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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, 13th of June, 2021

Playlist 13.06.21 (10:30 pm)

Tonight was gearing up to be mostly jungle/drum'n'bass, but that's ended up about half the playlist, along with dub, electronic pop, electronic mutations from Iran & Baluchistan, and contemporary electronic & vocal composition...

LISTEN AGAIN to these vital sounds. Stream on demand via FBi, podcast here.

Aphir - Negative Space [Provenance/Bandcamp]
We start tonight with a new single from Becki Whitton's Aphir, her first release since last year's Republic of Paradise. This is perhaps more of a 3-minute pop song than the tracks on that fairly experimental album, but it's still dark and political, still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns. Here, Whitton takes aim at the structural inequalities which have only been exacerbated over the last 12+ months, as billionaires cement their power and the most needy are discarded.

Sote - Pipe Dreams Metempsychosis [30M Records/Bandcamp]
Ehsan Abdipour - Sorna Lorestan [30M Records/Bandcamp]
30M Records is a new label based in Hamburg but focused on experimental and contemporary music from Iran. Their second release is the excellent compilation This Is Tehran?, which answers its question through 10 tracks, ranging from solo kamancheh (a bowed instrument) to traditional instruments processed electronically, to classical composition, to trip-hop. It's fitting that the first track I play is from Ata Ebtekar aka Sote, who I've been a fan of for decades, and who's introduced the world to countless artists from Iran & the Persian diaspora through his Zabte Sote label. He contributes a modified version of a track from his Parallel Persia album. He's followed by traditional musician Ehsan Abdipour, with frantic melodies over percussion.

Hooshyar Khayam, Bamdad Afshar - RAZZ [30M Records/Bandcamp]
Hooshyar Khayam, Bamdad Afshar - Chār [30M Records/Bandcamp]
30M Records' first release came out last year. Musicians Hooshyar Khayam & Bamdad Afshar put together a special project called RAAZ in which they took traditional folk music from Baluchistan - between Iran, Pakistan & Afghanistan - and embedded it into various musical genres, from classical composition (with piano and string quartet) to glitchy, dubby hip-hop rhythms. It's inspired madness, fascinating and well done.

Mick Harris - Devonshire drive [Mick Harris Bandcamp]
Mick Harris - Ritec (recede v) [Bandcamp]
Mick Harris - Doors v 1 & 2 [Bandcamp]
The legendary Mick Harris is a hardworking musician from Birmingham who's had a huge impact on a number of musical scenes - starting with popularising, if not inventing, blast beats as an originator of grindcore as drummer in the original lineup of Napalm Death. His involvement with extreme metal didn't end there, but he soon became fascinated with samplers, looping and dub music, and formed Scorn with Nik Bullen, also ex-Napalm Death. Bullen left fairly early on, but Scorn continued to leave its mark with incredibly heavy, pared down industrial dub, and a strange sideways precursor to dubstep. Harris also made drum'n'bass as Quoit, among many other pseudonyms and collaborations. There's a new Scorn album just around the corner, but meanwhile he's revived another project, the HedNod sessions, to showcase pared-down dubby hip-hop. It's not that far from the Scorn material, but a little more casual, and a pleasure to listen to. He was broadcasting studio sessions on Twitter from last year, but I only just twigged to the Mick Harris Bandcamp, which now has HedNods Five to Eight, as well as a short but great Scorn radio/live session from the mid-'90s.

Skee Mask - Rio Dub [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Skee Mask - Testo BC Mashup [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Somewhat mysterious German producer Skee Mask now takes us from dub to jungle, on the German techno label Ilian Tape that likes mixing breakbeat & drum'n'bass/jungle feels into its sounds. Skee Mask is one of those contemporary producers whose productions nod towards jungle breaks while not generally quite breaking out of the techno world. It's a modern approach which shows nicely how dance music forms can evolve while acknowledging the past.

Andrea - AuxL [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Andrea - Drumzzy [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
I discovered the Turin-based Andrea only fairly recently too - another Ilian Tape mainstay who does that post-Shed breakbeat techno thing extremely well. His 2020 album Ritorno had some lovely jungle-inflected vibes too it, and new EP Sktch mostly sticks to slightly lower BPM, but still with the breakbeats, and some hints at junglist skitter in there.

Kelly Lee Owens - Jeanette (Haider Remix) [Smalltown Supersound/Bandcamp]
Here's a surprising one. The beautiful album from Kelly Lee Owens last year, Inner Song, has been treated to a series of remixes recently, now collected, and snuck in at the end is this remix from the Berlin-based, Sheffield-raised Haider, who's swapped the grime/bassline house for blissful jungle for this remix.

Eusebeia - You Reap What You Sow [RuptureLDN/Bandcamp]
From a little bit further south, Eusebeia contributes the latest 12" to RuptureLDN's roster. It's classic jungle/drum'n'bass, with windswept pads, sub bass and mashed breaks.

Thugwidow - Invisible Shell of Energy [Sneaker Social Club]
Welsh producer Thugwidow has been extremely prolific since his earliest releases in 2017, rolling out perfect jungle tunes with a conscious hauntological bent. His new Post Modern EP brings him into the Sneaker Social Club fold with four classic '90s style jungle tracks.

Yaporigami - Non-Acid Classic #2 [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
Yaporigami - Rhythm Study V [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
Yaporigami - Gogh Did His Thing. I Will Do My Thing. [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
The Berlin-based Japanese musician & engineer Yu Miyashita has many aliases, but may be best known as Yaporigami, under which he's been released on World's End Girlfriend's Virgin Babylon label among others. His own The Collection Artaud releases limited 12"s and occasional albums, mostly I believe of his own pseudonyms (I recently learnt that &nbsp is indeed him too). His latest album is IDMMXXI-L, following the earlier IDMMXX, and finds him destroying breakbeats, glitching melodies and generally creating mayhem. The song titles are somewhere between hilarious & profound, and musically it's a great continuation of the glitchy, complex, hyperactive experimental electronic music that Japan has produced over the last 2-3 decades.

Yunzero & Body Clock - Spuzzem [Lillerne Tapes]
Yunzero - I Didn't Smudge So Easily [Lillerne Tapes]
Yunzero & Body Clock - Ogre [Lillerne Tapes]
Yunzero & Body Clock - Wall of Junk [Lillerne Tapes]
Melbourne's Jim Sellars has been making some of the most compelling & strange music to come out of this country for the last few years, under a few aliases - most recently Yunzero. I discovered him on the excellent .jpeg Artefacts label, but some much earlier work on Nice Music prefigures this sound. Abstract beats and textures are sampled seemingly willy-nilly from YouTube and who knows where, with a shimmery sheen - words like "Smudge" and "Blurry" turn up in titles, and his latest is a Wall of Junk. His last album and this have found a home at the legendary Chicago label Lillerne Tapes, and for the new one he's joined by fellow Melbournite Body Clock. The beats, abstract as they may be, are less present here, with wavering ambient soundscapes the main event. It's as magical as ever in any case.

Pamela Z - He Says Yes (from Echo) [Neuma Records/Bandcamp]
Pamela Z - Scared Song (composed by Meredith Monk) [The House Foundation]
Pamela Z - Site Four (from Occupy) [Neuma Records/Bandcamp]
Finishing up with the groundbreaking African-American composer & performer Pamela Z, whose new album A Secret Code is only the third album in her repertoire, in a career spanning over 3 decades. Her works have appeared in performance and in installations and artworks. I heard Pamela Z's work a while ago on the compilation Monk Mix: remixes & reinterpretations of the music of Meredith Monk, and Monk's extraordinary vocal techniques certainly inform Z's approach in her own composition. Z's voice is deconstructed & layered using Max/MSP and other technologies - and she often does this in realtime with incredible skill using gestural interfaces, as seen in the video of "Typewriter" on the Bandcamp page. Her work has a lot of humour and a lot of depth - kudos to Neuma Records for bringing us this collection of work by an important artist.

Listen again — ~206MB

Sunday, 6th of June, 2021

Playlist 06.06.21 (11:22 pm)

There's a strong, ruff thread of jungle, drill'n'bass & idm through tonight's selections, shot through with dub and ambient.

LISTEN AGAIN with me via podcast here, or stream on demand from FBi.

Squarepusher - Tundra [Rephlex/Warp]
Squarepusher - Theme From Ernest Borgnine [Rephlex/Warp]
In 1996 jungle was just starting to morph into drum'n'bass, and the genre was itself only unevenly starting to spread around the world. Here in Sydney, I was discovering the sometimes scrappy "drill'n'bass" of "IDM" artists in some ways simultaneously with dancefloor jungle & drum'n'bass, and since Aphex Twin's experiments on the Hangable Auto Bulb EPs and Like Vibert's EPs as Plug were only limited vinyl releases, it was probably Squarepusher's Feed Me Weird Things that was one of the first places to encounter jungle's insane rhythmic complexity - and since drum'n'bass was taking over with less intensive, through-composed beat programming, it was easy to assume that this was the, you know, "intelligent" shit. Decades hence, various histories of the period plus YouTube and digitisation allow us to have a clearer picture of the timelines, but even so, the bedroom productions of these folks have a relentless creativity that mirrors that of jungle's originators and goes in unexpected directions - not least the melodic aspects. With Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher, no doubt the other characteristic twist is his showy but talented funk bass soloing which accompanied the sampler programming and windswept synth pads - almost all, at this early stage, primitively mixed in mono. Of course it didn't take long for Warp to sign Jenkinson after this first album on Aphex's own Rephlex, which he co-ran with Grant Wilson-Claridge, and Warp proceeded to collect some of Jenkinson's earliest 12"s on Spymania which preceeded this album. Now they've requisitioned that first album from the defunct Rephlex, and remastered it so that those lo-fi old mono mixes actually sound somewhat professional. The hazy nature of the recordings is part of their charm, though, and great remastering or no, that's still unavoidable here. The two bonus tracks, previously only available on a limited 12" and the Japanese CD, are pretty good - but it's the extensive liner notes which seal the deal here, detailing the instrumentation & recording techniques of each track, the recording date & location, and some notes about inspiration as well.

µ-Ziq - Slade Treacher [Analogical Force]
µ-Ziq - Sketty [Analogical Force]
Another essential character in the mid-'90s IDM & drill'n'bass scene was Mike Paradinas aka µ-Ziq, with two crunchy & melodic albums on Rephlex, a major label signing with wide-ranging remixes, and then of course the founding of his impeccable Planet µ label. It's been some 8 years since a proper new µ-Ziq release, and this year we're apparently getting two, with a Planet µ album on the way as well as this newie, Scurlage, which comes courtesy of Spanish IDM/acid label Analogical Force. Mike's music always had a strange otherworldly quality, drawing from his deep knowledge & love of rave genres but filtered through his particular odd way of producing music, with a great talent for melody and a penchant for juxtaposing beauty with harshness. There's junglish bits, acidish bits and hints of footwork, but most of all the tunes here are absolutely recognizable as the sound of µ-Ziq. What a joy.

CORIN - Enantiodromia [UIQ/Bandcamp]
CORIN - Rivalry [Bedouin Records/Bandcamp]
CORIN - Mnemosyne [UIQ/Bandcamp]
Filipina-Australian artist CORIN, once from Sydney and now based in Melbourne, goes from strength to strenth with international recognition courtesy of Bedouin Records' 2019 release of Manifest now extended to Lee Gamble's incredible UIQ records, who've just released her Enantiodromia album, which I think is her best yet. The dark, cyberpunk-inspired sounds of the previous album are further exercised with propulsive beats and eerie ambient tracks exploring the idea of impermanence, the observation of things gradually turning into their opposites. An album for the times, and another great step for this talented producer.

Loraine James - On the Lake Outside (feat. Baths) [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Loraine James - Self Doubt (Leaving the Club Early) [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Like many, I was blown away by Loraine James' debut album for Hyperdub in 2019, For You And I. I'd already heard the glitchy breaks of Button Mashing earlier that year on New York Haunted, and Sydney's Hence Therefore had alerted me to her talents when he remixed her "+44-Thinking-Of-You" the previous year. She's an anomaly and a product of the times - a young London-based queer black woman, who grew up listening to IDM and didn't quite fit into any scene. Her music blends IDM's experimentation and boundary-pushing with contemporary club sounds, r'n'b, jazz and more, and doesn't avoid directly addressing the personal toll of being queer and black. She also continues to collaborate widely, bringing in Antion alumnus Baths for some melodic indie vocals, as well as singing & speaking on a number of tracks herself.

Loraine James - I'm Feeling (w/Morwell) [Loraine James Bandcamp]
Morwell - Biosonics [Morwell Bandcamp]
Morwell - Disintegration [Morwell Bandcamp]
I mentioned first discovering via the +44-Thinking-Of-You Remixes in 2018, and as well as Hence Therefore, young UK producer Morwell contributed a mix. At the beginning of 2020, James released her second New Year's Substitution collection of collaborations, and Morwell again appeared - so when Max Morwell contacted me a couple of months back about a new release, his name rang faint bells in the back of my mind. His new album Souls is out on June 18th, and I cheekily played a couple of non-singles ahead of that date tonight. Its exploration of the tension between euphoria and collapse in club music (and its pandemic absence) leads to a collection of tracks influenced by UK's bass/hardcore continuum through house & techno, jungle, garage & dubstep, with disembodied, often incomprehensible vocals in amongst the beats. Although the subject matter is sometimes dark, it's a fine ride.

DJ C - Circe [Mashit/Bandcamp]
Electro Organic Sound System - Wacko Macko is Backo (DJ C's Babylon A Fall Mix) [Mashit/Bandcamp]
DJ C - Billy Jungle [Mashit/Bandcamp]
DJ C - Dread Bounce [Mashit/Bandcamp]
Also dedicated to fun on the club fringes is Chicago's Jake Trussell aka DJ C. Ten years after his last album was released, Jake is back with Do Radly, a genre-hopping club album for the home, a late-lockdown album for dancing to... And he's revived the Mashit label into the bargain, which is great as those brilliant 12"s of the 2003-2005 jungle revival finally get digital releases on Bandcamp! "Circe", the single from the new album, reworks a jungle-dub track from Trussell's 2000 album RootsWreck in his old Electro Organic Sound System incarnation, tightening the 11-minute "Magical Condition" into under 5 minutes of pulsing, dubby junglist fun. But Mashit released a series of eight superb 12"s between 2003 & 2005, mostly the work of DJ C with a few top-tier remixers, mostly in that "ragga jungle" style, appropriating dancehall & reggae classics as jungle workouts. 2004's "Wacko Macko is Backo" takes some of Trussell's soundtrack work (he's nothing if not versatile!) and weaves Sizzla & Capleton vocals amongst the synth strings & jungle breaks. From the same year, "Billy Jungle" adapts Shinehead's highly successful Michael Jackson cover into the perfect ragga jungle anthem.

Subtle - sinking pinks (Bracken loves Dax mix) [Bracken Bandcamp]
Odd Nosdam - Sisters (Bracken's second place edit) [Bracken Bandcamp]
Although his jungle escapades were never particularly of the "ragga" variety, Chris Adams of Hood released some of the most unhinged early breakcore and drill'n'bass as Downpour, and revived the alias for some Bandcamp EPs from 2014 to 2017. Now he's brought his other solo alias Bracken to Bandcamp, collecting most of the albums & EPs barring a few deep cuts, and also compiling many of his brilliant remixes on Selected Remixes - with a twist, because many of tracks here are edits. They're also rather nicely remastered, so it's easily worth the price of entry. For instance the Subtle rework, dedicated to their keyboard player & beatmaker Dax Pierson (who was rendered quadriplegic in a touring van accident but continues to make creative music), is about a minute longer than the original and sounds way better. Some others are shortened, including the edit of his phenomenal remix of Odd Nosdam's "Sisters", 17 and a half minutes in its original glory but also gorgeous clocking in at 7 minutes here.

Gantz - FATALIST [Gantz Bandcamp]
Turkish dubstep producer Gantz, known for releases on Deep Medi, Exit Records and others, continues to release EPs on his own Bandcamp, the latest being the KİLL GANTZ EP. As usual genre is at most a guideline, with subdued creepiness and cinematic evocation the order of the day, even while the the beats & bass move the body.

Other Joe Quartet - Lavender Pill (Live at Colour) [Music Company/Bandcamp]
Megan Alice Clune - Cut Space [Music Company/Bandcamp]
Melbourne's Music Company continue their compilation series with Vector Fields Vol. 3. It feels like I was sent this ages ago, but it was actually only a month ago that I played a couple of tracks. These comps are always of the highest quality though, so here's two more now that it's out. Joe Buchan aka Other Joe, who also mastered the album and runs the .jpeg Artefacts label, contributes a live performance by his quartet, a gorgeous bit of jazzy, electronic postrock. And Sydney's Megan Alice Clune brings glitchy vocal drones, peaceful yet slightly unsettling.

Listen again — ~206MB

Sunday, 30th of May, 2021

Playlist 30.05.21 (7:32 pm)

Journey through jazz, postrock, shoegaze-metal, ambient pop, soundtrack work, experimental electronics and jungle tonight...

Come, ignore all genre constraints and LISTEN AGAIN with me... Stream on demand with FBi, podcast here.

jaimie branch - theme nothing [International Anthem]
jaimie branch - waltzer [International Anthem]
I'm not always that excited about the prospect of live albums - music perfected in the studio then performed imperfectly and recorded in uncontrolled circumstances with annoying crowd noise. But sometimes live albums are the perfect distillation of a band at that point in time - like Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense or NoMeansNo's Live + Cuddly. Of course jazz is an artform that's all about the alchemy of musicians playing together, and that alchemy produced the astounding performance by Chicago trumpeter jaimie branch's ensemble, recorded in Switzerland before the last US election, and immortalised on FLY or DIE LIVE. Both FLY or DIE albums are amazing, creative works, with compositions and unchained trumpet from the still young Colombian-American musician. For the live album, Branch is joined by the core group who recorded the second album - cellist Lester St. Louis, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor, and here I've played two tracks from the first album reworked with this tight lineup. There's also a 14-minute rendition of the great "Prayer For Amerikkka Pt 1 & 2" which you'll have to check out for yourself.

Fly Pan Am - Scanner [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Le Fly Pan Am - Univoque / Équivoque [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Fly Pan Am - Distance Dealer [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Fly Pan Am - Grid Wall [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Formed in 1996, Montréal band (Le) Fly Pan Am have been a key part of that city's postrock & experimental scene since the beginning - their first release was a split 7" with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Initially their sound had more to do with the jazz-punk hybrids of Tortoise than the expansive orchestrations of Godspeed, and they gradually incorporated more electronics at the same time as an interest in the blast beats & occasional screamy vocals of black metal - a really anything goes aesthetic. From 2004 until 2019 the band took a rather long hiatus, in which the members pursued other projects, but it was great to have them back on 2019's C'est ça (see the second-last track tonight). Early in 2020, as Sydney Festival's programmed performances went ahead while the world slowly understood the breadth of the pandemic approaching us, Canadian dance company Animals of Distinction brought their new project Frontera to Carriageworks - and it wasn't until I was just about to go and see it that I realised that I was getting to see Fly Pan Am performing live for the first time! Albeit behind a screen for most of the show. It was quite something to hear this entire new album of theirs with an evocative piece of physical performance, and it works really well as their new album too.

Nadja - Fruiting Bodies [Southern Lord/Daymare (buy)/Bandcamp]
Nadja - Ketene [Southern Lord/Daymare (buy)]
Fly Pan Am's flirting with metal is reflected the other way in a lot of metal bands from the last couple of decades. You couldn't call fellow Canadians Nadja post-metal, but postrock is nevertheless present in their doomy shoegaze sound (doomgaze?... or dream sludge?), and for their latest album Luminous Rot the married couple of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff handed over the recordings to someone else for the first time to mix - and it's none other than David Pajo, a key figure in the Chicago postrock scene, original member of Tortoise, and Slint before that. Pajo has done a phenomenal job, keeping the grinding intensity of Baker's guitar and Buckareff's bass, but revealing lamina of detail to the sound throughout, and allowing the vocals, hissing and shimmering, to peek through the miasma of sound a little more than usual. Of course James Plotkin's mastering helps too. I picked the CD up from Japanese label Daymare, licensed from Southern Lord, which of course has a bonus track, "Ketene", which we also heard tonight.

Penelope Trappes - Lucky Eleven [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Penelope Trappes - Low [Optimo Music/Bandcamp]
Penelope Trappes - Kismet [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Penelope Trappes - Forest [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Originally from Australia, Penelope Trappes made her way to New York with a band, before landing in London, where she's been based with her small family for some time now, during which she has released three Penelope albums as well as some more ambient & experimental EPs and a great remix album. Penelope Three completes her quasi-self-titled trilogy with the familiar tropes of her solo work: ambient/dream pop with ethereal vocals, piano and experimental electronic production. She writes as a mother and a woman in her 40s - an age at which women in the music industry too often find themselves discarded and ignored. This third album takes the themes of birth and rebirth, grief and loss, centred on the female body, and focuses on healing and love. It's beautiful work full of darkness and light, from a highly creative artist.

Andrée Greenwell - Fire (instro redux) [Andrée Greenwell Bandcamp]
Andrée Greenwell - Piano Tendrils [Andrée Greenwell Bandcamp]
Andrée Greenwell - Secret Texture [Andrée Greenwell Bandcamp]
Sydney composer Andrée Greenwell has always been hard to pigeonhole. Even when writing in an ostensibly classical context, she draws on postpunk, electronic, industrial, folk and more. While she has created her own works, including in 2018 a powerful examination of gendered violence called Listen To Me, she's also a prolific composer for film and TV, and from that repertoire is drawn her new album Cinéaste Vol. 1. I'm particularly drawn to the pieces with electronic elements - crunchy & fluttery beats and delicate processing, mixed in with chamber strings and piano. Well worth exploring.

Daniele Sciolla - Arp [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
Daniele Sciolla - Poly [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
Italian artist Daniele Sciolla has a background in mathematics as well as conservatorium training in music, which all sounds very familiar to me... His latest work is an exploration of his love of classic synths - here he's taken a collection of analogue synths, once seen as experimental instruments and now the backbone of a lot of pop & dance music, and each track on his EP Spin of Synth takes one such instrument and triggers scattered, glitchy timbral explorations from them. It's more vaporwave than synthwave.

MoMA Ready - Simple As A Song Ft. Mina Thomas & Yunie Mojica [HAUS of ALTR]
MoMA Ready - The Influence Of [HAUS of ALTR]
New York producer Wyatt D. Stevens, aka MoMA Ready or Gallery S, is a true lover of club culture on both sides of the Atlantic. He's the proprieter of HAUS of ALTR, on which he's released his latest Untitled album which, unlike some of his releases, refuses to stay pinned down to one particular genre, with house & techno mingling with a few choice jungle cuts. With vocals from Mina Thomas and jazzy, psychedelic saxophone from Yunie Mojica, "Simple As A Song" is a clear highlight, while "The Influence Of" is straight beat juggling bliss.

K-65 - In My Mind [SEAGRAVE]
Speaking of junglist beat juggling, UK's SEAGRAVE are back in the compilation game, curated again by "The Fissure Family" like their earlier compilation albums, but here released as a series of 12"s called Quarters. There's lots of jungle/drum'n'bass, and other breakbeaty rave styles and the like. Bristol's K-65 here gives us some classic early '90s jungle feels.

Small Town Twiin - Bark [Bigger Deer Recordings]
Small Town Twiin - The Trees That Held Up The Sky [Bigger Deer Recordings]
I can't tell you a lot about our last artist, Small Town Twiin (note the "ii"), because even the press release from Bigger Deer Recordings focuses only on expressions like "growing from adversity" and so on. There are field recordings weaved in here with sounds drawing from UK bass music, folktronica and ambient music. It's surprisingly compelling music, with a lovely attention to detail.

Listen again — ~211MB

Sunday, 23rd of May, 2021

Playlist 23.05.21 (8:06 pm)

Strings at the forefront, and strings hinted at, electronics tattered & shiny tonight...

Come float through the cosmos with me... Stream on demand at FBi, podcast here.

Happy Axe - One Morning (feat. Butternut Sweetheart) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Emma Kelly's second album as Happy Axe, Maybe It'll Be Beautiful, is coming in July from Melbourne's Spirit Level, and we've now got a second single, the utterly gorgeous "One Morning", which features her friend Luke Moseley aka Butternut Sweetheart on drums, and also providing the very sweet vocal harmonies. Typically for Kelly, it's centred around her versatile violin playing and also lots of detailed electronics.

Sarah Neufeld - Tumble Down the Undecided [Paper Bag Records/One Little Independent/Bandcamp]
Sarah Neufeld - Hero Brother [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - With the dark hug of time [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Sarah Neufeld - With Love and Blindness [One Little Independent/Bandcamp]
Earlier this year we were given a new album from Toronto postrock/post-classical legends Bell Orchestre, over a decade after their last. Formed from people associated with The Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre features Sarah Neufeld (of both bands) on violin, so it was a nice surprise to find a new solo album from Neufeld coming out this year too. After a few releases on Montréal's great Constellation, Neufeld's previous solo album was released by Toronto's Paper Bag Records, and Detritus follows suit, along with One Little Independent in Europe. It's very much a continuation of what she's done since 2013's Hero Brother - solo amplified violin throwing off pastoral melodies and fluttering, see-sawing chords, with occasional vocals and drums & other instruments thrown in at times. While he doesn't appear here, back in 2015 Neufeld released a stunning album with her husband Colin Stetson, a true meeting of minds in which two very singular, technically accomplished musicians meld their styles together. I decided to revisit one track from that tonight as well.

Colleen - Gazing at Taurus - Santa Eulalia [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Colleen - blue sands [Leaf/Bandcamp]
Colleen - Hidden in the Current [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Cécile Schott aka Colleen is a truly chameleonic musician, who over the years has made purely sample-based music, an album from music boxes, extraordinary layered acoustic music featuring the viola da gamba, and more recently a series of albums from analogue synths, drum machines and echoes & delays. The Tunnel and the Clearing, just released on Thrill Jockey, comes 4 years after her last, and follows a period of readjustment after being knocked down by an illness and then locked down by, well, we all know... From very constrained materials - a Moog synth, a Yamaha Reface YC (basically a retro electric organ), some delays, a drum machine and a Roland RE-201 Space Echo, along with her gentle vocals, Schott constructs pieces of strangely emotive beauty. Drawing a line between this, the mystical acoustic visions of les ondes silencieuses, and her earlier work is not as hard as it may seem.

Isambard Khroustaliov - Lewdown Incantation [Not Applicable/Bandcamp]
In the mid-'90s cousins Ollie Bown and Sam Britton formed the drum'n'bass duo Icarus, releasing two immaculate Photek-tinged drum'n'bass albums and then melting into bizarrely broken-down forms over many years since, drawing on musique concrète, sound-art, folktronica, generative programming and more, while never quite losing the accelerated, syncopated pulse. Bown is now the laptopist in Sydney's Tangents (full disclosure: with me), and Britton plays in a number of jazz/electronic-fusing ensembles in London as well as releasing music under the pseudonym Isambard Khroustaliov. Britton has undertaken research at the venerable IRCAM in Paris, as well as STEIM in Holland. With these credentials, he crosses over between IDM, the dancefloor and the academy, but it's jazz and science (fiction) which fuel his latest album Transhuman Harmolodics. I can't pretend to understand much of the theory behind Ornette Coleman's "harmolodics", but it's a philosophy as much as a musical theory, and Britton sees it as harmonious with the philosophy of transhumanism, which seeks to transform humanity into a new evolutionary pathway by merging with technology. There's some otherworldly beauty in this work, and I wish it had a physical release, but I hope this long piece, featuring the sampled & transformed voice of his young son Kip, will tempt you to check the rest of the album out.

Seefeel - Spangle [Warp/Bandcamp]
Seefeel - Cut [Warp/Bandcamp]
Seefeel - Monastic [Warp/Bandcamp]
Scala - Naked [Touch/Bandcamp]
Seefeel - Dead Guitars [Warp]
This week sees Warp Records release a big, generous box set of works by the legendary Seefeel from 1994-96 - their EPs and album Succour on Warp, and the follow-up (Ch-Vox) originally released by Rephlex, collected on 4 CDs and 6 LPS. At the time, their signing to Warp was a little controversial as they were seen as a guitar band (quite amusing looking back from 2021), but it was clear right away that Seefeel were becoming a very "Warp" band, even before the marvellous Starethrough EP came out on Warp, featuring the otherworldly "Spangle", which many of us discovered on Warp's Artificial Intelligence II compilation the same year. Sarah Peacock's vocals, and the guitars and drums were all cut up, sampled and looped, primarily by Mark Clifford, constructing minimalist works which owed more to dub, hip-hop and techno than shoegaze or indie rock. The influence of Warp pioneers Aphex Twin and Autechre (the latter of whom swapped remixes with Seefeel around this time) is deeply felt, but Seefeel themselves were highly influential on the following generations of electronic and postrock musicians. It's a shame that the release of these boxsets is marred by some mastering issues. Bogglingly there's been a 2sec gap introduced between all tracks, not just on the CDs but also digital and even on the vinyl, which messes with the continuity between some tracks. And the wonderful dubby "Monastic", otherwise unreleased, has a tiny gap around 0:55 which apparently appears on all formats(!) - I managed to repair it with a matching bar a couple of phrases after this glitch, so you get to hear the "Peter Hollo edit" tonight!
The earliest incarnation of Seefeel featured the brilliant electronic producer Mark Van Hoen (aka Locust), and after Seefeel's run of '90s albums the members reconvened with Van Hoen with a new name, Scala, releasing three brilliant, overlooked albums on Touch and Too Pure. Peacock's vocals break out of the stuttering samplers more here, and the music is less minimal, owing more both to techno and to indie. And then in 2010 Seefeel released an EP and album back on Warp, with all the expected parts present and correct. One can only hope that another decade later there's more to come.

Jack Prest - Test Tone IV [Jack Prest Bandcamp]
Jack Prest - Test Tone VII [Jack Prest Bandcamp]
Ambient music can mean so many things, but whatever it is, Sydney composer, producer & musician Jack Prest has got it down pat with his Test Tones. A series of short tracks created with soft-focus generative video as an iPhone app, a selection of these pieces are now available on cassette and digital from Prest's Bandcamp. This is mostly gentle music that works just beyond perception, but as with the best ambient, it's mind-altering, and not always calming. The crescendoing growls and jolts of "Test Tone VII" in particular point at some interesting stuff going on below the surface here.

de portables - Uuflaki Space Station (Life is Tidal at USS) [Gazer Tapes/de portables Bandcamp]
Belgium's de portables have a pranksterish reputation in their home country - they started as a perfectly-pitched postrock band, but they've released oddball pop, krautrock and electronic experiments (one of their members is Jürgen De Blonde, aka glitch maestro Köhn). During lockdown, de portables have been steadily releasing a series of cassette (and digital) EPs, the Silver Series, through Belgian label Gazer Tapes and on their own Bandcamp. Each sports a "Version/Virgin" punning title and the version theme is carried through with dub-influence krautrock jams - but with enough time in the studio there's plenty of accomplished writing and producing coming through. I couldn't quite play the entirety of the near-15-minute epic "Uuflaki Space Station (Life is Tidal at USS)", but I got enough in for you to get the picture I think. A head-nodding good time, yes?

Listen again — ~196MB

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Sunday, 16th of May, 2021

Playlist 16.05.21 (7:44 pm)

Some great works of neo-classical fusion tonight, some of which are Australian-related, as well as far-out electronics, contemporary jazz remixes, and more.

LISTEN AGAIN - closely, mind! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Leider - Great Expectations [Beacon Sound/Bandcamp]
Leider - The Weeping Wound [Beacon Sound/Bandcamp]
Leider - Human Error (Tegh Version) [Beacon Sound/Bandcamp]
A few weeks ago I played a single & remix from the debut album from Berlin-based quartet Leider, and now their album A Fog Like Liars Loving is released in full. It's the music & words of Rishin Singh, who studied music in Sydney and went through the improv & sound-art scene here before moving overseas. The music itself - minimalist, slow-moving, unsettling with its hints at microtonality - reflects the ensemble's unconventional makeup, with Singh on trombone, Derek Shirley on cello & percussion, Annie Gårlid on viola and Stine Sterne on flute. The two women also provide vocals, sung in an understated, unemotive manner. Singh's lyrics are allusive and cutting, even when quoting Charles Dickens. It's unusual and gratifying to find music so, well, unusual. I've found it gripping - and the Human Error Remixes are very well-chosen too, with Iran's Tegh (on a roll with remixes lately) inserting rumbling sub-bass and shattered beats into the glacial sound-world.

The Still - The Tortoise [Bronze Rat Records/Bandcamp]
The Still - Crystal Clear Fog [Bronze Rat Records/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based quartet The Still feature The Necks' Chris Abrahams on piano & organ, drummer Steve Heather, double bassist Derek Shirley and guitarist Rico Repotente. As well as The Necks themselves, and European minimal jazz/post-rock (another Abrahams associate, the Berlin-based New Zealand guitarist Dean Roberts comes to mind), the spectre of Talk Talk lies heavily over this music - extending even to the collaged birds on the album covers.

part timer - Catch all [Analogue Chat]
part timer - Canberra [Analogue Chat]
You will have heard me celebrating the return of Melbourne-based John McCaffrey's Part Timer last year & early this year, with a slew of beautiful EPs on his Bandcamp featuring delicate piano and even-more-delicate folktronic beats and treatments. Now we're treated to new album Reaching Ends, further refining those techniques, released through cassette label Analogue Chat. The label's conceit is that each cassette (and digital release) features a chat with the artist, and the 20 minute interview with McCaffrey is delightful - not just because there's a mention of yours truly somewhere in there!

Tawdry Otter - Albert Bedside [Adrien75 Bandcamp]
Adrien75 - The Rabbit Hole [Adrien75 Bandcamp]
Two acts which are the work of Adrien Capozzi, who's been making delightful IDM and glitch as Adrien75 for decades. Capozzi was also involved with Carpet Bomb with Doron Gura and Pablo Manzarek in the '90s and early '00s, who released some remarkable IDM/drill'n'bass/jazz hybrids including the untouchable Highways Over Gardens compilation. Adrien is now also one half of Dolphins of Venice with Adelaide's Tim Koch, but his solo music hasn't stopped, both the melodic, strange electronica of Tawdry Otter and the more glitchy, textural Adrien75 material.

KMRU - Jinja Encounters [Injazero Records/Bandcamp]
KMRU - 11 [Injazero Records/Bandcamp]
Nairobi sound-artist & beatmaker KMRU, aka Joseph Kamaru, released a lovely ambient album last year on Editions Mego, so it's quite surprising to find that Logue, a new collection of his self-released music pressed to vinyl by Injazero Records, features beats and burbling melodies among its glitches & drones. It's first class stuff that I'm super psyched to have brought to my attention.

Natalie Beridze - Be Airborn [Monika Enterprise/Bandcamp]
Natalie Beridze - Swing Low and Closer [Monika Enterprise/Bandcamp]
From Tbilisi, Georgia, Natalie Beridze (previously known as TBA) has been making electronic music for nearly 2 decades. This new album, Mapping Debris, sees her trawling through decades of sound debris from old hard drives like investigators following a plane crash, and creating a new sound from old work. There are pulsating minimal techno pieces, glitchy surging drones and disturbing cracked vocal fragments, artfully built into something deliberate yet chaotic.

John Wall & Alex Rodgers - v02 [ II ] [John Wall Bandcamp]
John Wall - v02 [ IV ] [John Wall Bandcamp
It was a joy and also a slight terror to discover a few years ago that UK electronic musician John Wall had set up on Bandcamp. I'd been fascinated in his work for decades without knowing enough to work out where to step in - and now it was (almost) all there for the taking, if one could only find the time. Wall's music floats freely somewhere between cheeky plunderphonics (in his early work), highly abstracted sound design in a compositional language all his own, and more familiar glitch & noise. The more I've listened, though, the more I've found it quite approachable, at least to ears like ours, accustomed to deconstructed third-or-fourth generation experimental electronics. His latest missive is as good a place as any to dive in. v02 Variations [ I-IV ] is as referential a title as you've going to get, and tellingly lists A.G. Cook, Jennifer Walton and IKTS alongside experimentalists like Tom Mudd and Lee Fraser as sound sources. Once again poet Alex Rodgers appears with some abstract word painting on one track.

Domiziano Maselli - Lazzaro II [Opal Tapes]
Milan-based sound-artist Domiziano Maselli has just released his second album for Opal Tapes, Lazzaro, which takes bowed and plucked stringed instruments and sends them through the shredder alongside growling drones and occasional percussion, using Lazarus' story of resurrection as a dark allegory for contemporary nihilism. It's dark stuff, but not at all monotonous, and the acoustic sounds, lushly recorded although often harshly played, coexist very effectively with the intense electronics.

GoGo Penguin - Petit_a (Clark Remix) [Blue Note]
GoGo Penguin - F Maj Pixie (Squarepusher Remix) [Blue Note]
Manchester's GoGo Penguin are one of those modern jazz groups - your standard piano/bass/drums lineup - that draw inspiration from electronica, breakbeat, ambient music and so on in their glittering melodic playing. So the only surprise with GGP/RMX is that it took so long for them to release a remix album. There are lots of names of interest here - starting with Cornelius, there's Machinedrum, James Holden, Nathan Fake, Manchester's own 808 State and many more. Admittedly nothing unexpected or particularly adventurous, but it's good all the same. I chose two Warp staples anyway: the recently-heard Chris Clark with his organic crunchy beats, and Squarepusher pulling out his funk bass but not disappointing on the drill'n'bass front.

Shoeb Ahmad - flaw, featured (Dijit remix) [Shoeb Ahmad Bandcamp]
To my shame, I totally missed Shoeb Ahmad's remix album realignment when it came out a couple of months back. I must have been sent it well ahead and then not realised when it was released - it's super cool, with contributors both local and international, and I've chosen the warped drill'n'bass of Cairo's Dijit tonight.

Sydney jazz bassist Jacques Emery has many different identities in his hard case, and among them lately a scuzzy techno/house entity called AIR GOD has been surfacing with DJ sets. He now appears with a split release on Deep Scan with the intentionally-mysterious ØNNΔ, both contributing two tracks of dirty, fizzling 4/4 beats.

Listen again — ~198MB

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