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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 7th of February, 2021

Playlist 07.02.21 (11:33 pm)

Amazingly, it's already the second month of 2021. We're already seeing some of the most important albums of the year starting to appear - there's some gems tonight, from Palestinian glitch-hop to English postpunk postrock... and coming after another dizzying assault from the first Bandcamp Friday of the year. Strap in!

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Black Country, New Road - Track X [Ninja Tune/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - The City [Warp/Bandcamp]
Black Country, New Road - Sunglasses [Ninja Tune/Bandcamp]
The debut album For the first time from English seven-piece Black Country, New Road is on everyone's lips at the moment - and it's certainly my album of the week. Melding elements of postpunk, postrock, krautrock, jazz and even klezmer, its core still rests in the sardonic songwriting and riffing of Isaac Wood. But from the angular, pent-up aggression (they've been compared to Slint enough that it's referred to in one of their songs) they weave colourful horn and string orchestrations of interlocking melodic patterns or crescendoing dischords, and songs switch on a dime between their various stylistic proclivities. There's no doubt that Wood's referential lyrics are a huge drawcard ("I am invincible in these sunglasses / I am 'modern Scott Walker' / I am a surprisingly smooth talker / And I am invincible in these sunglasses", "I'm more than adequate / Leave Kanye out of this") - but the band is populated with highly talented musicians. Indeed, when I first read up on the band, the name Georgia Ellery stood out to me - and yes, their violinist is the Georgia Ellery from the brilliant duo Jockstrap, whose releases on Warp last year floored me. Although Black Country, New Road are pretty far away from the intricate chamber pop-meets-glitchy hip-hop of Jockstrap, that association may help explain how BCNR ended up on Ninja Tune...

Adam Stone, Dead Sea Apes, Black Tempest - Shop Soiled [Feeding Tube Records/Dead Sea Apes Bandcamp]
Adam Stone, Dead Sea Apes, Black Tempest - Time To Eat Again [Feeding Tube Records/Dead Sea Apes Bandcamp]
The social commentary of Adam Stone, in spoken and sung form, has been part of many of the releases from UK psych rock/dub outfit Dead Sea Apes for a few years now. Their latest release Dataland teams band and singer up with another artist, Black Tempest aka synth player Stephen Bradbury, adding an extra krautrock throb to the proceedings, and Stone's lyrics focus on the 21st century condition.

Snowman - A [Dot Dash]
Joe McKee - Bollard Beats (Drip-Drop) [Salmon Universe/Bandcamp]
Joe McKee - Wind On The Flying Bridge [Salmon Universe/Bandcamp]
A segue here via the much-missed Perth band Snowman, whose slightly mournful kraut-psych echoes the previous tracks - but this flashback is heard tonight because we've got a new album from Snowman's Joe McKee. No songs here, and no riffs either - Ultra Letizia is named for the cargo ship that it was recorded on, on which Joe McKee travelled across the North Pacific Ocean from Japan to Vancouver. These sometimes rhythmic, sometimes hauntingly melodic pieces of music are comprised entirely of the sounds of this vessel and its journey, the blowing of the wind, the shuddering of its engine room. It's remarkably musical and very evocative work.

Mikado Koko - Two Birds [Akuphone/Bandcamp]
Crass - Asylum (Mikado Koko Remix) [One Little Independent Records/Crass Bandcamp]
Mikado Koko - The Queen Of Hearts (Alternate) [Akuphone/Bandcamp]
I discovered Mikado Koko when she remixed Crass as part of an ongoing series of remix 7"s last year - she took Eve Libertine's caustic poem "Reality Asylum" ("Jesus died for his own sins, not mine") and bolstered it with a barrage of woozy electronics. On her new album Maza Gusu ("Mother Goose"), it's her own spoken word, read with exaggerated expressiveness, that accompanies her electronics, collaging Japanese instruments, beats and synths. The words are fairy tale settings in Japanese by the famous poet Hakushu Kitahara. Fabulous.

Thugwidow - Artifice Or Skeuomorph [Thugwidow Bandcamp]
Frantic amen breaks in the "Alternate" version of Mikado Koko's last track lead into a track from one of the most prolific current-day jungle producers, Thugwidow. This atmospheric breakbeat, whose slightly slower pace evokes the time around where hardcore techno was mutating into jungle, is taken from his own Bandcamp, and it's a single track bundled as an album - maybe he'll be adding to it at some point?

Muqata'a - Bilharf Alwahad بالحَرف الواحَد [Hundebiss Records/Muqata'a Bandcamp]
Muqata'a - Al Watar Al Wiswas - الوتر الوسواس [Muqata'a Bandcamp]
Muqata'a - Tanqeeb تَنقيب [Hundebiss Records/Muqata'a Bandcamp]
I've been looking forward to the new album from Ramallah, Palestine producer Muqata'a for a few months, and it's as superb as expected - glitchy hip-hop informed by an Arabic numerological science that invokes the voices of Muqata'a's ancestors. The title Kamil Manqus كَامِل مَنْقوص refers to the perfection of imperfection - the glitchy sound is to be seen not as errors per se, but as "possible breaks in an otherwise closed system", poignant imagery from an artist in the occupied territory of Palestine.

GILA - 111 tucked [GILA Bandcamp]
For the first Bandcamp Friday of the year, Denver beatmaker GILA dropped a single track, referencing his Trench Tones from 2019. It's a smacking, head-nodding bass rhythm and I for one will welcome them whenever he wishes to put them out there.

Deadhand - Touch ft. Sensational (ETCH's Pink Ladies In Space Remix) [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
Deadhand - Meanwhile ft. Sensational [Seagrave/Bandcamp]
UK techno producers James Ruskin and Mark Broom have long had an alter ego as The Fear Ratio, under which name they release fantastic IDM/bass productions. Their Deadhand alias, previously only used for a remix or two, is reserved for crunchy hip-hop, and steps out now with an EP for the ever-excellent Seagrave. Many tracks feature DJ Prime Cuts of the Stratch Perverts, and the legendary MC and frequent IDM-collaborator Sensational appears on all tracks. Among the remixers is the chameleonic ETCH, who's comfortable in all UK breaks & rave styles, and lends some bass weight to one of the selections here.

Kcin & Tilman Robinson - Go Be Free Then [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
LOUV - In the Form of a Prayer [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
Provenance Records, founded by Stu Buchanan, is now co-run (or mostly run?) by Becki Whitton aka Aphir, as Stu has resurrected New Weird Australia. Becki has curated the latest in their Marks of Provenance compilations, this one titled Textures, with many familiar names appearing. I'll feature some more tracks next week, but tonight we've got some reliably dark & heavy-hitting drones and rhythms from Sydney's Kcin & Melbourne's Tilman Robinson, and a beautiful piece of layered voice, electronic rhythms and processing from Melbourne's LOUV aka Louise McKnoulty with Dirty Versace.

Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper - Two Pages (Tegh Version) [Infiné Music/Bandcamp]
Finally tonight, a transformation of a transformation. When concert pianist Bruce Brubaker teamed up with Max Cooper to interpret works of Philip Glass, I wasn't terribly impressed to be honest - the system developed by Cooper essentially produced a smearing effect on the piano performances, muddying the otherwise precise harmonic, melodic & rhythmic elements of Glass's compositions. Now Infiné Music have released a follow-up remix EP, and the rework by Iranian electronic producer Shahin Entezami aka Tegh is tremendous, lodging crystalline piano, at times pitch-shifted, in Tegh's trademark washes of drone and low-end rumble and snarl. A more radical approach, respectful but not faithful to the original material.

Listen again — ~207MB

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