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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, 5th of April, 2020

Playlist 05.04.20 (7:11 pm)

Tonight's Utility Fog focuses on contemporary/post-classical, drone, noise and some experimental rock. It's always interesting how these come together - next week will be heavily weighted to drum'n'bass/jungle/idm again. It's all music innit!

LISTEN AGAIN and again, you're at home, you can listen to whatever you like! Stream on demand @ FBi, or podcast right here.

Thor Harris - Room40 Dub (with Lawrence English) [Thor Harris Bandcamp]
Thor Harris - Halloween Kaka (with Ben Frost) [Thor Harris Bandcamp]
Drummer/percussionist Thor Harris is a beloved member of the indie music scene, working as much with the extreme dynamics and sonic assault of Swans and the melodicism of Shearwater (to name only two of dozens of bands and appearances). His two solo "and Friends" albums have both been surprisingly gentle, almost folky albums based around pitched percussion (marimba, xyolophone etc), but here, released for Bandcamp's revenue-share-free day (but clearly planned ahead) is his amazing Doom Dub collaborative project. While you might think of "doom" here being the heavy, sluggish form of metal (which I love), Thor is thinking more about the precarious position humanity finds itself in at this moment in history - the beginning of the end of the anthropocene? And dub, well, it's one of the greatest, most influential, never-out-of-style musical genres. Thor has done it proud here, with a selection of fantastic co-conspirators. Here I've chosen TWO Australians. Lawrence English's is named after his label (haha!) and has incredible spatialisation - deep bass, mid-range drones, flickering wobbly percussion, all pretty freaky. And longtime Iceland-resident, Swans fan and recent recruit Ben Frost helps out on a piece of percussive almost-minimal-techno. Oh, and the voice of Yoko Ono can be heard on "Room40 Dub"!

Nine Inch Nails - Run Like Hell [NIN Store]
So much of what I play on UFog, especially recently it seems, is influenced by the long history of industrial music. I often refer to "industrial techno", which is a term which goes back well before the current crop of Berlin, UK & US artists working in that space. Arguably noise came as an outcropping from industrial's earliest roots in artists like Throbbing Gristle, and even Aussies like SPK. It's funny that Nine Inch Nails represented "industrial" to so many people (probably including me) in the '90s, and maybe even today, but Trent Reznor never pretended to be an original as such - much though he's a great talent and draws great musicians around him. These days NIN is pretty much Trent and Atticus Ross, who is also his partner in his many great film & TV scores. They're so busy with that soundtrack work that NIN can take a back seat, so it's interesting to see them release two new volumes of instrumental music under the Ghosts umbrella - Ghosts V & VI, some 12 years after the first four volumes were released, en masse, also as free or pay-what-you-want downloads. There's some of the organic, Aphex-influenced ambient work here, but the second volume is tougher and more dramatic. This track, unrelated to the Pink Floyd song of the same name, embodies some of the paranoia & anxiety they're invoking here. It's really great - if you've slept on it, just download them.

Deadly Cradle Death - Modern People Hate Old Psychedelic Song [Maybe Mars]
Deadly Cradle Death - Deadly Keithyeetal [Maybe Mars]
COVID-19 is a global phenomenon, and having originated in China, it affected the same cultures there - music very much included - ahead of the rest of the world. So when "Bandcamp day" happened on March 20th, there was plenty of Chinese music on Bandcamp to support. I found this great article recommending recent Chinese music, and from there found the amazing noise/psych rock album Disconnection on legendary Chinese label Maybe Mars. He Fan of Deadly Cradle Death is an ex-member of the great indie band Carsick Cars, and also jangly indie/shoegazers Birdstriking, but the music here is somewhat more uncompromising than both of those. I love the crunchy drums, the riffs, and the vocal delivery. I'd say there's a bit of industrial in-your-faceness here too.

KCIN, Marina Elderton & Alicia Jane Turner - ODB 20.4 [Trestle Records/Bandcamp]
KCIN, Marina Elderton & Alicia Jane Turner - ODB 20.5 [Trestle Records/Bandcamp]
Over the last few years, London label Trestle Records has released a lot of interesting avant-garde music, but they've also been responsible for a fairly extravagant series of "One Day Band" projects gathering musicians from around the globe for one day of fevered creativity. More about what's come of that in the next segment, but here we have two of the pieces from a session involving Sydney's own Nicholas Meredith aka KCIN. He was flown all the way to London to work with two English musicians - soundtrack composer & guitarist Marina Elderton and violinist, sound-artist & performance artist Alicia Jane Turner. These pieces are pretty heavy & doom-laden! The two women produce droney soundscapes full of foreboding, through which Nick's drums skitter & patter, or lay down tough, ever-changing, hypnotic patterns.

Leo Abrahams, Sølyst & Simon Fisher Turner - From Isolation 1 02 [Trestle Records/Bandcamp]
So what are you gonna do with the One Day Band idea in the age of COVID-19 isolation? Certainly not flying musicians around the world. So Trestle's new series is From Isolation (and yes, there will be a billion "Isolation" records coming out of this catastrophe) - groups of musicians collaborating via file sharing. Starting on the right foot, they've got guitarist Leo Abrahams (who easily straddles experimental & pop, working with the likes of Brian Eno and Jon Hopkins among others), Dusseldorf drummer & electronic musician Thomas Klein aka Sølyst, and and the great sound artist Simon Fisher Turner ('70s pop star turned postpunk experimentalist, actor, director, composer - but genius sound artist from all of this). This middle piece in particular is both bright and dark, open and introverted. Quite lovely.

Machinefabriek - Amalgaam I [Machinefabriek]
In this unpredictable times it's good to know that we can rely on the fact that there'll always be at least one Machinefabriek release around the corner. For this album, Rutger Zuydervelt has set himself up with his version of a tabletop noise/drone setup - tone generators, effects pedals, dictaphone etc. From these humble sources he creates as usual an engrossing set of long (if not his old-style drone epics long) works under the title Amalgaam. He describes these pieces as raw & unpolished, but if anything that's part of why they work so well - they're performed pieces, performed by someone with a strong sense of sound & structure, and they carry you along through discordant noise, patient, lumbering rhythms & pulses, and passages of beauty. It's one of the most compelling recent works even from an artist who always has a lot to offer.

FUJI||||||||||TA - keshiki [Hallow Ground/Bandcamp]
FUJI||||||||||TA - sukima (excerpt) [Hallow Ground/Bandcamp]
Over to another masterful sound artist, FUJITA Yosuke aka FUJI||||||||||TA (I'm not sure how to pronounce this on air!), whose new album for Swiss label Hallow Ground, entitled iki simply explores the wheezing, clunking sound of his handmade, pump-driven pipe organ. It's mind-blowingly beautiful, calming, organic work. The pushing of the pump creates a sometimes-rhythmic percussive sound while Fujita entices slow-moving chordal changes from the organ - sometimes peaceful major-key progressions, sometimes discords producing overlaid beat frequencies. It's exquisite. On the second selection, the slow drones are replaced with short bursts of blown chords while the pump clatters and creaks and the machine's own breaths are heard - so it's less of a warm ebb & flow, but no less of a delight. Conceptually, this would be amazing enough, but Fujita is enough of an artist to ensure that the music coming out of his creation is lovely too.

Nils Frahm - First Defeat [Erased Tapes/Bandcamp]
In the chaos of obsessive COVID-19 updates and failed attempts to find normalcy, it was easy to forget that March 28th (in this leap year) is the 88th day of the year, so Piano Day came round again. But Piano Day's faithful inaugurator Nils Frahm had not forgotten, and to follow Fujita's pipe organ we have some exquisitely quiet piano music - even for the connoisseur of "felt" himself. The aching "First Defeat" is a highlight from Empty, a companion piece to his earlier Screws (which was recorded after breaking his thumb). It's reflective, touching music from an artist whose profile can possibly obscure the fact that he's an immensely talented & sensitive composer & performer.

Clarice Jensen - Final [130701/Bandcamp]
Clarice Jensen - For this from what will be filled (a) [Miasmah/Bandcamp]
Clarice Jensen - Metastable [130701/Bandcamp]
Contemporary classical & avant-garde cellist Clarice Jensen's debut album came out from Miasmah, the label run by experimental cellist & acoustic doom maestro Erik K Skodvin. Her droney, minimalist, deeply evocative works perfectly suited that label, but it's lovely to see her second album picked up by Fat Cat's post/neo-classical subsiduary 130701. Jensen is both an accomplished interpreter of contemporary classical composition - including with her American Contemporary Music Ensemble (sporting the great acronym ACME) - and also a performer outside the classical world with artists such as Björk, Dirty Projectors, Blonde Redhead etc. Her solo work is mostly centred around cello layered and looped and effected, and I never tired of the different ways that cellists around the world make use of these techniques. Jensen can build massive tectonic drones, but also - as with the section from her debut release on Miasmah - might construct shimmering waves of broken bowed chords and emphatic pizzicato notes. Here, as with some of the works on new album The Experience of Repetition as Death, the cello can be embedded in chorusing effects that make it sound like an organ. At other times, the pure acoustic cello sound is layered through reverb for a kind of smeared-out, slowed down baroque music.

Seabuckthorn - Through a Vulnerable Occur (feat. Gareth Davis) [Iikki/Bandcamp]
Seabuckthorn - Other Other [Iikki/Bandcamp]
Finishing up with new work from UK guitarist Andy Cartwright, who has recorded for some years now as Seabuckthorn. He's a master at fingerstyle guitar - dazzling folk & blues fingerpicking - but he's always loved also creating shoegazey numbers, and even more droney works, as found here. He's playing the Persian saz here and the South American charango as well as guitar, but mostly all the instruments are drawn out in ways where you could be forgiven for confusing it with the cello sounds we heard previously. On the title track of new album Through A Vulnerable Occur he's joined by the excellent Dutch clarinettist Gareth Davis as well - but actually the whole album is a different kind of collaboration, as with everything released by Iikki - they are all audiovisual in their complete form, with CD & vinyl editions also released with an art book. This time the artwork comes from Melbourne photographer Sophie Gabrielle, and it looks to be an evocative partnering with the music.

Listen again — ~189MB


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