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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, 28th of June, 2020

Playlist 28.06.20 (5:21 pm)

Tonight's show has everything from avant-garde jazz to sound-art to folktronica to Iranian-Canadian noise...

LISTEN AGAIN, genre be damned! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here...

zeitkratzer & Mariam Wallentin - Strange Fruit [zeitkratzer Bandcamp]
Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman [Atlantic Records]
zeitkratzer & Mariam Wallentin - Cry Me A River [zeitkratzer Bandcamp]
Starting with some extraordinary avant-garde jazz. Swedish singer Mariam Wallentin appears frequently with free jazz superpower Fire! Orchestra, and is the natural choice for pan-European contemporary/avant-garde ensemble zeitkratzer when they decide to go jazz. As well as performing & recording 20th & 21st-century composition, zeitkratzer have taken on unexpected cover versions before - including two albums of Kraftwerk, an acoustic take on noisemeisters Whitehouse, a version of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and much more. Here with Wallentin, they show that they are absolutely comfortable with the jazz idiom - its expressiveness as well as its more far-out tendencies, and Wallentin is of course comfortable with anything they can throw at her - including heart-rending versions of Abel Meeropol's 1930s protest song about lynchings, and Arthur Hamilton's archetype of break-up songs.
Still, it's quite a flex to name your album The Shape of Jazz to Come and not reference Ornette Coleman at all (acknowledging that it's a title that's been adopted & adapted frequently through the years). Coleman's earth-shaking album of that name, and his subsequent career, created more than anyone else the free jazz which is performed by these musicians - so I played the stunning "Lonely Woman", in the original recording with Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass and Bill Hicks on drums.

Ways + Simon Toldam - Fame [Brodie West Bandcamp]
Ways + Simon Toldam - Passion [Brodie West Bandcamp]
More music here which dare I say blends contemporary composition with jazz - Toronto duo Ways is saxophonist/composer Brodie West and Evan Cartwright on drums, whose near-magical duo instincts are joined on Fortune by Danish pianist Simon Toldam for an album of incredibly restrained works. The two tracks titled "Fame" play with empty space (at times filled with gorgeously held piano chords) and perfectly synchronised flutters which render the saxophone percussive, while "Passion" is all the better for holding its passion in check, with a fragmented saxophone melody and slow-moving partial discords on piano.

Roman Rofalski - Alpha [Nonclassical/Bandcamp]
Roman Rofalski - Sea [Nonclassical/Bandcamp]
Berlin pianist Roman Rofalski has a background in jazz, like our first feature artists tonight, but on Loophole, his wonderful new album for Nonclassical, a collaboration with the Stockhausen Foundation has allowed him to bring his love of '90s techno and avant-garde electronic music to his instrument. These deconstructions of the piano are cavernous and luxurious, embedding us deep within the physicality of the instrument, with subtle preparations letting strings ring and buzz while delays and edits create rhythms and discontinuities. On the second track tonight "free jazz" drums also creep into the edits. Of course all these techniques are nothing new, exactly - it's the execution that makes this so special - and special it is.

Alex White - Cheekbone Against Window Of Car [Room40/Bandcamp]
Alex White - Bicycle Rear Wheel Lateral Movement [Room40/Bandcamp]
Sydney musician Alex White has been an innovative proponent of modular synthesis and generative music for years. Mostly we'd expect to hear harsh noises or artificial timbres from him, so this new project Transductions is quite a surprise, "performed" as it is on a Diskclavier, that wondrous mixture of piano, player piano, and MIDI instrument. White used his knowledge & experience in modular synthesis to create simple-seeming patches which, butterfly effect-like, feed back on themselves in strange & unpredictable ways - and these patches are used to output MIDI signals which produce the Diskclavier performances here. The titles refer to the physicality of the instruments solenoids translating his electronic signals into sound - so the kinetic energy of a car, train or bicycle producing vibrations which are then translated into other movements and thence into sound.

Tim Koch - Leaving Michester [Tim Koch Bandcamp]
Tim Koch - Tusk [Tim Koch Bandcamp]
On a theme of artists challenging themselves to make music in news ways, Adelaide's IDM maestro Tim Koch here leaves behind the crunchy programmed beats and synth melodies - and indeed timeline-based musical arranging - for an album of mostly acoustic guitar undergoing live granular synthesis. The album's title, Scordatura, refers to the tuning of an instrument's strings in an unconventional manner, and recontextualisation is very much the name of the game here. It's simultaneously nostalgic for late-'90s/early-'00s IDM-goes-folktronica-goes-drone era, and also excitingly new, hearing Tim's very musically-perceptive take on these techniques. Really impressive.

Kirk Barley - The Night [Health/Bandcamp]
Kirk Barley - Cradle [33-33/Bandcamp]
Kirk Barley - Courtyard [Health/Bandcamp]
Yorkshire musician Kirk Barley has previous released folktronic techno & ambient sounds as Bambooman, and last year we heard him under his own name on a lovely exploratory album for 33-33. He's back, this time on Health, for an EP of Miniatures in a similar vein - exquisite little works of edits of acoustic guitar, field recordings I believe, some drums from Matt Davies, and even cello on one track. There's a full length album coming, and I'm hanging out for it.

David Chesworth - Permian Forest [David Chesworth Bandcamp]
Here's something I've been meaning to play for a while, from legendary Aussie electronic musician David Chesworth. Chesworth came to fame with his 1979 album 50 Synthesizer Greats, the sound of a very young musician exploring the possibilities of electronic music, and around the same time his post-punk electronic group Essendon Airport. Chesworth has been involved with avant-garde music, contemporary composition and weird pop for decades, and co-produced the amazing Bec Plexus album I featured a few weeks ago - so here we have something relatively new, from a couple of years ago, reminiscent of dubby '90s ambient techno, a slow-moving monster of a tune.

Saint Abdullah - Philosopher Kings [Purple Tape Pedigree]
Saint Abdullah - Vivid Persian Dreams [Boomarm Nation/Bandcamp]
Saint Abdullah - Mechanical Flirtations (feat. Sabha Sizdahkhani) [True Aether Bandcamp]
Saint Abdullah - Movin' out of Harlem (feat. ARP 220) [Purple Tape Pedigree]
Finally tonight, featuring a few tracks from the Canadian-Iranian duo Saint Abdullah, made up of brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh. Their music represents a kind of collision and fusion of "Western" and "Eastern" - from their experience of being Iranian/Middle Eastern yet having a Western upbringing, and from the assumptions and pressures placed by the world around them. So their music draws on Persian music (including the wonderful santour playing by Sabha Sizdahkhani on last year's "Mechanical Flirtations"), and features sampled Shia Muslim orations and field recordings from Tehran, as well as guest spots from free jazz musicians, and sets it frequently in swampy dub and looping techno. It's unavoidably political music, incorporating journalistic reportage and interviews into its sound world as well, resulting in sounds driven by anger, grief and passion. Yet this musical fusion is inevitably creating something integrated, something that purely in its existence spurns the idea of a dualist Othering, whether Orientalism or racist Islamophobia. Their latest album, on the ever-radical PTP, sends all profits to the New York Immigration Coalition, and when you purchase it you'll also get a free PDF of Alex Vitale's The End of Policing. But buy their other stuff while you're at it, as they're doing something vital and brilliant.

Listen again — ~195MB


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