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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, 17th of January, 2021

Playlist 17.01.21 (6:20 pm)

Tonight we've got future 2021 releases for Jan and later, new releases as of right now, and some more 2020 catching up, including a very important album remastered in 2020.

LISTEN AGAIN to a whole world of music... Stream on demand @ FBi, podcast here.

Wendra Hill - Historien om Brian [Playdate Records]
Wendra Hill - Det vakre ved laminat [Playdate Records]
Wendra Hill - Hammer´n i Tokyo [Playdate Records]
Previewing here some tracks from the phenomenal album Ungdomskilden ("the source of youth") from Oslo/Bergen collective Wendra Hill out on the 28th of January. The core of Wendra Hill are two Oslo-based musicians, Jo David Meyer Lysne on guitars, turntable & electronics, and Joel Ring on bass, cello & electronics. They're joined here by Bergen-based drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde, who has worked with many great Norwegian & Swedish artists including Building Instrument, Strings & Timpani, Erlend Apneseth and more. All three have fine credentials in experimental music, rock, jazz and even classical, and with Wendra Hill they create a playful form of what's familiar to many as the Norwegian/Swedish arm of jazz and folk influenced postrock. Strangely decontextualised spoken samples are found throughout, there's pitch-bending turntable weirdness, electronic beats, and live acoustic instrumentation. It's akin to the approach of The Books for their first few albums, very much in its own way, and that's as Utility Fog as you can get.

Mindy Meng Wang x Tim Shiel - Body of Water (What Is Love) 一线之间 [Music In Exile]
Excited to have received a promo of this wonderful collaboration well ahead of release - it's coming out in "2021", although hopefully real soon now? Mindy Meng Wang is a Chinese/Australian musician and expert guzheng player, who has been pioneering the meeting of East & West through the use of her instrument in contexts as wide as classical, jazz and electronic music for years - for a decade of which she's been based in Australia. Late last year she released a beautiful improvisational EP on Melbourne's Music In Exile, a label that's centred around Australia's many culturally diverse communities, and it's that label that will release the Nervous Energy EP from Mindy Meng Wang and restless Melbourne producer, label head and radio bod Tim Shiel. MMW's guzheng compositions and improvisations are chopped up and filtered into Shiel's beats which, after a 4/4 opening, lean more towards jittery breakbeats. Through constant back-and-forth filesharing all throughout last year, the artists have created a hybrid music in which pentatonic scales are subverted in Western club-ready fashion and beats & basslines give way to lovely acoustic washes. It's an exciting work of love & connectedness at a time when borders and societies have been closing up.

Kode9 - The Jackpot [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
First in a series of releases from Hyperdub boss Kode9, this is the best stuff I've heard from him in ages. The b-side was released first, a rainy piece of stuttery downtempo, but the a-side is all full of nervous energy, hybridizing jungle, footwork, computer game music and who knows what else.

San - Half In [Rua Sound]
"The jungle alias of a Bristol based techno producer" is all we're told about this artist San on UK jungle/drum'n'bass label Rua Sound. It's dark stuff, with dizzying, intricate beats just the way we like it.

Fnord - Hendecagon [People Can Listen]
Kothyus - Nubes Incandescentes [People Can Listen]
This great IDM comp from Belarusian label People Can Listen - their Ninth Listen - has a lot of nicely done rhythmic tracks, many with a drill'n'bass tendency, as well as some more ambient feels. From the Netherlands, Fnord aka Jeffrey Van Der Wielen brings double-time drums in a track which flickers between jazzy drum'n'bass and dub. And Chilean producer Kothyus offers skittery acid through crunchy, squished distortions.

3Phaz - Exploit [3Phaz]
3Phaz - Drill [3Phaz]
An interpretation of Mahraganat (aka electro-Shaabi), already an intense genre, with electronic styles like harddrum, footwork, jungle and techno, from Cairo-based musician 3Phaz, who I've heard on a few different compilations over last year (including do you mean: irish and This Is Cairo Not The Screamers). His album Three Phaze is fantastic, with a brilliant sense of rhythm, plenty of bass and electronic processing.

Praed - Stoned Crocodiles [Annihaya/Discrepant]
Praed - Embassy Of Embarassment [Akuphone/Bandcamp]
Raed Yassin - The Cyber Oracle [Akuphone/Bandcamp]
We heard some stunning sounds from Lebanese musician Raed Yassin last week. I'm playing another track from his album of repossessed ethnomusicological recordings, Archeophony, tonight, but we're also hearing two tracks from his awesome psych/free-jazz/electronic duo with Paed Conca that naturally they call Praed. Again obviously an extension of Arabic Shaabi music, Praed also refer to the "Mouled" music played in religious trance ceremonies, which feeds wonderfully into the hypnotic nature of psych rock and techno. Along with the endless grooves, Conca's unchained clarinet playing is a frequent pleasure in these tracks too.

the empty sleeps - panthers (Tim Koch remix) [the empty sleeps Bandcamp]
the empty sleeps - panthers (dental jams / ezroh remix) [the empty sleeps Bandcamp]
Adelaide's Nic Datson (once aka The Backfeed Slumber, who we heard in December last year on the show) and Tristan Hennig team up for some shoegaze/dream pop as the empty sleeps, and their latest single has a bunch of remixes attached from fellow Radelaidians. IDM hero Tim Koch chops things up into a delightful glitchfest, while hip-hop producer ezroh teams up with Manila-born dental jams for some even more intense overdriven glitch.

Kcin - Distance From The Sea Of Sorrow (feat. Elizabeth Fader) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
The proper debut album from Sydney's Nicholas Meredith aka Kcin is fast approaching now - due in March - and here's the latest single. It features Elizabeth Fader (in whose band Meredith plays), but lest you think it's pop in any way, Fader's vocals are whispered over relentless 4/4 techno kicks and surging noise, just the way Kcin likes to sound.

Volunteer Coroner - A Token Saved From A Previous Life [Eastern Nurseries/Bandcamp]
Volunteer Coroner - Unkempt Memorial [Eastern Nurseries/Bandcamp]
Prolific Denver artist Preston Weippert has many aliases, but Volunteer Coroner is one of his more common (he also runs Colorado label Trust Collective). He's new to me but I'm very glad to be introduced through the adventurous, super-tuned-in Portuguese label Eastern Nurseries. Across these tracks the delicate drones and melodies (already melancholy or ominous) are subsumed in static, even when accompanied by subtle drum machine beats.

Ben Peers - mátiqa [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
I really enjoyed the lockdown EP Eight Variations from UK algorithmic musician Ben Peers on Elli Records last year, and this new one does not disappoint. Titled auto-mátiqa, it contains four tracks produced from the same hardware setup and Max/MSP patches, performed live. But unlike last year's variations, which were clearly études from the same source, these tracks have much more breadth. "mátiqa" happily floats along on its melodic synth motif for almost 3 minutes before it's joined by bass drops, clicky beats and wonderful swoops of melodic fragments. Like the best electronic music, it's evocative of alien landscapes, sand dunes under unfamiliar constellations...

Coil - The Dreamer Is Still Asleep [Chalice/Dais Records/Bandcamp]
Never letting an opportunity go past to play something from an album as glorious as Coil's Music to Play in the Dark, I'm very glad that after years out of print, it's now been masterfully remastered by Josh Bonati, and released on CD and vinyl by Dais Records. Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson and John/Jhonn Balance were monumentally important figures in industrial music, alongside the other members of Throbbing Gristle, of which Christopherson was a founding member, and their music as Coil combined English folk mysticism with queer themes and cutting-edge electronics. By the late '90s their music had moved through Nine Inch Nails collaborations and ambient & glitch explorations, and they were ready for these two extraordinary revelations, working with Drew McDowall & Thighpaulsandra to create sumptuous, mystery-laden songs with acoustic instrumentation alongside the electronics. While both Sleazy Pete & Jhonn Balance have now passed away, and there is in some ways a glut of Coil rarities cash-ins (as ever), MacDowall & Thighpaulsandra oversaw this new release and it beautifully showcases this extraordinary music. Hopefully the equally great Music to Play in the Dark² will follow soon.

Listen again — ~203MB


Sunday, 10th of January, 2021

Playlist 10.01.21 (6:54 pm)

Here we are in 2021, and things are weird. But then, it's a weird ol' world! So here's some weird ol' music for it.

LISTEN AGAIN before you gotta keep up! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

downy - adaptation [Rhenium Records/Bandcamp]
downy - 酩酊フリーク (Meitei Furi) [Felicity]
downy - 時雨前 (Before Shiguremae) Taigen Kawabe remix [Felicity]
downy - 角砂糖 (Sugar Cube) [Rhenium Records/Bandcamp]
I've been a fan of the uncategorisable Japanese band (a common refrain!) downy for some time, but I think the way I discovered them and eventually sourced their back catalogue on CD meant that I haven't played them here before. They have roots in a kind of angular hardcore, but are also quite postrock/math rock, and have increasingly incorporated electronic elements into their music - especially after they reformed in 2013 after a long break. In 2014 they released a remix album, from which we heard a track reworked by Bo Ningen's Taigen Kawabe. Singer Robin Aoki sounds strangely like Thom Yorke, and sometimes sings in English, but often evoking a strange sensation of hearing English but not understanding it. His brother Yutaka Aoki, the band's guitarist, tragically passed away 2 years ago from cancer. In 2020 they released their 7th album (as usual named 無題, i.e. "Untitled"), with a familiar mix of interlocking riffs, punk-funk basslines, weird rhythmic samples and textural elements.

vvhy - Interstellar Sync [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
The latest release on Berlin-based Yu Miyashita (aka Yaporigami)'s label The Collection Artaud is in some ways the usual idm-influenced jittery electronic music, but it also incorporates vocals. With little info to go on, I'm assuming vvhy is a female Japanese producer - or it could be a duo. Both tracks are really nice anyway.

deftones - RX Queen (Salva remix) [Reprise Records]
deftones - Pink Maggit (Squarepusher remix) [Reprise Records]
Who would've thought that I'd be playing the deftones on Utility Fog? Not me, but then again they're actually great. Still, with the 20th anniversary of their excellent White Pony album comes a remix album, Black Stallion. Apparently back in the day they'd wanted DJ Shadow to remix the whole thing, but if never came to pass. Shadow is indeed on here, along with artists old & new - it's great to see Clams Casino turn up, noisemeister Blanck Mass, and major deftones influence and self-remixer Robert Smith of The Cure. But I found Paul Salva Jr's remix one of the standouts, with heavy beats and all sounds majorly messed with. And then there's ol' buddy Squarepusher, remixing my favourite track. At first it's like, is this a remix at all? And then the vocals are glitched and then everything stutters for a while, and we get some fine Jenkinsonian drill'n'bassism, followed by nearly 3 minutes of blissed outro. This is good, very good.

Skeletons - THE EDGE [Shinkoyo]
Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities - Hay W'Happns? [Ghostly International/Skeletons Bandcamp]
Skeletons - L'il Rich [Shinkoyo/Crammed]
Uumans - When U Coming Out? [Shinkoyo/Uumans Bandcamp]
Skeletons - World Famous Original [Shinkoyo]
It's lovely to welcome back Skeletons to Utility Fog's playlists. Mostly the work of Matt Mehlan, it's a project that's morphed over the years in various ways, sometimes as Skeletons & the Girl-Faced Boys, or Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities - but always around weird, epic, ramshackle songwriting from Mehlan, with arrangements ranging from freak folk and indie to quite electronic, especially with the fantastic side project Uumans around 2014. There was a Skeletons album in 2016, and a soloish Mehlan album recently too, but then in late 2020 came If The Cat Come Back, in which Mehlan weaves strange songs around the homemade instruments of Shinkoyo-label associate Peter Blasser, particular the Shtar, an electronically-augmented Persian tar. Hence the strange tunings - it's based around a 17-tone equal temperament scale, which makes for awkward listening at times, but Skeletons have never been ones for compromise. There's a lot of brilliance all through the back catalogue!

Alister Spence Trio with Ed Kuepper - And Set the Sun [Alister Spence Bandcamp]
Alister Spence Trio with Ed Kuepper - Not a Leaf in Any Forest [Alister Spence Bandcamp]
Such an interesting combination here - Alister Spence Trio features not just the great jazz pianist Spence but also fantastic drummer Toby Hall and the one & only Lloyd Swanton (The Necks) on bass. Hearing them team up with Ed Kuepper on guitar is not as surprising as it might seem - Kuepper's career has spanned punk, post-punk and indie rock, but there's been a lot of jazz throughout, whether the raucous energy of the Laughing Clowns or the expansiveness of a lot of his solo work (sometimes joined by The Necks' Chris Abrahams). The music on this new double CD Asteroid Ekosystem has the melodic magic of Spence's writing, some great basslines, and drones and riffs. It melds together in a very satisfying way.

Candlesnuffer - Opal Walls, Pumice Chin [Room40/Bandcamp]
David Brown is an essential member of Melbourne's experimental scene, whether under his own name in various combinations, or in his unique guitar mangling as Candlesnuffer. This recent album Eggs from a Varnished Chest on Room40 was recorded with Melbourne producer Myles Mumford, whose touch can heard throughout, but still the solo sounds coaxed and layered from his guitar are quite astounding across the various tracks on this release.

Gregory Paul Mineeff - On Beginnings [Cosmicleaf Records]
2020 was a big year for Wollongong pianist Gregory Paul Mineeff, with an album of synth & tape manipulations and various singles of post-classical piano and electronics. He finished the year with this single track, "On Beginnings", very pretty musings on where he's gotten to, and promises another electronic album soon I believe.

Mondrian Forgery - The Wind And The Noise [4-4-2 Music]
Mondrian Forgery - That Dream Celebration In Your Eyes [4-4-2 Music]
This cheeky music is the second from the artist calling himself Mondrian Forgery - actually the very real visual artist Adrian Elmer, also boss of 4-4-2 Music and a core member of the great Sydney indie/folktronica band Telafonica. As Mondrian Forgery he joyfully plunders a century of jazz music - previously into 4/4 house patterns, but here it's hip-hop, from old school trip-hop to more contemporary-sounding skittery 808 beats. On the first track tonight Chet Baker bumps up against Public Enemy & Anthrax, while the second has a stack of samples including Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Madlib and more.

Muqata'a - Dirasat 'Ulya دِراسات عُليا [Hundebiss Records/Muqata'a Bandcamp]
Palestinian producer Muqata'a is part of the Ramallah Underground Collective and member of the multimedia group Tashweesh, and his beats are fantastic glitchy concoctions of Arabic samples and electronics. His new album Kamil Manqus is coming out in February on Italian label Hundebiss, including a limited vinyl edition, and uses the voices of his ancestors through the Arabic alchemical science of Simya'. The title hints at the idea of perfection through imperfection. Can't wait for the rest of the tracks!

3Phaz - babababababawar [Nashazphone/Bandcamp]
From December 2020, Egyptian label Nashazphone released a fantastic, noisy compilation called This is Cairo Not The Screamers in which the cream of Cairo electronic musicians (There's Nadah El-Shazly! And ZULI!) remix Egyptian Shaabi tracks in full-on fashion. It's really great - here I'm showcasing 3Phaz, who I've encountered on a few compilations - heavy, crunchy bass overdrive.

Raed Yassin - The Cyber Oracle [Akuphone/Bandcamp]
In strangely similar fashion, here's the Raed Yassin, a key figure in the Lebanese musical underground, creating new music from old on his album Archeophony. Here the source material is old ethnomusicology recordings made by Westerners between the '50s and '80s, a sincere but colonialist endeavour divorcing the music from its cultural setting, and its creators from their own work... Yassin is in a way reclaiming this music, albeit while further anonymising the source material, and adding his own performances on top on double bass, zither, synths and turntables. It's hallucinatory, noisy at times, and beautiful.

Listen again — ~209MB


Sunday, 3rd of January, 2021

Playlist 03.01.21 - Best of 2020 Part 3! (6:26 pm)

As voted by YOU, THE PEOPLE (10 people on Twitter) last week, I am doing one more best of 2020 show. There is already a backlog of new music I want to get to, but I don't think it's going to change at all between now and next week, and everything I'm playing tonight is just as essential as the last two episodes!

LISTEN AGAIN to the last of the best of last year! Stream on demand from FBi, or podcast here.
Then you can go back to Part 2 and Part 1.

Tunng - Eating the Dead (feat. AC Grayling) [Full Time Hobby/Bandcamp]
It was fantastic to find original Tunng singer & songwriter Sam Genders rejoining the band alongside producer Mike Lindsay in 2018. Genders & Lindsay's original duo incarnation of Tunng - and the following couple of albums at least - were hugely important to Utility Fog's early years, after I discovered their first single well before their debut album was released; arcane, authentic-feeling English folk rubbing up against glitchy electronic production and club memories. Following the 2018 reformation, they're back with a concept album of sorts for 2020, Tunng presents... DEAD CLUB, in which they interrogate death and grief, inspired by Max Porter's novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Porter (the brother of the great post-dubstep/power ambient producer Roly Porter) appears on the album reading two poignant, beautifully-written short stories, "Man" and "Woman", which I recommend checking out - but tonight we're hearing a subtle piece of electronic folk featuring a snippet of a conversation Genders had with the philosopher AC Grayling.

Sevdaliza - Oh My God [Butler Records/Bandcamp]
The glitchy trip-hop influenced music of Sevdaliza, who was born in Tehran but grew up in the Netherlands, does draw in its own way from her Persian roots. Her second album, Shabrang, continues where ISON & her subsequent EPs left off, with bending strings, chopped & spliced beats, vocals both clean and glitched. It's just great to have such a strong artist working in this space.

On Diamond - The Ocean Floor (Jules Pascoe Remix) [On Diamond Bandcamp]
Melbourne indie band On Diamond already has a solid experimental & genre-crossing pedigree through their members, fronted by dream-folk singer Lisa Salvo, and featuring experimental drummer/sound-artist Maria Moles on drums, jazz saxophonist Scott McConnachie on (avant-garde) guitar, fellow adventurous folkie Hannah Cameron on guitar & backing vocals, and Tinpan Orange's Jules Pascoe on bass. Following last year's excellent debut album, they've just released a four-track remix EP, in which bandmembers Salvo, Moles and Pascoe emphasise the experimental aspects of their songs, along with friend of UFog Shoeb Ahmad.
Oh, and all profits go to Pay The Rent, so no excuse not to buy it!

Ai Aso - I'll do it my way [Ideologic Organ]
Electrifying, simple, powerful acid folk from the wonderful Ai Aso, who has long been a collaborator with the likes of Boris (who appear on a couple of ambient tracks on this album) and Stephen O'Malley (whose imprint Ideologic Organ released this album). This music is in the vein of Eddie Marcon, Tenniscoats etc, of deceptively simple Japanese electric folk, with beauifully direct songs and strange things going on around the edges (the angularly discordant solo in the latter part of the first song for instance). Incredible.

Moor Mother & Yatta - 27 [Moor Mother Bandcamp]
Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother was on a roll throughout 2020, releasing many different collaborative and solo works on her Bandcamp. Right at the end of the year, a full album was released from the dream team duo of Moor Mother with billy woods - which I played recently, and which really is among the best of the year, but is a bit too new to appear here. But among her other works in 2020, Moor Mother also teamed up with Sierra Leonean-American artist Yatta, whose work takes in hip-hop, jazz, folk, and experimental art of all sorts. She's had two releases on Purple Tape Pedigree, and as with all great collaborations you can clearly hear both artists in the insane concoctions put together on this mini-album DIAL UP. Check it out.

Lucrecia Dalt - Disuelta / Seca [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
I've been a fan of Colombian experimental musician Lucrecia Dalt since I heard her as "The Sound of Lucrecia" over 10 years ago; she contributed vocals to a wonderful track by Shoeb Ahmad & Evan Dorrian's Spartak (track 7 on Verona). Her earlier albums are experimental takes on indie singer-songwriting, but since then she's moved progressively further from those roots - as well as moving to Barcelona and then Berlin. On her last two albums, 2018's Anticlines and the just-released No era sólida, her vocals are used as a sound-source, chopped up, ring-modulated, buried under pulsating modular synths and loping almost-rhythms, or sometimes present as spoken word meditations on science or philosophy. It would help to be as well-read and multi-lingual as Dalt, but without that we can appreciate the care and technological expertise with which she constructs these strange and beautiful musical theses.

Marion Cousin & Kaumwald - Las bodas de Inesilla y el Brillante [Les Disques du Festival Permanent]
The first album by French singer Marion Cousin to explore the Iberian Peninsula was made with cellist Gaspar Claus in 2016 and explored work songs from Minorca and Majorca. For her second in this open-ended series, she moves to a remote region of Spain called Estremadura, and works with experimental electronic duo Kaumwald, made up of Clément Vercelletto and Ernest Bergez aka Sourdure. The result, on both albums, is an extraordinary, hypnotic take on folk musics, freely updated and extemporised.

Silvia Tarozzi - Sembra neve [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
There is a lot of violin from Italian violinist Silvia Tarozzi on Mi specchio e rifletto, but she also plays myriad other instruments, sings, and composed everything. Her wide-ranging background can be heard across this album (nearly a decade in the making), from her experience with free improv to her deep collaboration with groundbreaking electronic composer Eliane Radigue, to her work with contemporary Ensemble Dedalus - but the album is also a surprisingly accessible and delightful collection of songs, compositions and sound works. The first track is like a lost Penguin Cafe Orchestra track - joyful and slightly wonky minimalist acoustic classical-folk; elsewhere wistful vocals give way to beautifully messy slide guitar, fragmentary tape loops are manipulated, accordion accompanies ricochet violin, and on tonight's selection there's an outro with wonderfully outré vocal techniques. It's like nothing else you're likely to hear this year.

Meredith Monk & Bang on a Can All-Stars - Gamemaster's Song [Cantaloupe Music/Bandcamp]
Meredith Monk is one of the most iconoclastic musicians of the last 50 years. A composer the equal of Reich, Glass et al, but also an innovative vocal performer, her music has the strangely off-kilter melodies and harmonies of Kurt Weill and the repetitive, rhythmic invention of the American minimalists. Most of her music is released in recordings of her own ensemble(s), but new album Memory Game comes courtesy of new music powerhouse Bang on a Can - although Monk and her vocal ensemble are still there. This album collects a few reworkings of classic music (including one of my favourites, "Double Fiesta") as well as a selection of never-recorded music from her sci-fi opera The Games (which I really want to see!). It was intended to be performed at Big Ears this year, another COVID casualty.

Mary Halvorson's Code Girl - Bigger Flames (feat. Robert Wyatt) [Firehouse 12/Bandcamp]
I've played American jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson before on this show as part of cellist Tomeka Reid's quartet. Her skillful playing is instantly recognizable whenever she twists her melodies with the whammy bar. Halvorson is so talented and idiosyncratic that she was recognized last year with a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. Following that comes her second "Code Girl" album, Artlessly Falling, for which she wrote all the lyrics as well as music, and she's joined by jazz singer Amirtha Kidambi on most tracks, but she pulled off the remarkable feat of luring the mostly-retired Robert Wyatt (one of my favourite musicians) to sing on three of the tracks.

Ashley Paul - Light Inside My Skin [Slip/Bandcamp]
London-based American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Ashley Paul creates very strange, beautiful songs with ensembles of free improvisers, which somehow feel simultaneously free and composed - like Tom Waits' right-in-their-wrongness arrangements. She's released albums on many interesting labels including Important Records and Orange Milk, but her new one, Ray, appears for the second time on Slip. Derek Bailey can be heard in her scrabbling guitar, Ornette Coleman in the screaming saxophone and clarinet swiftly switching into queasy or sweet harmonies - but the fusion of these techniques with affecting songwriting with fragile vocals is absolutely her own. This can be challenging to get a grip on, but listen in the right frame of mind and it will touch you.

Leah Kardos - Into Sporks [bigo & twigetti/Bandcamp]
London composer Leah Kardos, who grew up in Brisbane but has been in the UK so long she's a native now, is a beloved stalwart of Utility Fog playlists, with her combined interests & deep capabilities in classical composition, electronica and pop - indeed she's teaching a BA(Hons) in Music Technology at the University of Kingston in London nowadays. Since her last album Roccocochet in 2017, she founded the Visconti Studio at the University with the venerable longtime David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. It's great to have a new album from her, one which looks back at her earlier work and builds a number of compositions from reversed and manipulated versions of older works. "Into Sporks", heard tonight, harkens back to the IDM beats of Leah's earlier work.

Tigran Hamasyan - Levitation 21 [Nonesuch/Bandcamp]
It was wonderful to have a new album this year from Armenian jazz piano prodigy Tigran Hamasyan, still only 33 years old but with an extraordinary repertoire behind him. In the past he's melded his technical proficiency at jazz piano and complex Eastern European rhythms with prog rock - indeed he's even worked with fellow Armenian-American Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. And that technical aspect is still there in his last few albums (with a kind of live-drum'n'bass aspect to some of the drumming), but there's also a deep connection to the gorgeous modalities and melodic mellifluence of Armenian music. New album The Call Within melds Armenian myths & legends with his interest in maps of all kinds.

Black To Comm - Rataplan, Rataplan, Rataplan (Arms and Legs Flying in the Air) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
As Black To Comm, Hamburg-based sound-artiist Marc Richter released one of the albums of 2019 with Seven Horses For Seven Kings, the culmination of over a decade of great hallucinatory releases on labels like Type, Dekorder and De Stijl. The work is now followed by Oocyte Oil and Stolen Androgens, an album that comes with little contextualisation but once again works as high art music and low culture, spun from collaged samples and unsettling ambiences. I love how the piano follows the spoken word on "Rataplan...". A few years ago, Black To Comm was supplemented by the You Tube-sampling vaporwavey project Jemh Circs. This year we have Mouchoir Étanche, which translates as "waterproof handkerchief". I'm not sure how much this music differs from core Black To Comm - and simultaneously with the Mouchoir Étanche album Une fille pétrifiée comes another BTC album, A C of M. Both play up the more absurdist, surrealist aspects of Richter's work, and as a set, all three albums are highly rewarding.

Claire Deak & Tony Dupé - from a rooftop [Lost Tribe Sound/Bandcamp]
Back in the '90s Tony Dupé started off his career in indie bands, but he moved to production work by the early 2000s, putting his fine stamp on the early albums of Holly Throsby and Jack Ladder, and solo work of Jamie Hutchings among others. He moved from inner Sydney down to the south coast and made many legendary recordings in the town of Gerroa, and then in a cottage on Mount Saddleback, which gave its name to his much-loved organic studio-collage solo project released on Sydney's Preservation. In the meantime, he met the fantastic musician Claire Deak, who had studied music at the Uni of Western Sydney and then screen composition at AFTRS. They moved to Melbourne together, started a family, and also started work together with a studio of their own.
About a year after I first heard these wonderful recordings, their duo album was finally released, and it couldn't be better paired than with US label Lost Tribe Sound. There are a plethora of organic instruments involved here, played by both musicians (indeed, after I played cello on many of his early productions, Tony went off and learned the instrument himself!), and it's just as you'd want it - the mysterious inde/folk/postrock creations of Saddleback grown up and augmented with the widescreen arrangement & composition skills of Claire Deak. Not to be missed!

Midori Hirano - Ocean's Disconnect [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 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.

Mabe Fratti - Creo que puedo hacer algo [Hole Records/Tin Angel Records]
It's always wonderful to discover new cellists. Guatemalan musician Mabe Fratti, now based in Mexico City, uses her cello along with synths, effects, and her voice to create experimental music of a truly compelling nature. Her cello will produce scratchy rhythmic bowed patterns, murky drones, jazzy basslines, or bright melodies. She's clearly interested in experimenting with sound, and one of the things I love about listening to these works is how she's quite capable of creating gorgeous, pure song (see the first track tonight), but she's happy peppering these around collections of pure weirdness - tape manipulation, field recordings, strangely processed vocals etc.
Technically the stunning Pies Sobre la Tierra ("Feet on the ground") was released last year, but UK label Tin Angel released it outside of Mexico in January. Mid-year she also released Planos para Construir ("Plans to build"), which saw her handing pieces of music over to various musicians and writers - also highly recommended.

Louise Bock - Oolite [Geographic North/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 (who together released the excellent Psychic Oscillations LP later in the year). 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".

Helen Money - Marrow [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Alison Chesley, as Helen Money, is a pioneering, genre-smashing doom cellist, who I've been a fan of for many years. Despite her already great history of punshing riffage and layered cello distortion, and some great collaborations including one with Jarboe, this album floored me. The riffs are there, but there are also beautiful passages of gentler stuff, multiple cellos with piano and ambient synthesisers & crackling electronics (provided by producer Will Thomas aka Plumbline and also heavy music legend Sanford Parker).

SENS DEP - Drowning Entanglement [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
Here's some wonderful doomy stuff with shoegazey and electronic elements from new Melbourne band SENS DEP, who you may recognize as members of beloved postrock band Laura. Brothers Andrew and Ben Yardley are joined by Laura's cellist Caz Gannell, with Skye Klein of Terminal Sound System (and a long time ago, doomers HALO) drumming on many tracks. Glorious, warm distortion is interrupted and complicated by studio edits, vocals enter occasionally, and Gannell's cello surfaces at times. It's beautiful and messed up, and it better not get lost in the end-of-year rush, so grab this marvellous thing now!

Sightless Pit - The Ocean of Mercy [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
This album from extreme metal/noise supergroup Sightless Pit was always going to be one of my albums of the year. All have worked together on other projects before, particularly through Lee Buford's incredible duo the body, who have recorded two collaborative albums with Dylan Walker's hardcore force of nature Full of Hell. Meanwhile Kristin Hayer is a force of nature herself, with her classical-meets-gothic-meets-metal project Lingua Ignota, and that classical/gothic influence is very evident all over this album, along with myriad electronics, heavy sounds, and (really only) occasional metal vocals. Disturbing, unsettling? Sure. But also beautiful and thrilling.

Divide and Dissolve - 8VA [Saddle Creek/Bandcamp]
It might only be a 7", but the return of Divide and Dissolve was massive and hugely welcome in this particular year. The anti-colonialist indigenous doom duo are made up of Takiaya Reed on sax and guitar, and Sylvie Nehill on drums. The B-side played here starts with ominous rumbles but really gets going in the second half where Nehill thrashes out the drums and Reed's guitar is left to thrum with disorted feedback so she can extemporize some inspired saxophone lines, whose diminished and minor intervals seem to draw from Eastern European & Middle Eastern music as much as African American. Their message of decolonization is heard loud and clear despite this being instrumental music.

shoeb ahmad - bloodwork [Shoeb Ahmad Bandcamp]
Late 2020 saw the release of Shoeb Ahmad's follow-up album to her acclaimed 2018 album "quiver". Unlike "quiver"'s pared-back indie-punk production (as pared-back as Sia will get), a body full of tears brings the full arsenal of distortion, industrial beats, processed guitars and misused keyboards, to underscore (and overwhelm) songs about about identity. It's possible to identify her love of artists as wide as Hood, Fennesz, Primal Scream and Andy Stott in here, but it's deeply personal work that reflects a musical history that's all her own.

Tomaga - Surikat [Tomaga Bandcamp]
UK duo Tomaga are so unpigeonholeable that it's always hard to find where to fit them in a playlist, even though it's music I love so much. So by the time I originally played Extended Play 2 it had been deleted from their Bandcamp! Tragically, in August bass/synth player Tom Relleen passed away too young at the age of 42, from stomach cancer. The EP is now available again, so you can hear how he and drummer/percussionist Valentina Magaletti weaved musical magic that echoes krautrock, postpunk, electronica, hauntology, and more, yet seems unstuck in time & space.

Listen again — ~196MB


Sunday, 27th of December, 2020

Playlist 27.12.20 - Best of 2020 Part 2 (of 3!) (12:24 pm)

Here it is, Best of 2020 Part 2. As mentioned last week, it's been a really hard task. This year that's hurt so many people in so many years, and partially destroyed large parts of the music industry in ways not all will be able to recover from, has managed to produce an unprecedented amount of extraordinary recorded sound.
I conducted a highly scientific Twitter poll, which resulted in a unanimous vote in favour of extending to THREE episodes for UFog's Best of 2020 - making this the middle rather than the end! Finally something to celebrate.

LISTEN AGAIN to more of the best! You can stream on demand from FBi, or podcast right here.

Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Two (feat. Laurel Halo) [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 2020 album Workaround, released by 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. This is unquestionably one of the best albums of the year, and one I returned to frequently.

DJ Plead - Ess [Livity Sound/Bandcamp]
Jared Beeler was a fixture in Sydney's dance music scene for many years, as a writer, DJ, and producer in particular with the beloved Black Vanilla/BV. Now based in Melbourne/Naarm, as DJ Plead he's making a name internationally with music that incorporates percussion and drum patterns from his Lebanese background into UK club styles. Each track on his Going For It EP for the great Bristol label Livity Sound is better than the last, culminating in the driving "Ess", held down by a mostly one-note bassline and coloured by syncopated synth stabs.

Azu Tiwaline - Red Viper [I.O.T. Records/Bandcamp]
I was so excited to discover the music of Azu Tiwaline in 2020, via her Magnetic Service EP released by that very same Livity Sound. But only a few months earlier, her two-part album Draw Me A Silence came out through French label I.O.T. Records, and it's from that album, overshadowed by the (also excellent) Livity Sound EP, that I'm playing a track tonight. Both draw heavily on her Amazigh roots in Saharan Tunisia, as well as her "other" roots as a DJ and producer of techno, dub & hip-hop as Loan. She has an astonishing sense not only of rhythm and techno/dub production, but also of pacing and structure, honed no doubt in years of DJing, and it's wonderful hearing that applied to these traditional rhythms and sounds (at times flute melodies and field recordings can be heard too). Both double album & EP are essential IMHO - head over to her Bandcamp.

Neinzer - Cause Pan Tact Insoluble [Where To Now? Records]
Emil Lewandowski's previous EP as Neinzer, released by AD 93 earlier this year, made a big impression with two jazzy house grooves followed by three shimmering beatless works. But to be honest it was his later EP Shifting Values that really grabbed me hard. Each of the tracks here has some standout feature - avant-garde harmonies on piano or flute, bass music with organic beats and perfectly placed breaths and field recordings... "Cause Pan Tact Insoluble" grows slowly with more beautiful discords, freakout flute and vocal harmonies over a dubstep-house hybrid beat.

Autechre - DekDre Scap B [Warp/Bandcamp]
Everyone knows that Autechre albums need to be followed by a second album (even if it's sometimes called an EP), and after a period of weird sprawling non-album creations (which I thought were excellent), this year we had the SIGN album followed fairly swiftly with PLUS. It's been a while since Ae's stuff was genuinely surprising, and nothing here or on SIGN sounds that different from anything they've done 10 years really - but they were so far ahead of the curve for so long that that hardly matters. There's head-nodding beats, gritty textures, beautiful meandering melodies, and to me there's a bit more edge to this than the other album. I'm happy!

An Avrin - Clodhopper [Scuffed Recordings]
UK bass in various forms was the basis for the brilliant Clodhopper EP on Scuffed Recordings from new producer An Avrin. The title track is insanely great, with every sound chopped to perfection - tiny vocal snippets on off-beats, little bits of breaks and halftime bass plus eventually a little synth melody. Superb.

Carl Stone - Pasjoli [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
Active since the late '70s and early '80s, LA musician Carl Stone has seen a resurgence of interest in the last few years courtesy of two wonderful retrospectives on Unseen Worlds, demonstrating his use of granular synthesis to create live glitchy edits from all sorts of sound sources decades before we thought about glitch, drone or indeed "mashups". He released some new material last year, and then a pair of really interesting paired tracks as singles ahead of this new album, the anagrammatically-titled Stolen Car. Written between Los Angeles and Tokyo, it draws heavily on mashed-up pop music, with a surprising emphasis on something resembling beats - a subversive recontextualisation of pop perhaps. It's fun and weird, and fits strangely next to Rian Treanor's rave edits and dancefloor deconstructions.

Rian Treanor - Debouncing [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
For his second album on Planet µ, Rian Treanor continues his deconstruction of rave in all its colourful aspects. Indeed the title, File Under UK Metaplasm, might suggest a rearranging of UK dance music - but actually this is highly rhythmic stuff, rendered perhaps undanceable only because of its speed. It's got a lot in common with '90s drill'n'bass and idm, but with more emphasis on bass, and influences from Chicago footwork, UK garage and elsewhere.

Atom™ - 0.9 (Almost a Unit) [Raster/Bandcamp]
It's not unreasonable to say that the music of Atom™ from the mid-'90s to the early '00s was a massive influence on what I wanted to do with Utility Fog. Inhabiting an intensely digital realm, even when creating ersatz jazz and funk with Bernd Friedmann as Flanger, he was way ahead of the game with precisely chopped digital cut-ups and re-contextualised cultural signifiers, even outside of the Señor Coconut material - just one project using the music of his adopted home of Chile. Recently he's been re-releasing old techno cuts from the early '90s on his Bandcamp, mostly released under the name Atom Heart. But for 2020, his new album <3 (heart emoji), released on Raster, was a return to the digital cuts & culture-jamming, ostensibly a collaboration with X1N, "an entity for generating human voice and natural language content", contributing idoru-pop vocals... About half the album has beats accelerated into drill'n'bass territory. It's super-fun and very arch.

Andrea - Drumzzy [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Turin's Andrea, staple of Munich's Ilian Tape label, released his first album in 2020 after a series of excellent 12"s. The big, hard techno beats and lush pads of his earlier work have been augmented over a few releases with skittery, idm-inspired beats which lean towards jungle and UK bass styles, and that really comes to the fore on the wonderful album Ritorno. His talent for melodic synth pads in the vein of Shed is still very much there, but the beats flutter and sizzle as much as they thump. It's inspired and exciting - massively recommended, but don't ignore those earlier EPs either!

Moon Sign Gemini - 003 [Moon Sign Gemini Bandcamp]
Hearing Adelaide's Moon Sign Gemini on the Solitary Wave (Out) comp from Stu Buchanan's resurrected New Weird Australia, I had to zoom over to his Bandcamp immediately and grab all the things - sampled orchestras with breakcore are bread & butter for Utility Fog! Dylan Cooper usually plays in hardcore punk bands, and Moon Sign Gemini is a recent venture in electronic production - impressive & fun stuff.

Harmony - Rage [Deep Jungle]
Lee Bogush goes right back to the earliest days of jungle, as it was coming out of UK hardcore and before it morphed into drum'n'bass. As DJ Harmony he released a slew of incredible 12"s, many of the earliest alongside Suzanne Harris as Harmony & Xtreme. Bogush now runs the fantastic Deep Jungle label, which, in addition to reissuing long lost early classics, puts out remastered 12"s (and digital thankfully) of unreleased gems from artists' and labels' original DAT recordings. As well as a big archival comp of 1993-1996 tracks released in January, Harmony released an entire new album in 2020 called Resurgence, full of wonderful junglist bliss.

Hedex & Bou - Pub Grub VIP [Dubz Audio]
Late in 2020 came the RTRN II Fabric mix from stadium drum'n'bass duo Chase & Status. It's actually a lovely tribute to jungle and drum'n'bass, with classics going right back to the early '90s, and updates like their own remix of Origin Unknown's beyond-classic "Valley Of The Shadows", which they treat with much respect, updating the beats and leaving the original samples basically intact. Among the new tunes was one by Hedex & Bou, updating a tune from Hedex's From The Rave album from last year - "Pub Grub VIP" tightens up the bassline and adds a little more junglist crunchy bits. I put it on anytime I want to dance around like a mad bastard.

Chimpo - Big Ed (Generation X Mix) [Box N Lock]
Manchester's Chimpo was a frequent visitor to my music player this year - his HIA LP from earlier in the year was a gem of songs and toasting over UK bass music of all sorts. Chimpo's been comfortable in many different genres for ages, but does love his drum'n'bass, as you can see from various cheeky collections on his Box N Lock Bandcamp. After HIA was released he also put out an EP of Club Mixes from the album, which are quite literally tributes to various well-loved Manchester clubs - check the jungle track here. I cannot recommend enough that you check the LP and remixes, and then explore the rest of what's on offer.

Aphir - Evelyn Said [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
In the wake of last summer's bushfires and then the ongoing pandemic's effect on the music & arts world, Becki Whitton aka Aphir had a crisis of creativity - she had a joyous pop album ready to go, but couldn't square that with the current times. So instead she set out to write & record a completely new album during the pandemic, and 2020 was blessed with the superb fruits of that work, The Republic of Paradise. It responds to dark times with a dark outlook, with pounding beats and poetry often set in rhythmic half-spoken vocals. Nevertheless, Whitton can't help but write moving melodies, with a vulnerable a capella coda here providing relief from the track's assault.

Taraamoon - زَهازْ (Zahāz) [Low-Zi Records Bandcamp]
Nima Aghiani and Sara Bigdeli Shamloo appear frequently on Utility Fog courtesy of their magnificent 9T Antiope project, which can comfortably switch from noise to neo-classical to electronic pop, with Shamloo's rich vocals carrying through all genres. It's notable that with 9T Antiope the vocals are mostly in English, but as well as releasing a great 9T Antiope album in 2020, this year the pair (who are Iranians based in France) launched new project Taraamoon, a vehicle for electronic pop sung in Farsi. I can't say anything about what the songs are about, but they're exquisite.

Rojin Sharafi - Boloor [Zabte Sote]
Sticking with Europe-based Persian ex-pats, we have a track from Tehran-born, Vienna-based sound-artist & poet Rojin Sharafi's second album for Zabte Sote, Zangaar. Electronics throb and burble under electrifying performances of her poetry. If like me you can't understand Farsi, there are descriptions of each piece on the Bandcamp page. While contemporaries like Lucrecia Dalt might spring to mind, this is sui generis work (indeed, it shares that characteristic with Dalt's work too...) and utterly essential listening. It's from one of FOUR excellent tapes released late in the year by Ata Ebtekar's wonderful Zabte Sote label, and it would be remiss of me not to note that Ebtekar's album Moscels for Opal Tapes (as Sote) was a marvel too.

Jasmine Guffond - Forever Listening [Editions Mego/Bandcamp]
Sydney/Berlin composer Jasmine Guffond continues her deep exploration of online surveillance and sound on her first solo album for Editions Mego. Entitled Microphone Permission, the album sways musically between exquisitely detuned acoustic-sounding pads, harsh digital interjections, and clicky rhythmic bursts. The measured pace and pristine sound recording invoke an unsettling sense of paranoia – can my technology be trusted? Can the corporations controlling my data be trusted? I'm grateful that these very important concerns have inspired such sumptuous music anyway.

Bérangère Maximin - Full Jungle [Karl Records/Bandcamp]
And now some musique concrète, starting with the ever-surprising, brilliant musician Bérangère Maximin. Her new album came out from Berlin label Karl Records, following released on labels as diverse as Tzadik, Sub Rosa, Crammed Discs and Craig Leon's Atlas Réalisastions. I still think of Maximin as a musique concrète composer and sound-artist, and those elements are still present on this new album - field recordings from around city parks and abandoned buildings recorded throughout Europe feature here, manipulated in various ways, alongside all sorts of electronic elements. There are even drum machines and sequenced synthesizers, allbeit treated in unusual fashions (if not "full-on junglism" *ahem*). I strongly recommend connecting with this album and whatever you can find of her back catalogue.

Kate Carr - It's a steep climb to the freeway underpass [Kate Carr Bandcamp]
London-based Australian musician Kate Carr continues to create some of the most exciting field recording-based music around, well represented in 2020 by a new release, available on red vinyl, called Splinters. It's a documentation of her relationship, over 18 months, with an artist-run space in South East London called TACO! - covering not only field recordings of the space and of Carr's journeys to and from the space, but also various performances in that space over the time period. So disembodied snippets of spoken word, electronic beats, or maybe even a distorted guitar chord contribute to the sound-world. Carr is brilliant at creating musically compelling works from non-musical elements (or musical elements used in unusual ways), and constructing a narrative as well. You don't have to know the space or have been part of the community to find this a thrilling listen.

Beatriz Ferreyra - Echos [ROOM40/Bandcamp]
Active since the 1960s, Argentine composer Beatriz Ferreyra is still making music now, and had (luckily for us) TWO new releases of her works released in 2020. ROOM40 put out a 12" called Echos+ which collected the incredible 1978 work "Echos" heard tonight alongside another vocal-derived work from 1987 and one using percussion sounds from 2007. "Echos" chops and inter-layers the voice of her niece, who tragically died in a car crash, and forms a gorgeous and joyful tribute. I should note also that new musique concrète-focused UK label Persistence of Sound released Huellas entreveradas ("Interspersed footsteps") this year also, with works as recent as 2018. Cannot recommend highly enough - Ferreyra is a really important voice in sound-art.

Olivier Alary & Johannes Malfatti - I Can't Even See Myself [130701/Bandcamp]
Finishing with one of the most touching & unusual pieces of 2020.
Back in 2000, French-born, Montréal-based musician Olivier Alary released his first album as Ensemble, for the venerable idm label Rephlex. Ensemble's debut Sketch Proposals combined glitchy beats and even glitchier electronic textures, strangely and effectively, with a sort-of shaky take on French chanson courtesy of the already-departed singer Chanelle Kimber. Following this, Ensemble became known to many through Alary's work with Björk, including a co-write and co-production on "Desired Constellation" and a series of remixes. Fat Cat released two albums by Ensemble which continued this melding of glitchy electronica and indie songwriting - and by the second, 2011's glorious Excerpts, the indie/postrock elements, and string arrangements, outweighed the electronics considerably. I consider Excerpts to be a hugely underappreciated album, one that I return to often, with vocals from Alary and Darcy Conroy, and co-writing and arrangements on many tracks by Alary's longtime collaborator Johannes Malfatti.
Both Alary and Malfatti, despite their roots in experimental electronic music, have been writing ambient & classical-adjacent music for film for some years, an album of which came out through Fat Cat's 130701 label from Alary in 2017. Now the two have paired up under their own names rather than Ensemble, along with various string players & vocalists, for a gorgeous album called u,i that reflects these isolated times through the medium of Skype & other VOIP services which the pair have long used to keep in touch. So vocal melodies struggle to cut through static and drop-outs, while accompanied by strings and electronics - an inverted reflection of Alary's original melding of cracked electronics and song, and one that pays off with some true heartstring-pulling moments.

Listen again — ~200MB


Sunday, 20th of December, 2020

Playlist 20.12.20 - Best of 2020 Part 1 (7:27 pm)

This was SO HARD. 2020 has been endless, and because of that, because of Bandcamp Fridays, because of who knows what, it has been a cornucopia of musical wonders, of all stripes. I have attempted to cover stupid amounts of ground here, and next week will be a differently bewildering run of stuff - maybe some of the quieter areas, more experimental/classical/jazz, but definitely also more bass & beats & breaks as well! Who knows really?

Anyway, LISTEN AGAIN to (some of) the best stuff (part 1) of the year! FBi offers the best stream on demand services available, and you can podcast it here too.

The Soft Pink Truth - So That Grace May Increase (excerpt) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Matmos - nice men in stable relationships (feat. Clipping, Jennifer Walshe, Nate Boyce) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Matmos - unmastering (feat. Rabit, Erica Valencia) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
The Soft Pink Truth - Fuck Nazi Sympathy (Aus-Rotten cover) [The Soft Pink Truth Bandcamp]
Prof Drew Daniel was slated to appear in the Best of 2020 ever since the release of the exquisite The Soft Pink Truth album Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?, a blissful 45 minutes of ambient house with postrock, sunlit r'n'b and almost classical leanings (intended as two mixed halves, but also available digitally in a slightly different form with separated tracks). It's explicitly music for our times, a love reaction to the evils of Trumpism, and its expansive, emotionally welcoming sensibility is perfect for our COVID-era disconnected state. It's like the perfect comedown music the day after intense clubbing, and if the clubbing here is the hammering of late stage capitalism on our state of mind, it's just what we need. A tonic for trying times.
AND THEN... just in time for the discord in America to rise once again in the face of racist, violent police and a white nationalist, kleptocratic President, Drew released a companion album to SWGOSSTGMI?, which is much more in the format of the usual Soft Pink Truth catalogue. Am I Free To Go? sees him covering a selection of crust-punk anarcho-protest songs in various electronic stylings, breakcore, glitch techno etc, with appropriately gutteral vocals alongside some clean singing. Masterful & timely, the album is pay what you can and profits go to the International Anti-fascist Defence Fund.
So, you'd think that Drew Daniel releasing one of the greatest albums of the year as The Soft Pink Truth AND then releasing a brilliant album of crust punk covers might be enough for 2020, but no, 2020 also saw a new album from his & MC Schmidt's ever-wondrous Matmos, and it's a massive 3CD, 3-hour set incorporating contributions from 99 fellow travellers (entirely at 99bpm). The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form is a logical follow-up to what the pair have been doing with Matmos for the last 3½+ decades - a super-collaborative, highly-experimental project which is nevertheless always expressive of Daniel & Schmidt's creative vision, and due to their way with form, humour and communication skills, is always highly approachable. The list of contributors to the particular tracks this evening gives a little bit of a flavour of what's going on here - it's nice to hear a return at times to the twisted Americana of works like The West and The Civil War, and also bits of glitched pop and inscrutable spoken word snippets. By any standards 3 hours is too long, but it's hard to complain when it's such an embarrassment of riches.

Poppy - I Disagree [Sumerian Records]
I've been a fan on and off of the wondrously strange & disquieting works of YouTube art created by Moriah Rose Pereira aka Poppy, but I assumed her music was all saccharine pop - which it was, initially. But in recent years her more electronic music gained some impressive depth, and then she took a bizarre turn into nu-metal... Combine that with a break-up with her (probably creepy and manipulative) boyfriend & producer Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy's 2020 album I Disagree turned out to be massively fun & clever and dark. Part feminist self-actualisation, part political statement, part very silly, it's a genre-switching oddity which for some reason I just keep listening to. I never played it during the year, so here's one of many highlights, just for you in the first best of the year show...

Jockstrap - Acid [Warp/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - Beavercore 3 [Warp/Bandcamp]
Here's something else that I never actually played during the year - because I only discovered the brilliant young London duo Jockstrap right near the end of the year, even though they're released by Warp Records. Trained at London's Guildhall School of Music & Arts, violinist/pianist/singer/arranger Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye create an astonishing mélange of classical & jazz-influenced, complex songs with flamboyant processing all through. I could listen to just "Acid" on repeat for days on end. They followed up the Wicked City EP with Beavercore later in 2020, with the contrasts of highly-electronic versions of earlier tracks and deceptively unadorned (except not) piano "Beavercore" excursions... Genius.

The God In Hackney - The Adjoiner [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
First discovered by me on a compilation from The Wire, The God In Hackney instantly attracted my attention. Formed in 2003 by Andy Cooke and Nathaniel Mellors, they were joined by two others for their first album Cave Moderne in 2014. They are one of those UFog-loved affairs of great, catchy songs with really unusual arrangements. Excellent, flowing drums (or indeed stop-start drums) from Ashley Marlowe, acoustic and sometimes dubbed-out by Mellors, with many acoustic instruments as well as plenty of electronics. Andy Cooke is credited with "fire extinguisher" as well as vocals, keyboards, and guitars. And Dan Fox contributes multiple instruments including cello and trombone. There are heaps of influences here, from krautrock & spiritual jazz to experimental electronic, leftfield pop, dub and more. It's such classic UFog music it hurts.

Hilary Woods - Tongues of Wild Boar [Sacred Bones/Bandcamp]
The first solo album from Irish artist Hilary Woods, released by Sacred Bones in 2018, was a collection of bewitching simple tunes with piano, guitar, sparse percussion and synths. It followed her tenure in Dublin-based indie rock band JJ72, but it was a while between her leaving that band and releasing her first solo record. The new album, called Birthmarks, was recorded while heavily pregnant, and much of it was put together in Oslo, working with the great Norwegian noise artist Lasse Marhaug. Cello from his frequent collaborator Okkyung Lee is also all over the album, and Jenny Hval appears on synths as well. It's incredible work, very evocative, and utterly uncompromising, with industrial rhythms, scraping cello noises, lots of unsettling ambience, across a couple of instrumental tracks and some moving, haunting songwrting. Highly recommended.

Sufjan Stevens - Ativan [Asthmatic Kitty/Bandcamp]
Another 5 years, another Sufjan Stevens album... Well, we've had collaborations and other little drops in between, but it seems like the big albums take their time. You've probably heard the story with this one by now - it's an album about the loss of faith, but not (probably) his faith in God so much as his faith in America as an institution. In that sense it's extremely timely, even though the title track was written some years ago. There's personal stuff too though - "Ativan" seems like a depiction of an anxiety attack of the sort the eponymous drug is meant to treat. Musically there are the beautiful harmony changes and melodic deftness we love Sufjan for, and it's almost entirely performed & programmed by Sufjan, like a muted, reflective Age of Adz. Depressing times, let's wallow in Sufjan.

Pa Salieu - Betty [Warner]
2020 has been huge for Coventry-based UK rapper Pa Salieu. It's UK drill, but a lot could easily sit as grime. Salieu's voice is incredbily strong, bearing signs of his Gambian heritage as well as the British-Jamaican influence of the music, and his lyrics speak of the violence of systemic racism and the UK's long-established class system. Of course for me the music itself is a huge drawcard, and I was introduced to him through the b-side of his massive single "Betty" - on "Bang Out" he samples liberally from the ever-influential "Ghosts" by Japan, with David Sylvian's voice and the equally-identifiable synths weaving in and out of the rolling bassline and Salieu's raps.

Run The Jewels - Goonies Vs. ET [Run The Jewels]
Finally, four years after RTJ3 came the fourth album from Killer Mike & EL-P's Run The Jewels. It hits just as hard as previously - EL-P's production is impulsively danceable, and still hints a little at the industrial & experimental influences his work has often borne. And while Killer Mike's always been politically outspoken & eloquent, this is probably the most explicitly anti-racist and political, being their first created during the Trump presidency. I particularly love the chopped vocal "oh" that accentuates the downbeats in the breakdowns here. As usual the new album was a pay-what-you-want download ahead of its physical release, with all profits going to the Mass Defense Program that provides legal aid to political activists, protesters and movements for social change.

The Bug ft. Dis Fig - Destroy Me [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Early last year I discovered the work of jazz-trained vocalist Felicia Chen as Dis Fig via her debut album released by Purple Tape Pedigree, entitled Purge. Drawing from her jazz and classical training as well as industrial and noise, it was broad-ranging and quite disturbing at times. So it's quite excellent to find her now collaborating with one of my favourite artists, The Bug, with a full album of what's described as "narco-dancehall", combining Kevin Martin's earlier dancehall distortions with his more recent dubstep/grime and the spaced-out dub & trip-hop of his King Midas Sound project. Dis Fig is only the latest in a string of female singers Martin has worked with, but this full album is an impressive collaboration, with Chen's vocals leaning towards the melodic, trip-hop end of the spectrum, but injecting plenty of emotion and musical texture to the proceedings.

Ed Balloon - Bad Gyal [Deathbomb Arc/Bandcamp]
Ed Balloon's verses on clipping.'s track "He Dead" last year absolutely stole the show... His new EP I Hate It Here, his second on Deathbomb Arc, seems to draw something from the more experimental side of clipping., with his dulcet vocals (comfortable singing, and rapping in both high and low register, his vowels a reminder of his Nigerian heritage) accompanied by distorted basslines and skittering electronics beats as much as r'n'b arrangements. It's absolutely superb.

clipping. - Pain Everyday (with Michael Esposito) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
A long year after their first horrorcore/African-American horror themed album There Existed An Addiction To Blood, finally clipping. released the long-awaited sequel Visions of Bodies Being Burned. It was always planned as a duology, but the familiar circumstances we're all living with delayed the second album somewhat. Happily it was worth every minute of the wait, with the noise grounding of William Hutson and breakcore/techno experience of Jonathan Snipes again providing the perfect foil for the erudite, rapidfire delivery of their half-Jewish, half-African American rapper Daveed Diggs. As always the political & the cultural are intractably intertwined, and pop hooks coexist with extreme noise. "Pain Everyday" references that Venetian Snares bloke with strings & 7/8 breakcore beats alongside field recordings from occult researcher & noise artist Michael Esposito.

Armand Hammer - Pommelhorse ft. Curly Castro [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
Last year billy woods, founder of Backwoodz Studioz, put out two of the best hip-hop albums of the year - Hidden Places with Kenny Segal in particular was top of my list. The year before, his duo Armand Hammer with ELUCID released one of the most bewildering and brilliant albums of that year, Paraffin, so their follow-up this year had a lot riding on it. And Shrines by and large pulls it off. The lyrics as usual are rapidfire, dense and reference-laden, frequently apposite to the current situation, which after all is just drawing attention to the reality of life for Black Americans that white people have the privilege of staying oblivious to (much like in Australia). Musically it's as strange and unexpected as ever - highlighting the fact that hip-hop has always been experimental music.

Crass - Asylum (Mikado Koko Remix) [One Little Independent RecordsCrass Bandcamp]
The anarcho-punk of UK collective Crass couldn't be more relevant now, in these days where protest movements are simultaneously co-opted and treated as terrorists, and Covid lockdowns are being used as excuses to stamp down hard on the mosto downtrodden parts of our society. So it's nice to have an excuse to listen to them anew. Late last year they made from their debut album The Feeding of the 500 available on Google Drive for anyone to remix. Now a series of 7"s is coming out with well-known and lesser-known names remixing their tracks (none other than Steve Aoki does a drum'n'bass-ish take on "Banned from the Roxy" on the latest single!). On the 3rd single Japanese experimental electronic artist Mikado Koko takes the already abstract backing of the original version of Eve Libertine's incredible poem "Asylum" and turns up the weirdness, processing the lyric but keeping the power of that poem. It's a project that could easily have been gratuitous, but has turned out quite inspiring - and all proceeds go to UK domestic violence organisation Refuge, which also couldn't be more important in these locked down times.

Little Annie Anxiety & Hiro Kone - Third Gear [Hiro Kone Bandcamp]
New York-born singer, songwriter and artist Little Annie aka Ann Bandes aka Annie Anxiety Bandez started making music in 1977. When she moved to the UK in 1981 it was in association with Steve Ignorant & Penny Rimbaud of none other than Crass. Alongside Crass, she worked closely with Adrian Sherwood and his nascent On-U Sound Records, and all these characters (including Bonjo from African Head Charge) appeared on her album Soul Possession, released initially on Crass's Corpush Christi, and re-released a few years ago by Dais. It's mostly tracks from this album which were revisited in 2018 in a collaboration & live performance with the brilliant New York producer Nicky Mao aka Hiro Kone (Little Annie also appeared on Hiro Kone's astonishing 2018 album Pure Expenditure). The collaboration is now available on Bandcamp and it is absolutely not to be missed. Deep grooves from Mao with nods to the original productions & Annie's longtime association with dub, industrial & experimental music underscore her reinterpretations of these old tunes.

Hextape - Toyota [Anterograde]
Narrm/Melbourne musician, sound-artist & educator Bridget Chappell is at home playing cello in industrial spaces or using field recording techniques as political activism. As Hextape Chappell folds field recordings into deconstructed rave and other electronic music - furious beats at times, and lots of sound processing. While 2020 saw an EP under their own name, and later an extended reissue of the late 2019 album 2 Fast 2 Furious, there was also this great single. "Toyota" samples Chappell's '96 Hilux, and comes with a video made with Henry Pyne which takes the ute and footage around Narrm into a video-game world, and a remix from lablemate Ahm, who also had a fantastic EP out this year on the same label.

Mutant Joe - Boom, Drop [Natural Sciences]
Only just twigging to the work of Brisbane's Mutant Joe, who now has a few releases on international labels, at the ripe old age of 20. It's awesome that there's an Aussie producer, not from Sydney or Melbourne (or Perth), doing absolutely on-point leftfield dancefloor music, and it's a super interesting mix too. Bass music is at the core, whether it's southern US-style hip-hop or jungle/dubstep/garage mutations. A new EP, Cortisol just dropped on his Bandcamp, and earlier this year Manchester label Natural Sciences released the album Vagrant.

dgoHn - Invisible Sandwich [Love Love Records/Bandcamp]
John Cunnane’s moniker dgoHn is meant to be pronounced like his first name, and that particularly oddity feels like it places him right away into the company of the great weirdos of English music. Although there are connections to idm – his duo with fellow producer Macc was released on Rephlex over a decade ago – he leans a bit closer to the dancefloor as a main proponent of the “drumfunk” subgenre which pulled the experimental end of jungle/drum’n’bass away from breakcore’s testosterone into a more jazzy, syncopated approach to drum programming. After an EP released Fracture’s Astrophonica label last year, he returned to Love Love Records in 2020 for a full album of outrageously brilliant beat juggling. Yes, the beats might be show-offy, but they flow with a real musicality, and they are accompanied by musical and melodic synth pads and funky stabs, and some half-time and ambient passages to break things up. I could listen to this all day.

Baby T - Portra (Jungle Mix) [Samurai Music]
Brianna Price is better known as a producer, DJ and label owner under the name B. Traits, originally shortened from "Baby Traits". This year she flipped the abbreviation for new project Baby T, described on Facebook as for "hardcore junglist shit only", and the first EP Portra came out through Samurai Music with three different versions from Price plus two excellent remixes from Homemade Weapons and Ancestral Voices. Also from this alias this year was I Against I on Central Processing Unit, and it's somewhat more wide-ranging than hardcore junglist shit - but the excellently titled "Estrogen Attitude" is super-fun acidic drum'n'bass. For an eye-opening look at how unfriendly jungle & drum'n'bass have historically been to the women in the scene, this article from Julia Toppin is a must-read.

Krust - Hegel Dialect [Crosstown Rebels/Bandcamp]
Kirk Thompson is an absolutely central figure in jungle and drum'n'bass, from when the sound percolated out of East London into Bristol, home of so much bass-oriented UK music. Thompson, as DJ Krust, was part of Reprazent along with Roni Size, DJ Die, SUV and others, and while Roni Size was the big name out front, Krust's production, orchestration, and sonic storytelling is next to none. His new album The Edge of Everything came 14 years after the previous, and it's wonderful to have his music again at album length, with sumptuous 12-minute epics and weird little skits. Crosstown Rebels isn't typically a drum'n'bass label, but while there's bits of halftime and bits of ambient in there, it's definitely all drum'n'bass at its roots, with some fiery break choppery and skittering drum machine programming, and plenty of punchy basslines. Unalloyed genius, easily an album of the year.

ASC - Intensity [Samurai Music/Bandcamp]
James Clements has been making drum'n'bass as ASC for over 20 years, as well as techno and other styles. He's been strongly associated with the "autonomic" strain of dub-techno-infused d'n'b, and other more ambient stylings for a while, and it's very exciting that Samurai Music have lured him back into hard-hitting jungle/d'n'b for an EP and now the Isolated Systems album this year - apparently with another release in this vein coming out early in 2021! Storming beats with complex programming recalling the legendary Arcon 2 (I said on air that he wasn't on Bandcamp, but that's recently changed - fuck yeah!) as well as the heyday of Photek, Paradox et al. What's notable to me is that it's not just nonstop beatfuckery and sub-bass - Clements pays attention to the need for harmonic movement, with falling synth pads that add just enough soulfulness to the proceedings, something which a lot of the harder & more complex jungle programmers today tend to not care about. Highly recommended!

A.G. Cook - A-Z [PC Music Bandcamp]
A.G. Cook - Waldhammer [PC Music Bandcamp]
I've had a difficult relationship with the PC Music phenomenon - I acknowledge the way they incorporate experimentalism into pop music, but most of what they release has been too shiny and, well, "pop" for me to get into. So I was quite pleased to discover that maximalist album from PC Music head honcho A.G. Cook was mostly very much my thing, and probably yours too. Over 7 "discs" (I don't think there was an actual physical edition) of 7 tracks each, Cook covered a lot of ground, but there's an idm/drill'n'bass thread throughout, along with the usual glitched vocals etc. The drill'n'bass beats, the Nord melodies on disc 5 and even the chopped vocals on disc 6 all bear a strong influence from Aphex Twin and other idm originals from the early-to-mid '90s, but Cook's musical background (he studied at Goldsmith's in London) also comes out in "Waldhammer"'s manic reworking of Beethoven's Waldstein Piano Sonata.

Listen again — ~210MB


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