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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, 24th of May, 2015

Playlist 24.05.14 (9:07 pm)

Songwriting and song meets experimental electronics, jazz, techno and glitch seems to be the theme for tonight, give or take.
I’m away for the next two weeks, so you’re left in the capable hands of Heli Newton, and I’ll be back on June 14th with some goodies from London & France no doubt, and generally catching up…

LISTEN AGAIN, LISTEN anyway, in the meantime… stream it over there, podcast it over here…

Starting with a pretty extraordinary collaboration on hellosQuare Recordings, featuring I think mostly Melbourne musicians, primary among them Grand Salvo‘s Paddy MannĀ and experimental/jazz trumpter & electronic musician Peter Knight. Also involved are awesome drummer Joe Talia (of Oren Ambarchi, Ned Collette’s Wirewalker, City City City etc), Erik Griswold on prepared piano, Vanessa Tomlinson on junk percussion and Andrew Brooks (who’s somehow dropped off the internet again) on saxophone. It’s a heady mix, and not at all overblown – in fact, it’s remarkable for its understatement, only getting up to indie rock speed on a few tracks. There’s whispered vocals, muted piano chords, pattering drums… Truly beautiful, one of the Australian albums of the year so far.

My Brightest Diamond‘s Shara Worden isn’t just a wonderful singer, composer and arranger. She’s also an incisive lyricist, addressing social justice matters at least as much as typical songs of love etc – see the masterclass in privilege of “High Low Middle“. The song “Say What” from her latest EP recontextualises Lewis Allan’s “Strange Fruit” (best known as a Billie Holliday song) in the light of the US’s current stark racial divide.

It’s hard to exaggerate how cool it is that Holly Herndon‘s new album is FBi‘s album of the week. Her glitched-up vocals and beats are like pop from another dimension, at once futuristic and looking back to the music that Utility Fog was excited about 10-15 years ago when it was first coming together. Herndon is well aware of the history of electronica and its use of anonymous sampled, chopped-up female vocals. By performing and processing the vocals herself, she’s explicitly commenting on and reclaiming that history.
I dropped a short track from Austrian easy listening glitcher curd duca from 1999 afterwards, for a little context…

I used to be a huge fan of Robag Wruhme‘s Gabor Schablitzki as half of German idm mavericks Beefcake, makers of post-Aphex ambient, drill’n’bass, glitchy mashed-up pop bits, dubby electronica etc. When Schablitzki went off on his own as Robag Wruhme and the Wighnomy Brothers, I wasn’t so excited by the club-friendly housey techno and it took quite a while before I went back to explore that back catalogue. There’s plenty of gems in there, and his recent works as RW have featured more ambient aspects, as well as head-nodding 4/4 beats.

Dutch experimental artists Michel Banabila & Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek have been collaborating for a few years now, and each album seems to change tack in quite a dramatic fashion – although never diverging too much from the two artists’ formidable talents. They started with a droney, experimental release, followed by something more in keeping with Banabila’s jazzy world-tronica, and the new one is again more abstract, featuring a number of talented Dutch musicians on wind instruments, strings, and voice. The acoustic instruments are mangled in their machines but it’s lovely to hear them cutting through here and there.

And so we arrive at tonight’s big retrospective, on sound artist Leafcutter John aka John Burton. His new album is entitled Resurrection, and it has indeed been quite some time between albums (although he’s popped up here and there doing interesting remixes, as we’ll see). I’m not able to go all the way back to his earliest Planet µ releases due to time constraints (I’m playing a pretty long track from the new album), but he was a bit of a surprising addition to the label’s roster initially, releasing an EP and album that mostly focused on abstract electronic sound, avoiding beats on most tracks, and occasionally devolving into somewhat processed folky indie songs with strangled vocals and strummed guitar. Within a couple of albums, and after a couple of years’ break being stuck at home with some bad back injuries, Burton’s technique improved, both in vocals and in electronic processing, to the point where he was writing some of the most beautiful and beguiling work in the mid 2000s. So it’s very exciting to have him back.
I didn’t have time to play any non-album tracks (“Lesson” from Sacred Symbols of Mu comes to mind) or some of his excellent remixes (his Origamibiro remix comes to mind), but I did play a collaboration with excellent young UK artist Memotone.

Daughter’s Fever – The Dark Eyes [hellosQuare Recordings]
Daughter’s Fever – The Boat in the Midst [hellosQuare Recordings]
My Brightest Diamond – Say What [Asthmatic Kitty]
Holly Herndon – Morning Sun [RVNG International/4AD]
Holly Herndon – Movement [RVNG International]
Holly Herndon – Home [RVNG International/4AD]
curd duca – touch [Mille Plateaux]
Robag Wruhme – Anton 2 [Pampa]
Robag Wruhme – Volta Cobby [Pampa]
Banabila & Machinefabriek – Ascend [Tapu/Machinefabriek]
Banabila & Machinefabriek – Ill Rave [Tapu]
Banabila & Machinefabriek – Spin ‘n Puke [Tapu/Lumberton Trading Company]
Banabila & Machinefabriek – Stemmenspel [Tapu/Machinefabriek]
Leafcutter John – Endless Wave [Desire Path Recordings]
Leafcutter John – untitled 05 [Planet µ]
Leafcutter John – walk on my back [Planet µ]
Leafcutter John – let it begin [Staubgold]
Leafcutter John – Introduction in the Wrong Place [Tsuku Boshi]
Memotone feat. Leafcutter John – Four Minute Hallway [Black Acre]
Leafcutter John – Resurrection [Desire Path Recordings]

Listen again — ~105MB


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Sunday, 10th of May, 2015

Playlist 10.05.15 (9:09 pm)

Indiepop, indiefolk, pipe organ drone/noise, idm & techno, postrock… we’ve got it all!
Next Sunday night I’ll be heading back from Canberra so I’ll tune in to hear Heli Newton filling in. And a couple of weeks later I’m off touring in the UK so Heli gets another 2 Sundays. But for now I’ll see you all on Sunday the 24th of May.

LISTEN AGAIN FOR THE FIRST OR MORETH TIME. It’s east. Podcast here, stream there.

Brian Campeau‘s been making his own music & producing others’ around Sydney for a good decade now since leaving Canada for frankly warmer climes. He’s maybe best known round here for playing with Elana Stone’s band and recording her music, but he’s also seen behind the live mixing at various venues, and produces a wide range of styles for different people. His music doesn’t usually convey the metal and other weird shit he loves so much, but for someone with such a pretty voice he goes in some pretty leftfield directions at the drop of a hat. Like, say, fellow Canadian Benoît Pioulard he’ll drop drone tracks in between pieces of indiepop, and he’s wont to slam in digital edits and clicky beats under acoustic guitars and strings…
His first album came out in 2006 as a double CD – two completely different versions of the same album, with songs radically reworked between the two. Since then there’s only been one more album and a few scattered singles, so the newie is very welcome!

Dublin’s Lakker have been making electronic music in one form or another since at least 2007. Now resident in Berlin they’re making impeccably-produced techno for Belgium’s legendary R&S Records. They’ve tapped into the recent fertile vein of mixing noise & industrial elements in with the electronic beats, and switching between breakbeats, drum machines and techno thump… In fact, you can hear the noise influence way back in their 2007 debut album (still available from their Bandcamp!), and the idm & ambient influences track right through their sound as well. The Berlin influence seems to kick in around 2012 or 2013, as the production gets simultaneously wider and tighter. Nowadays they seem wholly in control of their sound, whether incorporating vocals (indeed a whole choir on one track), field recordings, piano or just heaps of bass. Bass is good. Bass is a winner. Lakker. You want it.
Oh, and the new album is called Tundra and it is indeed appropriately frosty and windswept. It’s a beauty.

British trio Fiium Shaarrk are one part Icarus (the non-Sydney-based half Sam Britton) and two parts percussion/drums, and thus channel the Icarus-style post-drum’n’bass stylings through jazz-trained live beats and improv along with electro-acoustic sound processing. There’s a world/jazz feel in there along with basslines which could be electro-funk or could be inherited from Britton’s junglist past.

In 2008, when it came to summing up the year on Utility Fog I chose a few top albums, and among them was the debut album from at the time solo artist Bleeding Heart Narrative. It was predominantly the work of cellist, multi-instrumentalist & producer Oliver Barrett, but soon BHN became a band, stretching the noise/soundscape/postrock stylings of the debut album into something more like indie songwriting. Eventually Bleeding Heart Narrative broke up and Petrels became the main output of Barrett (aside from various squalling, challenging cello-mangling EPs), again maybe initially a solo project, but expanding into all kinds of psych/kraut/postrock. The new album is a kind of concept album although I’m not sure of the concept, with long interrelated songs and a massive three-part composition at the end which climaxes at the start of part three and then goes on for another 9 minutes of motorik riffing and chanting. Pretty wonderful.

The great thing about being from Australia is that you’re always an ex-pat, even if it’s been over a decade since you lived here. So John Chantler is still an ex-pat Aussie, originally from Brisbane, even though he’s spent a lot of time in Japan, then lived in the London for the best part of a decade, had a big hand in experimental music hub Cafe OTO and for a time running the UK wing of ROOM40. Now relocated with his wife to Stockholm, Sweden, a comfortable home for electronic music, and he took with him a bunch of recordings of the pipe organ from London’s St John-at-Hackney church. He processed these sounds at the Elektronmusikstudion EMS in Stockholm and is now releasing the finished product on CD and vinyl (and digital) via his newly-established label 1703 Skivbolaget. The album’s out in August so I’ll have another opportunity to play these massive and detailed sounds again.

Brian Campeau – Interlude B [Art As Catharsis]
Brian Campeau – How We Knew [Art As Catharsis]
Brian Campeau – mtl / montreal (version 1) [self-released debut album two faces]
Brian Campeau – like a girl (version 2) [self-released debut album two faces]
Brian Campeau – reinventing myself (single version) [self-released]
Brian Campeau – then came the sun [self-released]
Brian Campeau – Cutting Ties (single version) [Brian Campeau Bandcamp]
Brian Campeau – So Long, Angela [Art As Catharsis]
Lakker – Echtrae feat. Eileen Carpio) [R&S Records]
Lakker – Milch feat. Eileen Carpio) [R&S Records]
Lakker – Julystep [Acroplane/Alphabetset]
Lakker – PanShelac [Lazybird/Lakker Bandcamp]
Lakker – fmsnw [Lakker Bandcamp]
Lakker – Static & Amp [Blueprint]
Lakker – Coal Bath [Candela Rising]
These Hidden Hands – Ivy (Lakker remix) [Hidden Hundred]
Lakker – Pylon [R&S Records]
Fiium Shaarrk – Fear Of Mapping [Not Applicable]
Fiium Shaarrk – Krypton Tunning [On The Corner]
Petrels – L. Caution part three [Denovali]
John Chantler – The Long Shadow of Decline pt II [1703 Skivbolaget]

Listen again — ~111MB


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Sunday, 3rd of May, 2015

Playlist 03.05.15 (9:05 pm)

Switching from last week’s strings to mostly electronics tonight!

LISTEN AGAIN and relive the then and the now! The podcast is here, the stream is there.

Melbourne’s molten wing has just released a follow-up to his stunning debut we seek a new beginning from last year, with four tracks of frosty electronics that would be at home on a ’90s idm release but equally don’t seem dated at all. When the first EP came out, the web presence was almost totally anonymous – an entirely mysterious artist & release which just arrived with no fanfare. But it was too good to be a debut release, and it turns out that Molten Wing is an alias for a Melbourne artist, originally from the UK, who releases folky indiepop as Muckle Pup.
Regardless, this is highest quality home listening electronica and you should listen to it as you go to sleep.

The Crooked Fiddle Band manage an impressive feat and feature not just on the string special but also tonight’s electronic follow-up. Both last week’s and this week’s tracks are self-remixes, taking the songs into more beat-driven and even electronic territories.

Grime legend Wiley has a new album out on Ninja Tune(!) and they’ve put out a couple of limited remixes in the lead up. This week’s is a pretty amazing junglist take by Paul Woolford’s Special Request alias.

Machinedrum was one of the artists responsible for taking Chicago footwork into new territories, mixing it up with idm, dubstep and drum’n’bass. He’s just released a tribute to the late DJ Rashad, probably the single artist most responsible for bringing footwork to the rest of the world. All proceeds go to Rashad’s family and estate, so it’s worth dropping some pounds sterling on. We also heard a beautiful tech-steppy remix of Machinedrum by dBridge, one of the artists who’s rejuvinated drum’n’bass in recent years, and who runs the excellent Exit Records.

The latest EP on Exit Records is something pretty special. A hugely impressive debut EP from new drum’n’bass artist Fixate, referencing rave and various subgenres of drum’n’bass all in the bouncy title track, and darker territories elsewhere. It’s certainly dancefloor-friendly, but reminds me as much of idm and drill’n’bass as mainstream drum’n’bass.

Speaking of “drill’n’bass”, nobody embodied that somewhat derisory moniker better in the ’90s than Squarepusher. From earliest releases on the Spymania label to his debut album on Rephlex and then his longtime home on Warp, he was the name on everybody’s lips when they talked about insanely complex beat juggling and sweet melodies. People also complained that the bedroom drill’n’bass heads had forgotten about the “bass” bit in drum’n’bass and it’s true that they fixated more on the crazy beats than the half-time dub-influenced sub-bass. The accusation was that they’d never heard drum’n’bass in the clubs with the massive bassbins, but I suspect they knew what they were doing – Squarepusher himself, after all, was and is a mean funk bass player and would pull out his bass guitar to noodle jazz fusion basslines along with the insane drum programming.
For me it was probably the jazz fusion that was the undoing of my love affair with the ‘pusher. Not so much the initial lo-fi jazz detour of Music Is Rotted One Note, but the unfocused fusion/prog/everything of a succession of albums in the 2000s left me not caring very much. Even the remote-controlled Japanese robots of recent years were still playing… jazz fusion.
The new album is certainly back to more pure electronics and has plenty of beat madness – but it suffers a bit from the same thing recent Amon Tobin has, which is a seeming desire to be as tough and up-front with the sound as possible. Maybe inspired by the EDM of recent years? Or just current norms in digital production. It’s a shame, but it’s still quite enjoyable.

We finish with a long piece of live improv from ambiq, featuring Sun Electric‘s Max Loderbauer on the Buchla 200e modular synth along with Samuel Rohrer on drums & electronics and Claudio Puntin on clarinet, percussion & electronics. It’s actually rather tonal and organic-sounding, not as out there as a lot of modular synth stuff – or indeed live improv stuff. This track takes its time to get going, but ends up with some nice deep grooves going on.

molten wing – solstice [molten wing Bandcamp]
molten wing – no unwinding this [molten wing Bandcamp]
molten wing – watching waiting [molten wing Bandcamp]
molten wing – four zero zero zero zero [molten wing Bandcamp]
The Crooked Fiddle Band – Vanishing Shapes (Intense Suspense Density Remix) [unreleased self-remix, stream on SoundCloud]
Wiley – From The Outside (Special Request VIP) [Ninja Tune]
Machinedrum – The $$$ [Machinedrum Bandcamp]
Machinedrum – Rise N Fall (dBridge‘s Fall N Rise Remix) [Ninja Tune]
Fixate – Throwback Therapy [Exit Records]
Fixate – Alive [Exit Records]
Squarepusher – Baltang Ort [Warp]
Squarepusher – Theme From Ernest Borgnine [Rephlex]
Squarepusher – Port Rhombus [Warp]
Squarepusher – massif (stay strong) [Warp]
Squarepusher – Anirog D9 [Warp]
Squarepusher – My Red Hot Car [Warp]
Squarepusher – Exjag Nives [Warp]
ambiq – toxic underground [arjunamusic]

Listen again — ~109MB


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