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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 April, 2013

Playlist 28.04.13 (10:07 pm)

Japanese shoegaze, Aussie indietronica, an astonishingly atmospheric song cycle from Aidan Baker and a host of female singers, Colin Stetson‘s saxophone mangling and more…

LISTEN (again?) via the link at the bottom, the podcast or stream on demand in stereo at FBi! (Now optimised for mobile!)

We start with a bit of an audacious project from Japan’s High Fader Records, a cover of My Bloody Valentine‘s most famous album, titled *ahem* Yellow Loveless. The opening track is a bit of a red herring in a way – Tokyo Shoegazer do such a literalist take on “only shallow” that you really could be forgiven for thinking it was MBV themselves, on a cursory listen. But I think it’s worth hearing for precisely that reason.
On the other hand, The Sodom Project take the general harmonic structure of the instrumental “touched” and take it into very different territory, with the motif on piano, expanding into an insane wubwub dubstep mid-section, and then more piano and electronics. There’s way more on this compilation, not just shoegaze, and you should really seek it out.

On the other hand, The Sodom Project take the general harmonic structure of the instrumental “touched” and take it into very different territory, with the motif on piano, expanding into an insane wubwub dubstep mid-section, and then more piano and electronics. There’s way more on this compilation, not just shoegaze, and you should really seek it out.

New Zealander Heidi Elva moved from Sydney to Melbourne a couple of years ago and she took her harp with her, but along with her lo-fi harp-based indie, she’s been writing tunes on her iPhone, while commuting (she’s no stranger to the phone as musical instrument, having played and looped samples from old Nokias in her harp sets as well). Regardless of the source, it’s compelling minimal electronica with her sweet vocals. An album will be out in the coming months.

And so we come to one of the most exciting albums of the year for us here at Utility Fog Towers. Aidan Baker, member of crushing drone-noise-meisters Nadja, extremely prolific artist across many genres, releases a song suite based around folk tales and mythology of female water spirits, featuring a collection of brilliant female vocalists, who also contribute instruments and, in a couple of cases, lyrical translations. The music is impossibly moody, quite minimalist as expected with Aidan Baker, but variously the tracks feature surging crescendos, beautifully arranged strings, electronic processing, and of course gorgeous vocals – tonight we heard fellow Canadians Geneviève Castrée (also an awesome comics artist) and Clara Engel. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We also heard an immense 14-minute track from Nadja‘s Dagdrøm album of last year.

I first saw Colin Stetson in an incredible guest spot with My Brightest Diamond at the Vivid Festival in 2010. My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden turned up as guest singer on his second album shortly after, along with Vivid co-curator Laurie Anderson. It sounds like Stetson’s presence on Bon Iver‘s recent touring has been similarly revelatory, and it’s great to hear Justin Vernon appearing on a few tracks on Stetson’s new album, including his grindcore-style barking on one of tonight’s tracks. As usual, guests aside, aided by Ben Frost‘s bass-heavy production, it’s all about Stetson’s intense, endless playing on his various saxophones, multiphonics with rapturous singing through the reed, all while circular breathing (one track goes for a good 15 minutes!). It’s as incredible as his second album, which is saying something.

More rapturous playing up next from A Hawk and a Hacksaw, an English duo who have completely assimilated the gypsy and Eastern European folk music they so love, and are now able to create their own facsimiles. Combining these sounds with some amazing movie samples and occasional processing is effective – I especially love the mega-distortion at the end of “The Sorcerer”.

And so we get to a bit of a special tonight on Brisbane’s The Rational Academy, whose new album is out now on vinyl and digital through their Bandcamp. I first came across their singer/guitarist Benjamin Thompson on a highly limited 3″ CDR in the early days of the Room40 label, passed on by John Chantler (now running the London arm of the label), and featuring Brisbane-based label boss Lawrence English producing and processing Thompson’s guitar in a series of lo-fi indiefolk songs. The Rational Academy’s early material continues this cut-up, ramshackle aesthetic, an essential Brisvegan contribution to indietronica. Even the more rockin’ incarnation now still has some excellent jarring moments of digital edits stutters and edits. Excellent stuff all round.

Speaking of postmodern indiepop, Golden Blonde still haven’t released their album, but this is one of the tracks I’m allowed to play you. Essentially a reborn Kasha, they’ve gone from a kind of math rock to a sortof demented version of Animal Collective, Lucky Dragons and god knows what else. Apparently they’re great live too, and I can’t imagine how they would achieve this sound live, which is an excellent thing.

Finishing with another of Li Daiguo‘s Chengdu vignettes, wonderful avant-garde Chinese folk.

Tokyo Shoegazer – only shallow [High Fader Records]
The Sodom Project – touched [High Fader Records]
Panoptique Electrical – Mount Schank Part Three [Panoptique Electrical Bandcamp]
Heidi Elva – Waiting by the river [Heidi Elva SoundCloud]
Aidan Baker – Already Drowning feat. Clara Engel [Gizeh Records]
Nadja – space time and absence [Broken Spine Productions/Daymare]
Aidan Baker – Tout Juste Sous la Surface, Je Guette (feat. Geneviève Castrée) [Gizeh Records]
Colin Stetson – Hunted [Constellation Records]
Colin Stetson – Groundswell [Aagoo]
Colin Stetson – Fear of the unknown and the blazing sun (feat. Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden) [Constellation]
Colin Stetson – Brute (feat. Justin Vernon) [Constellation Records]
A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Open It, Rose [L.M. Dupli-cation]
A Hawk and a Hacksaw – Ivan and Marichka/The Sorcerer [L.M. Dupli-cation]
The Rational Academy – Great Care [The Rational Academy Bandcamp]
Benjamin Thompson – Girl Singers [Room40]
The Rational Academy – Your Hands Just Fall – Your Chest and Face Are Noise [The Rational Academy Bandcamp]
The Rational Academy – David Version [hellosQuare Recordings]
The Rational Academy – Hammer [Someone Good]
The Rational Academy – 夏 夫 (Summer Husbands) [The Rational Academy Bandcamp]
Golden Blonde – We Begin [Golden Blonde]
Li Daiguo – Chengdu Plant and Bird Market [Tenzenmen]

Listen again — ~ 158MB


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Sunday, 21st of April, 2013

Playlist 21.04.13 (10:20 pm)

Good evening! Tonight, a special on Danish producer Thomas Knak aka Opiate, an interview with London-based Aussie composer Leah Kardos, some new drum’n’bass, soundtrack work from Clint Mansell and more!

LISTEN again via the download link at the bottom, the podcast, or the glorious stereo of FBi’s streaming on demand.

I’ve been a fan of Danish artist Thomas Knak aka Opiate since the late ’90s, when he was making idm and early folktronica, plus making minimal dub and indietronica as part of System aka Future 3. Occasional (uniformly awesome) remixes have slipped out, but there’s been precious little from Opiate of late, so it’s fantastic to discover that fellow Dane, jazz composer Jakob Bro released an album late last year which not only featured luminaries such as Bill Frisell and Paul Bley, but also an entire second disc remixed by Thomas Knak. What a score! The BRO disc is a delight – melodic composed jazz (not to say the performers don’t improvise of course). Knak’s take is typical of his output – digital cut-ups, glitches, beats ranging from clicky hip-hop to drill’n’bass. It’s a bit of a throwback, both to the ’90s idm days and the early-to-mid-’00s folktronica, which is all good and proper. Highly recommended.
We also had a few highlights from the Opiate back catalogue, which has included some very fine remixes along the way. He’s also responsible for two of the tracks on Björk‘s much-loved Vespertine album.

Following the drum’n’bass influence of Opiate, we head to a true d’n’b innovator of recent times, ASC – although he’s known for releasing techno or house singles now and then too. A lot of his stuff lives in this autonomic subgenre that’s sprung up in the last few years, alongside, although not necessarily influenced by, dubstep. Slower tempos, minimalist but still jittery beats… What we heard here was closer to the d’n’b end of the spectrum, even with some amen breaks, including a track from one of two EPs that came out this week (the other isn’t drum’n’bass).

And end.user‘s always been at the heavy end of the drum’n’bass spectrum, better known for breakcore but venturing onto the heavy, dark end of the d’n’b dancefloor too. This new track was released free on his Bandcamp this week, and drops some dubstep bass wobble for good measure.

Next we head back to the lovely Leah Kardos, a London resident originally from Brisbane who’s been featuring on the show recently because of her new album which extends her debut’s classically-trained piano and electronics with Rhodes and the opera-trained vocals of Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz. I caught up with her while she was in Sydney earlier in the day, and we heard the resulting conversation tonight.

Piano features heavily in the film scores of Clint Mansell, an artist who I’ve been a fan of for more than 2 decades, since his days making intergalactic punk-rock hip-hop with Pop Will Eat Itself. In the last decade and a half he’s made a major career for himself writing movie scores, combining his background in guitar riffs, beats and samples with a real talent for melody and for scoring piano and strings. His latest score is for Stoker, which I was disappointed to discover is not about Dracula author Bram Stoker. In any case, there’s subtle electronics, and lots of romantic piano and strings. His Moon soundtrack is one of my favourites, with a returning piano-led postrock refrain that I could listen to all evening.

Sydney trio Making started off making (er, sorry) muscular math rock that was like a hard-edged early My Disco. Their new single is a slightly less hard and more funky affair, and like their last it comes with a pair of excellent remixes – an epic 12-minute rework from Mannheim Rocket and a more sensible length Scissor Lock one which we heard tonight. Check it – free download!

Thomas Knak – Roots Rebuild (remix of Jakob Bro) [Loveland]
Opiate – tennis at wimbledon [April Records]
Piano Magic – The Canadian Brought Us Snow (Opiate remix) [Morr Music]
Opiate – amstel [Morr Music]
Jakob Bro – Northern Blues Variation No. II [Loveland]
Thomas Knak – Northern Blues Variation No. II Rebuild No. I (remix of Jakob Bro) [Loveland]
Jakob Bro – Epilog [Loveland]
Thomas Knak – Epilog Rebuild (remix of Jakob Bro) [Loveland]
ASC – Droids [Samurai Music]
ASC – Glass Walls [Samurai Music]
ASC – Sonic Assault [Halocyan Records]
end.user – necessary bruises [end.user bandcamp]
Leah Kardos – Highly Active Girls [Bigo & Twigetti]
…interview with Leah Kardos
Leah Kardos tracks in the background: “Core”, “Closed Circuit”, “Katerina”…
Leah Kardos – Sexy Monday [Bigo & Twigetti]
…further interview…
Leah Kardos – Apology [Bigo & Twigetti]
…final interview segment…
Leah Kardos – Incantation [Bigo & Twigetti]
Clint Mansell – Merry Christmas (It’s The End Of The World) [Headphone Commute]
Clint Mansell – Happy Birthday (A Death in the Family) [Milan Records]
Pop Will Eat Itself – The Fuses Have Been Lit [RCA]
Clint Mansell – We’re Going Home [Black Records]
Clint Mansell – Blossoming [Milan Records]
Making – Stay Stil (Scissor Lock remix) [MAKING Bandcamp]

Listen again — ~ 107MB


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Sunday, 14th of April, 2013

Playlist 14.04.13 (10:04 pm)

Tonight we range from art-punk to post-classical electronica, lots of glitchy electronics, and even experimental Chinese folk music. LISTEN again or for the first time and forever! via the download link at the bottom, the podcast, or the glorious stereo of FBi’s streaming on demand.

We start tonight with the totally unhinged vocals of Eugene S Robinson and his art-punk(?) group Oxbow, who go way back to the late ’80s. First track features the one and only Marianne Faithfull duetting with Robinson in a slowed-down, intense cover of an already pretty intense blues song, Insane Asylum – and you really must click the link to hear the original by Willie Nixon with Koko Taylor. Please do.
“Angel” is from their first album, King of the Jews, and while it’s their usual freakish sounding stuff, it has a vinyl sample that drove me crazy when I first heard it. Eventually my brother tracked it down as the choral bit from Kate Bush’s “Hello Earth” from the Hounds of Love album, which is in turn a sample of an insanely awesome Georgian folk song. You need to listen to that link too.

We were listening to Oxbow because Eugene Robinson has been working a lot lately with Monsieur Philippe Petit, and I wanted to play some more of Philippe’s work. The duo material is Robinson in storyteller mode, and while it’s amazing it’s probably too longform to play on the show, so we had a pretty amazing piece from Petit’s ensemble Strings of Consciousness instead.
Outside of Strings of Consciousness, Philippe is an inveterate collaborator, and a regular outlet for these are his Philippe Petit + Friends albums. We heard a beautiful piece with English cellist Bela Emerson, who performed live on this show some years ago! And then another somewhat neo-classical piece with some amazing Russian musicians.

Next up, a few more samplings from the wonderful new Leah Kardos album, keeping the neo/post-classical theme, along with one from her previous album. Piano, opera-trained vocals, electronics.

Josh Abrahams is a name we haven’t heard for ages as a solo producer. A renowned producer of other people’s material (including Amiel’s hit Addicted To Bass), he was also involved in the early rave days with Future Sound Of Melbourne. His new EP is a delightful set of upbeat bedroom electronics, no doubt involving his extensive collection of analogue synths.

Back to Sydney, or rather the Blue Mountains, we have a new single (17 minute!) track EP from 0.1. Feral Media gave us a radio edit, but I decided I could one-up them, or at least I wanted to highlight some slightly different sections, so I did my own. As usual, this young producer travels the gamut of styles from glitchy processing to breakneck beats to Sigur Rós-style postrock with vocals. Expect a fantastic album later this year.

Brisbane’s Ektoise seem to fly a little under the radar in Australia, but their brand of post-industrial electronica and postrock has made a name overseas, and their previous remix album featured the likes of The Black Dog and Bola contributing. Their new one has some great locals including fellow Brisvegan Subsea, and the legendary Mark Fell who we’ll hear in a later week, plus none other than British cellist and sound designer The Haxan Cloak.
This was a nice segue into the new Haxan Cloak album. His prior album and EP were released on Auorora Borealis, and were appropriately dark for a label known for releasing black metal. The new one appears on Tri-Angle, more known for witch house and new electronica forms – which shouldn’t be surprising considering the twisted techno of his first EP. To be honest, I don’t think the sound’s changed that much – doom-laden percussion and strings, exquisite sound design, and some electronic beats of indeterminate genre. It doesn’t matter how you try to pigeon-hole him, he makes incredible, indispensable sounds.

After years of scratching CDs and painting them with markers to created a signature sound in the glitch oeuvre, Markus Popp aka Oval disappeared from view for a while, and a few years ago he re-surfaced with a new sound, no less glitchy but based around purposeful arrangement of samples of mostly acoustic guitar and drums. It was strangely compelling folktronica, but it’s very interesting to discover that he’s recently extended that project with a project involving vocalists from various South American countries. The results are available to download free, and feature reworkings of recent Oval tracks (maybe some new ones too?) with some very talented singers. It’s rather beautiful and very UFog-friendly.

Finally, for Record Store Day this year, Sydney’s Tenzenmen are releasing a 7″ of “Music For Advertisements” from Chinese-American musician Li Daiguo. Moving to Chengdu in China a few years ago, he composed a number of musical postcards which are the eponymous “advertisements” – not for real commercials, but rather depictions of areas in Chengdu. It’s a fascinating mix of Chinese traditional music and experimental improv from a (Western) classically-trained musician. Check it out!

Oxbow – Insylum (feat. Marianne Faithfull) [re-release on Hydra Head]
Oxbow – Angel [re-release on Hydra Head]
Oxbow – Down a Stair Backward [Hydra Head]
Strings of Consciousness – Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (feat. Eugene Robinson) [Central Control]
Philippe Petit & Bela Emerson – The Moon Woman [Aagoo]
Philippe Petit & Hervé Vincenti, Maria Grigoryeva, Alexander Mahnev & Vladimir Shubin – Many-minds in Many-worlds [Home Normal]
Leah Kardos – Radiate Heat Into Space [Bigo & Twigetti]
Leah Kardos – Remnant 2 [Bigo & Twigetti]
Leah Kardos – Sleep Modes [Bigo & Twigetti]
Josh Abrahams – Life On Mars [ThirtyFive Music]
Josh Abrahams – This Is The Name Of This Song [ThirtyFive Music]
0.1 – The dance of mechanical birds (edit) [Feral Media]
Ektoise – Dissolved (Le Angustia Epoca by Subsea) [777 Operations]
Ektoise – Square Peg (The Haxan Cloak remix) [777 Operations]
The Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Part 2) [Tri-Angle]
The Haxan Cloak – The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2) [Tri-Angle]
Oval feat. Agustin Albrieu – Featurette [self-released, free!]
Oval feat. Aiace Felix – Alpen [self-released, free!]
Li Daiguo – Green Ram Daoist Temple [Tenzenmen]
Li Daiguo – Chengdu Tuberculosis Hospital [Tenzenmen]

Listen again — ~ 102MB


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Sunday, 7th of April, 2013

Playlist 07.04.13 (10:03 pm)

Great range of stuff tonight – shoegaze of various variants, post-classical electronica, an old electronica incarnation of The Haxan Cloak, dark drones’n’beats and more…

LISTEN (AGAIN?) via the link at the bottom or the podcast, or stream on demand from FBi.

I feel like I probably haven’t played enough Justin K Broadrick on this show, even though he’s one of my favourite music-makers. Look, I’ve probably played him a lot, but in proportion to how much I listen to him, and how many variegated acts he’s been involved with, it feels like not enough. Tonight we hear from his metal-shoegaze project Jesu, probably nowadays what he’s best known for, who put out a 7″ on the Matador Singles Club last year featuring a Stranglers cover (“Duchess”) and a new original, “Veiled”. That vinyl release is now available digitally from the Jesu Bandcamp along with alternate versions of both tracks. The trouble with being a JKB fan is all the alternate versions, self-remixes and re-releases that float around, all of which are essential because they’re often both radically different and brilliant – as is most definitely the case here. The outro, where it all changes, is fantastic in both versions.

Speaking of shoegaze, I was just handed the new album by Sydney duo Fabels this week, and had to play some tracks even though the album isn’t being launched until the start of May. It is in fact now available from their Bandcamp. Their shoegaze credentials are strong, as Ben Aylward was singer/guitarist in beloved Sydney shoegaze Swirl in the ’90s. His partner Hiske Weijers brings a psychedelic twist and shares the singing duties. The album features many tracks from their three excellent EPs along with a few new ones including the highlight “Everything”.

Aussie ex-pat Leah Kardos, now living in London, is a classically-trained composer and pianist as well as an electronic musician and songwriter, and she’s not afraid to combine all her influences on her albums – and indeed within tracks. Her debut album Feather Hammer was one of the highlights of 2011, and her new one is set to be the same for 2013. Featuring vocals on many tracks from Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz, who’s versatile enough herself to cover the range from operatic to pop, it starts off definitely seeming in the classical camp before the electronics drop halfway through the first track. There are glitchy layers of vocals, pop songs with deliciously bent lyrics, and gorgeous piano-backed ambient electronica. Both albums are highly recommended.

When Sydney’s Eugene Ward started making post-r’n’b/dubstep/techno as Dro Carey, he instantly seemed to attract the attention of the cool trend-setters in the music crit scene. And he is indeed uniquely talented and deserves his spot on the world stage. For his latest release he imagined what would happen if he took the house tendencies of his alter ego Tuff Sherm out of Dro Carey, leaving bouncing breakbeats and bass with perhaps more the hip-hop influences. Very fine stuff.

Aurora Borealis as The Haxan Cloak. A cellist and sound-artist, he’s at home with twisted techno, drone, and arcane acoustic doom, and his new album will come out on witch-house (etc) label Tri-Angle. Meanwhile, I was very interested do discover that under a little-mentioned earlier pseudonym he released a small amount of folktronica and more light-hearted electronica as Crillix. It’s quite different, and he probably considers it juvenilia, but I’ve been enjoying what I could find!

And speaking of rare and esoteric, Autechre are not the only Warp artist, or artist in general, to release special tracks for the Japanese market (a way of convincing the Japanese to buy from local labels & stores rather than going for cheaper imported stock), but the bonus track on Beat‘s version of their newie is one of the best Autechre tracks I’ve heard in ages. Absolutely stunning.

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation is the doomy drone version of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, with trombone, cello, traditional rock instruments and electronics/beatmakers. They’ve released a number of excellent live albums, and Roadburn is the best yet, with some heavy beats dropping in halfway through a couple of the long tracks. I believe there’s a new TKDE album later this year, which is something to look forward to.

And keeping the “road” theme, as well as numbered tracks, Sydney’s beloved afxjim has released the R.O.A.D. EP at his Bandcamp to tide us over till a new album later this year. Similar in feel to his album, it’s a sort of gentle folktronica and postrock, with samples and tape loops, guitars and drums – very melodic and just a delight to listen to.

Keeping the Sydney connection, next up we had a long-awaited collaboration between Italian drone-meister Fabio Orsi & Sydney’s own pimmon. It’s definitely easy to hear both of their signatures in these long drone tracks. Beautiful stuff.

And finally, Greg from Underlapper alterted me to a new project for Matthew Mehlan from Skeletons, Uumans. It harkens back to the solo days of Skeletons, much more electronic, with his instantly-recognizable vocals and general weirdness. Available in cassette form and with various t-shirt alternatives if you’re thataway inclined!

Jesu – Veiled [Matador/Jesu Bandcamp]
Jesu – Veiled (alt version) [Jesu Bandcamp]
Fabels – Everything [Fabels] {forthcoming}
Fabels – Turquoise [Fabels]
Fabels – Semaphore [Fabels]
Leah Kardos – Incantation [Bigo & Twigetti]
Leah Kardos – Sexy Monday [Bigo & Twigetti]
Leah Kardos – Apology [Bigo & Twigetti]
Leah Kardos – Closed Circuit [Bigo & Twigetti]
Dro Carey – Nightworld [Dro Carey Bandcamp]
Dro Carey – Grill Mage [Dro Carey Bandcamp]
Crillix – Sketch [Abandon Building Records]
The Haxan Cloak – Burning Torches of Despair [Aurora Borealis]
Autechre – 18 (keyosc) [Warp/Beat]
The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation – Roadburn II [Available from Bandcamp]
afxjim – R.O.A.D. Part IV [afxjim Bandcamp]
afxjim – R.O.A.D. Part V [afxjim Bandcamp]
Fabio Orsi & pimmon – Garnacha [Home Normal]
Uumans – When U Coming Out? [Uumans Bandcamp]

Listen again — ~ 102MB


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