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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, 16th of February, 2020

Playlist 16.02.20 (8:26 pm)

Lots of experimental electronics tonight, more brilliant junglisms, and also plenty of vocals!

LISTEN AGAIN and sing along, via podcast here or stream on demand at FBi.

golden window house - The Man I Follow (ft. Marcus Whale) [Defaul Settings]
Kcin - Belief Network [Defaul Settings]
Starting tonight with another bushfire relief compilation. There’s been a lot of these, which just goes to show that in a business that could do with all the small amounts of money it could make, people in the arts are admirably morally centred. While some labels and artists were able to draw on existing material to get fundraiser compilations out the door as soon as the scale of the disasters became evident, others have put together wonderfully considered special material. New Sydney label Default Settings is a friend of the show’s – label head Tom Vanderzeil has filled in on shows following us a bit too. Their comp raises funds for WIRES and RSPCA NSW. Golden Window House is the ambient alias of Jacques Emery, enfolding Marcus Whale’s vocals in layers of quasi-classical samples, distorted noise and sub-bass. And Nick Meredith’s Kcin contributes an exclusive work of grungy bass synths and beats.

Melbourne producer Joshua Wells has appeared a fair bit on the show recently with his hard-hitting industrial-leaning techno as NERVE. This track is a live improvisation from the middle of a recent set, and again shows his techno teetering dangerously on the edge of drum’n’bass.

Thugwidow - i long to be carried away [Aurawire/Bandcamp]
Thugwidow - Dominion [Circadian Rhythms Records/Bandcamp]
Thugwidow - what ever happened to the pouring soul liger [Aurawire/Bandcamp]
Did anybody say drum’n’bass? I just discovered this wild album from 2019 by Manchester-based producer Thugwidow aka Alex Lowther-Harris, whose brilliant bass/drum’n’bass track “Dominion” appeared on the great jungle/idm/grime comp Partisan from last year on Circadian Rhythms. Seemingly one of a billion albums he put out in the last couple of years, it’s released through Minneapolis label Aurawire, a label that specialises mostly in ambient. It’s a beautiful homage to early ‘90s jungle, with rave synths, skittering breaks scattered octaves above sub-bass-lines, an absolute delight. And it’s released on CD! Although the mastering leaves a little to be desired – I boosted all the tracks by 3.4dB and topped-and-tailed all the tracks, because that’s the kind of thing I do, and so here we are. Really, grab this asap.

Louis King ft. Brain Rays - Let's Get It (Brain Rays + Quiet Remix) [SEAGRAVE]
Louis King ft. Brain Rays - Why Pree? (Ice_Eyes Remix) [SEAGRAVE]
There’s never a dud from British label SEAGRAVE. They remind us of the deep and weird connections between idm and dancefloor genres, and how blurred those lines are. The latest release is a grime single with various remixes. South London MC Louis King pairs up with producer Brain Rays for a couple of tracks which are flipped and messed with by the likes of algorave king Renick Bell, and tonight we heard Brain Rays himself with regular collaborator Quiet taking things into footwork-meets-jungle territory, and then Greek idm duo Ice_Eyes take it head-nodding and crunchy.

Pentagrime - No Pithering Allowed [James Plotkin Bandcamp]
James Plotkin can’t get enough of the modular synth idm beats. His years making the scariest doom metal in the business and being one of the most respected mastering engineers in the world give him a strange perspective on electronica, but he’s always been into weird & cutting edge electronic production as well. The third EP as Pentagrime is first class, from the acid slow-fast vibes of this track to the Aphexisms of “Lemur Orgy”. Also note the last track, an alternate version of the track I played tonight, bestowed with the subtitle “[rehearsal demo live peel session roughmix (remix)]”.

SUDS - Shuttlecock Fanfare [anno]
Legendary Digital Hardcore producer Christoph de Babalon, as well as releasing new music AND a series of archival releases of amazing drum’n’bass and dark ambient over the last few years, has been involved in a few collaborations lately, and his new one with Berlin-based experimental electronic producer Wilted Woman is very impressive. No junglisms here (although the beats skitter and syncopate plenty), but dark beats, bass and melodies. According to the EP title, SUDS = Sick Universe Demands Sharing. Maybe they’ll change it every release?

Ash Koosha - iLLY [Realms/Bandcamp]
Ash Koosha - Robot Kareem [Realms/Bandcamp]
Ash Koosha - The Egg Sea [Realms/Bandcamp]
Iranian ex-pat Ashkan Kooshanejad aka Ash Koosha, after a brilliant debut mixtape on Olde English Spelling Bee and debut album on Ninja Tune, has been steadily dropping mixtapes and albums on his own label as well as material from his handmade AI singer-songwriter YONA. His latest album-cum-mixtape BLUUD is as exciting as his earliest releases, combining crunchy beats and heavy bass with a Persian-inflected talent for melodic and harmonic invention.

Katie Gately - The Tower [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Katie Gately - Last Day [Public Information]
Katie Gately - Lift [Tri-Angle/Bandcamp]
Katie Gately - Rite [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
We’ve been fans on this show of the vocal magic and sound-art of LA-based musician Katie Gately for ages. It’s easy to forget that she’s a songwriter when contemplating her adeptness with sonic exploration, as well as the 10+-minute tracks appearing on Fat Cat and other labels – and indeed the lead single from her astonishing new album Loom is again over 10 minutes. As Gately was preparing the initial material, she received the devastating news that her mother had terminal cancer, and recorded the album during her mother’s illness. The emotional heft of those events is evident in many of the songs here, but as Gately is an inveterate sound artist, we have the sonic heft of earthquake recordings appearing in these complex tracks, along with coffins closing, wolves howling, pill bottles shaking, etc. None of this distracts from the great songwriting – and along with the rhythmic, song-structured pieces there are a couple of lovely shorter, simpler works for layered vocals and electronics. I felt that her last album (2016’s Color) deserved more accolades than it received, but to prove she’s been a huge creative force for a long time, we went back to 2013’s self-title album on Public Information – already complete with rumbling crashes, found-sound beats and wonderful vocal processing.

Arrom x KAIAR - Starcrossed [Provenance/Bandcamp]
Arrom x KAIAR - I Know The Ocean [Provenance/Bandcamp]
Two vocal & electronic producers from Melbourne team up for a new release on rejuvenated Aussie label Provenance. Both Arrom (aka Melissa Valence) and KAIAR (aka Karla Gilbard) are lovers of experimental electronics, and we hear the vocals of both (Valence is a classically-trained choral singer) as the main sonic element – sometimes floating melodically, sometimes chopped and processed – with booming beats or fragmented drum machines or glitchy crunches.

Olivia Louvel - Conversation with Magic Stones [Cat Werk Imprint]
Olivia Louvel - Bats (If You Cross The Line remix by Simon Fisher Turner) (excerpt!) [Cat Werk Imprint]
French-born British composer Olivia Louvel works with voice and electronics to explore digital narrative. Her latest work Hepworth Resounds, part of her Masters study, is in dialogue with the writings of British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Part of this work is an installation, and part is the new album SulptOr. Spoken and sung texts appear along with glitchy, stop-start beats. It's lovely stuff. And I wish I'd had time to play the complete, epic, beautiful remix of her track "Bats By Night" by the unimpleachably great Simon Fisher Turner, but we had time for just an extract.

Listen again — ~203MB

Sunday, 9th of February, 2020

Playlist 09.02.20 (8:16 pm)

We've got folktronica, post-classical experimentalism, folktronic house (does that make sense) and drill'n'bass tonight, with a bit of ambient thrown in...!

LISTEN AGAIN to the best new sounds. Podcast here, stream on demand from FBi.

Reuben Ingall - Close Contact [Reuben Ingall Bandcamp]
Reuben Ingall - Video 2004 [Reuben Ingall Bandcamp]
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the work of Canberra musician Reuben Ingall on this show. I've been playing him for around 10 years now, since his earliest forays into PureData patches live-processing mournful lo-fi indie guitar. He's performed drone pieces for a microwave heating up a pie, created techno works for environmentalist political satire, and now he's gone and released a beautiful, brilliant folktronica album. Or sound-art, or electro-acoustic? While theres some challenging bits of sinewave noise and collage there, and lots of music made from non-musical sound, there are also so many gorgeous passages. All tracks are within the 3 minutes of pop-song length - pop music for a better world!

Midori Hirano - Invisible Island [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
Midori Hirano - Terra [Midi Creative/Noble Label]
MimiCof - ReckTon [Wrong Weather Forecast #2]
Midori Hirano - Strain [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
Classically-trained Japanese composer & pianist Midori Hirano has been based in Berlin for ages now, but wherever she's based she has a true talent for being in a class of her own. You'll hear lovely post-classical piano, sometimes prepared piano, ambient sound processing, classical string arrangements, but there's an edge of strangeness and a compositional style which is freer than much of what passes for (post-)classical or ambient. She also has an electronic (beats) alias in MimiCof, although as we can see she's no purist when it comes to the material under her own name. The new album Invisible Island, her second for Berlin-based boutique label Sonic Pieces, seems like a career highlight.

Zoltan Fecso - Rainbow Noise [Shimmering Moods]
Zoltan Fecso - In Place [Shimmering Moods]
Excellent to find the second album from unique Melbourne guitarist Zoltan Fecso appearing on the lovely Dutch ambient label Shimmering Moods. Zoltan came in for a chat on this show a year and a bit ago, describing the incredible specially-made guitar he performs on, which has a 2-dimensional USB controller built in, so that he can sample, control and sequence fragments of the guitar sound in real time. He creates pointilistic compositions which can be rhythmic or free, guitar-like or anything but. On this new one he's expanded into using field recordings as well. I love the shimmering, pulsating tones, but it's also lovely when long guitar harmonics and tones are allowed to speak. Still a very creative artist like no other.

Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Five (feat. Lucy Railton) [PAN/Bandcamp]
Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Two (feat. Laurel Halo) [PAN/Bandcamp]
Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Eight [PAN/Bandcamp]
London-based producer Beatrice Dillon has a long history mixing avant-garde sensibilities with a great talent for rhythm. Whether it's minimal techno or house or UK bass music, her beats flow as much as they skitter. On her superb new album for PAN, she sticks at 150bpm (except for a couple of beatless interludes) and leaves plenty of space for the flow of the beats to recall UKG or dubstep's space as much as techno. And there are plenty of acoustic sounds in there, and plenty of jazzy musicality. I keep thinking of the sonic adventurousness and meticulous dancefloor dedication of Matthew Herbert. In any case, this is one of the best albums of the year so far, and one I plan to return to.

Om Unit - Runes [Cosmic Bridge Records]
From 150bpm to 160... The hybridisation of drum'n'bass and other UK & international bass styles like dubstep, UK garage, techno etc sits very comfortably at this tempo, and on his new album Submerged, Om Unit (one of the originators of this loose genre or movement) showcases a variety of rolling beats and sounds that work at 160bpm. Very nice stuff.

Tennis Pagan - Heads [Spirit Level]
Coming out next month from Melbourne's Spirit Level is a delightful EP of idm-ish sounds from mysterious(?) Melbourne artist Tennis Pagan. This little preview is a bit of drill'n'bass that segues rather well into our special on Tom Jenkinson aka...

Squarepusher - Terminal Slam [Warp]
Squarepusher - Tundra [Rephlex]
Squarepusher - Port Rhombus [Warp]
Squarepusher - massif (stay strong) [Warp]
Squarepusher - Detroit People Mover [Warp]
While Tom Jenkinson's music as Squarepusher has taken various twists and turns through the years - weird lo-fi facsimile jazz, prog, robot funk band, etc, he's never abandoned the drill'n'bass that everybody was obsessed with when his earliest stuff came out on Spymania, Rephlex and then Warp. A madcap take on the mangled beats of jungle, it mixed lo-fi synth melodies, jazz chords, ridiculously technical funk bass, and neverending complex chopped-up beats. Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert (as Plug) and various others started doing similar stuff at the same time, as did µ-Ziq, but drill'n'bass is still probably most synonymous with Squarepusher. It's nice to hear the melodic aspect popping back in on his new one, Be Up A Hello - even though 2015's Damogen Furies has hard-hitting drum'n'bass beats and acid basslines, this one seems more like a return to classic Squarepusher in a way. So I decided to return to classic Squarepusher, from 1996's Feed Me Weird Things, and his debut EP on Warp, and then a much-loved favourite from 1998.

Tilman Robinson - We Came For Your Riches [Bedroom Community]
Melboure-based composer Tilman Robinson (originally from Perth) has spent a lot of time in Iceland, and in fact recorded his last album at Valgeir Sigurðsson's studio, so it's rather nice to see him joining the Bedroom Community label properly with this new single. The track itself is a "wordless shriek" lamenting the horrors commited by white Australia's colonial past. As he eloquently puts it, "The destruction continues to this day as 21st century cowboys with their Haulpaks and piledrivers pillage land for every last scrap of resources and governments undermine the rights of First Nations peoples everywhere." The subdued, clanking rhythms, classical instruments and choir of wails are quite something.

Glamour Lakes - Competent Rock [Glamour Lakes Bandcamp]
Melbourne's Glamour Lakes has a history in indie bands and his solo stuff has been indietronica, minimal glitchy techno, and has now settled into something more ambient. But, despite the fact that somebody on YouTube claims his music is used by the IRS as hold music, there are some unsettling, dark undercurrents in there, especially on the rather perplexingly titled "Competent Rock".

Listen again — ~274MB

Sunday, 26th of January, 2020

Playlist 26.01.20 (8:32 pm)

Dark cello, ambient electronic, jungle, techno, idm and industrial colliding... Your usual Utility Fog then.
Utility Fog is broadcast every week on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. Sovereignty was never ceded.

LISTEN AGAIN to the real sound of now. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Thomy Sloane and Lucy Waldron - Colour, Landscape and Light [via Slow Clap]
The duo of Batpiss guitarist Thomy Sloane and Melbourne cellist Lucy Waldron was always going to be a dark and dramatic affair. Waldron has played live with the likes of Courtney Barnett, and her mournful electric melodies are accompanied by a repeated three-note riff and some doomy distortion from Sloane. This was recorded live and you can witness that performance right here on YouTube.

Louise Bock - Oolite [Geographic North/Bandcamp]
Louise Bock - Incandescent Misspelled Word [Feeding Tube Records/Bandcamp]
US multi-instrumentalist Taralie Peterson has been making experimental music for a couple of decades, notably with her duo Spires that in the Sunset Rise with Ka Baird. She plays saxophone, clarinet and contributes voice (often processed), but she's also an accomplished cellist, and that's highlighted on her latest album (part of Geographic North's Sketches for Winter series) called Abyss: For Cello. Discordant multi-tracked cello is by turns rhythmic and mournfully slow. Lines overlap and intertwine, and occasionally other instruments appear, including some very abstracted guitar from Kendra Amalie on "Oolite". Meanwhile, on her previous album a couple of years ago on Feeding Tube, "Incandescent Misspelled Word" finds again discordant doubled-cello joined by fragmented and glitched vocals, which match the cello while still sounding like they come from another universe. Not so much the abyss, here, as hyperspace. It's unsettling and gorgeous.

Lite Fails - Fire Season [Flaming Pines]
Lite Fails - Jigsaw for a Continent [Flaming Pines]
This very special release comes from Brisbane-based academic Henry Reese, whose research has found him exploring sounds from the 1890s and early 1900s recorded on wax cylinders and gramophone records. He's taken these crackly old sounds and crafted ambient sound works from them, redolent of an ancient era yet abstracted. These compelling, moving pieces were recorded on one weekend while Australia burned in the worst bushfire season it has ever experienced. All proceeds are being donated to the Australian Rural Firefighting Service. It's rewarding to find a release where the heavy conceptual underpinnings support really great music. It's ominously titled The End Of The World Has Already Happened, and you can find out more about the source material for the tracks at the link.

Aho Ssan - Blind Power (ft. The Mensah Imaginary Band) [Subtext/Bandcamp]
Aho Ssan - Simulacrum II [Subtext/Bandcamp]
Aho Ssan is the alias of French sound-artist and film composer Niamké Désiré, whose debut album interrogates society's presentation of inclusivity and equality against his own lived experience of growing up black in France. This facade of egalitarianism is only one of the simulacra appearing here: the "Mensah Imaginary Band" that features on two tracks is a simulated band, built by the artist from Max/MSP patches because, he says, he couldn't find a real jazz ensemble to work with him. It also imagines what his grandfather, Ghanaian trumpet player Mensah Antony, may have sounded like, taking his cues from the boundaryless music of Sun Ra and Afrofuturism.

Aquarian - End Credits [Bedouin Records/Bandcamp]
Aquarian - Blood Sugar [Bedouin Records/Bandcamp]
Aquarian - Ouroboros [Bedouin Records/Bandcamp]
Canadian born, Berlin based artist Aquarian has released two notable albums in the last 2 years, one on Bedouin Records and one on Houndstooth, as part of the duo AQXDM with French artist Deapmash. Those releases mixed industrial techno with jungle and bass music, and the influence of UK club music, particularly jungle/drum'n'bass, is heavy on his incredible new album The Snake That Eats Itself. As well as the characteristic Berlin industrial techno sound, this album has moments of beatless contemplation and occasional vocals, which are just as well realised as the insane beat programming which turns with ease from 4/4 techno to dubstep pulses to mashed amen breaks. There's no doubt this will be on my end-of-year lists.

SDEM - Cadamium [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
SDEM - Nishifunabashi (feat. NHK yk koyxen) [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
SDEM - Limerans [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
Really varied and top quality album from UK artist SDEM aka Tom Knapp, who is also behind labels Icasea and .meds among other projects. This epic release follows recent EPs on Opal Tapes and Central Processing Unit, and clearly demonstrates his close affinity with '90s IDM, as well as contemporary forms (dubstep's thrashing bass for instance). ZNS collects music from 15 years of productions, impeccably compiled by Seagrave as always - different enough from either of his last 2 releases, and yet still varied (check the lovely melodic beatless third track). Highly recommended.

E Davd - Bloom [E Davd Bandcamp]
E Davd - Heartbeat.Hyperdrive (Refrain) [E Davd Bandcamp]
In the last month we've seen a lot of Australian (and international) artists reacting to the climate crisis and specifically Australia's ongoing bushfire crisis by creating and donating works to raise funds for those most in need - we've heard some tonight. I particularly admire the approach taken by Sydney-based cosmic healer and house/techno artist E Davd, highlighting the very important concept of environmental justice / climate justice across three EPs released on his Bandcamp. Two are released so far, and the first compiles ambient works from the last few years, with some skittery and head-nodding beats at times. The second track featured tonight is a dreamy beatless piece which has the haziness and melodic laziness of classic Boards of Canada. In his write-ups for these releases, E Davd draws our attention to the fact that in any responses to the effects of the climate crisis we need to recognize that those first affected, and worst affected, are and will be those who contribute least to it and are least able to dead with it - the poor, indigenous communities, women, young people, and those at the intersection of these groups. Social justice needs to be at the core of our response to climate change and our planning for the future. All funds from these releases are going to Seed, an indigenous youth climate network - you can donate directly if you just want to listen.

Gregory Paul Mineeff - Devoid of Hope [Cosmic Leaf/Gregory Paul Mineeff Bandcamp]
Our last music tonight is from the beautiful new album After Today from Wollongong-based composer and electronic musician Gregory Paul Mineeff, performed on electric pianos & analogue synthesisers, with tape machines and other effects, embracing the imperfections and fragility of these sounds and avoiding the maudlin or clichéd nature of contemporary "post-classical" piano work or the sterile (and clichéd) nature of much ambient music. In these touching works, Mineeff employs just the right amount of denaturing through tape effects, reverse effects and recording techniques to colour the compositions, creating something that sounds out of its time, but not genre-specific nostalgia either. Really lovely and well done.

Listen again — ~196MB

Sunday, 19th of January, 2020

Playlist 19.01.20 (8:14 pm)

It's the middle of January and I'm playing a show that's 100% 2020 music (give or take a couple of flashbacks from artists with new music being featured). Life moves pretty fast.

LISTEN AGAIN to the sounds of now! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

NERVE - Psycho Mafia (excerpt) [A Colourful Storm]
Last week on the show I featured a track from Melbourne's Joshua Wells aka NERVE, alongside something from his duo with David Coen (Sow Discord/Whitehorse etc) called Hemlock Ladder. Those tracks were released on new label AR53 Productions, but now NERVE is back on the great Melbourne label A Colourful Storm for a cassette called Psycho Mafia, documenting a live performance from last year. It's frenetic industrial techno, with frequent distorted breaks interjecting, making it sit somewhere just on the edge of drum'n'bass or breakcore. The entire awesome track is 22 minutes, but I played about half.

The Chap - I Recommend You Do The Same [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - I Am Oozing Emotion [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - Nevertheless, The Chap [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - Don't Say It Like That [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
After five long years, it's really nice to have a new album from the very English, very European five-piece The Chap. Their sense of humour and irreverence is as English as it comes, but the way they mix indie rock with electronics, krautrock and string arrangements, and whatever else they care to seems more, er, Continental? It's delightful that they have lost neither their experimentalism nor their sense of fun - although the first track I played is quite dark! And the title of their album from 10 years ago, Well Done, Europe might feel a little bittersweet in these post-Brexit days, so let's take the fun and just be in the moment with the deliberately archaic Digital Technology, a great continuation of everything they do so well. I'm jealous of anyone in the UK & Europe who can see them play live soon.

Keeley Forsyth - It's Raining [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
Keeley Forsyth - Butterfly [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
A single late last year announced this extraordinary debut from English actor Keeley Forsyth. She wrote these songs in private, with no expectation that they would be heard by the public, but when she heard the music of composer Matthew Bourne on the radio she got in touch with the idea of setting the songs with his arrangements. Bourne turns out to be a very sympathetic foil for Forsyth's raw, minimalist songs and her expressive, vibrato-laden voice. Bourne contributes strings, harmonium, piano and synth, alongside Mark Creswell's guitar & bass, and Sam Hobbs' keyboards and occasional drums. Forsyth's voice has led reviewers to compare her to Scott Walker, but I hear Nick Drake, Jessica Sligter, Mark Hollis, and even Joni Mitchell in there - and nobody is quite right; this is singular music from a very personal place. It's quite desolate and monolythic, music to listen to in the dark.

Kate Carr - Highway Bridge Drain Pipes, Saskatoon, Canada [Nonclassical/Bandcamp]
London label Nonclassical started off as a showcase for stretching the boundaries of contemporary classical music - string quartets & piano music backed with remixes by club producers, etc. More recently they have become interested in extending further into "non-music", sound-art, sound walks, and field recordings. British radio DJ Nick Luscombe has compiled Vol.1 of a compilation series they're calling fieldwave, featuring works ranging from location recordings of music to documentations of spaces and events (including a recent Hong Kong protest). Ex-Sydney artist Kate Carr is a master at mixing fascinating location recordings with musical elements in an alchemical way, as shown on her contribution tonight.

Machinefabriek - Stillness #6 (Lemaire Channel, Antarctica) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek - Stillness #1 (The FRAM, Greenland) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek - Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
In 2014, Dutch composer/producer Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek released Stillness Soundtracks on ambient label Glacial Movements. His drones, sound recordings and slow rhythms were written to accompany a series of flims created by Dutch filmmaker Esther Kokmeijer in Antarctica. Some of these stunning visuals can be found online. Now Glacial Movements have released the a second album, Stillness Soundtracks II, with music created over the last 5-6 years for further Antarctic films by Kokmeijer. They lean back towards drone compared to some of the earlier works, and evoke a sense of otherworldliness - not-quite-peace. Works of a composer at the height of his skills.

The Necks - Lovelock [Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp]
Every couple of years the world is blessed with a new album from one of Sydney's greatest musical products, The Necks. Never a typical jazz piano trio, they've moved so far with their recordings that you know you can get anything, but you also know just what you'll get. Chris Abrahams on piano & organ, Tony Buck on drums, percussion and increasingly electric guitar on record, and Lloyd Swanton on double bass and electric bass (often including spectral bowed passages) are best known for near-60-minute works that subtly shift over their long period as a kind of minimalist jazz, or a kind of jazz-informed krautrock, or ambient soundscapes or whatever else they care to do.
Occasionally though they'll split their albums into shorter tracks - a few years ago it was to accommodate the 22-minute limit for vinyl sides, on an album for Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ, but in the past (e.g. 2006's Chemist) that's just been the musical ideas they want to get down, and that seems to be where we are with new album Three. Each of the three tracks is a bit over 20 minutes long, with a motorik rock-ish number, a relentless 5/4 jazz-ish number, and a gorgeous ambient work in between. The middle track is a slow-rolling ode to their old friend Damien Lovelock of hard rockers the Celibate Rifles, who died of cancer last year. Chris Abrahams in particular had worked with Lovelock since the '80s, and I remember a particular Newtown-centric indie-jazz number from the early '90s. That this track sounds nothing like Lovelock's music is beside the point. To me it sounds like a journey into a submerged afterlife, and the dedicated surfer would be very happy floating away in it.

Oval - Twirror [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Oval - Mikk [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Back in the '90s, Markus Popp's Oval band (or solo project) was a cerebral, mostly ambient affair that pioneered one branch of glitch music - based around the accidental digital artefacts CD players freaking out from deliberately scratched CDs. That technology itself became redundant in the years since - I mean, I still buy CDs! But the skipping freakouts of CD players tend not to be heard now, even in car stereos. Popp created custom software to digitally randomize and process sound sources, and was never totally married to that particular technique, but in the early 2000s Oval went on hiatus for some time. In the last 10 years, however, Oval Mark 2 emerged as an outlet for a new phase of Popp's production - tiny samples, chopped up instrumental performances, sometimes danceable beats, built into meticulous, dense constructions. It's very different from his earlier phase, but somehow you can feel the same musical impetus behind these works.

Pentagrime - The Devil's Burlesque (13" Extended Mix) [James Plotkin Bandcamp]
James Plotkin is one of the great mastering engineers working in experimental and heavy music these days, but also one of the great musicians of the last 3 decades or so. From the early '90s he was associated with some of heaviest and weirdest music in the metal world - OLD started as grindcore, and went into various different directions, then with Khanate he created hellish blackened doom, and in between he worked with metal-turned-dub masters Scorn, and created dark ambient works with the likes of KK Null... But then there was the one-two punch of the Atomsmasher/Phantomsmasher records, terrifyingly (re)constructed grindcore/breakcore that merged speed metal with glitchy electronica. On his dedicated Bandcamp he's just released two bizarre tributes to his love of expeirmental electronic music as Pentagrime. They're modular synth excursions, complex blurting beats in the vein of Aphex, Autechre, Venetian Snares and the like. Everything he does is brilliant and utterly bent (the ridiculous idea of a 13" Extended Mix...)

Listen again — ~195MB

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Sunday, 12th of January, 2020

Playlist 12.01.20 (8:14 pm)

Another crazy week of climate calamity here, along with an uplifting evening of protest on Friday (these need to keep getting bigger).

LISTEN AGAIN because music is the most important thing. Podcast here, stream on demand from FBi.

Scattered Order - National Adjustment Scheme [Provenance]
Allen Ginsberg - Green Valentine Blues (Aphir Rework) [Provenance]
As has become usual these days, we’re a week into 2020 and there’s already quite a bit of new music popping up. This one is for a reason – Provenance Records boss Stu Buchanan now lives in the Blue Mountains and although his property has been fine, he’s felt the bushfire catastrophe intimately. So the already-planned third compilation of this experimental label – now co-run by Becki Whitten aka Aphir – has been converted into a bushfire fundraiser, and it’s particularly pleasing that their chosen beneficiary is the Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities (you can and should donate directly at the link if you can afford to). The lineup is of course first class, so I strongly exhort you to support this cause and these great musicians – including artists like Shoeb Ahmad, Lack The Low and others as well as tonight’s artists. We have Aphir herself, reworking an Allen Ginsberg poem into a folk song with growling electronics, and the great, long-lived post-industrialists Scattered Order (now part-based in the Blue Mountains) pre-empting their new album coming this year.

Nerve - To Dip Your Toes Into Paradise Pond [AR53 Productions]
Hemlock Ladder - Exactly the Right Amount of Violence [AR53 Productions]
A couple more Australian artists leading into the next compilation for tonight. Nerve is Melbourne’s Joshua Wells, who’s released music on A Colourful Storm, and runs Resistance/Restraint. His material seems to slide between dark industrial techno and plangent piano & field recordings on the two tracks released in December. From a month earlier, his duo Hemlock Ladder with Dave Coen (of noise/metal/industrial legends Whitehorse, and aka Sow Discord, who recently remixed The Body) delivers more propulsive industrial techno. Nerve is supporting My Disco in Sydney in a couple of weeks.

Thugwidow - Dominion [Circadian Rhythms Records/Bandcamp]
Sully - Vérité [Circadian Rhythms Records/Bandcamp]
UK-based collective Circadian Rhythms Records released this compilation as a limited cassette a couple of months ago. Initial digital versions were outrageously expensive as they were pushing the lavish physical copies, but it’s now become affordable. Which is great as it’s a brilliant collection of jungle/drum’n’bass mixed with grime, techno and other UK bass styles. London’s Thugwidow, with a number of jungle releases under his belt, gives us a slowed-down broken beat track with jungle breaks bouncing off the half-speed tempo, while Sully delivers a characteristic slab of perfect jungle.

Special Request - Elysian Fields [Special Request Bandcamp]
Special Request - Spectral Frequency [Special Request Bandcamp]
Paul Woolford promised four Special Request albums in 2019, and the last and best slipped in just before the end of the year (on a different Bandcamp for some reason). Zero Fucks returns him to hard-hitting old-skool jungle, complete with sampled MCs and rave euphoria. This is what I’ve always wanted from Special Request. BOH.

Loraine James - I'm Feeling w/ Morwell [Loraine James Bandcamp]
After a big year with her Hyperdub debut ending up on a lot of end-of-year lists including my own, London’s Loraine James put together the second of her quickly-produced New Year’s Substitution EPs, this time piled full of interesting collaborations. There’s noisy numbers and jittery numbers; this one features new junglist Max Morwell.

Anasisana - Midnight Sun (The Uninvited Sun Remains In the Midnight Sky) [Eastern Nurseries]
Concrete Fantasies - Bleak [Eastern Nurseries]
More compilations! This one from Portuguese label Eastern Nurseries, with a collection of drone/ambient and a bit of submerged techno – the latter from Anasisana, the beats underlying cinematic atmospherics, while Concrete Fantasies deliver drones and tape manipulation.

Daniel K. Böhm - Soft Arp [eilean rec.]
Aries Mond - Uty [eilean rec.]
Banabila & Machinefabriek - Sasquatch [eilean rec.]
As promised when they began, the French label eilean rec. has ended its incredible run at their 100th release, which happens to be a 5CD set featuring every artist who’s appeared on the label. Thus it’s full of gems of all sorts. Only a few can be heard tonight. Daniel K. Böhm’s droney textures and guitar detritus float around a bed of electronic pulses; Aries Mond gives us a typically lovely piece of deserted piano, and Banabila & Machinefabriek have head-nodding beats and burbles.

Rutger Zuydervelt & Bill Seaman - Bits [oscarson/Bandcamp]
Rutger Zuydervelt & Bill Seaman - Pull [oscarson/Bandcamp]
Speaking of Machinefabriek, his first release of 2020 is a collaboration with another eilean alumnus, the Australian ambient artist Bill Seaman (originally from Sydney, now based in the US). It’s actually less ambient than you might expect from these two artists, with some crunching bass & beats and glitching melodies in amongst the fourth world and electronic sounds. It’s absolutely absorbing work, which you can get in a vinyl edition from German label oscarson.

Martina Bertoni - Invisible Cracks [FALK]
Martina Bertoni - Stuck out of Lifetime [FALK]
Berlin-based cellist Martina Bertoni follows up two EPs with her debut album All the Ghosts are Gone. Created at a time of recovery from mental & physical exhaustion, the album finds her using a multitude of techniques to alter the sound of her instrument – distorting and distancing its natural sound, embedding it in electronics and sometimes the electronic shapes of techno. Released on Reykjavik label FALK (Fuck Art Let's Kill), it's superb work.

Alder & Ash - pyres on pyres [Alder & Ash Bandcamp]
Alder & Ash - the crowneater [Alder & Ash Bandcamp]
Montréal’s Adrian Copeland has made his special brand of acoustic (and electric) doom as Alder & Ash over a few albums now – the first two for the Lost Tribe Sound label. His latest, The Crowneater, is self-released in a very plush CD edition. As before, it finds him looping cello basslines & riffs, adding percussive sounds, and layering pure and distorted melodies. It’s a sound he’s very much made his own and at its best it’s thrilling.

Listen again — ~274MB

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