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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, 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

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

Sunday, 5th of January, 2020

Playlist 05.01.20 - Best of 2019 Part 2 (8:08 pm)

Best of the last year, part 2 comin' atcha. More of an electronic focus, with some disquieting ambient sounds in there as well.
It's been a hellish week here in Australia, and the stupidity of our climate-change-denying government(s) has been on show all week. Whether it's a turning point remains to be seen, but anyway, welcome to 2020!

LISTEN AGAIN anyway because we're talking THE BEST m'kay? Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Ecker & Meulyzer - Growth [Subtext Recordings/Bandcamp]
Starting with an album I leapt on a few months ago, from Belgian cellist Koenraad Ecker & percussionist Frederik Meulyzer. I love Ecker's work with duos Lumisokea and Stray Dogs, and Subtext Recordings is a very reliable outlet for bass music, abstract sound & electro-acoustic work. And then as I researched Meulyzer I realised that Ecker & Meulyzer ARE Stray Dogs. Not a million miles from Ecker's work with Andrea Taeggi in Lumisokea, Stray Dogs showcases a mix of percussion-driven industrial techno and acoustic/processed acoustic sounds. Under their own surnames, their music leans a little more on Ecker's cello and sound design - made even more stunning as this album was recorded in Norway at the very remote Svalbard Global Seed Vault, one of a number of seed banks around the world keeping seeds for a wide variety of essential crops to be used in the event of a global ecological calamity. In these times of climate crisis, it's vital stuff, and I'm all for instrumental music that engages with subject matter like this - making this important space come alive with resonance.

65daysofstatic - bad age [Superball Music]
65daysofstatic - SynthFlood [65daysofstatic Bandcamp]
65daysofstatic have been a Utility Fog mainstay since the show started – literally, their first "real" EP stumble.stop.repeat came out in 2003. I saw it described by Norman Records (the great Leeds-based online record store) as something like postrock crossed with Squarepusher, and jumped on that shit of course. They recognized my support by thanking me in the liner notes of their second album – and when they finally toured Australia with sleepmakeswaves, I was told my Mike from Bird's Robe that it was my championing of these guys that made them aware of them. Good feeling!
They were putting together ridiculous and awesome glitchy drill'n'bass mashups before they even put out that first EP, and many of these (including legit remixes) came out on a series of CDRs called unreleased/unreleasable. Since May 2019, they have been producing a monthly EP series – which involves a Bandcamp subscription for which each EP is released a month ahead – and it's a continuation of this, with oddities, experiments and offcuts (not actually illegal admittedly). Before this, after a bunch of albums and international touring (including a support slot with The Cure), they created a live project based around generative programming, and then extended this further with their groundbreaking soundtrack to the computer game No Man's Sky, which was composed in such a way that it would be generated along with the generative planetary landscapes (and flora & fauna) the players encounter.
The new album is their response to the endtimes feeling of the current age – the slow collapse of the biosphere, the rise of fascism and the horrors of Brexit Britain. There’s an air of melancholy that comes along with the electronic rhythms, and there’s not much in the way of riffing. It's surprisingly touching, and still absolutely in tune with that I'm trying to do with Utility Fog. Cheers guys!

Andy Odysee - Like Jazz [Odysee Recordings/Bandcamp]
I thought I'd introduce the electronic component of this best of, most of which involves jungle breaks of some sort, with an original player in the '90s jungle scene, composer & producer Andy Baddaley. He joined Tilla Kemal aka Mirage to run the Odysee Recordings label, releasing important early 12"s from Photek and Source Direct among others. They've lately been releasing remastered digital versions of old releases on their Bandcamp, but late 2019 found a new EP from Andy Odysee, with a dark classic-sounding techstep A-side backed with a skittery jazzy number and a third bonus track.

Loraine James - So Scared [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
London artist Loraine James' debut album on Hyperdub is a mélange of influences from UK club music and idm to jazz, grime and drill – and a bit of Chicago juke in there too it has to be said – but it's also a testament to being in a queer relationship in London, and everything that goes with that. So it has lovely tender pieces and frenetic elements and some danceable tracks. At a time when everyone's mashing everything up, there's still somehow nothing quite like this out there at the moment, and it's justifiably been on lots of best of lists, including mine!

ISSHU - Demons Are Real [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
UK artist ISSHU has three cassettes now on the Seagrave label, each with fairly different focus, from murky techno or electro to 2019 album IS's '90s idm and in particular drill'n'bass and junglist contortions. It's got that melodic acid feel along with the beats, quite expertly done. I've listened to it quite a lot through the year. It may have slipped under a few people's radars, so I highly recommend checking it out.

LOFT - That Hyde Trakk [Tri-Angle/Bandcamp]
Continuing with crazy breakbeats, Manchester-based AYA Sinclair released an EP earlier in the year on Tri-Angle as LOFT. She now goes by AYA, and deliciously mashes up breaks on others' tracks as well as her own. and departt from mono games is a vaporwavey concoction of field recordings, some muffled vocal bits, and rave atmospherics, which gives way to drill'n'bassy madness on the last track. So good.

E-Saggila - My World My Way [Northern Electronics]
Toronto-based E-Saggila, aka Rita Mikhael, has been making convention-defying techno with elements of rave, industrial, noise and deconstructed club music for a little while. A sign that I really can't fit everything I want to play into my 2 hours a week, I didn't play anything from her in 2019, but her Northern Electronics release is a hard-hitting work of brilliance that needs to be acknowledged now. She prefers to avoid the industry and social media side of the music business, so I can't even find a SoundCloud for her, let alone Twitter or Facebook, but you can read a fantastic interview with her from August 2019 at The Quietus.

Makeda - Me, First [Nice Music]
Born in Sydney, moved to Brisbane, now based in Melbourne, Makeda has also released music (as label and artist I think) as All Day Breakfast, but her brilliant 2019 EP Lifetrap was her debut release proper. Whether remixing others (such as Perth artist Shoshana Rosenberg or Melbourne legends My Disco), or here out on her own, she creates fractured underground club music like no other. And she's a feminist style icon TBH.

GOOOOOSE - Plasma Sunrise [SVBKVLT]
I was lucky enough to get to see Shanghai electronic artist GOOOOOSE at Soft Centre in September. It was a little shameful that I hadn't already gotten hold of his excellent album Rusted Silicon on Chinese electronic label SVBKVLT. He and his partner 33, who played a great techno set later in the day, are alumni of the Chinese electro-rock band Duck Fight Goose. The mashed jungle breaks, reconfigured in new ways on a few tracks here are really exciting, but the gentle jazzy piano chords and the more ambient passages are great too. As a bonus the album finishes with a few remixes, including the one & only Iranian electronic master Sote, who appeared in the 1st Best of 2019 show, and did a superb hardcore set at Soft Centre too.

Sig Nu Gris - To Un-know [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Melbourne-based producer Erin Hyde aka Sig Nu Gris had a big October releasing a series of what she calls Fixations, edits of songs she gets fixated on, to the extent that she wants to take them apart and put them back together in her own special way. But earlier in the year Spirit Level released an original single, "To Un-know", a beautiful slab of chopped beats, head-nodding bass, corruscating keyboards and sparing use of vocals.

Hence Therefore - Census Map Museum [All Centre]
Sydney's Simon Unwin aka Hence Therefore spent a few years in London during which time he really honed his production craft, as well as building some connections with people like the aforementioned Loraine James and object blue. He moved back to Sydney this year, and in addition to the brilliant album Secular Hells which he released on 3bs Records, he put out a fantastic 2-tracker on London label All Centre. Complex beat patterns & bass, club music for the mind and body.

Yunzero - Fax 1 [.jpeg Artefacts]
The work of Melbourne artist Jim Sellars as Yunzero (he previously released as Hyde and Electric Sea Spider) was a revelation in 2019. Bass and beats embedded in a psychedelic, ambient soundworld. Wonderfully done, utterly bamboozling.

Hiro Kone - A Desire, Nameless [Dais Records/Hiro Kone Bandcamp]
For her third album, and second for Dais Records, Hiro Kone aka NYC's Nicky Mao addresses the techno-fascism of the current age through the lens of "absence". Instrumental music shackled to big concepts is always a bit of a stretch, but you can feel it working with music this evocative, drawing on the last few decades of post-cyberpunk art & music. Superb sound design and detailed beat programming that doesn't succumb to the current "deconstructed club music" obsession of the current age.

Helm - I Knew You Would Respond [PAN]
Luke Younger's solo project Helm is by now quite prominent in the experimental scene. A seasoned noise artist, he also runs the ALTER label which releases everything from noise and postpunk to experimental dancefloor work. Helm sits somewhere in the sound-art spectrum, occasionally emanating regular beats, sometimes incorporating something recognizable as a bassline or a melody, frequently made of bubbling or buzzing drones... It's evocative, and hard to pin down in the best way. In 2019 he released Chemical Flowers, again for the great PAN label, and this track (among others) features superb string arrangements by industrial legend and Aussie ex-pat Jim Thirlwell aka Foetus.

Teho Teardo - London Offered Us Possible Mothers [Specula Records]
Before 2019 it had been a couple of years since we heard from Italian composer and ex-industrial musician Teho Teardo on this show. He's become known for some brilliant albums with the great Blixa Bargeld, but equally for his soundtrack work, and this new album was composed for a play by Enda Walsh adapting Max Porter's novel Grief Is The Thing With Feathers. The string arrangements, details production and occasional electronic elements make for wonderfully emotive work. There's at least one album scheduled for 2020 for us to look forward to!

BirdWorld - After Rain [Focused Silence/Bandcamp]
Last year I was delighted to discover the London/Oslo duo BirdWorld, made up of Gregor Riddell on cello & electronics and Adam Teixeira on drums & percussion. They found a home on the English experimental label Focused Silence, who in 2019 released the debut album UNDA. It's beautiful and very mysterious stuff - Gregor said to me of their music that they are "really interested in trying to depict a sound that hovers in between reality and a dream state, a bit folkloric/voodoo, we like the idea that music is capable of hypnotising and evoking a sense of magic." I'd say they have done a pretty good job of that here - whether through distorted bowed cymbals and tremolo cello noise, or softly walking basslines, or decontextualised samples of various sorts. Fascinating sounds.

Annelyse Gelman & Jason Grier - Rain [Fonograf Editions]
The opening track "Maxes" of Annelyse Gelman & Jason Grier’s debut About Repulsion (a two-track 7” with 6 digital tracks) would have segued nicely out of the last few, with its guest cello from Clare Monfredo. I played it earlier this year, but for this best of I've decided to play "Rain". Here, multiple versions of Gelman’s singing compete with more & less recognizable field recordings. For all the alienating techniques, it’s incredibly emotive music.

Hildur Guðnadóttir - The Door [Deutsche Grammophon]
One of the TV highlights of 2019 was HBO's Chernobyl. I was super pleased to discover that the soundtrack is by the wonderful Icelandic cellist, singer and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who was a member of Múm a long time ago, has worked with many avant-garde artists, appears singing on the new Sunn O))) album, and was working closely with Jóhann Jóhannsson before he tragically passed away last year. She won a number of awards for her soundtrack to Joker, but for Chernobyl she created some extraordinary, imposing and spooky works featuring industrial sounds of all sorts, entirely recorded in a Lithuanian nuclear power point as it was being decommissioned. This isn't just a gimmick - the sounds and ambience seep into every moment of the soundtrack, and the industrial-sounding pieces are literally crafted from the industry of nuclear power. It's a hell of an achievement.

Fennesz - We Trigger the Sun (excerpt) [Touch]
In the mid-to-late '90s, no label was more synonymous with glitch and electronic experimentalism than Australian label Mego (which relaunched as Editions Mego in 2006), and one of the most talented purveyors of this sound was Christian Fennesz. To some extent this is because Fennesz was less uncompromising with the noise and chaos than contemporaries like Pita (Peter Rehberg, who runs Editions Mego), Hecker or even Farmers Manual, but his earlier works were at the time rather groundbreaking and ear-opening. He gained deserved fame with the Endless Summer album, which invoked the Beach Boys through a haze of static and drone. In the last 10 years or so, it's felt to me like Fennesz started repeating himself, with lacklustre overly-pleasant collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a whole lot of stuff that seemed to repeat the same four strummed guitar chords through the same patches. So it was great to find that Agora, his new album from 2019 recorded on a limited setup in a small room on his house, mixed on headphones, brings back some kind of edge to his sound - still with beautiful processed guitar, but with a low-end pulse running through a lot of the release, and a certain roughness. Maybe it's just me, but anyway it's rather wonderful.

CA2+ - Deleese (Intro) (excerpt) [Northern Electronics/Bandcamp]
Sweden's Andreas Lübeck is an accomplished photographer, and now has a few releases under his belt for Northern Electronics as CA2+. His earliest cuts were fairly dancefloor-ready techno, but somehow on 2019's Lonely Hearts Club we're finding exquisite modern electro-acoustic composition alongside the deconstructed bass and beats - those sliding tones and glitchy quasi-melodies. I only got to play a bit of this, but please check out the entire 13-minute track, and the rest of the album too!

Listen again — ~202MB

Sunday, 29th of December, 2019

Playlist 29.12.19 - Best of 2019 Part 1 (8:03 pm)

Here it is! Part 1 of my selections for best of this crazy, fucked-up year. There's really been a lot of amazing music across so many different genres and from so many different corners of the world. Even over 2 shows I'll only be able to reflect a small part of what I've really dug.

LISTEN AGAIN because best is best. Podcast over here, stream on demand from FBi.

Billy Woods / Kenny Segal - spongebob [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
Billy Woods / Kenny Segal - spider hole [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
This emphatically odd underground hip-hop gear comes from two really important players in the hip-hop scenes on the two sides of the US. Billy Woods grew up in Africa & the West Indies but has now become part of the New York hip-hop scene, with his duo Armand Hammer with Elucid and his solo work, released on his own Backwoodz Studioz. Kenny Segal started out as a drum'n'bass DJ and has been an oft-sighted producer in the LA leftfield hip-hop scene for many years. Their styles fit perfectly together, with Woods' speed-of-thought commentary on the fucked-up state of America & the world knocked about by Segal's warped samples and beats that recall early Anticon from a contemporary perspective. Ever since I first heard it I've known it would hold first place in this best of. I've been returning to it all year.
It should be noted that Woods also released another album this year, Terror Management, which is very fine too.

Moor Mother - The Myth Hold Weight [Don Giovanni Records/Bandcamp]
Zonal - In A Cage ft. Moor Mother [Relapse/Bandcamp]
Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother has had an amazing year. She'd been appearing all over the place lately, including cameos with NYC hardcore band Show Me The Body and Eartheater. Her new album Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes is a masterpiece of noise, beauty, poetry and politics. Unlike 2016's entirely self-produced Fetish Bones, an onslaught of power electronics, weird beats and afro-futurist raps, this new album is crammed full of collaborations, including various producers – King Britt is responsible for the moody track we heard tonight. Moor Mother's own art transcends even these great collaborators though – she is a unique and powerful force in contemporary art.
Ayewa's gruff voice and incisive lyrics also grace the entire first side of the new album from Zonal, the reincarnation of Justin K Broadrick & Kevin Martin's Techno Animal. It's a welcome return to full-on collaboration for these two producers, both of whom are hugely beloved of this show.

Saul Williams - Before the War [Pirates Blend Records]
Saul Williams guests on Moor Mother's album, a brilliant track I almost chose tonight. His own 2019 album Encrypted & Vulnerable is a continuation of the MartyrLoserKing project which his recent Kickstarter project Neptune Frost also relates to – a "meta-character" who's a hacker I believe. The album draws broadly from the music of the African diaspora, including thumb pianos and jazz, with some beautifuly guest playing from jazz trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah on one track. It's as dense and difficult and catchy as Williams always is.

clipping. - All In Your Head (feat. Counterfeit Madison & Robyn Hood) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Who knew that noise artist William Hutson and breakcore artist Jonathan Snipes would in the last half decade be making some of the most vital hip-hop ever? It helps that the half-Jewish, half-African American frontman Daveed Diggs is an incredible rapper and lyricist who throws references around with ease, even when rapping at supersonic speed, negotiating that fine line between absurdity and profundity. Their deep knowledge of science fiction (and Afrofuturism) came out in the amazing concept album Splendor & Misery in 2016, so it's no surprise that 2019's There Existed An Addiction To Blood, finds them focusing on horror movies (and the short-lived horrorcore rap subgenre) – referencing both the exploitative use of African and African-American themes in the "classic" horror genre and Jordan Peele's recent turning of the tables with Get Out and Us. It's pure genius, of course. This collaboration with two women is a disquieting highlight – Counterfeit Madison's manic raps and Robyn Hood's passionate singing as the song crescendos into distortion.

Grup Ses w/ Ethnique Punch - Miskinatlar (Vox) [Souk Records/Bandcamp]
Two Turkish musicians join together for this fantastic, dark, twisted album on Souk Records. Istanbul's Grup Ses has been making sample-based hip-hop cut-ups for around 12 years now, while the Anatolian Ethnique Punch aka Ali Eksan has a number of instrumental and rap albums under his belt. On the A side, these punchy (yes) hip-hop tracks with "ethnic" samples are driven by the gravelly voice of Eksan, while on the B side they appear as instrumentals. It's great to hear these beats unadorned, and it works in a really different way – you can nod along and have it in the background easily – but I do prefer them with the guttural and super fun raps on the first side...

Uniform & The Body - Patron Saint of Regret (feat. SRSQ) [Sacred Bones/Bandcamp]
the body - Hallow Hollow (remixed by Lingua Ignota) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Inveterate collaborators and longtime Utility Fog favourites the body have always tempered their black metal screams and riffs with foreign elements such as choirs, beautiful female vocals, and increasingly lots of electronics; Uniform's brand of industrial metal sits well with their sound. This year came their second mini-album collaboration Everything That Dies Comes Back, which was collected with the first on a CD edition as well. The hardcore of "Patron Saint of Regret" builds gothically until the eerie vocals of SRSQ enter along with a bass-driven beat – a remarkable track.
Meanwhile, the body also released a brilliant remix album this year. Kristin Hayter featured on a recent album, and on Remixed she appears reworking a track as Lingua Ignota. Here the noise is mostly kept in check, replaced by plangent piano and Hayter's classically-trained vocals. By the way, on her own album Caligula this year, Hayter tackled some dark topics with intensity and aplomb.

Wreck and Reference - Dumb Forest [The Flenser/Bandcamp]
So this... this is not exactly black metal either. OK, Wreck and Reference were never conventional – always eschewing guitars for keyboards and drum machines. But here there's very little anguished screaming either (you're probably thanking your lucky stars). Their 2019 album Absolute Still Life is their most emo/new-romantic, and also the most blatantly electronic, with glitchy beats and samples and synths, and existentialist, despairing lyrics as ever. I think it's absolute genius.

fire! orchestra - (beneath) the edge of life [Rune Grammofon]
Sweden's Fire! are a remarkable trio of jazz musicians who have worked across post-rock, noise and myriad other genres. They're comprised of Mats Gustafsson on saxophone (known for his massive sound and also his work with The Thing, who've notably collaborated with Neneh Cherry), bassist Johan Berthling (of many ensembles including post-rock/folk pioneers Tape, and his legendary Häpna label) and drummer Andreas Werliin. The latter is perhaps best known for his duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums with his partner Mariam Wallentin, whose extraordinary vocal interpretations and arrangements are so central to the expanded ensemble's work as Fire! Orchestra. In the past they've been a kind of free jazz big band, with massed horns alongside the driving, grooving bass (and often sax) riffage and ecstatic vocals. Every album of the orchestra has been in my top of the year. Here there are scraped and swooped strings, keys and of course the bassline riffs and wonderful vocals – with Wallentin joined by another luminary of the Swedish experimental / jazz scene, Sofia Jernberg. This is compulsive, compulsory listening, as we've learned to expect from this ensemble.

Sote - Pipe Dreams [Diagonal Records/Bandcamp]
This year I was incredibly fortunate to get to interview Ata Ebtekar aka Sote on this here show, and then see him play live and meet him at the excellent 3rd edition of Soft Centre in Casula in September. With a background in breakcore/hardcore from when he was studying abroad in the early 2000s, Ebtekar has by now put out a number of releases drawing on and interrogating the rich musical history of Iran. 2017's Sacred Horror in Design took the sounds of traditional Persian instruments and embedded them in electronics, heavily processing the sounds and re-composing and re-contextualising the compositions. That is taken further on the new album Parallel Persia, released by Diagonal Records. Alongside instruments like the santour and tar are vocal harmonies, and of course lots of electronic processing and synthesised sounds as well. At times the music is choreographed into some kind of 4/4 beats, but more often it's free, as if played by live musicians. It's quite extraordinarily beautiful.

Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy - B'aj بعاج [Whities]
The ever-evolving UK label Whities had another great year of varied music. Whities 023 is the second album in which German trio Carl Gari collaborate with French-based Egyptian poet & singer Abdullah Miniawy. It's an extraordinary work entitled The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor. The centrepiece is "B'aj بعاج", in which Miniawy narrates a poem told from the point of view of a man who has jumped from the 8th floor, and describes the activities on the balconies as he falls – a dark reflection of modern Egyptian society with a gorgeous bass-heavy soundscape of an accompaniment.

Sarathy Korwar feat. Zia Ahmed & Aditya Prakash - Bol [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
2019 brought us the second album from the Indian jazz musician Sarathy Korwar, now London-based, but US-born and raised in Ahmedabad and Chennai. He learned tabla and Indian classical music, but also played the Western drum kit, and moved to London to continue bringing these two worlds together. His first album was released on Ninja Tune in 2016, and this new one comes via The Leaf Label. Here his crossover of Indian classical and jazz is further augmented with rappers & singers from Mumbai and New Delhi. The epic "Bol" has it all – Indian harmonium drone, spoken word from London-based poet Zia Ahmed, scatting and soaring vocals from Aditya Prakash, a hip-hop/dub style groove and jazz soloing. The album tackled Brexit Britain by amplifying brown voices and championing multiculturalism – it's fantastic.
Noting also that the first single took this further, with Indian bass/hip-hop crew Bandish Projekt's 7/8 drum'n'bass remix of the excellent single Mumbai featuring MC Malawi's ponderings on colonialism (bouncing between "Mumbai" and "Bombay").

Daniel Carter, Tobias Wilner, Djibril Toure, Federico Ughi - Canal Street [577 Records/Bandcamp]
I discovered this teaming up of great NYC musicians through The Wire's cover CD The Wire Tapper earlier this year, which featured an excerpt of this track. The album New York United combines brilliant jazz musicians Daniel Carter and Federico Ughi with electronic soundtrack musician Tobias Wilner and versatile bassist Djibril Toure (who's played with The Wu-Tang Clan). It's an album of jazzscapes, dub/hip-hop grooves and experimentation. This particular quartet may be new, but they've played together in various sub-groupings before, and that shows in an album that matches the avant-garde aspects with remarkable cohesion.

Black To Comm - Lethe [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Another release which I've known since it came out would appear on this list. I'd been aware of Marc Richter's work as Black To Comm before, and I know he never tends to do exactly the same thing on each album, but it was only when he adopted the moniker Jemh Circs for a couple of releases a few years ago that I really paid attention. Those releases, sampling voices and pop music from YouTube, were an interesting detour into vaporwave, a little more hyperactive and day-glo than his Black To Comm work, which has itself taken on many forms in the past, sometimes minimalism & drone, often collage-based constructions. Seven Horses For Seven Kings is a rather dark and heavy affair, well suited to Thrill Jockey's current sound, and I found it absolutely absorbing. Drawing from collage and sampling techniques across the board from tape experiments, hip-hop instrumentals through to glitchscapes, it's a mature and accomplished release. Mid-year, he released a mini-album follow-up called Before After, on very much the same themes.

Carl Stone - Xé May [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
In 2018, Unseen Worlds released two compilations of the work of US musician Carl Stone, who's been called the "King of Sampling" for his pioneering work with hardware samplers in the 1980s, including working with home computers from the mid-'80s.
On two NEW albums for 2019 Stone recreates his time-slicing technique of stretching and rearranging musical works through microsampling in a modern way using Max/MSP. Actually the track I played tonight, from Baroo, uses an Elektron Octatrack sampler, but all the pieces from this and the album Himalaya show Stone enjoying the flexibility of new technologies in extending techniques he's been developing and perfecting for decades.

Machinefabriek - II (with Chantal Acda) [Western Vinyl/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
As usual 2019 saw a considerable number of new releases from Dutch sound artist and frequent UFog feature artist Machinefabriek. Released on none other than Western Vinyl, With Voices is just what it says on the tin: Zuydervelt asked 8 people to contribute vocal takes, some spoken, some sung, and reconstructed them into tracks in his own special way. Other contributors include Richard Youngs, Peter Broderick and a beautiful 11-minute closer with Marissa Nadler. As with Nadler, here Chantal Acda's voice ventures into melodic sections at times, while elsewhere it's chopped up and rearranged.

Alexandra Spence - bodies in place [Room40]
When her wonderful album came out earlier this year, I interviewed Sydney sound-artist Alexandra Spence on this very show, which you can listen to over here. Despite Waking, She Heard The Fluttering being her debut album, she has worked with many great names around the globe – in Toronto & Vancouver studying music, sound art & field recording, then with Francisco Lopez on a residency in South Africa, and with David Toop, Chris Watson and Jez riley French in the UK. All these influences, along with her experience as an improviser on clarinet and other instruments (she's part of the Splinter Orchestra) form a background for her very idiomatic work on record, which is an intuitive approach to constructing engrossing sound worlds. Live, she unveils the process, creating her sounds from unexpected objects, or objects used unexpectedly.

Listen again — ~201MB

Sunday, 22nd of December, 2019

Playlist 22.12.19 (8:11 pm)

Worldbeat, unsettling soundtracks, sound-art, techno and more tonight, for the last Utility Fog of new music for the year! Mostly still music released in the last few weeks...

LISTEN AGAIN, there'll be a quiz later. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Michel Banabila - Illicit Acquirement [Tapu Records]
Earlier this year I had the privilege of appearing on an album of music from the great Dutch experimental electronic/world music composer & producer Michel Banabila, someone whose music I’ve admired for ages and who’s worked extensively with another great Dutch experimentalist, Machinefabriek among many others. The album called Uprooted engaged a group of musicians on mostly classical instruments to record layers of music for him, which he then rebuilt into complex compositions. One of those pieces was then stretched out to almost 20 minutes’ duration for a modern dance work by choreographer Yin Yue and the Pennsylvania Ballet, and it now appears alongside almost a decade of Banabila’s music for dance on a double vinyl release, Movements (music for dance). This gorgeous album demonstrates the breadth of Banabila’s music, including sound design, studio-moderated composition and rhythmic music that nods to African percussion, dub and techno. Tonight I’m playing about 2/3 of another long work, created this year for Patrick O’Brien at the CUNY Dance Initiative.

Richard Pike - Antifasc Darkjazz [Samon Universe Soundtracks]
Richard Pike - Nazi Hell [Samon Universe Soundtracks]
Sydney musician Richard Pike and his brother Laurence Pike are best known for their shapeshifting band PVT (once Pivot). Richard is nowadays helming an ambient electronic label called Salmon Universe, and releasing his own ambient stuff as DEEP LEARNING, but he’s also made a mark as a soundtrack composer. His work for the TV series Romper Stomper conveys the turmoil and darkness of a study of true blue Australian neo-Nazis, a topic that was admittedly a little too close to home for me to push myself into watching (and the false equivalence it tries to draw between neo-Nazis and antifascists is more than a little on the nose). Pike’s excellent soundtrack is a mixture of orchestral cues, burbling synths, live drums and snarling electronics, not far at all from the soundtrack stuff Ben Frost has been doing of late. Even if you avoided the show, I highly recommend giving this a listen.

The Humble Bee & Benoît Pioulard - Per [Dauw]
The Humble Bee & Benoît Pioulard - In the anodyne brisk [Dauw]
An unexpected collaboration that makes a lot of sense – Craig Tattersall’s humble catalogue stretches back to his part in Leeds’ greatest postrock/indie band Hood, and his half of the great electronic minimalists The Remote Viewer/The Famous Boyfriend, as well as similarly murky electronic/indie outfit The Boats. Montréal’s Benoît Pioulard is equally beloved in the ambient/lo-fi world for his strummy guitars and grainy tape textures. Like both artists’ work this duo album can be hard to bring into focus, yet it lingers and rewards repeat listens.

Matmos - Raven Gate [Matmos Bandcamp]
Matmos - Skate Bounce [Matmos Bandcamp]
A surprise second 2019 album from Matmos, who earlier this year celebrated their “plastic” 25th anniversary both as a duo and a couple with one of their best albums in ages. This Bandcamp release documents a residency at Chalkwell Park in Southend on Sea in 2016, and was originally experienced as a site-specific app. It’s therefore their typical style of manipulated field recordings turned into weird sound-art and idm, with a bit of arch narration thrown in. So great.

Stephen Vitiello & Molly Berg - Mental Radio [IIKKI/Bandcamp]
Steve Roden x Stephen Vitiello - All The Greens [Champion Version/Bandcamp]
Stephen Vitiello - Simple Interference [Champion Version/Bandcamp]
I have been meaning to showcase some more of the music of New York sound artist Stephen Vitiello for ages, as I’m a huge admirer of his work, which is immensely thoughtful and immensely approachable. He’s recorded three duo albums now with Molly Berg, the third one just now released through French label/publisher IIKKI, who paired them up with photographer Jake Michaels for a book and CD or vinyl release. Their usual style continues here, with folky Americana instruments stretched out into ambient/post-something textures. Earlier this year, Vitiello released a series of four 7”s with fellow sound-art legend Steve Roden for the Champion Version label, each entitled I Always Wanted A Standing Cat, and Vitiello also produced a solo 7” for the same label. Field recordings, shimmering instruments, occasional tumbling drums (on both the solo release and the Molly Berg collaboration these are provided by Justin Alexander).

exael - calico [exael Bandcamp]
exael - composure [exael Bandcamp]
Berlin-based US producer exael has previously released music on Beer on the Rug and Lillerne Tapes, among others. His latest EP appeared on his Bandcamp just in time for this last new playlist of the year, featuring some vaporwavey ambient flickering and a little bit of blissful jungle.

Shed - Menschen und Mauern [Ostgut Ton/Bandcamp]
HOOVER1 - HOOVER1-3A [nOWTRecordings/Bandcamp]
Shed - Trauernde Weiden [Ostgut Ton/Bandcamp]
René Pawlowitz has been busy lately releasing a pile of recent 12”s under various monikers through his NOWT label, including the drum’n’bass-loving HOOVER1. The new Shed album from the great Berlin techno producer is a hymn to some beloved East German countryside, but sonically it’s very much techno-oriented, albeit with lots of breakbeats and syncopation. There’s always been a little bit of idm to Shed’s sound, and I think we hear quite a bit here. It’s like slipping on a familiar overcoat and walking out to a remote Teutonic rave, only to find yourself at Berghain.

Liam Robertson - Wrestling Halfbeak Fighting Taxa [Redstone Press]
Clouds - Peder Skram [Opal Tapes]
Scottish producer Liam Robertson is one half of the duo Clouds who’ve been around the post-dubstep/industrial techno axis for a while (not to be confused with the probably-now-defunct Finnish dubstep duo). Here we have bass-driven percussive, breaky techno with distorted vocal samples for a freaky dancefloor experience. His duo’s track from Opal Tapes’ 2017 compilation Contemporary Dance seems to mine similar terrain, but with a nice line in off-beat chords giving it a strange skank.

Giant Swan - 50 Year Old Daughter [KECK]
Giant Swan - 'I' As Proof [KECK]
A year and a bit ago, Bristol duo Giant Swan appeared at Adelaide’s (sadly last) Unsound Festival. Their stage show is something to be witnessed – punk energy, sweaty blokes with shirts off, distorted vocals shouted into the mic while the beats vary from relentless techno to mutated, twisted electronic sounds. It’s hard to capture this on record, but there are times on their self-titled, self-released album when they succeed. I’ve chosen two of the less relentless 4/4 techno selections, for what it’s worth, but there’s plenty of vocal intensity here, among broken beats and basslines.

Bec Plexus - hypernormalization (original by Igor C Silva feat. Bec Plexus) [New Amsterdam Records/Bandcamp]
Excellent New York contemporary classical/experimental label New Amsterdam Records here are releasing music from the original Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Bec Plexus is an extremely versatile singer, working in the classical world and also with full-throated experimental rock & electronics with a track by originally by Igor C Silva, with lyrics Laura Nygren, and already angularly rhythmic and electronically messed-with before we get to the three remixes. All highly recommended, and looking forward to next year's album.

Bremer McCoy - Højder (Carl Stone Remix) [Luaka Bop]
Finishing up with something really special made by the brilliant laptop artist Carl Stone, who put out two wonderful new releases this year, after a couple of career-spanning compilations highlighting his pioneering work with live PC processing since the 1980s. Like much of the music under his own name, here he uses granular processing to scan through a track, inch-by-inch, gobbling up and spitting out fragments of the original audio to stretch and pulse and reconfigure it into something new. The original music here is from Danish duo Bremer McCoy, released on David Byrne’s internationalist Luaka Bop label. The coda, the last 2 and a bit minutes, reaches a melodic point which, drawn out by Stone's software, finds a trascendent, static yet motion-filled state of gorgeous grace.

Listen again — ~274MB

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