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Utility Fog

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Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.
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Playlists are listed with artist name first, then track title and (remixer), then [record label]. Enjoy the links.

Sunday, 27th of December, 2020

Playlist 27.12.20 - Best of 2020 Part 2 (of 3!) (12:24 pm)

Here it is, Best of 2020 Part 2. As mentioned last week, it's been a really hard task. This year that's hurt so many people in so many years, and partially destroyed large parts of the music industry in ways not all will be able to recover from, has managed to produce an unprecedented amount of extraordinary recorded sound.
I conducted a highly scientific Twitter poll, which resulted in a unanimous vote in favour of extending to THREE episodes for UFog's Best of 2020 - making this the middle rather than the end! Finally something to celebrate.

LISTEN AGAIN to more of the best! You can stream on demand from FBi, or podcast right here.

Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Two (feat. Laurel Halo) [PAN/Bandcamp]
London-based producer Beatrice Dillon has a long history mixing avant-garde sensibilities with a great talent for rhythm. Whether it's minimal techno or house or UK bass music, her beats flow as much as they skitter. On her superb 2020 album Workaround, released by PAN, she sticks at 150bpm (except for a couple of beatless interludes) and leaves plenty of space for the flow of the beats to recall UKG or dubstep's space as much as techno. And there are plenty of acoustic sounds in there, and plenty of jazzy musicality. I keep thinking of the sonic adventurousness and meticulous dancefloor dedication of Matthew Herbert. This is unquestionably one of the best albums of the year, and one I returned to frequently.

DJ Plead - Ess [Livity Sound/Bandcamp]
Jared Beeler was a fixture in Sydney's dance music scene for many years, as a writer, DJ, and producer in particular with the beloved Black Vanilla/BV. Now based in Melbourne/Naarm, as DJ Plead he's making a name internationally with music that incorporates percussion and drum patterns from his Lebanese background into UK club styles. Each track on his Going For It EP for the great Bristol label Livity Sound is better than the last, culminating in the driving "Ess", held down by a mostly one-note bassline and coloured by syncopated synth stabs.

Azu Tiwaline - Red Viper [I.O.T. Records/Bandcamp]
I was so excited to discover the music of Azu Tiwaline in 2020, via her Magnetic Service EP released by that very same Livity Sound. But only a few months earlier, her two-part album Draw Me A Silence came out through French label I.O.T. Records, and it's from that album, overshadowed by the (also excellent) Livity Sound EP, that I'm playing a track tonight. Both draw heavily on her Amazigh roots in Saharan Tunisia, as well as her "other" roots as a DJ and producer of techno, dub & hip-hop as Loan. She has an astonishing sense not only of rhythm and techno/dub production, but also of pacing and structure, honed no doubt in years of DJing, and it's wonderful hearing that applied to these traditional rhythms and sounds (at times flute melodies and field recordings can be heard too). Both double album & EP are essential IMHO - head over to her Bandcamp.

Neinzer - Cause Pan Tact Insoluble [Where To Now? Records]
Emil Lewandowski's previous EP as Neinzer, released by AD 93 earlier this year, made a big impression with two jazzy house grooves followed by three shimmering beatless works. But to be honest it was his later EP Shifting Values that really grabbed me hard. Each of the tracks here has some standout feature - avant-garde harmonies on piano or flute, bass music with organic beats and perfectly placed breaths and field recordings... "Cause Pan Tact Insoluble" grows slowly with more beautiful discords, freakout flute and vocal harmonies over a dubstep-house hybrid beat.

Autechre - DekDre Scap B [Warp/Bandcamp]
Everyone knows that Autechre albums need to be followed by a second album (even if it's sometimes called an EP), and after a period of weird sprawling non-album creations (which I thought were excellent), this year we had the SIGN album followed fairly swiftly with PLUS. It's been a while since Ae's stuff was genuinely surprising, and nothing here or on SIGN sounds that different from anything they've done 10 years really - but they were so far ahead of the curve for so long that that hardly matters. There's head-nodding beats, gritty textures, beautiful meandering melodies, and to me there's a bit more edge to this than the other album. I'm happy!

An Avrin - Clodhopper [Scuffed Recordings]
UK bass in various forms was the basis for the brilliant Clodhopper EP on Scuffed Recordings from new producer An Avrin. The title track is insanely great, with every sound chopped to perfection - tiny vocal snippets on off-beats, little bits of breaks and halftime bass plus eventually a little synth melody. Superb.

Carl Stone - Pasjoli [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
Active since the late '70s and early '80s, LA musician Carl Stone has seen a resurgence of interest in the last few years courtesy of two wonderful retrospectives on Unseen Worlds, demonstrating his use of granular synthesis to create live glitchy edits from all sorts of sound sources decades before we thought about glitch, drone or indeed "mashups". He released some new material last year, and then a pair of really interesting paired tracks as singles ahead of this new album, the anagrammatically-titled Stolen Car. Written between Los Angeles and Tokyo, it draws heavily on mashed-up pop music, with a surprising emphasis on something resembling beats - a subversive recontextualisation of pop perhaps. It's fun and weird, and fits strangely next to Rian Treanor's rave edits and dancefloor deconstructions.

Rian Treanor - Debouncing [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
For his second album on Planet µ, Rian Treanor continues his deconstruction of rave in all its colourful aspects. Indeed the title, File Under UK Metaplasm, might suggest a rearranging of UK dance music - but actually this is highly rhythmic stuff, rendered perhaps undanceable only because of its speed. It's got a lot in common with '90s drill'n'bass and idm, but with more emphasis on bass, and influences from Chicago footwork, UK garage and elsewhere.

Atom™ - 0.9 (Almost a Unit) [Raster/Bandcamp]
It's not unreasonable to say that the music of Atom™ from the mid-'90s to the early '00s was a massive influence on what I wanted to do with Utility Fog. Inhabiting an intensely digital realm, even when creating ersatz jazz and funk with Bernd Friedmann as Flanger, he was way ahead of the game with precisely chopped digital cut-ups and re-contextualised cultural signifiers, even outside of the Señor Coconut material - just one project using the music of his adopted home of Chile. Recently he's been re-releasing old techno cuts from the early '90s on his Bandcamp, mostly released under the name Atom Heart. But for 2020, his new album <3 (heart emoji), released on Raster, was a return to the digital cuts & culture-jamming, ostensibly a collaboration with X1N, "an entity for generating human voice and natural language content", contributing idoru-pop vocals... About half the album has beats accelerated into drill'n'bass territory. It's super-fun and very arch.

Andrea - Drumzzy [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Turin's Andrea, staple of Munich's Ilian Tape label, released his first album in 2020 after a series of excellent 12"s. The big, hard techno beats and lush pads of his earlier work have been augmented over a few releases with skittery, idm-inspired beats which lean towards jungle and UK bass styles, and that really comes to the fore on the wonderful album Ritorno. His talent for melodic synth pads in the vein of Shed is still very much there, but the beats flutter and sizzle as much as they thump. It's inspired and exciting - massively recommended, but don't ignore those earlier EPs either!

Moon Sign Gemini - 003 [Moon Sign Gemini Bandcamp]
Hearing Adelaide's Moon Sign Gemini on the Solitary Wave (Out) comp from Stu Buchanan's resurrected New Weird Australia, I had to zoom over to his Bandcamp immediately and grab all the things - sampled orchestras with breakcore are bread & butter for Utility Fog! Dylan Cooper usually plays in hardcore punk bands, and Moon Sign Gemini is a recent venture in electronic production - impressive & fun stuff.

Harmony - Rage [Deep Jungle]
Lee Bogush goes right back to the earliest days of jungle, as it was coming out of UK hardcore and before it morphed into drum'n'bass. As DJ Harmony he released a slew of incredible 12"s, many of the earliest alongside Suzanne Harris as Harmony & Xtreme. Bogush now runs the fantastic Deep Jungle label, which, in addition to reissuing long lost early classics, puts out remastered 12"s (and digital thankfully) of unreleased gems from artists' and labels' original DAT recordings. As well as a big archival comp of 1993-1996 tracks released in January, Harmony released an entire new album in 2020 called Resurgence, full of wonderful junglist bliss.

Hedex & Bou - Pub Grub VIP [Dubz Audio]
Late in 2020 came the RTRN II Fabric mix from stadium drum'n'bass duo Chase & Status. It's actually a lovely tribute to jungle and drum'n'bass, with classics going right back to the early '90s, and updates like their own remix of Origin Unknown's beyond-classic "Valley Of The Shadows", which they treat with much respect, updating the beats and leaving the original samples basically intact. Among the new tunes was one by Hedex & Bou, updating a tune from Hedex's From The Rave album from last year - "Pub Grub VIP" tightens up the bassline and adds a little more junglist crunchy bits. I put it on anytime I want to dance around like a mad bastard.

Chimpo - Big Ed (Generation X Mix) [Box N Lock]
Manchester's Chimpo was a frequent visitor to my music player this year - his HIA LP from earlier in the year was a gem of songs and toasting over UK bass music of all sorts. Chimpo's been comfortable in many different genres for ages, but does love his drum'n'bass, as you can see from various cheeky collections on his Box N Lock Bandcamp. After HIA was released he also put out an EP of Club Mixes from the album, which are quite literally tributes to various well-loved Manchester clubs - check the jungle track here. I cannot recommend enough that you check the LP and remixes, and then explore the rest of what's on offer.

Aphir - Evelyn Said [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 2020 was blessed with the superb fruits of that work, The Republic of Paradise. 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, with a vulnerable a capella coda here providing relief from the track's assault.

Taraamoon - زَهازْ (Zahāz) [Low-Zi Records Bandcamp]
Nima Aghiani and Sara Bigdeli Shamloo appear frequently on Utility Fog courtesy of their magnificent 9T Antiope project, which can comfortably switch from noise to neo-classical to electronic pop, with Shamloo's rich vocals carrying through all genres. It's notable that with 9T Antiope the vocals are mostly in English, but as well as releasing a great 9T Antiope album in 2020, this year the pair (who are Iranians based in France) launched new project Taraamoon, a vehicle for electronic pop sung in Farsi. I can't say anything about what the songs are about, but they're exquisite.

Rojin Sharafi - Boloor [Zabte Sote]
Sticking with Europe-based Persian ex-pats, we have a track from Tehran-born, Vienna-based sound-artist & poet Rojin Sharafi's second album for Zabte Sote, Zangaar. Electronics throb and burble under electrifying performances of her poetry. If like me you can't understand Farsi, there are descriptions of each piece on the Bandcamp page. While contemporaries like Lucrecia Dalt might spring to mind, this is sui generis work (indeed, it shares that characteristic with Dalt's work too...) and utterly essential listening. It's from one of FOUR excellent tapes released late in the year by Ata Ebtekar's wonderful Zabte Sote label, and it would be remiss of me not to note that Ebtekar's album Moscels for Opal Tapes (as Sote) was a marvel too.

Jasmine Guffond - Forever Listening [Editions Mego/Bandcamp]
Sydney/Berlin composer Jasmine Guffond continues her deep exploration of online surveillance and sound on her first solo album for Editions Mego. Entitled Microphone Permission, the album sways musically between exquisitely detuned acoustic-sounding pads, harsh digital interjections, and clicky rhythmic bursts. The measured pace and pristine sound recording invoke an unsettling sense of paranoia – can my technology be trusted? Can the corporations controlling my data be trusted? I'm grateful that these very important concerns have inspired such sumptuous music anyway.

Bérangère Maximin - Full Jungle [Karl Records/Bandcamp]
And now some musique concrète, starting with the ever-surprising, brilliant musician Bérangère Maximin. Her new album came out from Berlin label Karl Records, following released on labels as diverse as Tzadik, Sub Rosa, Crammed Discs and Craig Leon's Atlas Réalisastions. I still think of Maximin as a musique concrète composer and sound-artist, and those elements are still present on this new album - field recordings from around city parks and abandoned buildings recorded throughout Europe feature here, manipulated in various ways, alongside all sorts of electronic elements. There are even drum machines and sequenced synthesizers, allbeit treated in unusual fashions (if not "full-on junglism" *ahem*). I strongly recommend connecting with this album and whatever you can find of her back catalogue.

Kate Carr - It's a steep climb to the freeway underpass [Kate Carr Bandcamp]
London-based Australian musician Kate Carr continues to create some of the most exciting field recording-based music around, well represented in 2020 by a new release, available on red vinyl, called Splinters. It's a documentation of her relationship, over 18 months, with an artist-run space in South East London called TACO! - covering not only field recordings of the space and of Carr's journeys to and from the space, but also various performances in that space over the time period. So disembodied snippets of spoken word, electronic beats, or maybe even a distorted guitar chord contribute to the sound-world. Carr is brilliant at creating musically compelling works from non-musical elements (or musical elements used in unusual ways), and constructing a narrative as well. You don't have to know the space or have been part of the community to find this a thrilling listen.

Beatriz Ferreyra - Echos [ROOM40/Bandcamp]
Active since the 1960s, Argentine composer Beatriz Ferreyra is still making music now, and had (luckily for us) TWO new releases of her works released in 2020. ROOM40 put out a 12" called Echos+ which collected the incredible 1978 work "Echos" heard tonight alongside another vocal-derived work from 1987 and one using percussion sounds from 2007. "Echos" chops and inter-layers the voice of her niece, who tragically died in a car crash, and forms a gorgeous and joyful tribute. I should note also that new musique concrète-focused UK label Persistence of Sound released Huellas entreveradas ("Interspersed footsteps") this year also, with works as recent as 2018. Cannot recommend highly enough - Ferreyra is a really important voice in sound-art.

Olivier Alary & Johannes Malfatti - I Can't Even See Myself [130701/Bandcamp]
Finishing with one of the most touching & unusual pieces of 2020.
Back in 2000, French-born, Montréal-based musician Olivier Alary released his first album as Ensemble, for the venerable idm label Rephlex. Ensemble's debut Sketch Proposals combined glitchy beats and even glitchier electronic textures, 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 glorious 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.

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Sunday, 20th of December, 2020

Playlist 20.12.20 - Best of 2020 Part 1 (7:27 pm)

This was SO HARD. 2020 has been endless, and because of that, because of Bandcamp Fridays, because of who knows what, it has been a cornucopia of musical wonders, of all stripes. I have attempted to cover stupid amounts of ground here, and next week will be a differently bewildering run of stuff - maybe some of the quieter areas, more experimental/classical/jazz, but definitely also more bass & beats & breaks as well! Who knows really?

Anyway, LISTEN AGAIN to (some of) the best stuff (part 1) of the year! FBi offers the best stream on demand services available, and you can podcast it here too.

The Soft Pink Truth - So That Grace May Increase (excerpt) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Matmos - nice men in stable relationships (feat. Clipping, Jennifer Walshe, Nate Boyce) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Matmos - unmastering (feat. Rabit, Erica Valencia) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
The Soft Pink Truth - Fuck Nazi Sympathy (Aus-Rotten cover) [The Soft Pink Truth Bandcamp]
Prof Drew Daniel was slated to appear in the Best of 2020 ever since the release of the exquisite The Soft Pink Truth album Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?, a blissful 45 minutes of ambient house with postrock, sunlit r'n'b and almost classical leanings (intended as two mixed halves, but also available digitally in a slightly different form with separated tracks). It's explicitly music for our times, a love reaction to the evils of Trumpism, and its expansive, emotionally welcoming sensibility is perfect for our COVID-era disconnected state. It's like the perfect comedown music the day after intense clubbing, and if the clubbing here is the hammering of late stage capitalism on our state of mind, it's just what we need. A tonic for trying times.
AND THEN... just in time for the discord in America to rise once again in the face of racist, violent police and a white nationalist, kleptocratic President, Drew released a companion album to SWGOSSTGMI?, which is much more in the format of the usual Soft Pink Truth catalogue. Am I Free To Go? sees him covering a selection of crust-punk anarcho-protest songs in various electronic stylings, breakcore, glitch techno etc, with appropriately gutteral vocals alongside some clean singing. Masterful & timely, the album is pay what you can and profits go to the International Anti-fascist Defence Fund.
So, you'd think that Drew Daniel releasing one of the greatest albums of the year as The Soft Pink Truth AND then releasing a brilliant album of crust punk covers might be enough for 2020, but no, 2020 also saw a new album from his & MC Schmidt's ever-wondrous Matmos, and it's a massive 3CD, 3-hour set incorporating contributions from 99 fellow travellers (entirely at 99bpm). The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form is a logical follow-up to what the pair have been doing with Matmos for the last 3½+ decades - a super-collaborative, highly-experimental project which is nevertheless always expressive of Daniel & Schmidt's creative vision, and due to their way with form, humour and communication skills, is always highly approachable. The list of contributors to the particular tracks this evening gives a little bit of a flavour of what's going on here - it's nice to hear a return at times to the twisted Americana of works like The West and The Civil War, and also bits of glitched pop and inscrutable spoken word snippets. By any standards 3 hours is too long, but it's hard to complain when it's such an embarrassment of riches.

Poppy - I Disagree [Sumerian Records]
I've been a fan on and off of the wondrously strange & disquieting works of YouTube art created by Moriah Rose Pereira aka Poppy, but I assumed her music was all saccharine pop - which it was, initially. But in recent years her more electronic music gained some impressive depth, and then she took a bizarre turn into nu-metal... Combine that with a break-up with her (probably creepy and manipulative) boyfriend & producer Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy's 2020 album I Disagree turned out to be massively fun & clever and dark. Part feminist self-actualisation, part political statement, part very silly, it's a genre-switching oddity which for some reason I just keep listening to. I never played it during the year, so here's one of many highlights, just for you in the first best of the year show...

Jockstrap - Acid [Warp/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - Beavercore 3 [Warp/Bandcamp]
Here's something else that I never actually played during the year - because I only discovered the brilliant young London duo Jockstrap right near the end of the year, even though they're released by Warp Records. Trained at London's Guildhall School of Music & Arts, violinist/pianist/singer/arranger Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye create an astonishing mélange of classical & jazz-influenced, complex songs with flamboyant processing all through. I could listen to just "Acid" on repeat for days on end. They followed up the Wicked City EP with Beavercore later in 2020, with the contrasts of highly-electronic versions of earlier tracks and deceptively unadorned (except not) piano "Beavercore" excursions... Genius.

The God In Hackney - The Adjoiner [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
First discovered by me on a compilation from The Wire, The God In Hackney instantly attracted my attention. Formed in 2003 by Andy Cooke and Nathaniel Mellors, they were joined by two others 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.

Hilary Woods - Tongues of Wild Boar [Sacred Bones/Bandcamp]
The first solo album from Irish artist Hilary Woods, released by Sacred Bones in 2018, was a collection of bewitching simple tunes with piano, guitar, sparse percussion and synths. It followed her tenure in Dublin-based indie rock band JJ72, but it was a while between her leaving that band and releasing her first solo record. The new album, called Birthmarks, was recorded while heavily pregnant, and much of it was put together in Oslo, working with the great Norwegian noise artist Lasse Marhaug. Cello from his frequent collaborator Okkyung Lee is also all over the album, and Jenny Hval appears on synths as well. It's incredible work, very evocative, and utterly uncompromising, with industrial rhythms, scraping cello noises, lots of unsettling ambience, across a couple of instrumental tracks and some moving, haunting songwrting. Highly recommended.

Sufjan Stevens - Ativan [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.

Pa Salieu - Betty [Warner]
2020 has been huge for Coventry-based UK rapper Pa Salieu. It's UK drill, but a lot could easily sit as grime. Salieu's voice is incredbily strong, bearing signs of his Gambian heritage as well as the British-Jamaican influence of the music, and his lyrics speak of the violence of systemic racism and the UK's long-established class system. Of course for me the music itself is a huge drawcard, and I was introduced to him through the b-side of his massive single "Betty" - on "Bang Out" he samples liberally from the ever-influential "Ghosts" by Japan, with David Sylvian's voice and the equally-identifiable synths weaving in and out of the rolling bassline and Salieu's raps.

Run The Jewels - Goonies Vs. ET [Run The Jewels]
Finally, four years after RTJ3 came the fourth album from Killer Mike & EL-P's Run The Jewels. It hits just as hard as previously - EL-P's production is impulsively danceable, and still hints a little at the industrial & experimental influences his work has often borne. And while Killer Mike's always been politically outspoken & eloquent, this is probably the most explicitly anti-racist and political, being their first created during the Trump presidency. I particularly love the chopped vocal "oh" that accentuates the downbeats in the breakdowns here. As usual the new album was a pay-what-you-want download ahead of its physical release, with all profits going to the Mass Defense Program that provides legal aid to political activists, protesters and movements for social change.

The Bug ft. Dis Fig - Destroy Me [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Early last year I discovered the work of jazz-trained vocalist Felicia Chen as Dis Fig via her debut album released by Purple Tape Pedigree, entitled Purge. Drawing from her jazz and classical training as well as industrial and noise, it was broad-ranging and quite disturbing at times. So it's quite excellent to find her now collaborating with one of my favourite artists, The Bug, with a full album of what's described as "narco-dancehall", combining Kevin Martin's earlier dancehall distortions with his more recent dubstep/grime and the spaced-out dub & trip-hop of his King Midas Sound project. Dis Fig is only the latest in a string of female singers Martin has worked with, but this full album is an impressive collaboration, with Chen's vocals leaning towards the melodic, trip-hop end of the spectrum, but injecting plenty of emotion and musical texture to the proceedings.

Ed Balloon - Bad Gyal [Deathbomb Arc/Bandcamp]
Ed Balloon's verses on clipping.'s track "He Dead" last year absolutely stole the show... His new EP I Hate It Here, his second on Deathbomb Arc, seems to draw something from the more experimental side of clipping., with his dulcet vocals (comfortable singing, and rapping in both high and low register, his vowels a reminder of his Nigerian heritage) accompanied by distorted basslines and skittering electronics beats as much as r'n'b arrangements. It's absolutely superb.

clipping. - Pain Everyday (with Michael Esposito) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
A long year after their first horrorcore/African-American horror themed album There Existed An Addiction To Blood, finally clipping. released the long-awaited sequel Visions of Bodies Being Burned. It was always planned as a duology, but the familiar circumstances we're all living with delayed the second album somewhat. Happily it was worth every minute of the wait, with the noise grounding of William Hutson and breakcore/techno experience of Jonathan Snipes again providing the perfect foil for the erudite, rapidfire delivery of their half-Jewish, half-African American rapper Daveed Diggs. As always the political & the cultural are intractably intertwined, and pop hooks coexist with extreme noise. "Pain Everyday" references that Venetian Snares bloke with strings & 7/8 breakcore beats alongside field recordings from occult researcher & noise artist Michael Esposito.

Armand Hammer - Pommelhorse ft. Curly Castro [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
Last year billy woods, founder of Backwoodz Studioz, put out two of the best hip-hop albums of the year - Hidden Places with Kenny Segal in particular was top of my list. The year before, his duo Armand Hammer with ELUCID released one of the most bewildering and brilliant albums of that year, Paraffin, so their follow-up this year had a lot riding on it. And Shrines by and large pulls it off. The lyrics as usual are rapidfire, dense and reference-laden, frequently apposite to the current situation, which after all is just drawing attention to the reality of life for Black Americans that white people have the privilege of staying oblivious to (much like in Australia). Musically it's as strange and unexpected as ever - highlighting the fact that hip-hop has always been experimental music.

Crass - Asylum (Mikado Koko Remix) [One Little Independent Records/Crass Bandcamp]
The anarcho-punk of UK collective Crass couldn't be more relevant now, in these days where protest movements are simultaneously co-opted and treated as terrorists, and Covid lockdowns are being used as excuses to stamp down hard on the mosto downtrodden parts of our society. So it's nice to have an excuse to listen to them anew. Late last year they made from their debut album The Feeding of the 500 available on Google Drive for anyone to remix. Now a series of 7"s is coming out with well-known and lesser-known names remixing their tracks (none other than Steve Aoki does a drum'n'bass-ish take on "Banned from the Roxy" on the latest single!). On the 3rd single Japanese experimental electronic artist Mikado Koko takes the already abstract backing of the original version of Eve Libertine's incredible poem "Asylum" and turns up the weirdness, processing the lyric but keeping the power of that poem. It's a project that could easily have been gratuitous, but has turned out quite inspiring - and all proceeds go to UK domestic violence organisation Refuge, which also couldn't be more important in these locked down times.

Little Annie Anxiety & Hiro Kone - Third Gear [Hiro Kone Bandcamp]
New York-born singer, songwriter and artist Little Annie aka Ann Bandes aka Annie Anxiety Bandez started making music in 1977. When she moved to the UK in 1981 it was in association with Steve Ignorant & Penny Rimbaud of none other than Crass. Alongside Crass, she worked closely with Adrian Sherwood and his nascent On-U Sound Records, and all these characters (including Bonjo from African Head Charge) appeared on her album Soul Possession, released initially on Crass's Corpush Christi, and re-released a few years ago by Dais. It's mostly tracks from this album which were revisited in 2018 in a collaboration & live performance with the brilliant New York producer Nicky Mao aka Hiro Kone (Little Annie also appeared on Hiro Kone's astonishing 2018 album Pure Expenditure). The collaboration is now available on Bandcamp and it is absolutely not to be missed. Deep grooves from Mao with nods to the original productions & Annie's longtime association with dub, industrial & experimental music underscore her reinterpretations of these old tunes.

Hextape - Toyota [Anterograde]
Narrm/Melbourne musician, sound-artist & educator Bridget Chappell is at home playing cello in industrial spaces or using field recording techniques as political activism. As Hextape Chappell folds field recordings into deconstructed rave and other electronic music - furious beats at times, and lots of sound processing. While 2020 saw an EP under their own name, and later an extended reissue of the late 2019 album 2 Fast 2 Furious, there was also this great single. "Toyota" samples Chappell's '96 Hilux, and comes with a video made with Henry Pyne which takes the ute and footage around Narrm into a video-game world, and a remix from lablemate Ahm, who also had a fantastic EP out this year on the same label.

Mutant Joe - Boom, Drop [Natural Sciences]
Only just twigging to the work of Brisbane's Mutant Joe, who now has a few releases on international labels, at the ripe old age of 20. It's awesome that there's an Aussie producer, not from Sydney or Melbourne (or Perth), doing absolutely on-point leftfield dancefloor music, and it's a super interesting mix too. Bass music is at the core, whether it's southern US-style hip-hop or jungle/dubstep/garage mutations. A new EP, Cortisol just dropped on his Bandcamp, and earlier this year Manchester label Natural Sciences released the album Vagrant.

dgoHn - Invisible Sandwich [Love Love Records/Bandcamp]
John Cunnane’s moniker dgoHn is meant to be pronounced like his first name, and that particularly oddity feels like it places him right away into the company of the great weirdos of English music. Although there are connections to idm – his duo with fellow producer Macc was released on Rephlex over a decade ago – he leans a bit closer to the dancefloor as a main proponent of the “drumfunk” subgenre which pulled the experimental end of jungle/drum’n’bass away from breakcore’s testosterone into a more jazzy, syncopated approach to drum programming. After an EP released Fracture’s Astrophonica label last year, he returned to Love Love Records in 2020 for a full album of outrageously brilliant beat juggling. Yes, the beats might be show-offy, but they flow with a real musicality, and they are accompanied by musical and melodic synth pads and funky stabs, and some half-time and ambient passages to break things up. I could listen to this all day.

Baby T - Portra (Jungle Mix) [Samurai Music]
Brianna Price is better known as a producer, DJ and label owner under the name B. Traits, originally shortened from "Baby Traits". This year she flipped the abbreviation for new project Baby T, described on Facebook as for "hardcore junglist shit only", and the first EP Portra came out through Samurai Music with three different versions from Price plus two excellent remixes from Homemade Weapons and Ancestral Voices. Also from this alias this year was I Against I on Central Processing Unit, and it's somewhat more wide-ranging than hardcore junglist shit - but the excellently titled "Estrogen Attitude" is super-fun acidic drum'n'bass. For an eye-opening look at how unfriendly jungle & drum'n'bass have historically been to the women in the scene, this article from Julia Toppin is a must-read.

Krust - Hegel Dialect [Crosstown Rebels/Bandcamp]
Kirk Thompson is an absolutely central figure in jungle and drum'n'bass, from when the sound percolated out of East London into Bristol, home of so much bass-oriented UK music. Thompson, as DJ Krust, was part of Reprazent along with Roni Size, DJ Die, SUV and others, and while Roni Size was the big name out front, Krust's production, orchestration, and sonic storytelling is next to none. His new album The Edge of Everything came 14 years after the previous, and it's wonderful to have his music again at album length, with sumptuous 12-minute epics and weird little skits. Crosstown Rebels isn't typically a drum'n'bass label, but while there's bits of halftime and bits of ambient in there, it's definitely all drum'n'bass at its roots, with some fiery break choppery and skittering drum machine programming, and plenty of punchy basslines. Unalloyed genius, easily an album of the year.

ASC - Intensity [Samurai Music/Bandcamp]
James Clements has been making drum'n'bass as ASC for over 20 years, as well as techno and other styles. He's been strongly associated with the "autonomic" strain of dub-techno-infused d'n'b, and other more ambient stylings for a while, and it's very exciting that Samurai Music have lured him back into hard-hitting jungle/d'n'b for an EP and now the Isolated Systems album this year - apparently with another release in this vein coming out early in 2021! Storming beats with complex programming recalling the legendary Arcon 2 (I said on air that he wasn't on Bandcamp, but that's recently changed - fuck yeah!) as well as the heyday of Photek, Paradox et al. What's notable to me is that it's not just nonstop beatfuckery and sub-bass - Clements pays attention to the need for harmonic movement, with falling synth pads that add just enough soulfulness to the proceedings, something which a lot of the harder & more complex jungle programmers today tend to not care about. Highly recommended!

A.G. Cook - A-Z [PC Music Bandcamp]
A.G. Cook - Waldhammer [PC Music Bandcamp]
I've had a difficult relationship with the PC Music phenomenon - I acknowledge the way they incorporate experimentalism into pop music, but most of what they release has been too shiny and, well, "pop" for me to get into. So I was quite pleased to discover that maximalist album from PC Music head honcho A.G. Cook was mostly very much my thing, and probably yours too. Over 7 "discs" (I don't think there was an actual physical edition) of 7 tracks each, Cook covered a lot of ground, but there's an idm/drill'n'bass thread throughout, along with the usual glitched vocals etc. The drill'n'bass beats, the Nord melodies on disc 5 and even the chopped vocals on disc 6 all bear a strong influence from Aphex Twin and other idm originals from the early-to-mid '90s, but Cook's musical background (he studied at Goldsmith's in London) also comes out in "Waldhammer"'s manic reworking of Beethoven's Waldstein Piano Sonata.

Listen again — ~210MB

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Tuesday, 15th of December, 2020

Five Cellists for 2020 (This year was so long that Five now equals Thirteen...) (8:38 pm)

This year, as ever, I was asked to contribute to Cyclic Defrost's Best of 2020.
For 2020, it was a toss-up between resurgent jungle & drum'n'bass or... cellists! I'm a junglist4lyfe, but I'm also a cellist (4lyfe) and this, it seems, was the year of the cello. Read on & click through if you didn't realise why the cello is the fucking best.
(Actually, if you look carefully, there are 16 cellists mentioned... but who's counting, at this point?)

Most of the texts were ripped from Utility Fog playlists, so I'mma repost it right here.

Louise Bock - Sketch for Winter VII - Abyss: For Cello [Geographic North/Bandcamp]
US multi-instrumentalist Taralie Peterson has been making experimental music for a couple of decades, notably with her duo Spires that in the Sunset Rise with Ka Baird (check their marvellous album from 2020 while you're at it). She plays saxophone, clarinet and contributes voice (often processed), but she's also an accomplished cellist, and that's highlighted on her latest album (part of Geographic North's Sketches for Winter series) called Abyss: For Cello. Discordant multi-tracked cello is by turns rhythmic and mournfully slow. Lines overlap and intertwine, and occasionally other instruments appear, including some very abstracted guitar from Kendra Amalie on "Oolite". It's unsettling and gorgeous.

Lucy Railton - Forma [Portraits GRM/Bandcamp]
This year, Editions Mego teamed up with Ina-GRM for a series of works commissioned by and recorded at the legendary musique concrète studios of Ina-GRM. On a split 12" with Max Eilbacher, you can find this astonishing work by 23-minute work by English cellist Lucy Railton. It starts off more sound design than cello-focused (unsurprisingly), but there are extended techniques and also gorgeous recitativo on cello, Serge synthesiser, and some beautiful organ performed by Kit Downes as well. And then there are buzzing, growling motors, followed by an utterly gripping passage of squeaking cello tones and see-sawing, fluttering processed sounds that could be a voice or a dog barking, or something entirely artificial. Just absolutely not to be missed.

Mabe Fratti - Pies Sobre la Tierra [Tin Angel Records/Bandcamp] / Planos para Construir [Hole Records]
It's always wonderful to discover new cellists. Guatemalan musician Mabe Fratti, now based in Mexico City, uses her cello along with synths, effects, and her voice to create experimental music of a truly compelling nature. Her cello will produce scratchy rhythmic bowed patterns, murky drones, jazzy basslines, or bright melodies. She's clearly interested in experimenting with sound, and one of the things I love about listening to these works is how she's quite capable of creating gorgeous, pure song (see the first track tonight), but she's happy peppering these around collections of pure weirdness - tape manipulation, field recordings, strangely processed vocals etc.
She's also keen on collaboration, and just as I was catching up with the stunning Pies Sobre la Tierra ("Feet on the ground", originally released in 2019), she's released Planos para Construir ("Plans to build"), which saw her handing pieces of music over to various musicians and writers, and after some back and forth this album arose.

Marianne Baudouin Lie - Atlantis, Utopia & Ulvedrømmer [Particular Recordings]
The new album from Norwegian cellist Marianne Baudouin Lie is unusual in that all the compositions (commissioned by Lie) use the musician's voice as well as cello. An educator and researcher as well as a cellist working across classical, improv and contemporary music, Lie covers a lot of ground in the commissions for this album. The "Ulvedrømmer" of the title are "Wolf dreams", depicted in a "one-woman musical" written with fellow cellist Lene Grenager; in saxophonist Eirik Hegdal's Concertino per violoncello et voce, each "Take" calls for the cellist to use her voice in a different way, such as double-stopped cello chords moving exquisitely between dissonance and assonance with her vocal drone.

Bridget Chappell - Undertow [Heavy Machinery Records/Bandcamp]
Naarm/Melbourne artist Bridget Chappell would have fitted into my "jungle" theme for 2020 too, with the ute-sampling deconstructed jungle breaks of the single "Toyota", under their Hextape alias (highly recommended, along with the re-released 2 Fast 2 Furious album, originally released late last year). But they also released this fascinating album under their own name on adventurous Melbourne label Heavy Machinery Records. This work was commissioned by the City of Melbourne and uses their Open Data Platform to sonify contemporary & historical data about water management, along with manipulated samples of the Federation Bells in Birrarung Marr Park. The location of the Federation Bells was once underwater, and the colonial aspects of water management can't be ignored, as well as the environmental aspects. Colonialism and climate change are central to Chappell's practice, and it's great hearing these come out alongside Chappell's cello playing and love of rave & industrial beats.

Joana Guerra - Chão Vermelho [Miasmah/Bandcamp]
This is the debut of Portuguese cellist Joana Guerra on Miasmah, the label run by another cellist of the "acoustic doom" persuasion, Erik K Skodvin. Other than a certain queasiness, there's no great similarity with Skodvin's work here though - Guerra works her cello into arrangements with violin, vocals and percussion, where peaceful pizzicato gives way to sawing sul pont bowing, see-sawing glissandi, dramatic vocals and more. It's an idiosyncratic blend of contemporary techniques with traditional & non-traditional song. Another great unusual cellist to add to the list!

Clarice Jensen - The Experience of Repetition as Death [130701/Bandcamp]
Contemporary classical & avant-garde cellist Clarice Jensen's debut album also came out from Miasmah (in 2018). 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 tire of the different ways that cellists around the world make use of these techniques. Jensen can build massive tectonic drones, but also might construct shimmering waves of broken bowed chords and emphatic pizzicato notesor embed the cello 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.

Helen Money - Atomic [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 punishing 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, from a true master.

Okkyung Lee - Yeo-neun [Shelter Press/Bandcamp]
New York cellist Okkyung Lee is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Downtown jazz scene and the noise scene (for the latter, particularly a stunning album with Burning Star Core's C Spencer Yeh and Lasse Marhaug). Marhaug as producer also helped realise the incredibly intense sound on solo albums such as Ghil. But earlier work like Nihm and Noisy Love Songs (For George Dyer) released by Tzadik demonstrated her skills at melody and arrangement, and those come to the fore on Yeo-Neun, her latest album. It's the most melodic and accessible since those early Tzadik albums (without the obvious jazz inclinations), and very explicitly references her Korean background, both in titles (Kang Kyung-ok is a Korean comics (Manhwa) artist) and in the music itself. So classical composition, Korean traditional music, and certain elements of noise & improv all get combined into something shiningly gorgeous. Shelter Press seems like an ideal home for these sounds.

Nick Storring - My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell [Orange Milk Records/Nick Storring Bandcamp]
I've admired Toronto cellist Nick Storring for some years, and not just because he's a cellist; he's one of those versatile musicians who's made everything from extreme glitchy electronics, unfettered folk, dark indie with Picastro, and sumptuously orchestrated contemporary classical & sound-art, such as his last few works. His new album My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell is released through the great Orange Milk Records (check that Seth Graham artwork!) and it's exquisite. He presents it as an homage to Roberta Flack, although the music is all original, but you'll find the connection in the emotiveness, the lush jazz voicings, and some lyrical references in track titles. Like last year's Qualms and 2014's Gardens, Storring plays all the bewildering array of instruments, building up an orchestra, a house band, and whatever else he needs for these pieces. These magic dreams are still utterly spellbinding, and well worth your time.

Oliver Coates - skins n slime [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
The previous solo albums from English cellist Oliver Coates have either been performances of contemporary composers, or, generally, have mixed layers of his pristine & processed cello with beats & electronics. For his new album, again on RVNG Intl., Coates drops the beats, instead delivering a selection of tonal drones, repeating ostinato phrases, and interpolated elements of processed sounds, the cello at times sounding like a synthesiser or a distorted guitar or even voice. Right at the end, frequent collaborator Malibu, the French ambient artist and singer, contributes evocative spoken word to the final track.

Luigi Archetti & Bo Wiget - Weltformat [Die Schachtel]
This snuck in from last year, as it was not the easiest to get hold of! As is clear, I love finding experimental cellists of all sorts, so I have no idea how Bo Wiget remained in the periphery of my awareness until now. His duo with fellow Swiss experimenter Luigi Archetti, with Wiget on cello and Archetti on guitar and both on electronics, is right up my alley, with extended instrumental techniques rubbing up against glitchy production, minimalist electronic tones, and disembodied passages of neoclassical harmony. Die Schachtel, the in-house label of Italian online experimental record store SoundOhm, released this new album 10 years after the last of their trio of low tide digitals albums for the legendary Norwegian label Rune Grammofon. As it happens, I had heard cellist Bo Wiget before: in 2007 he released a duo album with Belgian cellist Simon Lenski, best known as a member of the genre-destroying band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung) – avant-garde cello & electronics also, but with very different results from the Archetti / Wiget pairing. And in 2017, a solo album from Wiget featured alarming avant-garde vocals along with his acoustic cello: another idiosyncratic take on playing this great instrument.

Charles Curtis - Performances & Recordings 1998-2018 [Saltern/Bandcamp]
And a bonus: although he's also worked with avant-garde rock musicians like King Missile and Kramer, renowned cellist Charles Curtis is best known as an associate of the minimalist icon La Monte Young, and with this connection comes his remarkable tuning. For me, tuning is the most difficult aspect of the cello as an instrument, and Curtis is astonishing at not just wondrous intonation, but also various unconventional (to boring Western ears) tunings. The 3CD set which came out early this year from Saltern is a bonus because it's not really new music for this year, and there's a considerable amount of ancient music there, and mostly it's composed, scored compotisions; but there are also interpretations of 20th & 21st century compositions, more relaxed partially-improvised works, and notably a few of Curtis' own compositions as well.

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Sunday, 13th of December, 2020

Playlist 13.12.20 (10:12 pm)

Over 2hrs, tonight's Utility Fog seems to cover just about... everything. Appropriate enough for the last "new music" show of the year, with our idiosyncratic best-ofs to come on the last 2 Sundays of 2020. It's been a horrible year for most people, especially musicians - but it's been an amazing year for music!

LISTEN AGAIN to the best mix of music before the best of the year... Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Roomful of Teeth, Michael Harrison - II. The Romantic Constellation: Autumn [New Amsterdam/Bandcamp]
The US vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth are the perfect people to be performing this new work by composer Michael Harrison, Just Constellations, so good is their tuning and so beautifully do their voices mesh together that they can carry off the just intonation required. Around the edges of these four beautiful works you can hear the other-worldly, shining intervals of this, to us, slightly strange tuning.

Yannis Kyriakides & Electra - Face V: The Reflection [Unsounds/Bandcamp]
Netherlands-based Greek Cypriot composer & electronic musician Yannis Kyriakides has been a frequent visitor to these playlists, due both to his compositions and for his wonderful duo with guitarist Andy Moor of Dutch anarcho-punks The Ex (with whom he co-runs the brilliant Unsounds label). I somehow didn't manage to play the latest album from the duo earlier this year, but now we can hear one piece from a new multimedia work from Kyriakides performed by Dutch new music ensemble Electra along with Kyriakides' electronic processing. Face is concerned with facial & emotion recognition software, and combines computer voice with the unusual instrumentation of violin, recorder, piano, and a soprano singer. All in all, it's vintage Yannis Kyriakides, thematically and in terms of musical approach, with lovely bending, glitching treatments on the very organic performance.

Prurient - Help If I May Ask [Hospital Productions/Bandcamp]
Kelly Moran - Hymn [Hospital Productions/Bandcamp]
It's been a seriously interrupted year for touring musicians, and as a consequence, we've seen works throughout the year that were meant to be part of touring schedules coming out in other ways. Kelly Moran, composer and prepared piano/keyboard player, was meant to be touring with Dominick Fernow aka noise musician Prurient and veteran Japanese noisemeister Merzbow, and this Prurient/Kelly Moran split release Chain Reaction at Dusk was going to be released for that tour. We get three relatively ambient but quite disquieting works from Prurient (with creepy spoken word and not-so-power electronics), and three varied works from Moran, including this which slides from organ chords into her characteristic sparkling prepared piano.

Jeremy Segal - Four Footprints [Jeremy Segal Bandcamp]
From Perth, sound-artist Jeremy Segal has just released four stereo renderings of environmental sound-works first created for an installation at Callaway Auditorium. Sounds and patterns from nature sputter and buzz around the sound-stage, enhanced & supported by shimmering electronic chords and rhythms at times. Absolutely lovely.

Quasar - Walk [DEEP MEDi/Bandcamp]
Quasar - External Signal Processor [DEEP MEDi/Bandcamp]
The last 12" of the year from the ever-reliable DEEP MEDi comes from French dubstep artist Quasar - and conveniently for this segue, the title track of the Walk EP is a beautiful piece of beatless, melodic ambient music. Never fear though, the rest is rollicking classic dubstep.

Ash Koosha - YaYa Scat [Ash Koosha Bandcamp]
Ash Koosha - Robot Kareem [Ash Koosha Bandcamp]
Ash Koosha - Nutshell [Ash Koosha Bandcamp]
Ash Koosha - Wall-E [Ash Koosha Bandcamp]
It's been a big year for Ashkan Kooshanejad aka Ash Koosha. While he's been working on building artificial creativity, he also started the year with the awesome mixtape BLUUD (from which we heard "Robot Kareem"), released a series of singles, and is ending the year with another mixtape, HALLUCiNATO. This new one is concerned with the idea of computers dreaming, and the wild processed vocals on both "YaYa Scat" and "Wall-E" certainly evoke... something... something quite disturbing all in all, but super glitchy and cool all the same.

Tennis Pagan - IVAN [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Tennis Pagan - DAMP [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
In comparison to the saturated, dense and frantic works of Ash Koosha, the latest EP from Melbourne's mysterious Tennis Pagan - their fourth for 2020! - is rather peaceful, at least on the very pretty "IVAN". I think it's their best since they debuted with the first EP at the start of the year, but all the music has been richly detailed and fun.

The Backfeed Slumber - Wet Stuff For Electric Boys [DataDoor/Bandcamp]
Here's a flashback to 2004, with a split 7" just released by Adelaide label DataDoor featuring two tracks from 16 years ago. Nic Datson's The Backfeed Slumber contributes some murky downtempo breaks; on the flipside is a long-lost track from trip-hop duo Toby1.

Himuro Yoshiteru - I Wanted A New Life [Synaesthesia Media/Bandcamp]
Himuro Yoshiteru - The Chanting To The Void [Synaesthesia Media/Bandcamp]
Zero T - Hostile Environment [Synaesthesia Media/Bandcamp]
The last couple of years have seen journalist Ian Urbina's project The Outlaw Ocean result in tremendous amounts of music & art inspired by his work bringing to light the astonishing & scary world of the planet's oceans - from environmental & scientific concerns to the appalling truths of modern-day slavery, alongside piracy and other dangers. A remarkable archive of music, still growing bi-weekly, has been released, drawing from Urbina's own sound library from his travels, including interviews and field recordings. This week saw the release of a new EP from Japanese idm legend Himuro Yoshiteru, The Sea You Never Know evoking the sorrows of some of the characters in Urbina's stories through beautiful head-nodding beat tracks. Earlier in the year drum'n'bass don Zero T created three dancefloor-friendly tracks evoking terror and suspense on high waters with the Hostile Environment EP.

KeeZee & Tim Reaper - The Roughneck Sound [Future Retro]
UK jungle & breakcore artist Tim Reaper spreads his music around various different labels, frequently in collaboration with others in the scene. In fact he setup his Future Retro label purely for collaborative works, and has just released volumes 3 & 4 in his Meeting of the Minds series, each with four different collaborations on 12". "The Roughneck Sound" here is ragga jungle with amen breaks over a 4/4 beat and a reggae feel, created with Brighton-based jungle producer KeeZee.

Moor Mother & billy woods - The Blues Remembers Everything The Country Forgot ft. Wolf Weston (of Saint Mela) [Backwoodz Studioz]
Moor Mother & billy woods - Gang For A Day ft. Franklin James Fisher (of Algiers) [Backwoodz Studioz]
In the middle of the year, Adult Swim released an incredible surprise collaboration between two of the most vital current-day American underground hip-hop artist in their Singles Series - Moor Mother & billy woods. The track melded a loop from Sons of Kemet with the frequent billy woods collaborator Willie Green's beats and apocalyptic, furious vocals from the two artists. Moor Mother aka Camae Ayewa has released a series of collaborations this year on her own Bandcamp, as well as incendiary jazz with Irreversible Entanglements. Meanwhile billy woods, after a massive year last year, released one of the rap albums of the year, Shrines, with his pal ELUCID as Armand Hammer. ELUCID appears on this duo album along with many other brilliant guests, like Saint Mela's Wolf Weston and Algiers' Franklin James Fisher, but really it would be a killer album with just the vocal & lyrical talents of Ayewa and woods. They made the strange choice to release it now as pre-orders for CD & vinyl (and t-shirt combos of course!) and although instant digital downloads come with the purchase, it's not streaming yet or available anywhere else. So you better get it there because this shit is far beyond.

SENS DEP - New Dawn [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
SENS DEP - The Gate [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
I played new Melbourne group SENS DEP last week on the show, but I'm so enamoured of the album that we got the opening two tracks tonight as well. It's members of postrock band of legend Laura, ramping up their penchant for walls of sound and for studio fuckery without any limitation. Caz Gannell's cello, as with Laura, can be heard at times through the fog of distortion, as can the occasional shoegazey vocals, and the riffs and drones are interrupted by studio edits throughout. It's the work of years, and I'm sure I'll be listening to whenever things get too bright over summer.

Botanist - Stroma [The Flenser/Bandcamp]
Botanist - Light [The Flenser/Bandcamp]
Speaking of brightness, Botanist, the wonderful, unique, hammered-dulcimer-led black metal band from San Francisco, have dedicated the latest album in their verdant realm to Photosynthesis - to the extent that the songs wax lyrical about biochemical reactions: "Sub organelle stacks / Chloroplast edifice / Like a tower of disks / Of thylakoid daughter cells / Processing the power of the Sun"... It's all the bombast of metal lyrics, in praise of natural processes. A delight. And in fact, while there's blast beats and tremolo riffs galore, a lot of the vocals are clean, indie-style. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised, and maybe you'll learn something too!

Pharaoh Overlord - Arms of the Butcher [Ektro/Rocket Recordings/Bandcamp]
Not content to be the most eclectic, brilliant metal band ever, Finland's Circle (who themselves draw on krautrock and ambient as well as all forms of metal) years ago formed side project Pharaoh Overlord for psych-rock excursions. For the last 2 albums they're down to two core members Tomi Leppänen & Jussi Lehtisalo, and like the last, their numerically-titled 6 (their 6th numerically-titled album but not, confusingly, their 6th album) is a purely electronic, melodic affair, highly influenced by the pioneering work of Kraftwerk. Except that they've called on the great Aaron Turner to lend his post-metal/hardcore roar to the proceedings. In a year where Turner's brilliant SUMAC and Old Man Gloom have released sizeable chunks of great music, and SIGE Records, which Turner co-runs with his wife Faith Coloccia, has been relentlessly active, this appearance is the icing on the cake.

Listen again — ~202MB

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Sunday, 6th of December, 2020

Playlist 06.12.20 (8:12 pm)

Rap to pop to shoegaze to dance to experimental... All happening tonight.

LISTEN AGAIN because you deserve it... stream on demand @ FBi, podcast here.

Ed Balloon - I Need This Cash [Deathbomb Arc/Bandcamp]
clipping. - He Dead (feat. Ed Balloon) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Ed Balloon - Bad Gyal [Deathbomb Arc/Bandcamp]
Starting tonight with Boston-based rapper Ed Balloon, whose verses on clipping.'s track "He Dead" last year absolutely stole the show... His new EP I Hate It Here, his second on Deathbomb Arc, seems to draw something from the more experimental side of clipping., with his dulcet vocals (comfortable singing, and rapping in both high and low register, his vowels a reminder of his Nigerian heritage) accompanied by distorted basslines and skittering electronics beats as much as r'n'b arrangements. It's absolutely superb.

Aesop Rock - Marble Cake [Rhymesayers Entertainment/Bandcamp]
Aesop Rock - Pizza Alley [Rhymesayers Entertainment/Bandcamp]
When Aesop Rock released his last album back in 2016, I did a massive special on his work, such a towering figure is he in underground/alt. hip-hop. His lyrics frequently need a dictionary to unravel, and can be delivered at machine-gun speed, but particularly of late he's a superb and touching storyteller too. Having collaborated with many great leftfield producers (notable Blockhead), Aes has become a truly talented producer in his own right too, and for me his beats are as much a joy to hear as his rhymes. His new album professes to be a Spirit World Field Guide and comes with a bunch of creative videos pushing that concept along. Always a pleasure, Mr Bavitz.

The God In Hackney - Non Zero Number [Junior Aspirin Records/Bandcamp]
Earlier this year I came across the new album by the English band The God In Hackney, via an appearance on a Wire comp, and it was love at first sight - unusual arrangements touching on krautrock, spiritual jazz, experimental electronic and more. Here we have a charming if non-specifically harrowing number with spoken words and experimental soundscapes. I strongly recommend checking out their Small Country Eclipse album from earlier this year too.

El Hardwick - Ration Without Reason [33-33/Bandcamp]
El Hardwick - Might Makes Right [33-33/Bandcamp]
For their new album simply entitled 8, London-based multidisciplinary artist El Hardwick has created a sci-fi epic from a narrative originally conceived of as a graphic novel. Twin themes of climate and digital justice combine, as technocratic solutions to climate change are challenged alongside the patriarchy and simple good-vs-evil oppositions. Musically it's a thrilling ride, with high, layered vocals and advanced electronics - to these ears there's a resonance with the work of Aphir, which is surely high praise. This album deserves plenty of attention, so check it out!

The Brazilian Gentleman - HYMN 3 [Internet & Weed/Bandcamp]
The Brazilian Gentleman - U SHOULD LIVE HERE [Internet & Weed/Bandcamp]
C Trip A - thought streams (jesu mix) [Translation Loss/Bandcamp]
The various projects of Christian McKenna can be hard to keep track of - End Christian being perhaps the primary one of late, but it's hard to tell... He is frequently collaborating with the great Alap Momin these days, once the incendiary producer (as Oktopus) behind industrial hip-hop pioneers dälek, and with a few others the two have now made a few releases under the name The Brazilian Gentleman - each one entirely uncategorizable. The latest, released by Momin's Internet & Weed label, is 808 Hymns, and indeed the distinctive 808 kick flows through all these tracks alongside processed guitars and occasional processed vocals. It is low-key yet strangely transcendent stuff. Meanwhile, McKenna (aided by Momin and others) has a true-blue hip-hop project with rapper Anthony Adams called C Trip A, released by metal label Translation Loss, and the legendary metal/shoegaze/electronic master Justin K Broadrick just remixed them under his Jesu guise - big rumbling bass and slow beats bliss!

jesu - consciousness [Avalanche Recordings/Bandcamp]
And yup, speaking of Jesu, following the awesome and quite electronic EP Never now comes new album Terminus, which mostly finds Broadrick's vocals as clean and up-front as they've ever been. Except, I've gone and chosen the one track where they're anything but - it's not the hardcore howl, but rather heavily vocoded, akin to his earlier Pale Sketcher work.

SENS DEP - Bound [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
SENS DEP - Server hum, deep sleep [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
Speaking (marginally) as we were of experimental metal sounds, here's some wonderful doomy stuff with shoegazey and electronic elements from new Melbourne band SENS DEP, who you may recognize as members of beloved postrock band Laura. Brothers Andrew and Ben Yardley are joined by Laura's cellist Caz Gannell, with Skye Klein of Terminal Sound System (and a long time ago, doomers HALO) drumming on many tracks. Glorious, warm distortion is interrupted and complicated by studio edits, vocals enter occasionally, and Gannell's cello surfaces at times. It's beautiful and messed up, and it better not get lost in the end-of-year rush, so grab this marvellous thing now!

Happy Axe - Seven Sounds (Joalah Remix) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Kcin & Tilman Robinson - Requiem for the Holocene [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
With the end of year in sight, Melbourne's Spirit Level decided to drop their third label comp Kindred Spirits 3 with almost no warning this week. There's everything from post-classical sweetness to various forms of electronic pop and dance music. It opens with a gorgeous remix of Canberran violin & electronics maestro Emma Kelly aka Happy Axe, and I'm not sure whether "Joalah" is the name of the remix or an unknown artist. Meanwhile Sydney's Kcin and Perth-via-Melbourne's Tilman Robinson memorialise our destruction of the ecosystem on their strangely pretty contribution! If you're in Sydney, you can see Kcin aka Nick Meredith with Adrian Lim-Klumpes at SICKOfest at the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown along with some other amazing musicians.

Keleketla! - Papua Merdeka (Machinedrum Remix) [Ahead Of Our Time/Bandcamp]
Keleketla! - Swift Gathering (Skee Mask Remix) [Ahead Of Our Time/Bandcamp]
True "world" music here with a project involving Coldcut and musicians from South Africa, London, LA and elsewhere - including West Papuan independence campaigner Benny Wenda, whose moving story is the centrepiece of "Papua Merdeka". Here the track is sensitively remixed by Machinedrum, keeping the spirit of the original but in his own style. There are a number of excellent African electronic producers on the remix tip, along with others from all around the world - and I love the jungle-techno feel of anonymous German producer Skee Mask here (also check his remix of Konx-om-Pax for Planet µ's 25th anniversary comp, from which we heard a couple of other tracks tonight!)

Krust - Negative Returns (Four Tet Remix) [Crosstown Rebels/Bandcamp]
You may have noticed I was blown away by the new album from Bristol jungle/drum'n'bass Krust a few weeks ago - a radical take on the genre, standing on its own but drawing deeply from the heritage and current state of a genre he had a lot to do with the growth of. It's released on Crosstown Rebels, a label known more for house & techno, and thus the remixes have been quite unusual so far - but how could I resist Four Tet doing his first (according to his own self) proper drum'n'bass tune? It's a damn fine effort, very Four Tet but with definitely call-outs to the original (as is Hebden's style).

Meemo Comma - Tif'eret [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Bogdan Raczynski - tteosintae [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
So did I mention that the great Planet µ label has turned 25 years old? It seems like just yesterday they put out their book and compilation for 20 years, and now here we are (note: your perception of time may differ...) Their PlanetMµ25 compilation is a pretty low-key affair, but it's good reason to celebrate a continually forward-thinking label that's contributed so much to scenes from idm through drum'n'bass, dubstep and footwork. And through the influence of Mike Paradinas' partner Lara Rix-Martin, the label has championed female and non-binary artists, including through its hosting of Rix-Martin's Objects Limited label. Rix-Martin is a musician herself, and her music as Meemo Comma feels like it's getting better & better all the time. Her new track here combines jungle breaks, 4/4 beats and samples of the Sh'ma, the most important Jewish prayer, along with choral vocals and more, in evocation of the balancing sefirah from the kabbalah. Meanwhile idm legend Bogdan Raczynski contributes one of the loveliest things he's created, idm beats and purely beautiful synth pads - a wonderful surprise.

Adhelm - Swin [tak:til/Bandcamp]
Adhelm - Plume [tak:til/Bandcamp]
For tak:til, the experimental sub-label of German multicultural label Glitterbeat, English producer Beni Giles steps out on his own as Adhelm. His album Yasam Rose actual comprises two parts, following two ships in the waterways of London: the Yasam Rose plies the industrial upriver part of the Thames, while the Spek travels into the windswept Thames estuary. These settings are evoked through percussion scattered through the stereo field, supported and sometimes swamped by electronic drones and sampled vocals. In "Plume", from the second half, the percussion itself is processed into crunchy textures. One of the most unexpected of recent releases, a small marvel.

Mutilomaquia - To live with it [Dream Catalogue/Bandcamp]
Mutilomaquia - You tell yourself it's okay [Dream Catalogue/Bandcamp]
There's not much to be found out about Mutilomaquia online, but they are responsible for a large catalogue of releases over the last few years. Courtesy of HKE's Dream Catalogue, which prides itself as the originator of the nascent "dreampunk" genre, Mutilomaquia's latest album actually manages to be a bit less nebulous than much of their other work, with murky or at times muscular beats and a lot of movement, even though it's quite dark and hazey stuff on the whole. Theirs is an impressive oeuvre altogether, but this album in particular is very fine.

Geins't Naït + L. Petitgand - Bagd [Ici d'ailleurs/Bandcamp]
Geins't Naït + L. Petitgand - Chut [Ici d'ailleurs/Bandcamp]
Finally tonight, the musical partnership of Geins't Naït + L. Petitgand goes back many years. Laurent Petitgand is a well-known French actor and composer, who I would have first encountered on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' legendary Wings of Desire (better titled in German, Der Himmel über Berlin, from 1987) - and while he's responsbile for the most melodic, classical-seeming themese there, you can see his association with postpunk and industrial music already. Geins't Naït have been a band but it's now the work of Thierry Mérigout on his own, with roots in industrial as well as experimental electronic music stretching back to the '80s as well. Petitgand's beautiful piano is a foil for the electronics and noises of post-industrial collage from Geins't Naït, but mostly it's a beguiling (and at times humorous) listen, searching for something - Like This Maybe, Or This.

Listen again — ~204MB

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