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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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Sunday, 22nd of January, 2012

Playlist 22.01.12 (10:06 pm)

Great that 2012 is getting started already with some great new music.
As usual, you can LISTEN AGAIN. Scroll to the bottom for the direct link, or sign up to the podcast, or stream on demand.

We started with a track from Markus Mehr, whose new album is made up of two almost-half-hour pieces, one of which I did in fact play later on. This, however, is from 2010 and is glitchy ambient of a much more sensible length.

Next up, very very exciting to hear news of a new Clark album coming out soon. This track can be download for the cost of giving them your email address here, and it’s vintage Clark – energetic warm melodic synths and idm beats. Can’t wait for the album!

Speaking of vintage, Luke Vibert’s Plug project was what he released his early, brilliant forays into drum’n’bass under. Since then we’ve had Amen Andrews, for more raucous ragga jungle, and regular d’n’b numbers from Wagon Christ and eponymous releases, but Plug is where the greatest genius lies — detailed rhythm juggling, crazy sample juxtaposition, and his incredible talent for melody. So it’s a huge pleasure to have a whole new album’s worth of vintage Plug — all the tracks date from the original Plug era of the mid-’90s. Also played Vibert’s intense remix of Nine Inch Nails, and one of my favourite Plug tunes from back in the day.

Speaking of drum’n’bass roots, English duo Icarus began around about when these Plug tracks came out, with some forward-looking, incredibly-programmed d’n’b. They’ve never let the drum’n’bass pulse disappear from their music, but have become increasingly interested in electro-acoustic music, 20th century electronic composition, and folktronic techniques. They are therefore one of those groups that personify so much of what Utility Fog is about… and do it so well!
The new Icarus album, released on the 6th of February, is something else, though. It really is… something else. Read up on it at their Fake Fish Distribution page, but in summary, what it is is a limited digital release of 1,000 unique editions. The music you download when you purchase it will your very special version of the album. Icarus carefully prepared their software so that the 8 tracks on the album each varied according to a number of parameters — so while certain aspects of drum programming and melody/harmonic movement stay the same, all sorts of features of the tracks can change. Most tracks remain within about half a minute of each other’s lengths across the albums, but even when two versions are the same, the trajectory they take can change. It’s fascinating and frankly amazing that they made it work, but it really is a very fine album regardless of all this — and if you heard someone else’s version you’d know it instantly, even if (as with two performances by any regular band) there would be subtle differences which would surprise and delight you…

Icarus have also done their fair share of remixes (including a stellar Four Tet one which introduced a whole new audience to them). It’s bizarre to find them dealing with the distinctive rapping of Chuck D, but here he is, working with London audio-visual collective Eclectic Method. You can see the unhinged video for their remix via the link below.
Sydney is very lucky now to have Icarus’ Ollie Bown in residence. He’s actually been based in Australia for a while, previously in Melbourne, and we hear him tonight remixing Melbourne dronesters Infinite Decimals (whose finite decimal track titles always disturb me a little).
The duo (both together and separately) also collaborate a lot with improvisers, and this month sees the release on their own Not Applicable imprint of an album of live performances with trumpeter Tom Arthurs and clarinettist Lothar Ohlmeier. If a limited edition of unique variant albums wasn’t enough, this live collaboration has its own special level of kookiness, because neither Ollie nor Sam (under his Isambard Khroustaliov alias) were present at these shows. They were present in the form of their software proxies, reactive programs that manage to improvise with the live musicians. Again it’s pretty bizarre that this works, but it does.

I’ve previously discussed the beautiful idea Sydney’s Hinterlandt had of asking local musician friends to remix his work — but providing only tiny building blocks, so that the pieces created would be entirely new works. It’s true that the resulting album isn’t particularly cohesive, but it has a ridiculously high hitrate of great tracks, and there’s no doubt that his original work, a highly eclectic ode to travel and resettlement, had an impact on all the tracks. Broken Chip’s contribution is one of many beautiful ambient works he created last year.

And so we get to a big collaboration project for the start of the year. From the Mouth of the Sun is Kansas multi-instrumentalist (and significantly, cellist) Aaron Martin and Swedish drone master Dag Rosenqvist (up until recently Jasper TX), and it follows the latter’s patient, evolving drone structures, but with gorgeous cello-scapes and acoustic sounds. They’re a perfect fit for each other. I’ll give the album a better listen when I have the physical copy, but Experimedia will give you an immediate download if you pre-order it right now!
Also a perfect fit is the powerful experimental minimalism of Danny Saul on the remix, who really ought to release some more music himself.

And so in droney minimalism we return to our opening artist, Markus Mehr. I sometimes find the ambient sounds on Perth’s Hidden Shoal to be a bit too, well, “ambient”, but Mehr creates floating, grumbling and sometimes crashing soundscapes that never stop moving despite their stretched-out nature. The 26 minutes of “Komo” take one beautiful string loop and ride it through waves of different effects, later adding semi-indistinct spoken samples and gloriously extreme distorted noise. In a different context entirely, from last year’s remix album by Danish heavy postrock band Salli Lunn, Mehr produces a glitchy, crunchy piece of post-industrial rock.

As far as “noisy” goes, you can’t really go past C. Spencer Yeh and his Burning Star Core, which has sometimes been him solo, and sometimes a supergroup of like-minded noise and psychedelic musicians. Just this past week on his Dronedisco SoundCloud he’s made available two unreleased sets of tracks. One dates from 2002 and is some of the earliest music we’ve heard from him — not as noisy and brash, synth and drum machine based pieces which nevertheless have their own charm. The other is from 2008 and features the greatest psych-noise line-up of BxC the band. The piece I played tonight isn’t the craziest, but shows the total freedom that the group was able to operate in. Amazing music that I hope isn’t forgotten in a few years’ time.

I’ve been on a bit of a Rune Grammofon tip lately, partly because the wonderful quirky alog had a new album out late last year, partly because Jenny Hval‘s album was easily one of my favourites of 2011, and partly because I’ve been finally discovering the wonders of experimental jazz group Supersilent.
alog take mainly acoustic samples, chop them up and reframe them into constantly surprising new shapes, from quasi-techno to newly-discovered folk forms. They’re quixotic and endlessly engrossing. As well as a track from their new album, we had one from a recent Rune Grammofon compilation in which they briefly reimagine themselves as a trashy indie rock group.
Supersilent make entirely improvised music with trumpet, drums (in their earlier incarnation) and various electronic sound generators. They can range from all-out free jazz cacophany to heavy rock to stunningly gorgeous post-jazz rivaling the delicatness of late-period Talk Talk. Their albums are consecutively numbered, with the tracks numbered therein, so we heard 6.2 from 6, which I feel is the best in a truly stellar catalogue.

We finished with two local lads. Limetipe is released on FBi’s own Chris Hancock’s Frequency Lab label, and takes the usual woozy hip-hop template into a slightly dubbier, heavier direction. Really nice. And from about a year ago, still sadly one of the most recent tracks from Katoomba’s Comatone — scrabbling almost-drum’n’bass beats and glittering production.

Markus Mehr – Softwar [Hidden Shoal]
Clark – Com Touch [Warp]
Plug – Flight 78 [Ninja Tune]
Nine Inch Nails – The Perfect Drug (Plug remix) [Nothing/Interscope]
Plug – Snapping Fuss [Law & Auder] {also released as “Natural Suction” on his Musipal album on Ninja Tune (under the Wagon Christ moniker)}
Icarus – MD Skillz [Not Applicable]
Icarus – Dumptruck Cannibals [Not Applicable]
Chuck D / Eclectic Method – Outta Sight (Icarus remix) [Eclectic Method] {check out the insane video here}
Infinite Decimals – 2.54421781 (Ollie Bown remix) [available from their SoundCloud]
Tom Arthurs / Lothar Ohlmeier / Isambard Khroustaliov – NK, Berlin (from Long Division) [Not Applicable]
Broken Chip – Particle Motion [Feral Media] {free download from Bandcamp!}
From the Mouth of the Sun – Color Loss [Experimedia]
From the Mouth of the Sun – Pools of Rust (Danny Saul remix) [Experimedia] {free download from SoundCloud}
Markus Mehr – Komo [Hidden Shoal]
Salli Lunn – Parachutes Forever (Markus Mehr remix) [Hidden Shoal]
Burning Star Core – BxCPrac4-19-08-4 [available from BxC SoundCloud]
Burning Star Core – Bodies Turn Cold [available from BxC SoundCloud]
alog – my card is 7 [Rune Grammofon]
alog – the mountaineer [Rune Grammofon]
Supersilent – 6.2 [Rune Grammofon]
Limetipe – Ten Blades [The Frequency Lab]
Comatone – Lamplit Screenprint [Comatone SoundCloud]

Listen again — ~ 160MB


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