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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, 22nd of March, 2020

Playlist 22.03.20 (6:12 pm)

Broadcasting from home... Now that NSW is about to be in lockdown, I'm already ensconsed at home, keeping safe. It's been a hectic week, not just with the progressively more severe announcements as the COVID-19 situation gets worse, but also because Bandcamp decided to make Friday very special by waiving their revenue share for 24 hours, in support of artists losing income (and potentially their entire livelihoods) due to restrictions from the coronavirus catastrophe. This caused an absolute frenzy of new music being uploaded and released on Bandcamp over the last couple of days - impossible to keep up with!

So... let's take joy and solace in music. Not only have we got our usual Utility Fog goodness tonight, but there's a bonus 2 hours afterwards as I'm filling in for Joe Earp who's a little under the weather and playing it safe by staying in. You'll see a separate post about part 2!
As usual, LISTEN AGAIN for your comfort - stream on demand from FBi or podcast here.

The God In Hackney - The Pub Machine [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
The God In Hackney - Carbon Date (Shed) [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
The God In Hackney - Sur La Piste des Bêtes Ignorées [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
The God In Hackney - Crumble & Collapse [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
I discovered UK band The God In Hackney only a week or so again, when their wonderful song "The Adjoiner" was featured on The Wire Tapper 52, accompanying the April issue of The Wire. Their new album Small Country Eclipse appears to be officially released on the 1st of June, but digitally it's just come out this week!
Formed in 2003 by Andy Cooke and Nathaniel Mellors, joined by the other two for their first album Cave Moderne in 2014. They are one of those UFog-loved affairs of great, catchy songs with really unusual arrangements. Excellent, flowing drums (or indeed stop-start drums) from Ashley Marlowe, acoustic and sometimes dubbed-out by Mellors, with many acoustic instruments as well as plenty of electronics. Andy Cooke is credited with "fire extinguisher" as well as vocals, keyboards, and guitars. And Dan Fox contributes multiple instruments including cello and trombone. There are heaps of influences here, from krautrock & spiritual jazz to experimental electronic, leftfield pop, dub and more. It's such classic UFog music it hurts.

Tropical Fuck Storm - Suburbiopia [Joyful Noise Records/Bandcamp]
That always topical (and always slightly obtuse) fuckstorm, Australia's greatest punk-funk experimental rockers Tropical Fuck Storm have just released the A-side of a new 7", written & sung by Fiona Kitschin. The usual score with TFS - melodic but angular, hard-hittin', lyric-spittin'.

Sparkspitter - Life Horse [Sparkspitter Bandcamp]
Adelaide instrumental rock band Sparkspitter have taken a really long time to release this new 2-track single. It was originally recorded in 2017. I know the feeling. Anyway, both tracks are awesome - chiming guitar patterns and thumping drums and edges of feedback loops. And all proceeds go to the excellent Seed, Indigenous Youth Climate Network. Grab it!

The Letter String Quartet feat. Marita Dyson - Same But Swallowed [The Letter String Quartet Bandcamp]
The Letter String Quartet feat. Marita Dyson - Blossoms of the Wreck [The Letter String Quartet Bandcamp]
This wonderful album slipped under my radar, although I've had conflicting news about release date. I thought it was mid March but Bandcamp says it came out a month ago. Melbourne ensemble The Letter String Quartet feature some very experienced musicians who play across contemporary classical and pop/indie genres. Steph O'Hara, Lizzy Welsh are the violinists, Biddy Connor the violist and artistic director, and Zoë Barry the cellist. Their new album All The Stories is a song cycle is a collaboration between poet Maria Zajkowski and Connors compositions/arrangements, with vocals by The Orbweavers' Marita Dyson (although one song is a lovely Orbweavers cover). The works are inspired by the experiences of women residing at the Abbotsford Convent in the 1900s - an orphanage, a convent for nuns and a place where women were taken who had become pregnant out of wedlock. These rich and moving stories are set with both experimental and beautiful string arrangements - I'm drawn to return to this album a lot, and highly recommend that you spend some time with it.

Helen Money - Many Arms [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Helen Money - Marrow [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Helen Money - Understory [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Alison Chesley, as Helen Money, is a pioneering, genre-smashing doom cellist, who I've been a fan of for many years. Despite her great history of punshing riffage and layered cello distortion, and some great collaborations including one with Jarboe, this album floored me. The riffs are there, but there are also beautiful passages of gentler stuff, multiple cellos with piano and ambient synthesisers & crackling electronics (provided by producer Will Thomas aka Plumbline and also heavy music legend Sanford Parker). There's maximalism and minimalism here, and it seems lovely to bridge from The Letter String Quartet's neoclassical song arrangements through pummeling cello-metal and then floating cello & piano to get to the next material...

Ian William Craig - The Smokefallen [130701/Bandcamp]
Ian William Craig - Open Like a Loss [130701/Bandcamp]
There's a hell of a story with the new Ian William Craig album, and there are a couple of "hells" in here which are achingly familiar. IWC took himself off to a city called Kelowna in British Columbia (Canada) to find some space to record his next album, and to hang out with his Grampa who had just gone into palliative care. And here's the thing: the city was surrounded by forest fires - a now-regular occurence due to climate change. Oh how well we know this in Australia! His Grampa's lungs filled with fluid as a result of breathing in the smoke, and tragically passed away within a week of Ian's arrival.
Ian continued recording, and this awful situation finds an outlet in the always-moving sounds from Craig - his classically-trained voice and piano layered on tape machines, which are used to saturate, distort and twist the sound. It's visceral, physically touching music. There's more to this story, which you can read in the Bandcamp description, go on.

Max de Wardener, performed by Kit Downes - Deranged Landscape [Village Green/Bandcamp]
Max de Wardener, performed by Kit Downes - Blueshift [Village Green/Bandcamp]
Pianos disturbed in different ways here, from composer Max de Wardener (whose earliest works include some UFog-beloved skittery idm and folktronica), performed by experimental musician, pianist & organist Kit Downes. It's not often that you hear deliberately detuned pianos, other than that "honky tonk" style of never-tuned saloon bar jazz. Here de Wardener is deliberately looking for the otherworldly effect of "off" resonances. At times it makes my stomach turn, but de Wardener & Downes ably demonstrate the possibilities here, from the spooky-gorgeous echoing quietness of "Deranged Landscape" to the classical-folk of "Blueshift", where the clearly articulated detuned notes chime out like bell tones.

FEAN - Soere molke [laaps Bandcamp]
FEAN - Ketlik [Moving Furniture Records/Bandcamp]
FEAN - Swellen [laaps Bandcamp]
From the ending of the great French experimental/ambient label eilean records comes new venture laaps records. Their second release is also the second release from a European supergroup of sorts, FEAN.
One half is the grouping of Dutch musicians who record as Piiptsjilling: the Kleefstra brothers Jan Kleefstra (spoken words) and Romke Kleefstra (guitar, bass and effects), along with singer Mariska Baars and electronic musician Rutger Zuydervelt, who you may know as Machinefabriek (considering I play him ALL THE TIME on this show). For FEAN they are joined by a selection of Belgian musicians: Annelies Monseré (church organ, keyboard), Sylvain Chauveau (credited here to tuned percussion and radio) and Joachim Badenhorst, whose wonderful clarinet, bass clarinet & saxophone tones are heard throughout.
It's always strange with the Kleefstras' projects to hear the poetry of Jan spoken in Frisian, a language group found only in the north of the Netherlands. So very few people will understand these words, but such is the soothing voice of Jan Kleefstra that it always sounds evocative and welcoming. Around this we have drones and slow-moving instrumental conversations. It's neither as minimalist as it sounds nor as abstract - rather it's organic and adventurous.

Síria - Canção do Gato [Crónica/Bandcamp]
Síria - Senhora do Almortão [Crónica/Bandcamp]
Síria - Nos Montes [Crónica/Bandcamp]
Síria is the current musical project for Portuguese musician Diana Combo. Her first album Cuspo made a heavy impression in 2018, repurposing avant-garde works on vinyl (all credited), layering different works along with her own effects and then performing her own songs along with them. So on the middle track here she takes music by Svarte Greiner along with her own cymbal playing and vocals. For her new album Boa-Língua she performs versions of traditional songs and a few originals, again with her own percussion and vocals. "Nos Montes" was also remixed by long-established Portuguese experimental electronic duo @c. The album's title literally means "good tongue", in contrast to the term "má-língua", which translates as "tittle-tattle" or gossip. The album is an attempt to address the way some people will speak obliquely, deliberately misunderstand etc. It's fiercly creative, original work.

Listen again — ~181MB

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