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electric string quartet

Utility Fog


Your weekly fix of postfolkrocktronica, dronenoise, power ambient, post-everything improv... and more?
Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.

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Sunday, 3rd of January, 2021

Playlist 03.01.21 - Best of 2020 Part 3! (6:26 pm)

As voted by YOU, THE PEOPLE (10 people on Twitter) last week, I am doing one more best of 2020 show. There is already a backlog of new music I want to get to, but I don't think it's going to change at all between now and next week, and everything I'm playing tonight is just as essential as the last two episodes!

LISTEN AGAIN to the last of the best of last year! Stream on demand from FBi, or podcast here.
Then you can go back to Part 2 and Part 1.

Tunng - Eating the Dead (feat. AC Grayling) [Full Time Hobby/Bandcamp]
It was fantastic to find original Tunng singer & songwriter Sam Genders rejoining the band alongside producer Mike Lindsay in 2018. Genders & Lindsay's original duo incarnation of Tunng - and the following couple of albums at least - were hugely important to Utility Fog's early years, after I discovered their first single well before their debut album was released; arcane, authentic-feeling English folk rubbing up against glitchy electronic production and club memories. Following the 2018 reformation, they're back with a concept album of sorts for 2020, Tunng presents... DEAD CLUB, in which they interrogate death and grief, inspired by Max Porter's novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Porter (the brother of the great post-dubstep/power ambient producer Roly Porter) appears on the album reading two poignant, beautifully-written short stories, "Man" and "Woman", which I recommend checking out - but tonight we're hearing a subtle piece of electronic folk featuring a snippet of a conversation Genders had with the philosopher AC Grayling.

Sevdaliza - Oh My God [Butler Records/Bandcamp]
The glitchy trip-hop influenced music of Sevdaliza, who was born in Tehran but grew up in the Netherlands, does draw in its own way from her Persian roots. Her second album, Shabrang, continues where ISON & her subsequent EPs left off, with bending strings, chopped & spliced beats, vocals both clean and glitched. It's just great to have such a strong artist working in this space.

On Diamond - The Ocean Floor (Jules Pascoe Remix) [On Diamond Bandcamp]
Melbourne indie band On Diamond already has a solid experimental & genre-crossing pedigree through their members, fronted by dream-folk singer Lisa Salvo, and featuring experimental drummer/sound-artist Maria Moles on drums, jazz saxophonist Scott McConnachie on (avant-garde) guitar, fellow adventurous folkie Hannah Cameron on guitar & backing vocals, and Tinpan Orange's Jules Pascoe on bass. Following last year's excellent debut album, they've just released a four-track remix EP, in which bandmembers Salvo, Moles and Pascoe emphasise the experimental aspects of their songs, along with friend of UFog Shoeb Ahmad.
Oh, and all profits go to Pay The Rent, so no excuse not to buy it!

Ai Aso - I'll do it my way [Ideologic Organ]
Electrifying, simple, powerful acid folk from the wonderful Ai Aso, who has long been a collaborator with the likes of Boris (who appear on a couple of ambient tracks on this album) and Stephen O'Malley (whose imprint Ideologic Organ released this album). This music is in the vein of Eddie Marcon, Tenniscoats etc, of deceptively simple Japanese electric folk, with beauifully direct songs and strange things going on around the edges (the angularly discordant solo in the latter part of the first song for instance). Incredible.

Moor Mother & Yatta - 27 [Moor Mother Bandcamp]
Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother was on a roll throughout 2020, releasing many different collaborative and solo works on her Bandcamp. Right at the end of the year, a full album was released from the dream team duo of Moor Mother with billy woods - which I played recently, and which really is among the best of the year, but is a bit too new to appear here. But among her other works in 2020, Moor Mother also teamed up with Sierra Leonean-American artist Yatta, whose work takes in hip-hop, jazz, folk, and experimental art of all sorts. She's had two releases on Purple Tape Pedigree, and as with all great collaborations you can clearly hear both artists in the insane concoctions put together on this mini-album DIAL UP. Check it out.

Lucrecia Dalt - Disuelta / Seca [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
I've been a fan of Colombian experimental musician Lucrecia Dalt since I heard her as "The Sound of Lucrecia" over 10 years ago; she contributed vocals to a wonderful track by Shoeb Ahmad & Evan Dorrian's Spartak (track 7 on Verona). Her earlier albums are experimental takes on indie singer-songwriting, but since then she's moved progressively further from those roots - as well as moving to Barcelona and then Berlin. On her last two albums, 2018's Anticlines and the just-released No era sólida, her vocals are used as a sound-source, chopped up, ring-modulated, buried under pulsating modular synths and loping almost-rhythms, or sometimes present as spoken word meditations on science or philosophy. It would help to be as well-read and multi-lingual as Dalt, but without that we can appreciate the care and technological expertise with which she constructs these strange and beautiful musical theses.

Marion Cousin & Kaumwald - Las bodas de Inesilla y el Brillante [Les Disques du Festival Permanent]
The first album by French singer Marion Cousin to explore the Iberian Peninsula was made with cellist Gaspar Claus in 2016 and explored work songs from Minorca and Majorca. For her second in this open-ended series, she moves to a remote region of Spain called Estremadura, and works with experimental electronic duo Kaumwald, made up of Clément Vercelletto and Ernest Bergez aka Sourdure. The result, on both albums, is an extraordinary, hypnotic take on folk musics, freely updated and extemporised.

Silvia Tarozzi - Sembra neve [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
There is a lot of violin from Italian violinist Silvia Tarozzi on Mi specchio e rifletto, but she also plays myriad other instruments, sings, and composed everything. Her wide-ranging background can be heard across this album (nearly a decade in the making), from her experience with free improv to her deep collaboration with groundbreaking electronic composer Eliane Radigue, to her work with contemporary Ensemble Dedalus - but the album is also a surprisingly accessible and delightful collection of songs, compositions and sound works. The first track is like a lost Penguin Cafe Orchestra track - joyful and slightly wonky minimalist acoustic classical-folk; elsewhere wistful vocals give way to beautifully messy slide guitar, fragmentary tape loops are manipulated, accordion accompanies ricochet violin, and on tonight's selection there's an outro with wonderfully outré vocal techniques. It's like nothing else you're likely to hear this year.

Meredith Monk & Bang on a Can All-Stars - Gamemaster's Song [Cantaloupe Music/Bandcamp]
Meredith Monk is one of the most iconoclastic musicians of the last 50 years. A composer the equal of Reich, Glass et al, but also an innovative vocal performer, her music has the strangely off-kilter melodies and harmonies of Kurt Weill and the repetitive, rhythmic invention of the American minimalists. Most of her music is released in recordings of her own ensemble(s), but new album Memory Game comes courtesy of new music powerhouse Bang on a Can - although Monk and her vocal ensemble are still there. This album collects a few reworkings of classic music (including one of my favourites, "Double Fiesta") as well as a selection of never-recorded music from her sci-fi opera The Games (which I really want to see!). It was intended to be performed at Big Ears this year, another COVID casualty.

Mary Halvorson's Code Girl - Bigger Flames (feat. Robert Wyatt) [Firehouse 12/Bandcamp]
I've played American jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson before on this show as part of cellist Tomeka Reid's quartet. Her skillful playing is instantly recognizable whenever she twists her melodies with the whammy bar. Halvorson is so talented and idiosyncratic that she was recognized last year with a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. Following that comes her second "Code Girl" album, Artlessly Falling, for which she wrote all the lyrics as well as music, and she's joined by jazz singer Amirtha Kidambi on most tracks, but she pulled off the remarkable feat of luring the mostly-retired Robert Wyatt (one of my favourite musicians) to sing on three of the tracks.

Ashley Paul - Light Inside My Skin [Slip/Bandcamp]
London-based American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Ashley Paul creates very strange, beautiful songs with ensembles of free improvisers, which somehow feel simultaneously free and composed - like Tom Waits' right-in-their-wrongness arrangements. She's released albums on many interesting labels including Important Records and Orange Milk, but her new one, Ray, appears for the second time on Slip. Derek Bailey can be heard in her scrabbling guitar, Ornette Coleman in the screaming saxophone and clarinet swiftly switching into queasy or sweet harmonies - but the fusion of these techniques with affecting songwriting with fragile vocals is absolutely her own. This can be challenging to get a grip on, but listen in the right frame of mind and it will touch you.

Leah Kardos - Into Sporks [bigo & twigetti/Bandcamp]
London composer Leah Kardos, who grew up in Brisbane but has been in the UK so long she's a native now, is a beloved stalwart of Utility Fog playlists, with her combined interests & deep capabilities in classical composition, electronica and pop - indeed she's teaching a BA(Hons) in Music Technology at the University of Kingston in London nowadays. Since her last album Roccocochet in 2017, she founded the Visconti Studio at the University with the venerable longtime David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. It's great to have a new album from her, one which looks back at her earlier work and builds a number of compositions from reversed and manipulated versions of older works. "Into Sporks", heard tonight, harkens back to the IDM beats of Leah's earlier work.

Tigran Hamasyan - Levitation 21 [Nonesuch/Bandcamp]
It was wonderful to have a new album this year from Armenian jazz piano prodigy Tigran Hamasyan, still only 33 years old but with an extraordinary repertoire behind him. In the past he's melded his technical proficiency at jazz piano and complex Eastern European rhythms with prog rock - indeed he's even worked with fellow Armenian-American Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. And that technical aspect is still there in his last few albums (with a kind of live-drum'n'bass aspect to some of the drumming), but there's also a deep connection to the gorgeous modalities and melodic mellifluence of Armenian music. New album The Call Within melds Armenian myths & legends with his interest in maps of all kinds.

Black To Comm - Rataplan, Rataplan, Rataplan (Arms and Legs Flying in the Air) [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
As Black To Comm, Hamburg-based sound-artiist Marc Richter released one of the albums of 2019 with Seven Horses For Seven Kings, the culmination of over a decade of great hallucinatory releases on labels like Type, Dekorder and De Stijl. The work is now followed by Oocyte Oil and Stolen Androgens, an album that comes with little contextualisation but once again works as high art music and low culture, spun from collaged samples and unsettling ambiences. I love how the piano follows the spoken word on "Rataplan...". A few years ago, Black To Comm was supplemented by the You Tube-sampling vaporwavey project Jemh Circs. This year we have Mouchoir Étanche, which translates as "waterproof handkerchief". I'm not sure how much this music differs from core Black To Comm - and simultaneously with the Mouchoir Étanche album Une fille pétrifiée comes another BTC album, A C of M. Both play up the more absurdist, surrealist aspects of Richter's work, and as a set, all three albums are highly rewarding.

Claire Deak & Tony Dupé - from a rooftop [Lost Tribe Sound/Bandcamp]
Back in the '90s Tony Dupé started off his career in indie bands, but he moved to production work by the early 2000s, putting his fine stamp on the early albums of Holly Throsby and Jack Ladder, and solo work of Jamie Hutchings among others. He moved from inner Sydney down to the south coast and made many legendary recordings in the town of Gerroa, and then in a cottage on Mount Saddleback, which gave its name to his much-loved organic studio-collage solo project released on Sydney's Preservation. In the meantime, he met the fantastic musician Claire Deak, who had studied music at the Uni of Western Sydney and then screen composition at AFTRS. They moved to Melbourne together, started a family, and also started work together with a studio of their own.
About a year after I first heard these wonderful recordings, their duo album was finally released, and it couldn't be better paired than with US label Lost Tribe Sound. There are a plethora of organic instruments involved here, played by both musicians (indeed, after I played cello on many of his early productions, Tony went off and learned the instrument himself!), and it's just as you'd want it - the mysterious inde/folk/postrock creations of Saddleback grown up and augmented with the widescreen arrangement & composition skills of Claire Deak. Not to be missed!

Midori Hirano - Ocean's Disconnect [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
Classically-trained Japanese composer & pianist Midori Hirano has been based in Berlin for ages now, but wherever she's based she has a true talent for being in a class of her own. You'll hear lovely post-classical piano, sometimes prepared piano, ambient sound processing, classical string arrangements, but there's an edge of strangeness and a compositional style which is freer than much of what passes for (post-)classical or ambient. She also has an electronic (beats) alias in MimiCof, although she's no purist when it comes to the material under her own name. The new album Invisible Island, her second for Berlin-based boutique label Sonic Pieces, seems like a career highlight.

Mabe Fratti - Creo que puedo hacer algo [Hole Records/Tin Angel 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.
Technically the stunning Pies Sobre la Tierra ("Feet on the ground") was released last year, but UK label Tin Angel released it outside of Mexico in January. Mid-year she also released Planos para Construir ("Plans to build"), which saw her handing pieces of music over to various musicians and writers - also highly recommended.

Louise Bock - Oolite [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 (who together released the excellent Psychic Oscillations LP later in the year). 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".

Helen Money - Marrow [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 already great history of punshing riffage and layered cello distortion, and some great collaborations including one with Jarboe, this album floored me. The riffs are there, but there are also beautiful passages of gentler stuff, multiple cellos with piano and ambient synthesisers & crackling electronics (provided by producer Will Thomas aka Plumbline and also heavy music legend Sanford Parker).

SENS DEP - Drowning Entanglement [Sens Dep Bandcamp]
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!

Sightless Pit - The Ocean of Mercy [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
This album from extreme metal/noise supergroup Sightless Pit was always going to be one of my albums of the year. All have worked together on other projects before, particularly through Lee Buford's incredible duo the body, who have recorded two collaborative albums with Dylan Walker's hardcore force of nature Full of Hell. Meanwhile Kristin Hayer is a force of nature herself, with her classical-meets-gothic-meets-metal project Lingua Ignota, and that classical/gothic influence is very evident all over this album, along with myriad electronics, heavy sounds, and (really only) occasional metal vocals. Disturbing, unsettling? Sure. But also beautiful and thrilling.

Divide and Dissolve - 8VA [Saddle Creek/Bandcamp]
It might only be a 7", but the return of Divide and Dissolve was massive and hugely welcome in this particular year. The anti-colonialist indigenous doom duo are made up of Takiaya Reed on sax and guitar, and Sylvie Nehill on drums. The B-side played here starts with ominous rumbles but really gets going in the second half where Nehill thrashes out the drums and Reed's guitar is left to thrum with disorted feedback so she can extemporize some inspired saxophone lines, whose diminished and minor intervals seem to draw from Eastern European & Middle Eastern music as much as African American. Their message of decolonization is heard loud and clear despite this being instrumental music.

shoeb ahmad - bloodwork [Shoeb Ahmad Bandcamp]
Late 2020 saw the release of Shoeb Ahmad's follow-up album to her acclaimed 2018 album "quiver". Unlike "quiver"'s pared-back indie-punk production (as pared-back as Sia will get), a body full of tears brings the full arsenal of distortion, industrial beats, processed guitars and misused keyboards, to underscore (and overwhelm) songs about about identity. It's possible to identify her love of artists as wide as Hood, Fennesz, Primal Scream and Andy Stott in here, but it's deeply personal work that reflects a musical history that's all her own.

Tomaga - Surikat [Tomaga Bandcamp]
UK duo Tomaga are so unpigeonholeable that it's always hard to find where to fit them in a playlist, even though it's music I love so much. So by the time I originally played Extended Play 2 it had been deleted from their Bandcamp! Tragically, in August bass/synth player Tom Relleen passed away too young at the age of 42, from stomach cancer. The EP is now available again, so you can hear how he and drummer/percussionist Valentina Magaletti weaved musical magic that echoes krautrock, postpunk, electronica, hauntology, and more, yet seems unstuck in time & space.

Listen again — ~196MB


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