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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 21st of December, 2014

Playlist 21.12.14 - Best of 2014, Part 1! (8:06 pm)

It's that time of year! This is Utility Fog's Best of 2014 Part 1! What a year for music it's been...

LISTEN AGAIN because it's the best of the best! Download/podcast here or stream on demand over there.

But first up, we feature a song from Crow Versus Crow's For Scant Applause: A Collection of Christmas-ish Songs, by longtime Utility Fog favourite Oliver Barrett aka Petrels aka Bleeding Heart Narrative etc.

This year of course had the excitement of the "return" of Aphex Twin, but cool though that was (and I'll almost certainly be playing him in Part 2) for me there was a far bigger return to releasing music: that of Chris Adams, once lead-man of Hood, who brought back not just his indietronic magic as Bracken but also his drum'n'bass/proto-breakcore alias Downpour. Needless to say both releases are right up there in my top of the year.

Meanwhile, his once Hood compatriot and one half of The Remote Viewer, Andrew Johnson, released his first solo album as a new line (related), with subtle minimalist beats of all sorts, ending the 2LP set with some fab vocal loops and pulses.

Discovery of the year is double bassist, sound designer and beatsmith Yair Elazar Glotman, who put out two cassettes of deeply-processed beats and sounds as KETEV, plus a stunning ambient album under his own name. He also released a collaborative 12" with James Ginzburg of emptyset. I'll be keenly on the lookout for what he does next.

Probably the album I've seen on more people's best of lists than any other is Andy Stott's incredible Faith In Strangers. And no surprise - it actually fulfils the promise of his genius previous LP Luxury Problems, while pushing in different directions. It features a lot more of the vocals of Alison Skidmore, and also draws a lot on the brilliant drum'n'bass/breakbeat excursions of his Millie & Andrea project with Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare, who incidentally also finally released an actual album this year...

Well, Millie & Andrea's original 12"s in 2008 or so (along with their still semi-anonymous Hate (Unknown) project) predate the junglist revival of the last year or so, but it's fitting that the album came out this year. Last year's wrap-up focused on the sounds of '90s jungle mixing with contemporary footwork and post-dubstep sounds, but this year jungle has come even more to the fore, with the mid-year jungle warz a particular highlight.
Early in the year grime/dubstep producer Sully took to '94-style jungle with relish on his Blue double EP, perfectly reproducing the sounds of 20 years ago, albeit with today's mastering & production chops :)
And jungle album of the year, if not electronic album of the year, needs to go to Om Unit's album (or is it also some kind of double EP? Also a CD though) on Metalheadz, Inversion, which perfectly combines the post-footwork buzz, the post-dubstep head-nods of the slow/fast movement he helped pioneer, and the euphoria of Metalheadz-style breaks.

Akkord worked separately & together on dubstep, techno & drum'n'bass as Synkro & Indigo, but when they paired up officially as Akkord something seems to have instantly clicked - nothing out of place, ascetic electronic tones & beats, almost disquietingly pure. Their album from last year was brilliant, but the HTH020 EP this year was a masterpiece off odd sounds (purring engine!) and rhythms (syncopation that only resolves every four bars)... but I love the slowed-down jungle of the second track.
This release also spawned a celebrated remix 12" later in the year, with a remix of the whole EP by The Haxan Cloak, which is great but I probably didn't love as much as a lot of peeps...

One of the hugest releases for 2014 was the new album from The Bug, Angels & Devils. Kevin Martin's a genius and he's only been getting better over the last few years. The last Bug album was a massively important, and then he went off and formed the softer King Midas Sound and stunned everybody with that album... Some of that softness rubbed off on the first half of this new album, and the opening track with Liz Harris of Grouper is particularly stunning. But then an EP called Exit came out a month or two after the album, featuring, if possible, an even more heavenly collaboration with Harris.
On the album, there's also a gorgeous floating, marching instrumental piece that I played this evening, and a number of other hard-hitting vocal contributions including frequent collaborator Flowdan. Tonight's track also features another UFog fave Justin K Broadrick on guitar - appearing as JK Flesh, as he often did as far back as the '90s in colaboration with Martin (the two's projects included Techno Animal, GOD and various others). Broadrick's reformed Godflesh put out another highlight this year, which will probably appear in the next couple of shows...

Mixing noise and hip-hop in ultimately fairly different ways from The Bug is the brilliant trio clipping., made up vocalist Daveed Diggs and well-pedigreed noise/drone/experimental electronic artists Jonathan Snipes (of breakcore/pop/hardcore party band Captain Ahab!) and William Hutson. Their mixtape/debut album of last year was fantastic, and perhaps leaned more towards the noise side than the new one, but CLPPNG, their debut for Sub Pop of all people, still hits hard without toning down the challenging side that much at all. A passel of insanely brilliant videos brought them to a whole internet of audience... everybody should watch those videos my god.
Here you go, no excuse: Work Work | Body & Blood | Story 2 | Inside Out | Get Up

The Books are still the most-lamented broken-up duo ever in the history of my kind of music. I probably feel a little unreasonable resentment for the break-up (although their last album never really appealed that much to me), and it may have rubbed off on Nick Zammuto's Zammuto project, which is ridiculous because I've loved just about anything he's ever done. Anchor, the second album, doesn't quite shine as brightly as I'd like it to for me, but the second track I played tonight sure is a beauty.
Meanwhile, Books cellist Paul de Jong hasn't done as much as prominently as Nick since the breakup, but I've tried to showcase everything I could find. This track comes from the Red Hot + Bach compilation from AIDS charity Red Hot, which featured a whole lot of interesting takes (and a few boring ones) on good ol' JS. This one is de Jong's take on the well-loved first prelude from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, through the lens of the Ave Maria, a melody added by French composer Charles Gounod a century & a half later. This history aside, de Jong weaves a beautiful piece of electronic pop around the original, with help from the wonderful Mia Doi Todd on vocals. It's a beautiful song regardless, and then about halfway through, the familiar melody appears and it's next-level gorgeousness.

Tune in next week for some considerably darker, heavier sounds along with more electronics, beats and drones.

Petrels - More Than You Could Ever Know [Crow Versus Crow]
Bracken - Presence (in close focus) [Baro Records]
Downpour - Do you remember when it was all about the drums? [Downpour Bandcamp]
Bracken - Grace abstract dying sun [Baro Records]
a new line (related) - great palaces [Home Assembly Music]
Yair Elazar Glotman - Home Port [Glacial Movements]
KETEV - Zelah [Opal Tapes]
Andy Stott - Violence [Modern Love]
Andy Stott - Faith In Strangers [Modern Love]
Millie & Andrea - Drop The Vowels [Modern Love]
Sully - M141 [Keysound]
Om Unit - Parallel [Metalheadz]
Akkord - Continuum [Houndstooth]
The Bug - Black Wasp feat. Liz Harris of Grouper [Ninja Tune]
The Bug - Fat Mac feat. Flowdan & JK Flesh [Ninja Tune]
The Bug - Ascension [Ninja Tune]
clipping. - taking off [Sub Pop]
clipping. - work work (feat. cocc pistol cree) [Sub Pop]
Zammuto - Don't Be a Tool [Temporary Residence]
Zammuto - Sinker [Temporary Residence]
Paul de Jong - Number Man (feat. Mia Doi Todd) [Red Hot] {based on the well-known 1st Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier by JS Bach as adaped by Charles Gounod}

Listen again — ~108MB

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