a stellar drummer. Although Evan only really lets loose on a few tracks (see also “The National Single” on Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow Vol. 1), his energy and inventiveness is always there, as is the talent of both for sparse but detailed spatial sound-art. Oh, and occasional post-punk riffs and vox. I was fortunate enough to have the pair perform an improvised set live in the studio a couple of months back, which you can download free here!}
Starkey – Ephemeral Exhibits [Planet µ]
{Let’s be clear: I’m not a fan of bassline or dubstep’s forays into house music. But Starkey’s doing something else, and his grimey beats have a lot in common with dubstep – and a fair amount in common with idm too. The album has a lot of huge basslines and first class beats and melodies. I’ve been listening to this a lot.}
St. Just Vigilantes – Pastor of Oaks, Shepherd of Stones [Static Caravan]
{St. Just Vigilantes have a mysterious, arcane sound, with stratchy violin ostinati and drones, sometimes digitally processed and distorted, but mostly still sounding like a throwback to the time of the druids. Strangely my favourite piece seems to use Middle Eastern samples, as if an Ottoman caravan has wandered through Ye Olde England. I like the anachronism, and as with much of this hybrid folk stuff these days, the willingness to go all over the place, and dedicate half the album to strange sounds, loops and drones and half to songs.}
Serafina Steer – Public Spirited [Static Caravan]
{Nicely packaged 3″ EP from Sefa Steer. More idiosyncratic indie-harp songs. I love how Heidi Elva, Sefa Steer and Joanna Newsom have three very different, very particular styles.}
Subtle – ExitingARM [Lex]
{I was really down on this album when it first came. I’d tried listening to it while at work, and Dose’s insistent vocals just kept getting in the way of my brain function. Certainly it’s more song-oriented than previously, and some of it doesn’t work for me. But Dose has always had a melodic aspect to his raps, and I always love FX on live drums :) There’s a lot to enjoy, but the frenetic pace and relentlessness does mean you have to choose the right time to listen – and the dropout to acoustic guitar and sustained organ at the end of “Hollow Hollered” comes as a welcome relief.}
Sunken Foal – Fermented Condiments EP [Planet µ]
Sunken Foal – Fallen Arches [Planet µ]
{When I picked up the issue of Plan B with Planet µ’s Plan µ compilation earlier in the year, Sunken Foals’ “Dutch Elm” stood out to me as something really special. Centred around a beautifully-recorded piano, with acoustic guitar, submerged vocals and an ethereal chord sequence, with electronic treatments, it kept finding its way onto my stereo. The whole album (and “preceding” EP, released simultaneously for some reason) is full of similar stuff, although there are beats on a lot of tracks, idm-style glitchbeats that I love. Dunk Murphy used to be (or still is?) half of Dublin-based duo Ambulance, whose track “The Tams” is a half-acknowledged glitch classic, and it seems Murphy is fully realising their promise with this material. Very high up on this year’s list, and sadly likely to “sink” without much of a trace…}
Tape – Luminarium [Häpna]
{See above for how I learned to stop worrying and love Tape. Actually, this album played no small role. Most of the pieces here are music your (OK, my) mother would like, although part of their charm is how they’ll overlay peaceful piano chords with the burpings of two distorting, pitch-shifting electric organs, only to follow it with beautiful strummy guitars and pastoral organs and woodwinds. Great for driving down country roads or just taking your mind on a trip.}
Terminal Sound System – Constructing Towers [Extreme]
{A direct follow-up to Melbournian TSS’s previous Extreme album Compressor, with often strangely decontextualised drum’n’bass techniques. There’s a few more straightforwardly d’n’b tracks, and some weird excursions into a kind of dark jazz. Hits the spot.}
Amon Tobin – Taxidermia EP [download from his website]
{Vintage Amon Tobin on this self-released download EP. It’s a soundtrack of some sorts, with a rather disturbing cover :) When I say “vintage”, I don’t actually mean drum’n’bass beats on the whole (unfortunately), but it’s very Amon-sounding and I approve.}
Mia Doi Todd – Gia [City Zen/Kindred Spirits]
{I first heard Mia Doi Todd on Dublab’s Freeways comp, which also had what’s still my favourite Dntel track. She’s since collaborated with Dntel, and released a number of very different albums setting her beautiful voice against electronic, full band or stripped-down backdrops. This latest is a wondrous collection of classic folk songs (think Nick Drake), with a mostly acoustic band and great string/wind arrangements – definitely an album to be savoured.}
Various Production – Versus [Various]
{While I think these guys will never quite live up to the potential they seemed to have with those early vinyl releases, there are some very fine remixes on here, mostly by them. Zan Lyons’ remix is fabulous (I wish he’d do more stuff!), Milanese’s is great, and I hate the Zomby one (because it could be great but fucks up the harmonies).}
Venetian Snares – Detrimentalist [Planet µ]
{VSnares hasn’t been quite as prolific lately, but he’s always quality. “Miss Balaton” (note the Hungarian reference) recalls the excellent Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, with gypsy/classical violin and breakcore beats. There’s even a straight 4/4 drum’n’bass track in there! Best VSnares album of the last couple of years…}
Vert – New Thing At Novara [Sonig]
{Back in the mid-’90s, Adam Butler made some excellent drill’n’bass-influenced stuff as Vert. Soon after, he moved into a strange burbly processed (folk?)tronica unlike much else around. He’s also a fine pianist, and has an album of clever covers and originals performed live with piano and laptop, and an excellent album of weird cabaret songs on piano/vocals/electronics. This new one is notable for having been somewhat frenetically pieced together in a hotel room at the Novara Jazz Festival in 2006, from recordings of the performances Butler sourced over the duration of the festival, and performed live on the last night. Recognizably Vert a surprising amount of the time, the record is also blessed with some superb jazz performances, and comes strongly recommended from Utility Fog Towers.}
Fredo Viola – The Turn [Because]
{I believe this is a reissue, but it’s ace anyway! I came across Fredo Viola because Tunng did a remix on a 12″ for them. Lovely vocal harmonies, electronic/trip-hop production, classical elements – reminds me a bit of our Brian Campeau, but Viola’s art is very much its own thing, and that’s a good thing!}
Why? – Alopecia [Anticon]
{If pressed, I would probably be willing to declare this album of the year… (well, it’d depend on my mood I guess). All the way back to probably at least 2001 Oakland’s Why?, member of avant-hop icons cLOUDDEAD and one of the original Anticon collective, has been making indiepop with, like, singing and stuff. But the last couple of albums (and EPs) have taken the the whole experience to a new level, with Why? no longer just Yoni Wolf but a whole band, and the samples and electronic elements nestling among brilliant piano figures and brilliant ensemble playing, as the also excellent self-released Almost Live From Eli’s Live Room demonstrates. Yoni’s lyrics are generally as weird and opaque as ever, but “The Fall of Mr Fifths” contains some passages so great I was compelled to type them all out a few months back… Genius}
Xiu Xiu – Women As Lovers [5RC]
{It’s kindof strange that by now one basically knows what to expect from a new Xiu Xiu album. What you expect is what you get on this one – more pained self-hatred from Jamie Stewart, with musical backings that really still are remarkable, but it’s so familiar by now that it’s almost pop music… well, to me, OK? Not that it ain’t good: I still find the clattery percussion and distorted weirdness of “You are pregnant, you are dead” irresistible.}
Youthmovies – Good Nature [Drowned in Sound]
Youthmovies – Polyp EP [BLAST First (petite)]
{Although b-side “After The Kicking K” is perhaps better than anything on the album, Youthmovies’ full-length debut is a fine thing. It does suffer a little from strangely thin production at times though. The Polyp EP extends their progpunk into more experimental areas, as did their collaborative EP with Adam Gnade last year, with very satsifying results. Recommended.}
Zomby – Mu5h/Spliff Dub (Rustie Remix) [Hyperdub]
Zomby – The Lie [Ramp Recordings]
{Wonky? I guess so. Zomby’s certainly doing something unlike most of the other dubstep-related peeps at the moment (even Starkey – see above – and Rustie), and while I find the computer game sounds get a bit much on, say, the Zomby EP (Hyperdub), “The Lie” takes a Jamaican vocal sample chops it over a technoid dancehall pulse and dubstep grind. We need more tracks like this!
Earlier in the year, I picked up the former 12″, and listening back, Rustie’s remix of “Spliff Dub” takes the computer game sounds and Jamaican sample and bounces along very nicely.}


Live on Utility Fog! (10:20 pm)

I’ve just created a new page called Live on Utility Fog which I will keep updated with live sets from the Utility Fog archives.

Check it out now for free downloads from Spartak and John Chantler, while they last!


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Playlist 14.12.08 (10:11 pm)

Well, well, well. I’ve spent all week putting the bloody best of 2008 post together, and it’s up now. Meanwhile how to do a show?
Well, starting with the amazing M. Gira is a good start. I ordered a bunch of stuff from Young God Recordings a week and a bit ago, including old Swans and some solo stuff of Gira’s (since we’ll be seeing him solo in January!!!!1!ONEONE) – and even more exclamation marks, I got the CD less than a week later, and every item was signed by Michael Gira :)
Following that, some amazing stuff from the amazing Machinefabriek, and continuing the theme with Lawrence English, Tom Hall and Christian Fennesz.
Mira Calix‘s new album is a beautiful mixture of classical composition, found sounds and electronica – really lovely!
And oh! I saw Final Fantasy live at the Vanguard on Friday night and my head exploded. I knew what to expect but it didn’t make a difference to the impact. OMG.
Not a lot else new on the show tonight, but lots of awesome. What did you expect, after all?

M. Gira – All Souls’ Rising [Young God Recordings]
Machinefabriek – Monster [Lampse]
Machinefabriek – Singel [Dekorder]
Lawrence English & Tom Hall – Fluttering Animations [Presto!?]
Lawrence English – Lullaby [Touch]
Fennesz – Saffron Revolution [Touch]
Mira Calix – the cord is cut (scene 6) [Warp Records]
Final Fantasy – Cockatrice [Blocks Recording Club]
Andrew Bird – Oh No [Fat Possum]
Canon Blue – Mother Tongue [Rumraket/Sensory Projects]
Patrick Watson – Daydreamer [Secret City Records]
My Brightest Diamond – To Pluto’s Moon [Asthmatic Kitty]
polyfox and the union of the most ghosts – take a deep breath, it’s a long swim [skyhut] {download the whole excellent album here!}
polyfox and the union of the most ghosts – hang by a thread [skyhut] {download the whole excellent album here!}
Underlapper – Renfield’s Dream (a Faux Pas remix of Renfield) [unreleased, but you can download this from Faux Pas’ website right now…]
School of Seven Bells – Sempiternal/Amaranth [Ghostly International/Speak N Spell]
Filastine – bitrate sneers [Soot/Über Lingua]
Starkey – Marsh [Planet µ]
Cardopusher – Homeless (Remix by DJ 100Mado) [Murder Channel]
Pacheko – Pasta de Coca [Mashit]
Cardopusher – Collapsible Shelter (Pacheko remix) [Spectraliquid]
Qua – Lapsang Souchong [Love & Mercy Records]
Spartak – The National Single [sound&fury]
Himuro Yoshiteru – Kitchen Drunker [tngrm]


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