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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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Sunday, 24th of May, 2015

Playlist 24.05.14 (9:07 pm)

Songwriting and song meets experimental electronics, jazz, techno and glitch seems to be the theme for tonight, give or take.
I'm away for the next two weeks, so you're left in the capable hands of Heli Newton, and I'll be back on June 14th with some goodies from London & France no doubt, and generally catching up...

LISTEN AGAIN, LISTEN anyway, in the meantime... stream it over there, podcast it over here...

Starting with a pretty extraordinary collaboration on hellosQuare Recordings, featuring I think mostly Melbourne musicians, primary among them Grand Salvo's Paddy Mann and experimental/jazz trumpter & electronic musician Peter Knight. Also involved are awesome drummer Joe Talia (of Oren Ambarchi, Ned Collette's Wirewalker, City City City etc), Erik Griswold on prepared piano, Vanessa Tomlinson on junk percussion and Andrew Brooks (who's somehow dropped off the internet again) on saxophone. It's a heady mix, and not at all overblown - in fact, it's remarkable for its understatement, only getting up to indie rock speed on a few tracks. There's whispered vocals, muted piano chords, pattering drums... Truly beautiful, one of the Australian albums of the year so far.

My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden isn't just a wonderful singer, composer and arranger. She's also an incisive lyricist, addressing social justice matters at least as much as typical songs of love etc - see the masterclass in privilege of "High Low Middle". The song "Say What" from her latest EP recontextualises Lewis Allan's "Strange Fruit" (best known as a Billie Holliday song) in the light of the US's current stark racial divide.

It's hard to exaggerate how cool it is that Holly Herndon's new album is FBi's album of the week. Her glitched-up vocals and beats are like pop from another dimension, at once futuristic and looking back to the music that Utility Fog was excited about 10-15 years ago when it was first coming together. Herndon is well aware of the history of electronica and its use of anonymous sampled, chopped-up female vocals. By performing and processing the vocals herself, she's explicitly commenting on and reclaiming that history.
I dropped a short track from Austrian easy listening glitcher curd duca from 1999 afterwards, for a little context...

I used to be a huge fan of Robag Wruhme's Gabor Schablitzki as half of German idm mavericks Beefcake, makers of post-Aphex ambient, drill'n'bass, glitchy mashed-up pop bits, dubby electronica etc. When Schablitzki went off on his own as Robag Wruhme and the Wighnomy Brothers, I wasn't so excited by the club-friendly housey techno and it took quite a while before I went back to explore that back catalogue. There's plenty of gems in there, and his recent works as RW have featured more ambient aspects, as well as head-nodding 4/4 beats.

Dutch experimental artists Michel Banabila & Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek have been collaborating for a few years now, and each album seems to change tack in quite a dramatic fashion - although never diverging too much from the two artists' formidable talents. They started with a droney, experimental release, followed by something more in keeping with Banabila's jazzy world-tronica, and the new one is again more abstract, featuring a number of talented Dutch musicians on wind instruments, strings, and voice. The acoustic instruments are mangled in their machines but it's lovely to hear them cutting through here and there.

And so we arrive at tonight's big retrospective, on sound artist Leafcutter John aka John Burton. His new album is entitled Resurrection, and it has indeed been quite some time between albums (although he's popped up here and there doing interesting remixes, as we'll see). I'm not able to go all the way back to his earliest Planet µ releases due to time constraints (I'm playing a pretty long track from the new album), but he was a bit of a surprising addition to the label's roster initially, releasing an EP and album that mostly focused on abstract electronic sound, avoiding beats on most tracks, and occasionally devolving into somewhat processed folky indie songs with strangled vocals and strummed guitar. Within a couple of albums, and after a couple of years' break being stuck at home with some bad back injuries, Burton's technique improved, both in vocals and in electronic processing, to the point where he was writing some of the most beautiful and beguiling work in the mid 2000s. So it's very exciting to have him back.
I didn't have time to play any non-album tracks ("Lesson" from Sacred Symbols of Mu comes to mind) or some of his excellent remixes (his Origamibiro remix comes to mind), but I did play a collaboration with excellent young UK artist Memotone.

Daughter's Fever - The Dark Eyes [hellosQuare Recordings]
Daughter's Fever - The Boat in the Midst [hellosQuare Recordings]
My Brightest Diamond - Say What [Asthmatic Kitty]
Holly Herndon - Morning Sun [RVNG International/4AD]
Holly Herndon - Movement [RVNG International]
Holly Herndon - Home [RVNG International/4AD]
curd duca - touch [Mille Plateaux]
Robag Wruhme - Anton 2 [Pampa]
Robag Wruhme - Volta Cobby [Pampa]
Banabila & Machinefabriek - Ascend [Tapu/Machinefabriek]
Banabila & Machinefabriek - Ill Rave [Tapu]
Banabila & Machinefabriek - Spin 'n Puke [Tapu/Lumberton Trading Company]
Banabila & Machinefabriek - Stemmenspel [Tapu/Machinefabriek]
Leafcutter John - Endless Wave [Desire Path Recordings]
Leafcutter John - untitled 05 [Planet µ]
Leafcutter John - walk on my back [Planet µ]
Leafcutter John - let it begin [Staubgold]
Leafcutter John - Introduction in the Wrong Place [Tsuku Boshi]
Memotone feat. Leafcutter John - Four Minute Hallway [Black Acre]
Leafcutter John - Resurrection [Desire Path Recordings]

Listen again — ~105MB

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