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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, 26th of August, 2012

Playlist 26.08.12 (10:05 pm)

Two great gothic bands (very very different) have new albums out this week, plus we have some new electronic sounds and lovely post-classical stuff…
LISTEN AGAIN by all the usual tried-and-true methods. Stream on demand. Download below playlist. Podcast (see sidebar).

One of the biggest releases of the year is clearly going to be the new Swans album The Seer, which is just out this week. The CDs and vinyl are still winging themselves around the world, but digital is available now. A massive 2CD set, it features some massive tracks, with the title track weighing in at 32 minutes long(!). Especially with my 2hr timeslot now, I can’t really play such epics (although I’m sorely tempted by the very excellent album closer “The Apostate”, at a mere 23 minutes), but “The Seer” is followed immediately by the 6-minute “The Seer Returns”, which heads into far more song-like territory while preserving the drive and single-mindedness of the title track itself. One of the tracks of the year, I’d say. Of similar length is the opener “Lunacy”, with its stunning ending comprised of the repeated, layered vocals of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk of Low joining Michael Gira on the refrain “Your childhood is over”. Indeed.
In between Swans incarnations, of course, M. Gira’s main outlet was the folk-revivalist Angels of Light, with as truly indispensable a back-catalogue as the Swans themselves. In my opinion their last album, We Are Him is a masterpiece, and I had to drop one track into tonight’s playlist.

In a slightly different rock vocabulary, we join OM next for two pieces of metal riffage-meets-Middle Eastern melody. The bass/drums duo keep it heavy on the new album, but are also joined by strings on all tracks, and female guest vocals as well.
It’s a nice intro to the pan-cultural exoticism of our main feature for tonight…

Dead Can Dance. It’s interesting to note that this duo are so firmly citizens of the world that it’s easy to forget they’re originally from Melbourne. Both have roots in Ireland, where Brendan Perry has lived for many years, but Lisa Gerrard still lives in Victoria. They started in 1984 very much of a piece with the post-punk gothic, early-industrial music of the time, but within an album or so they’d begun to take their moniker seriously, pouring in their fascination with ancient musical forms, still realized mostly with synthesisers and vocals. With both members (it didn’t take long for the band to become just the couple at its centre) possessing stunning voices, it’s still a surprise just how huge they got — apparently the biggest selling act on 4ad for many years. And their back catalogue is full of wondrous songs, albeit never very obviously structured. In “Ulysses”, one of my favourites, Brendan Perry’s vocal doesn’t even enter until halfway through. But the hazy production and shape of the melody are so irresistibly evocative of the passing of time from ancient to present that it sticks with you.
I talked a little on the show about problems of Orientalism with DCD. They have certainly always been gregarious with their cultural appropriation, whether from the semi-ancient past or from non-European cultures, and it’s even problematic that living cultures are treated as equal fodder as historical ones. I think for us to investigate this more fully we’d need to delve into academic contexts that I’m not altogether familiar with, as well as, no doubt, interviewing the artists themselves. In any case, it’s wonderfully evocative music and very much uniquely idiosyncratic, for all that we might have some concerns about its vague, uncredited appropriation…

In not-quite contrast, Matthew Herbert is an artist who’s built the last 12 years of electronic music creation around a manifesto called PCCOM (his “Personal Contract for the Composition Of Music”), in which, among other things, he eschews any pre-recorded samples. This comes to its natural apex in his work as Wishmountain, resurrected after many years for a new album created entirely from the 10 top-selling items from 2010 at British supermarket chain Tesco. We heard the opening track, “Lucozade”, in which beats, melodies, basslines and everything else are created from this one product. You couldn’t tell, and regardless of sound sources it’s very fine, crunchy, sonically-complex electronica.
I recently played one of his new Björk remixes, but tonight I wanted to reprise an old favourite — from way back in 2001. It’s unusual to have such a fine original track as “Pagan Poetry” comprehensively reimagined so effectively.

It’s lovely to have something new from new Sydney artist Jacqui O’Reilly, whose sets her folk-derived songs to electronic arrangements. Somehow the warm, enveloping synth patterns here fitted nicely into tonight’s Dead Can Dance and even the previous Björk track.

Melbourne’s Peter Knight joins us again, with the titular ingredients surfacing through the track: plaintive trumpet lines subsumed by processing and amp noise. As well as download, this is available in a deluxe USB flash drive edition!

And next up we come to the part of the show where I play myself. I’m reluctant to play my own solo stuff on the show, seems wrong… but when it’s my cello on someone else’s music, I’m not going to penalize the lovely artists :) And Sophie Hutchings‘ new album is pretty special. So, introspective piano with violin and cello, plus various found instruments in various studios, buried spoken samples and field recordings. Perfect Utility Fog fodder.

Finally, I’ve already featured Memotone on the show, but this week I came across a big Bandcamp compilation from renowned electronic music podcast Electronic Explorations, featuring scads of great artists, and the Memtone contribution is gorgeous, so there’s the perfect ending for tonight’s show.

Swans – Lunacy [Young God]
Angels of Light – Not Here / Not Now [Young God]
Swans – The Seer Returns [Young God]
OM – State of Non-Return [Drag City]
OM – Addis [Drag City]
Dead Can Dance – Anabasis [PIAS]
Dead Can Dance – Cantara [4ad]
Dead Can Dance – Ulysses [4ad]
Dead Can Dance – Bird [4ad]
Dead Can Dance – The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove [4ad]
Dead Can Dance – Agape [PIAS]
Wishmountain – Lucozade [accidental]
Björk – Pagan Poetry (Matthew Herbert Handshake Mix) [One Little Indian]
Jacqui O’Reilly – from a quiet constellation [download from SoundCloud]
Peter Knight – Unknowness 1 [listen/hear collective]
Sophie Hutchings – By Night [Preservation]
Memotone – Stop running and they will catch you [Electronic Explorations]

Listen again — ~ 103MB


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