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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, 26th of April, 2015

Playlist 26.04.15 (9:05 pm)

Stringy, but not tough. Cello there. This is your Utility Fog for the week. Not the first time I've done a strings feature, but it's always fun and this week we have an impressive range from experimental electronics, laptop folk through dubby ambient, doom and postrock...

LISTEN AGAIN, LISTEN EARLY, LISTEN OFTEN. Seriously, this is good stuff. Podcast it here, stream it there.

Starting in Sydney. Last year Nick Wales sent me some unreleased material which I was very excited to play on the show as it combined his classical composition skills and viola with excellent electronic production. Nick's been making music for a couple of decades now, including with his once-string-quartet-now-postrock-band CODA, and he's collaborated with many people in that time. He's also spent a lot of time composing music for theatre & dance productions, and recently he & Sarah Blasko put together a work for Sydney Dance Company called Emergence which will be released in the month or so. Although both tracks tonight feature vocals, only one is really a "song", but musically compelling they certainly are.

The Crooked Fiddle Band are a fascinating hybrid of stringy folk musics (gypsy, celtic, Australian) with postrock - and after commissioning some interesting remixes from other folks, they've also tried their hand at it themselves. Their SoundCloud features a couple of self-remixes, including tonight's remix of album highlight "Puncture", and a beat-centric almost drum'n'bassy take on "Vanishing Shapes" which I'll play on another night for sure. Catch them Saturday May 2nd at Hermann's Bar along with the very stringy Hinterlandt Ensemble and the Czech folktronica duo DVA.

Paul de Jong has long been one of my favourite cellists in the liminal world of folktronica/laptop experimentalism, and he may have been one of yours without your knowing, as he was the cellist in the beloved duo The Books. The many touching, disturbing and thought-provoking found sounds & found spoken samples in their music could as easily have come from him as Nick Zammuto too, and this wonderful new album demonstrates that the creative production techniques of his old band have well and truly rubbed off on him too. I can't stress how great this new album is, and if you loved the folk-meets-electronic-meets-postrock side of The Books, you should rush to find it.

Cécile Schott aka Colleen definitely fits into our string theme, and indeed our cello theme, even though for the first few albums of her career she made acoustic-sounding music out of either pure samples or music boxes... But she has a background in cello, and eventually began introducing the viola da gamba (a member of an older string family, still played in some Baroque music, with a particualr breathy tone) along with acoustic guitar and woodwind into the sound - and on the last couple of albums, vocals have appeared. The new album on Thrill Jockey introduces some surprising dub elements into the mix, although her earliest releases show her interest in splicing samples in interesting ways.

Alison Chesley aka Helen Money featured on the show a few weeks back with a new EP/mini-album collaboration with the one & only Jarboe of Swans etc.
Helen Money is her "doom cello" alias, and it's amazing that I hadn't come across her before. So tonight we have tracks from all three solo albums as well as the Jarboe collaboration. Cello through every pedal a metal guitarist would have in their arsenal as well as played straight (albeit played hard). Chesley has collaborated with many heavy bands over the years including MONO, and her latest solo album features drumming by Jason Roeder of Neurosis and Sleep. So yeah, quite the pedigree.

Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld's duo album on Constellation brought with it high expectations, all well fulfilled here. Colin Stetson gets in here despite not being a string player because of Neufeld's gorgeous violin playing. I first came across Stetson's unique saxophonic vision when he jumped up on stage with My Brightest Diamond at the Laurie Anderson co-curated Vivid Festival in 2010. His circular breathing, multiphonic, percussive sax playing was like none other. Sarah Neufeld plays violin in The Arcade Fire and postrockers Bell Orchestre. Solo she, like Stetson, focuses almost solely on her instrument, using double stops and other techniques, sounding at times folky, at times ambient or referencing her rock background.
Their sound together has the heaviness and darkness of Stetson's music with some of the folk elements of Neufeld's, melodic elements from both including wordless vocals, violin noise solos... it's pretty damn great!

Nick Wales & Sarah Blasko - Pain Is A Number [Create/Control]
Nick Wales & Sarah Blasko - Belongil [Create/Control]
The Crooked Fiddle Band - Puncture (Melancholy mix) [unreleased self-remix, stream on SoundCloud]
Paul de Jong - Debt Free [Temporary Residence]
the books - the lemon of pink [Tomlab/Temporary Residence]
The Books - Smack My Bishop [Temporary Residence]
The Books - Foreign Country and Western [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}
Paul de Jong - Baxter @73 [Temporary Residence]
Colleen - Captain Of None [Thrill Jockey]
Colleen - everyone alive wants answers [Leaf]
Colleen - blue sands [Leaf]
Colleen - The Weighing of the Heart [Second Language]
Colleen - Holding Horses [Thrill Jockey]
Helen Money - Radio Recorders [Profound Lore]
Helen Money - Jackson [Cellobird Records]
Helen Money - Waterwalk [Table of the Elements]
Helen Money & Jarboe - For My Father [Aurora Borealis]
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld - With the Dark Hug of Time [Constellation]
Colin Stetson - Fear of the unknown and the blazing sun feat. Laurie Anderson & Shara Worden [Constellation]
Sarah Neufeld - You Are The Field [Constellation]
Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld - The Rest of Us [Constellation]

Listen again — ~105MB

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Sunday, 19th of April, 2015

Playlist 19.04.15 (9:11 pm)

OK, so yesterday was Record Store Day. It's a silly thing really. Record stores are awesome - in fact they're just about my favourite thing in the entire world, along with book & comic stores - but RSD just makes their lives very difficult for one day of the year while making money for big labels with mostly dumb reissues. Of course there are some special releases which are awesome and just need to come out on CD as well, c'mon. Here's a great in-depth article on how RSD affects smaller stores...

LISTEN AGAIN because your ears need a workout, podcast over here, stream on demand over there!

From a special touring/RSD-related 7" single, we start with a gorgeous Sufjan Stevens track, folky electric piano-based like much of the new album, but with much more electronic production.

Then some tracks from Robotic Empire's new Nirvana tribute compilation - it's Nevermind covers from awesome metal & noisy artists, to match last year's In Utero one. So many tempting treats, including a nice heavy (but faithful) cover from Torche and a big excitable one from the wonderful Cave In. Tonight, though, we start with contemporary shoegaze band Nothing, who draw from My Bloody Valentine and Jesu, but have also recently covered Low, and take the quietest song from the album and tone it down another notch with piano and feedback.
From last year, Thou take on "Milk It" with a surprising amount of clean vocals among the black metal screaming. As with a lot of their music, it's strangely moving - see later for more!
And back to Nevermind, the reliable Boris twist "Lithium" into something their own, keeping the structure but making it heavier and more strung out. It's kind of stunning.

The covers continue with inveterate po-mo prankster Drew Daniel of Matmos, aka The Soft Pink Truth. Over 10 years ago, his second album featured house covers of anarcho-punk songs, but on 2014's Why Do The Heathen Rage? he takes on classic black metal. Rather than the disco/house music I was expecting, this stuff sounds more like the idm/electronica Daniel grew up with in Matmos, albeit with some tracks featuring a contemporary r'n'b spin, some suggesting rave or even vaguely Alec Empire style digital hardcore/junglisms. It's all good fun despite (or because of?) the intended queer deconstruction of a music that has played host to some very ugly politics in its history.

Greg Fox takes us on a little detour away from "black metal", although as drummer in Brooklyn's Liturgy he's indelibly part of the scene, for better or worse... But as a solo artist he's put out a couple of releases using tuned percussion and mallet instruments along with electronics to create some beautiful sparkling textures. As well as some amusing chopped-up metal riffs in there...

So, Liturgy are an interesting prospect. Frontman Hunter Hunt Hendrix attracted a lot of vitriol a few year ago by barracking for "transcendental black metal" in a florid manifesto which is offensive as much for being heavy on Lacanian bullshit terminology as it is for implying that black metal lacks the features of transcendence and adventurousness Hendrix was asking for. In any case, he & Liturgy have become figures of variously suspicion, scorn or at least controversy in the metal world.
Nevertheless, at their best they do create inspiring and exciting music which may transcend black metal only by leaving the genre behind, but whether it's doom/sludge riffs they're playing, chants and half-spoken singing, or the familiar blast beats of black metal, there's a lot that's great in their music.

We heard New Orleans doom/black metal group Thou earlier covering Nirvana. With deconstructionist black metallers The Body they released a mini-album and EP last year, collected together by Thrill Jockey in the USA and Daymare in Japan. Much of the music is a haze of intense guitar noise and typical black metal screetching. But there are moments of expansive sound work and even some more natural vocals in there. No question, you need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to very much of this stuff, but moments like the ones I chose tonight are everything that metal should be and more.

Now a swift 90° turnaround into neoclassical postrock courtesy of Brisbane's Nonsemble, self-described as an "indie chamber ensemble". Although they play other contemporary music live, they're centred around the compositions of Chris Perren, who we heard featured on the show a few weeks back with his folktronic/electronic solo music and his postrock band Mr Maps. Postrock and math rock are very audible in his compositions, along with clear influences from minimalist and other contemporary composers.
Both their albums feature long compositions broken into (still quite long) movements. Perren's compositional vision and arrangements remain clear, but the performances (and to some extent the compositions) seem more assured on the new album, due out from English classical crossover label bigo & twigetti soon. It's lushly produced, accurately & emotively played stuff which should gain them some more traction in this sphere of post-classical, genrefluid music which is quite bustling overseas, particularly in Europe. More power to them!

Sufjan Stevens - Exploding Whale [Asthmatic Kitty]
Nothing - Something In The Way [Robotic Empire]
Thou - Milk It [Robotic Empire]
Boris - Lithium [Robotic Empire]
The Soft Pink Truth - Maniac (originally by Hellhammer) [Thrill Jockey]
The Soft Pink Truth - Ready To Fuck (originally by Sarcófago, feat. Jenn Wasner & M.C. Schmidt) [Thrill Jockey]
Greg Fox - Homoplasmates [Rail Cables]
Greg Fox - Adversary [Rail Cables]
Greg Fox - Lamb [Rail Cables]
Liturgy - Father Vorizen [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
Liturgy - (untitled bonus for Japan from Aesthethica, also I think available on a split LP with Oval) [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
Liturgy - Veins Of God [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
Liturgy - Vitriol (The Soft Pink Truth remix) [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
The Body & Thou - He Returns to the Place of His Iniquity [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
The Body & Thou - Lurking Fear [Thrill Jockey/Daymare]
Nonsemble - Practical Mechanics Movement I - The Great Awakening [Nonsemble Bandcamp]
Nonsemble - Practical Mechanics Movement II (MeekSounds Remix) [bigo & twigetti]
Nonsemble - Go Seigen vs. Fujisawa Kuranosuke (Movement II) [bigo & twigetti]

Listen again — ~106MB

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Sunday, 12th of April, 2015

Playlist 12.04.15 (9:04 pm)

Indietronica, idm, indiefolk, electro-acoustic experimentalism, and ambient electronica on the agenda for tonight!

LISTEN AGAIN to this unique chemical compound. Stream it there, podcast it here. The choice is always yours, that's the Utility Fog Guarantee™ ☺

It's been some years since the last Telafonica album. In the meantime they completed their project of releasing a remix EP for every song on that album, and they did slip out an EP in 2013. But it's great to have them back with a whole album's worth of delightful indietronica. They continue to pair creative electronic (and folktronic!) production with classic songwriting chops.

Many column inches have already been spent on Sufjan Stevens' new release, bourne from the grief of losing his mother. It's wrenchingly personal, musically very subdued, a Sufjan to the core. I'm not sure whether it ranks quite up there with my favourites (Seven Swans, Age of Adz and Illinois) - but the more I listen, somehow the more touching it becomes. Immerse yourself in it and you'll feel the encompassing warmth of deep sadness. There are acoustic folk songs like the title track (which also features iPhone field recordings which evoke a certain personal meaning without us being able to know quite what they signify), but there are also muted electric piano pieces (the like of which we heard here and there in the Sisyphus tracks from last year) and a number of tracks have beautiful shoegazey instrumental outros.
Carrie & Lowell is being compared a lot to Seven Swans, and I couldn't help but play one of the intense devotional songs from that album.

It's been a while also since we heard from Lucky Dragons, stalwarts of this show since their roots in visionary folktronica. There's always some kind of deeply-thought-out conceptual basis to their music, but their electro-acoustic, experimental approach is not academic but rather playful and quite accessible. It's rarely electronica with beats, but nor is it pure sound-art or drone, and this track is a case in point - cut-up snatches of vocal pulse and overlap over 6 minutes to produce something that sounds surprisingly like minimal techno.

Also deceptively like minimal techno (except in the sense of having much in the way of a discernible beat) is the new release from Italian experimentalists Giuseppe Ielasi & Nicola Ratti as Bellows, this time round on Boomkat's in-house label. Dub elements can be found all the way back in their self-titled album of 2007, but come to the fore here with scattered sub-bass gestures in amongst reticent, clicky percussive almost-rhythms, vinyl scratches and delays.
Their debut self-titled album is perhaps the least "pure", combining most of those above elements with guitar and other musical elements to create a postrock/minimal electronic fusion. The incredible handcut album utilises only vinyl, with rhythms from run-out grooves, and deeply worn fuzzy '80s pop scratched back and forth, while 2012's Reelin' uses spare synths and drum machines to similar effect. In fact it could be suggested that an abstracted form of dub lies at the heart of everything Bellows have done.

Direct from the artist we have some exclusive analogue electronica from Comatone up next. The reclusive (ha) genius producer from the Blue Mountains started these tracks some years ago and has surfaced them now inspired by Aphex Twin's clearing out of the archives. And the melodic, acid-influenced tracks do point a bit towards early '90s AFX. Keep an eye out for this...

Finally tonight a special on the sounds of Jason Corder aka offthesky aka Juxta Phona. Tonight's 35-minute special focuses more on the beat-based elements of his work, as the new Juxta Phona release on Home Normal is more along those lines, while offthesky has become more of a drone & quiet music outlet. Under his belt are collaborations with violinists & cellists, other drone & postrock artists, along with a string of great remixes under both names. I only had a chance to play one tonight, of another recently-featured Home Normal artist, Gurun Gurun. It's a doozy though, processed guitars, beats & electronics. In general, his music has a dreamy outlook even when the beats are complex and clattery... It's easy to get lost in.
Since I've mostly neglected the droney/post-classical/minimalist music Corder writes tonight, we didn't hear from another recent release of his, the album Possession on Sydney label Flaming Pines made in colaboration with Cody Yantis and Carl Ritger of Radere. It's very dark drone/noise work and also comes highly recommended - hear some samples on the Flaming Pines SoundCloud.

Telafonica - What Remains [4-4-2 Music]
Telafonica - The Quest For Aboard the Belafonte [4-4-2 Music]
Telafonica - Home Song [4-4-2 Music]
Sufjan Stevens - Fourth of July [Asthmatic Kitty]
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell [Asthmatic Kitty]
Sufjan Stevens - To Be Alone With You [Asthmatic Kitty]
Sufjan Stevens - Blue Bucket of Gold [Asthmatic Kitty]
Lucky Dragons - Inside [Vestibule]
Bellows - Rustl track 5 [Boomkat Editions]
Bellows - Bellows track 03 [Kning Disk]
Bellows - handcut 04 [Senufo Editions]
Bellows - Reelin' track 06 [Entr'acte]
Bellows - Rustl track 5 [Boomkat Editions]
Comatone - Using The Instruments [tune your v.c.o. - is this going to be released I have no idea...]
Juxta Phona - alleyway angelwitch way [Home Normal]
offthesky - cold as your eyes can be [Stilll]
Juxta Phona & offthesky - low spark of high squealed toys [Somnia]
Gurun Gurun - Karumi (offthesky mix) [Futuresequence]
offthesky vs kinder scout - faded faces in vanishing voices [Home Normal]
Juxta Phona - we are the shakers of the world [Home Normal]

Listen again — ~104MB

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Sunday, 5th of April, 2015

Playlist 05.04.15 (9:08 pm)

Another eclectic selection tonight... how does he do it? We'll never know.
LISTEN AGAIN or for the first time and take notes. Podcast here, stream there.

It's getting late in the evening, so we'll start with some Talk Talk. A very pleasant way to start the show, date-appropriate. In some ways this represents the point of transformation of Talk Talk from '80s electro-pop band into the quiet experimental proto-post-rock that's been so hugely influential on so many that came after.

Three years after the release of experimental pop duo kyü's second album (itself released after they'd decided to call it quits), we finally have a new solo album from one of the members, Alyx Dennison, and boy was it worth the wait. She doesn't seem to have dispensed with much of the duo's adventurousness, with heavy live percussion and vocal acrobatics still in there, although equally it's full of ultra-personal songwriting backed up by touching and dare I say catchy melodies. She's gonna go far.

You'd never guess that the following track was Panda Bear - not even, I daresay, if you knew the original, despite the fragments of vocal harmonies speckled over the middle part. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if you identified it as Andy Stott. It's on the more upbeat side, but it has the impeccably dirty production values, sub-bass, and post-d'n'b/2step references you'd expect. Heavy stuff.

Melbourne guitarist Tim Catlin has teamed up with Dutch UFog regular Machinefabriek for a second album on Low Point, featuring short (for Machinefabriek anyway) electro-acoustic works which are sometimes clearly guitar-based and sometimes at most one element in the mix. There are even some rhythmic almost-beats in there, as well as the expected glitches and drones and skittery, skritchy sounds.

I first came across Antony Harrison's work as konntinent in 2009 when his first (ish) album was released on Japanese ambient label Symbolic Interaction. It was one of the less ambient releases on the label, its slow-moving tracks liable to feature bouts of noise, glitchy postrock instrumentation or beats along with the drones. It's tended to continue that way, with appearances on labels known for drone and quiet, folky ambience, mostly slightly bucking the trend. While all his work's worth checking out, the new album on Home Normal seems like his best work yet, which makes it extra sad that he's decided to hang up the konntinent moniker in order to work more with his electro-pop duo Paco Sala. Luckily he's making excellent music with the latter too, albeit in a slightly different vein.

Tim Shiel's continuing his run of pretty melodic electronica with a soundtrack not to an indie game this time, but to a film about indie games called GameLoading: Rise of the Indies. Perhaps even more than with the soundtracks of the last year or two, the pieces here are quite clearly cues, many quite short and without much musical development. But there are some great sounds, as we heard here (and the acoustic piano slips very nicely in amongst the electronics on the second track - not sure if this is Luke Howard here).

And finally a Melbourne artist I'd not heard of, Justin Cantrell aka rituals., with a new cassette & digital release out soon on This Thing. It's somehow just right for a cassette release - woozy, noisy, just discernable as having hip-hop roots if you squint.

Talk Talk - April 5th [EMI]
Alyx Dennison - Triptych [Popfrenzy]
kyü - sunny in splodges [Popfrenzy]
kyü - Scratch Piano [kyü Bandcamp]
Alyx Dennison - I Don't Love You Anymore (Felicity Yang Remix) [SoundCloud]
Alyx Dennison - LAX [Popfrenzy]
Alyx Dennison - Boat [Popfrenzy]
Panda Bear - Boys Latin (Andy Stott remix) [Domino]
Tim Catlin & Machinefabriek - Sweep [Low Point]
Tim Catlin & Machinefabriek - Whorl [Low Point]
Tim Catlin & Machinefabriek - Flutter [Low Point]
Tim Catlin & Machinefabriek - Yowl [Low Point]
konntinent - The Luxury of Without [Home Normal]
konntinent - Amongst the Islanders (feat. Cuushe) [Home Normal]
konntinent - This Searing Heat [Symbolic Interaction]
Paco Sala - Tous Les Orages feat. Félicia Atkinson [Digitalis]
konntinent - Creep Sxene [Hibernate]
Paco Sala - Put Your Hands On Me [Digitalis]
konntinent - Geschrei Zwei [Home Normal]
Tim Shiel - Become Daylight [Tim Shiel Bandcamp]
Tim Shiel - Dharmarp [Tim Shiel Bandcamp]
rituals. - bakk [This Thing]

Listen again — ~102MB

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