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electric string quartet

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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Sunday, 12th of June, 2011

Playlist 12.06.11 (11:10 pm)

Well hello there. Nice of you to join me. Pull up a seat/bean bag/piece of mattress.
Monday's a public holiday, and I have as usual more music than I can possibly play in 3 hours, including a new entry into the top albums of the year from David Sylvian.
LISTEN AGAIN via the link at the bottom or the podcast.

I started with the most accessible number from David Sylvian’s new album, Died in the Wool | Manafon Variations. It's an incredible achievement from a master, with sumptuous yet adventurous string arrangements, guest spots (as previously) from luminaries of the improv and experimental electronic worlds, and Sylvian's viscous vocals.

We followed it with the opening track from the debut solo album by Canadian folk/tronic artist Matthew Maaskant, a version of the traditional song "Katie Cruel" which manages to stay faithful to the most familiar version by Karen Dalton (still stunning, played afterwards) while rendering it with electronic instrumentation and a small nod near the end to the violin that blesses Dalton's version.

Another of the albums of the year comes from jenny hval. Her folk-influenced songs are arranged by her with some of Norway's top improvisers and sound artists, to create experimental songs ranging from sound poetry to gothic rock. I also played an amazing track from her previous album, under the name Rockettothesky.

Back to Sylvian, I played what I think is the standout track on the album, with quasi-classical strings in dialogue with the vocal, accompanied by bass tones and electronic textures. Wonderful.

Also, I think, a contender for the top few albums (I realise we're not quite halfway through the year) is Jasper TX’s latest, The Black Sun Transmissions. It lives up to its title, darkly beautiful, mysterious and surprising. This ain't your momma's drone music anymore. There's strings, piano and creaking, crashing field recordings — pretty thrilling listening.

Canberra's Spartak are up in Sydney this Friday to play at the always impeccable Sound Series at Hardware Gallery in Enmore. Faced with my favourite tracks being 9 & 12 minutes from their more recent album & EP, I opted for a brilliant older track. They're unbeatable live — definitely a gig not to be missed.

And another stellar album this week, what's going on? Efrim Manuel Menuck is a central force behind two of Montreal's Constellation label's most renowned bands — Godspeed You Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion. His first solo album has just been released, with some of his most personal lyrics, and his usual no-prisoners approach to arrangements. A bluesy song will get taken over by over-compressed drums; lyrics will only come in halfway through a 9-minute song; and then there'll be a 4-minute interlude of sampled, effected strings or organ. It's pretty awesome.
It's fair to say that A Silver Mt Zion never bested (although often about equalled) their amazing first album, in chamber format. The track I played is no doubt an old favourite for a lot of us.

Back to Australia, and a local artist much loved by the kidz for his vocal looping skills and his tumblr full of r'n'b cut-ups and ambient snippets... Guerre, aka Lavurn Lee. I have no idea whether Salt Creek Coyotes exist, but this remix takes him into something akin to Fleet Foxes folky territory, to most excellent effect. The remix EP is a free download in the lead-up to his debut album being released.

Speaking of "free remixes" of a sort, late last year and early this year the devilish members of Akron/Family decided to leak a couple of different versions of their up-coming album to the torrent sites — turning their folk rock into mashed up noise and drone. It was pretty insane and a whole lot of fun. For Record Store Day they released a 2LP set of the best of these fake albums, including a lot of tracks I hadn't come across (I'm not convinced that more than two of them actually found their way out into the public). I quite honestly love this much more than their latest album — a lot of the leaked versions seemed like presets from a Native Instruments effect or two slathered over the top of the tracks, but on this release you can see the thought that's gone into these remixes, despite the witch house and internet slang and ridiculous fake "feat." artists. Norman Records still have some copies if you're keen, and they come with a digital download code too.

Back with Matthew Maaskant, we have a local connection via Sydney's DJ Semper-Fi on the remix, taking him into shoegazey territory. Recommended.
And returning to Guerre, Sydney's Albatross remix the appropriately-titled "See The Birds", going nicely clicky and wonky halfway through.

While he's an ex-pat for now, based in New York, Feral Media’s own Danny Jumpertz aka Alpen will always be a Sydneysider too. One of the earliest supporters of Utility Fog, he's been responsible for releasing some of the best local acts, and it's great to have something new from him - with electric guitar, nice basslines and great beats.

For some reason tonight I just had to play one of my favourite idm tracks of all time, from the first official release by Boards of Canada. So there you go!
Thence, into more electronic climes, with the awesome Painting Pictures on Silence V1 comp from Enig'matik Records. First artist is not in fact Australian; Billy Faithfull from London contributes a fantastic post-dubstep techno track. Then label boss Sun in Aquarius creates some crazy splish-splosh beats.

Down to Albury, we have a new release from Antlerland, who has joined the Bandcamp generation. Using ancient tracker programs (still, I suspect), he creates music with scant regard for taste or trends, which can only be a good thing. There's an even more drum'n'bassy track in there that I'll hopefully get to next week, but I love the harmonies as this track unfolds.

Still caning the new Jason Forrest. I played three tracks tonight, including the more drum'n'bassy/breakcore track, a beautiful piano'n'field recordings number, and "Crime of the Century". Jason seems to need to sample Supertramp on basically every second release, and this time it's a humdinger, from the Crime of the Century album, it's the epic, earnest, slightly nonsensical "Rudy" (seriously, the lyric is stupendously ridiculous and occasionally grammatically unforgivable). The riffs are chopped up, and bits of piano and strings surface here and there. Listen to the original here. Guiltily.

Saul Williams continues to write his pop-edged conscious rap and poetry — as earnest as they come, but highly engaging and listenable. There are a few out-and-out highlights on Volcanic Sunlight, for sure.

Another touring artist next — Belgium's Pascal Schumacher Quartet. It's very approachable fully-composed jazz; sometimes it veers uncomfortably close to direct pastiche of The Bad Plus; they're one of my favourite bands, but it's weird hearing their schtick from another group. Still, it's very lovely, and the vibes/glockenspiel add a different dimension.

Penultimately, we return to Jasper TX, and the first track from the new album, designed to shock and awe. Gorgeously-recorded and reproduced, this is first class sound art.
And finally, a short number from Here We Go Magic is as Grizzly Bear as they've gotten, with dreamy falsetto vocals. The January EP is a must-listen, kidz!

David Sylvian - If I Should Dare (for N.O.) [Samadhi Sound]
Matthew Maaskant - Katie Cruel [Draft Tattoo, available through Bandcamp]
Karen Dalton - Katie Cruel [Light in the Attic]
Rockettothesky - Song In Blood [Trust Me Records]
jenny hval - portrait of the young girl as an artist [Rune Grammofon]
David Sylvian - Snow White In Appalachia [Samadhi Sound]
Jasper TX - Weight of Days [Fang Bomb]
Spartak - Ostpolitik (draft 1) [hellosQuare]
Efrim Manuel Menuck - A 12-pt plan for keep on keepin' on [Constellation]
a silver mt. zion - 13 angels standing guard 'round the side of your bed. [Constellation]
Efrim Manuel Menuck - I am no longer a motherless child [Constellation]
Guerre - Millenium Blues (Salt Creek Coyotes Remix) [Yes Please] {free from Bandcamp!}
Akron/Family - Tatsya (feat. Tatsya) [Dead Oceans] {from <bmbz>}
Akron/Family - Izlamabalmz (feat. Barack 2mama) [Dead Oceans] {from <bmbz>}
Matthew Maaskant - You Only Dream To Test Me ([BLK_WRK] Remix by DJ Semper-Fi) [Draft Tattoo, available through Bandcamp]
Guerre - See The Birds (Albatross Remix) [Yes Please] {free from Bandcamp!}
Alpen - Dumb Victory [Feral Media] {available from Bandcamp}
boards of canada - hi scores [SKAM]
Faithfull - We Are Waves [Enig'matik Records]
Sun in Aquarius - Wytaliba (The Girl By The River) [Enig'matik Records]
Antlerland - Your Eyes Are Two Gelatinous Sacs Embedded In Your Skull [available from Bandcamp]
Jason Forrest - Archive [Staatsakt]
Saul Williams - Fall Up [Sony Music]
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Water Like Stone [enja]
Jason Forrest - Isolation, Too [Staatsakt]
Jason Forrest - Crime of the Century [Staatsakt]
Jasper TX - Signals Through Wood & Dust [Fang Bomb]
Here We Go Magic - Hollywood [Secretly Canadian]

Listen again — ~ 157MB
Note: as the studio recorder is in any case currently in mono, I've encoded the file as mono, reducing its file size. Let me know if there are any issues.

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