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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, 27th of September, 2020

Playlist 27.09.20 (4:50 pm)

This week FBi Radio is asking you for your support. The small team of staff and many volunteers who've kept the station running through this devastating pandemic have done an incredbile job, but we can't do it without the support of our listeners - the station is literally listener-funded. If you get something out of what I do on this show, please support the station.

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Sufjan Stevens - Ativan [Asthmatic Kitty/Bandcamp]
Sufjan Stevens - Ursa Major [Asthmatic Kitty/Bandcamp]
Another 5 years, another Sufjan Stevens album... Well, we've had collaborations and other little drops in between, but it seems like the big albums take their time. You've probably heard the story with this one by now - it's an album about the loss of faith, but not (probably) his faith in God so much as his faith in America as an institution. In that sense it's extremely timely, even though the title track was written some years ago. There's personal stuff too though - "Ativan" seems like a depiction of an anxiety attack of the sort the eponymous drug is meant to treat. Musically there are the beautiful harmony changes and melodic deftness we love Sufjan for, and it's almost entirely performed & programmed by Sufjan, like a muted, reflective Age of Adz. Depressing times, let's wallow in Sufjan.

Aphir - The Republic of Paradise [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
Aphir - Evelyn Said [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
Aphir - The Harpies (feat. Sia Ahmad) [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
In the wake of last summer's bushfires and then the ongoing pandemic's effect on the music & arts world, Becki Whitton aka Aphir had a crisis of creativity - she had a joyous pop album ready to go, but couldn't square that with the current times. So instead she set out to write & record a completely new album during the pandemic, and we are blessed with the fruits of that work now with The Republic of Paradise. Like the Sufjan album, it responds to dark times with a dark outlook, with pounding beats and poetry often set in rhythmic half-spoken vocals. Nevertheless, Whitton can't help but write moving melodies, and relief from the sonic assault comes in the form of vulnerable a capella interludes or sweeping drones.

Shoeb Ahmad - flaw, featured [Shoeb Ahmad Bandcamp]
Aphir releases are usually full of collaborations, and the new one is no exception. "The Harpies" (which feels musically like an agitated extension of the previous track, "Evelyn Said") features Sia Ahmad, whose solo work is still credited to Shoeb Ahmad.
Sia's new album comes out in November, and "flaw, featured" is the first single - a meditation on gender disphoria with dark drones, clattering percussion and some cello bits from some guy called Peter Hollo...

MJ Guider - The Steelyard [Kranky/Bandcamp]
MJ Guider - Simulus [Kranky/Bandcamp]
Melissa Guion aka MJ Guider's second album for Kranky has a similar postpunk/industrial undertow to Shoeb Ahmad's work, melded with a Cocteau Twins style shoegaze approach to her vocals, often buried in a mix of swirling guitar drones and echoing percussion. That tough-but-soft-but-loud sound was a characteristic of '90s shoegaze, and one of the percursors for postrock's dynamic juxtapositions, but Guion gives it a unique and vibrant update, and quite a shift from the less brash first album.

Sophia Loizou - Celestial Web [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Sophia Loizou - Genesis 92: The Awakening [Kathexis]
Sophia Loizou - Morphogenesis [Cosmo Rhythmatic]
Sophia Loizou - Shadows Of Futurity [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Sophia Loizou - Hypnotik [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Intense percussion and expansive textures have been at the heart of Sophia Loizou's work for a few years now too, albeit drawing from quite different eras from MJ Guider. Since Singulacra in 2016, Loizou has mined the splintered remains of rave - particularly jungle and hardcore techno - for material to build new worlds. Initially she focused on the synth pads and basslines in particular, but more recently the splattered breaks are up front as well, still structured as more of a memory of the dancefloor than an invitation to dance. Her latest album Untold is part of a larger project that includes a beautiful hardcover book poetically imagining biotech futures called A Tellurian Memorandum, as well as audio-visual elements and planned lecture performance.

Olivier Alary & Johannes Malfatti - My Night, My Day [130701/Bandcamp]
Hearing Is Our Concern - Fragmented [Bubble Core Records]
Ensemble - proposal 3 [Rephlex]
Ensemble - Things I Forget [Fat Cat/Bandcamp]
Olivier Alary - Defeat [130701/Bandcamp]
Olivier Alary & Johannes Malfatti - I Can't Even See Myself [130701/Bandcamp]
Back in 2000, French-born, Montréal-based musician Olivier Alary released his first album as Ensemble, for the venerable idm label Rephlex (and I dropped a really early idm track from Alary as "Hearing Is Our Concern" tonight too). Ensemble's debut Sketch Proposals does have glitchy beats and even glitchier electronic textures, but it combines this, strangely and effectively, with a sort-of shaky take on French chanson courtesy of the already-departed singer Chanelle Kimber. Following this, Ensemble became known to many through Alary's work with Björk, including a co-write and co-production on "Desired Constellation" and a series of remixes. Fat Cat released two albums by Ensemble which continued this melding of glitchy electronica and indie songwriting - and by the second, 2011's Excerpts, the indie/postrock elements, and string arrangements, outweighed the electronics considerably. I consider Excerpts to be a hugely underappreciated album, one that I return to often, with vocals from Alary and Darcy Conroy, and co-writing and arrangements on many tracks by Alary's longtime collaborator Johannes Malfatti.
Both Alary and Malfatti, despite their roots in experimental electronic music, have been writing ambient & classical-adjacent music for film for some years, an album of which came out through Fat Cat's 130701 label from Alary in 2017. Now the two have paired up under their own names rather than Ensemble, along with various string players & vocalists, for a gorgeous album called u,i that reflects these isolated times through the medium of Skype & other VOIP services which the pair have long used to keep in touch. So vocal melodies struggle to cut through static and drop-outs, while accompanied by strings and electronics - an inverted reflection of Alary's original melding of cracked electronics and song, and one that pays off with some true heartstring-pulling moments.

Nick Wales & Stereogamous - Graceful Learning [Nick Wales Bandcamp]
Nick Wales & Stereogamous - Shimmering Spirits [Nick Wales Bandcamp]
Nick Wales is a longtime composer of scores for Sydney Dance Company, but as well as being a trained composer he's a string player with CODA and has appeared on numerous indie albums through the years. He's also made his fair share of electronic music, and here he's paired up with two great Sydney DJ/producers, Johnny Seymour and Paul Mac, as Stereogamous. This album, counter to the background of those involved, focuses on the guitar - it was produced for an exhibition on the Australian guitar brand Maton, on at the Powerhouse Museum until the 11th of October. Different styles of guitar playing are showcased by various different guitarists, set in ambient soundscapes, at times chopped into fragments like on "Shimmering Spirits".

Zoltan Fecso - From the Chest [Whitelabrecs/Bandcamp]
Finally tonight, we have some more guitar pointilism from Melbourne's Zoltan Fecso, who has made his very own genre from live-sampling his own guitar playing and creating literally pointilistic new musical structures on the fly. His latest album is Daylight in an Empty Room, released by UK label Whitelabrecs, and follows an album frome earlier this year on Dutch ambient label Shimmering Moods.

Listen again — ~194MB

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