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experimental electronica
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, 19th of January, 2020

Playlist 19.01.20 (8:14 pm)

It's the middle of January and I'm playing a show that's 100% 2020 music (give or take a couple of flashbacks from artists with new music being featured). Life moves pretty fast.

LISTEN AGAIN to the sounds of now! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

NERVE - Psycho Mafia (excerpt) [A Colourful Storm]
Last week on the show I featured a track from Melbourne's Joshua Wells aka NERVE, alongside something from his duo with David Coen (Sow Discord/Whitehorse etc) called Hemlock Ladder. Those tracks were released on new label AR53 Productions, but now NERVE is back on the great Melbourne label A Colourful Storm for a cassette called Psycho Mafia, documenting a live performance from last year. It's frenetic industrial techno, with frequent distorted breaks interjecting, making it sit somewhere just on the edge of drum'n'bass or breakcore. The entire awesome track is 22 minutes, but I played about half.

The Chap - I Recommend You Do The Same [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - I Am Oozing Emotion [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - Nevertheless, The Chap [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
The Chap - Don't Say It Like That [Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
After five long years, it's really nice to have a new album from the very English, very European five-piece The Chap. Their sense of humour and irreverence is as English as it comes, but the way they mix indie rock with electronics, krautrock and string arrangements, and whatever else they care to seems more, er, Continental? It's delightful that they have lost neither their experimentalism nor their sense of fun - although the first track I played is quite dark! And the title of their album from 10 years ago, Well Done, Europe might feel a little bittersweet in these post-Brexit days, so let's take the fun and just be in the moment with the deliberately archaic Digital Technology, a great continuation of everything they do so well. I'm jealous of anyone in the UK & Europe who can see them play live soon.

Keeley Forsyth - It's Raining [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
Keeley Forsyth - Butterfly [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
A single late last year announced this extraordinary debut from English actor Keeley Forsyth. She wrote these songs in private, with no expectation that they would be heard by the public, but when she heard the music of composer Matthew Bourne on the radio she got in touch with the idea of setting the songs with his arrangements. Bourne turns out to be a very sympathetic foil for Forsyth's raw, minimalist songs and her expressive, vibrato-laden voice. Bourne contributes strings, harmonium, piano and synth, alongside Mark Creswell's guitar & bass, and Sam Hobbs' keyboards and occasional drums. Forsyth's voice has led reviewers to compare her to Scott Walker, but I hear Nick Drake, Jessica Sligter, Mark Hollis, and even Joni Mitchell in there - and nobody is quite right; this is singular music from a very personal place. It's quite desolate and monolythic, music to listen to in the dark.

Kate Carr - Highway Bridge Drain Pipes, Saskatoon, Canada [Nonclassical/Bandcamp]
London label Nonclassical started off as a showcase for stretching the boundaries of contemporary classical music - string quartets & piano music backed with remixes by club producers, etc. More recently they have become interested in extending further into "non-music", sound-art, sound walks, and field recordings. British radio DJ Nick Luscombe has compiled Vol.1 of a compilation series they're calling fieldwave, featuring works ranging from location recordings of music to documentations of spaces and events (including a recent Hong Kong protest). Ex-Sydney artist Kate Carr is a master at mixing fascinating location recordings with musical elements in an alchemical way, as shown on her contribution tonight.

Machinefabriek - Stillness #6 (Lemaire Channel, Antarctica) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek - Stillness #1 (The FRAM, Greenland) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek - Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica) [Glacial Movements/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
In 2014, Dutch composer/producer Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek released Stillness Soundtracks on ambient label Glacial Movements. His drones, sound recordings and slow rhythms were written to accompany a series of flims created by Dutch filmmaker Esther Kokmeijer in Antarctica. Some of these stunning visuals can be found online. Now Glacial Movements have released the a second album, Stillness Soundtracks II, with music created over the last 5-6 years for further Antarctic films by Kokmeijer. They lean back towards drone compared to some of the earlier works, and evoke a sense of otherworldliness - not-quite-peace. Works of a composer at the height of his skills.

The Necks - Lovelock [Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp]
Every couple of years the world is blessed with a new album from one of Sydney's greatest musical products, The Necks. Never a typical jazz piano trio, they've moved so far with their recordings that you know you can get anything, but you also know just what you'll get. Chris Abrahams on piano & organ, Tony Buck on drums, percussion and increasingly electric guitar on record, and Lloyd Swanton on double bass and electric bass (often including spectral bowed passages) are best known for near-60-minute works that subtly shift over their long period as a kind of minimalist jazz, or a kind of jazz-informed krautrock, or ambient soundscapes or whatever else they care to do.
Occasionally though they'll split their albums into shorter tracks - a few years ago it was to accommodate the 22-minute limit for vinyl sides, on an album for Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ, but in the past (e.g. 2006's Chemist) that's just been the musical ideas they want to get down, and that seems to be where we are with new album Three. Each of the three tracks is a bit over 20 minutes long, with a motorik rock-ish number, a relentless 5/4 jazz-ish number, and a gorgeous ambient work in between. The middle track is a slow-rolling ode to their old friend Damien Lovelock of hard rockers the Celibate Rifles, who died of cancer last year. Chris Abrahams in particular had worked with Lovelock since the '80s, and I remember a particular Newtown-centric indie-jazz number from the early '90s. That this track sounds nothing like Lovelock's music is beside the point. To me it sounds like a journey into a submerged afterlife, and the dedicated surfer would be very happy floating away in it.

Oval - Twirror [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Oval - Mikk [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Back in the '90s, Markus Popp's Oval band (or solo project) was a cerebral, mostly ambient affair that pioneered one branch of glitch music - based around the accidental digital artefacts CD players freaking out from deliberately scratched CDs. That technology itself became redundant in the years since - I mean, I still buy CDs! But the skipping freakouts of CD players tend not to be heard now, even in car stereos. Popp created custom software to digitally randomize and process sound sources, and was never totally married to that particular technique, but in the early 2000s Oval went on hiatus for some time. In the last 10 years, however, Oval Mark 2 emerged as an outlet for a new phase of Popp's production - tiny samples, chopped up instrumental performances, sometimes danceable beats, built into meticulous, dense constructions. It's very different from his earlier phase, but somehow you can feel the same musical impetus behind these works.

Pentagrime - The Devil's Burlesque (13" Extended Mix) [James Plotkin Bandcamp]
James Plotkin is one of the great mastering engineers working in experimental and heavy music these days, but also one of the great musicians of the last 3 decades or so. From the early '90s he was associated with some of heaviest and weirdest music in the metal world - OLD started as grindcore, and went into various different directions, then with Khanate he created hellish blackened doom, and in between he worked with metal-turned-dub masters Scorn, and created dark ambient works with the likes of KK Null... But then there was the one-two punch of the Atomsmasher/Phantomsmasher records, terrifyingly (re)constructed grindcore/breakcore that merged speed metal with glitchy electronica. On his dedicated Bandcamp he's just released two bizarre tributes to his love of expeirmental electronic music as Pentagrime. They're modular synth excursions, complex blurting beats in the vein of Aphex, Autechre, Venetian Snares and the like. Everything he does is brilliant and utterly bent (the ridiculous idea of a 13" Extended Mix...)

Listen again — ~195MB

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