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experimental electronica
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, 28th of March, 2021

Playlist 28.03.21 (11:39 pm)

We've got a triumphant post-classical return, a sad goodbye, strings with electronics, indetronica, kabbalah-cyberpunk, metalheads doing drum'n'bass (pun intended) and more tonight!
Thanks to Krishtie Mofazzal for her fantastic selections as always, filling in while I was away last week!

LISTEN AGAIN to the mystical machinery... Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Bell Orchestre - Opening [Erased Tapes/Envision/Bandcamp]
Bell Orchestre - House [Erased Tapes/Envision/Bandcamp]
Bell Orchestre - Bucephalus Bouncing Ball [Arts & Crafts]
Bell Orchestre - All the Time [Erased Tapes/Envision/Bandcamp]
Starting tonight with a Toronto troupe who we haven't heard from for over 10 years. Bell Orchestre formed during the recording of the first Arcade Fire album, and feature that band's Richard Reed Parry on double bass (among other things), and of course the wonderful Sarah Neufeld on violin, who has played on their albums and toured with them since the beginning. To these instruments add the excellent drummer Stefan Schneider (not the German musician!), trumpeter Kaveh Nabatian, French horn player Pietro Amato and pedal steel guitarist Michael Feuerstack (all of whom play other instruments, contribute electronics, and occasionally sing) and you have this marvellous ensemble, who straddle postrock and a kind of post-classical folk tendency, while drawing also on electronica, dub and much more - check that Aphex Twin cover in the middle there from their second album! 12 years after that second album comes House Music - recorded in every part of Sarah Neufeld's house in rural Vermont during lockdown, it really is a maturation of their original sound, an absorbing, single long work broken into separate tracks, tightly edited but preserving the spontaneity and joy of the 2-week recording session. The electronic influences can be heard in the overdriven bass drum and clattering beats, or the motorik ostinati provided by violin or guitar, while Parry's warm double bass notes ring out under expansive horn parts. A delight.

Tomaga - More Flowers [Hands in the Dark/HITD Bandcamp/Tomaga Bandcamp]
Tomaga - The King Of Naples [Hands in the Dark/HITD Bandcamp/Tomaga Bandcamp]
Usually I wouldn't think of Tomaga and Bell Orchestre sitting easily together, but the drumming of Valentina Magaletti draws on the locked-down complexity of krautrock, much like Schneider, around which Tom Relleen's bass, synths and other instruments (and Magaletti's percussion) are always deeply musical. Tragically, in August last year Relleen passed away from stomach cancer, making Intimate Immensity the last album from this remarkable duo. It's as good an overview as any of their singular sound, melding the aforementioned krautrock with postpunk propulsion and freedom, nostalgic genreless electronic influences and a certain je ne sais quoi. I was thinking earlier that I've heard Magaletti's playing in many different contexts - from the psych/noise UUUU to the dread minimal post-club postpunk of Raime and more free music - and none of it sounds much like Tomaga. I'm not sure anyone could replace the contributions of Tom Relleen, so do head to their Bandcamp, where the duo's entire output can be found and savoured.

pleasure - MISTY 191012 [pleasure Bandcamp]
pleasure - SUBLIMATION 191014 [pleasure Bandcamp]
Not a million miles from Tomaga's sound is Sydney trio pleasure, with the muscular and detailed drumming of Jonathan Boulet alongside the synths of Hugh Deacon and Adam Connelly, producing together a music of deceptive simplicity. Recorded over a few days on a farm in St Albans, a beautiful area north-west of Sydney, these pieces capture a spontaneity that can only be achieved through deep collaboration and great musicianship. Don't let this slip you by.

Happy Axe - Growing In The Ground [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Wonderful to have new music - if only a single for now - from Canberra's Emma Kelly aka Happy Axe. With rhythms and melodies initially based around her violin, eventually augmented with beats & electronics, this song celebrates a beautiful experience with walls of glow worms during a bushwalk with a friend.

Erlend Apneseth Trio - Impedans [Hubro/Bandcamp]
Erlend Apneseth Trio - Linjer [Hubro/Bandcamp]
The Norwegian Erlend Apneseth Trio finds Hardanger fiddle player Apneseth joined by the excellent drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde (quite recently found in these playlists) and sound artist & guitarist Stephan Meidell. All appear frequently in various groups on the great Hubro label, and this ensemble in particular bridges the divide between folk, postrock and electronics. New album Lokk mixes samples from around the world in with the musicians' exceptional playing. It's not straight folk music by any means, and is all the better for it.

Dntel - Fall In Love [Morr Music/Bandcamp/Les Albums Claus/Bandcamp]
Dntel - Umbrella feat. Chris Gunst [Plug Research/Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Dntel - Don't Get Your Hopes Up [Morr Music]
Dntel - Yoga App [Morr Music/Bandcamp/Les Albums Claus/Bandcamp]
Jimmy Tamborello's Dntel is immensely important to this show, having started with a couple of albums of lovely intricate IDM before dropping the amazing Life is Full of Possibilities in 2001 - glitchy ambient textures of indie guitars, spare crunchy beats, and guest spots from various indie greats (including Benjamin Gibbard, with whom Tamborello would form The Postal Service, short-lived but much-loved). That album's aesthetic sits smack bang in the middle of what Utility Fog wanted to be about. Since then Dntel and Tamborello's music has moved in all sorts of directions, not all of which I've been as excited by, but I'm always keen to check in, and I'm pleased to say The Seas Trees See, his first full album on Morr Music (co-released with Belgian outfit Les Albums Claus), is a deep, unsettling beauty - and even better, it's the first of two albums he'll be releasing this year! Strange, disembodied loops and very buried beats float and pulse, joined at times by heavily processed vocals. It's abstract but not formless. As well as the opening track from Life is Full of Possibilities (which featured vocals Beachwood Sparks' Chris Gunst), I played the adorable IDM-pop of "Don't Get Your Hopes Up", released almost 2 decades ago on the one & only Morr Music on a split picture 7" with Styrofoam.

Glume & Phossa - Sunken [Deep Medi]
Deep Medi keep hitting home runs - here with the latest 12" from young Bristolian duo Glume & Phossa, featuring wobbly basslines and deep melodies. While this is core dubstep, the beats at times take a jazzy turn, beautifully done.

Meemo Comma - Merkabah [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Meemo Comma - Neon Genesis: Title Sequence [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Lara Rix-Martin formed Heterotic with husband Mike Paradinas (head honcho of Planet µ and of course aka µ-Ziq) in 2013, and released a few albums as Lux E Tenebris and more recently Meemo Comma (a name bestowed by her daughter). Rix-Martin also runs the Objects Limited label, formed to promote the music of musicians of under-represented genders. Rix-Martin's recent solo work sees them drawing on their Jewish heritage, melding their exploration of Jewish mysticism (the kabbalah and the "Merkabah" of our first track) with cyberpunk ideas from anime and gaming. Notable on this release is not only Rix-Martin's command of their hardware & software, but also the use of voice throughout - at times drawing on Jewish liturgical song, but also casting a wider net. It's a really interesting release, worthy of all the attention it's seen.

Slikback - RUE [Slikback Bandcamp]
Slikback - OPS [Slikback Bandcamp]
Slikback - TOWER [Slikback Bandcamp]
While brilliant Kenyan producer Slikback has been released on labels as far & wide as Berlin's PAN, Shanghai's SVBKVLT and Uganda's Nyege Nyege Tapes, in 2021 he's followed up two massive drops on his own Bandcamp with two more self-released EPs. February's SHOTOTSU was just followed by ARATTA, four tracks of trap, jungle & footwork-influenced stuff - but whatever Slikback does is filtered through his incredible talent for beats, bass and sound manipulation.

Low End Activist - Look Up [Sneaker Social Club]
Oxford(?) bass producer Low End Activist has covered UK bass & "hardcore continuum" genres from dancehall & dub through grime and garage on Seagrave, and on his new EP Engineers Origins (back on Sneaker Social Club) it's breakbeat and drum'n'bass. It's dark & deep stuff, with "Look Up" recalling for me some of the genre-melding experimental sounds in the late '90s, when mainstream drum'n'bass had by & large gone hard & unyielding. Great stuff.

Tech Level 2 - Suspended [Avalanche Recordings Bandcamp]
Fitting in very well with the late '90s techstep scene, but with complexity around the tough exterior, was Tech Step 2, the drum'n'bass alias of Justin K Broadrick (grindcore & industrial metal pioneer of Godflesh, Jesu and JK Flesh fame, as well as half of Techno Animal, Ice & Zonal with The Bug). Only a few 12"s were released, so it's great to have four unreleased tracks from that era available now on Broadrick's Avalanche Recordings Bandcamp. These are at least as strong as any of the other material, and while I love the dub-influenced but hard techno he's releasing these days as JK Flesh, it leaves me wishing he'd return to some of this stuff at some point.

Manslaughter 777 - Do You Know Who Loves You [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
MSC & The Body - PKK [MSC Bandcamp/The Body Bandcamp]
Manslaughter 777 - No Man Curse [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Speaking of metalheads doing, er, "Metalheadz", Manslaughter 777 feels like something that's been a long time coming - the work of The Body drummer Lee Buford and longtime collaborator Zac Jones of MSC/Braveyoung, it's stripped entirely of the metal trappings, focusing on live and manipulated beats & samples, drawing on their love of dub, hip-hop and drum'n'bass/jungle. Working with engineer Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets, they've created something that's dark but less harsh than their usual work (although the building blocks were there in many albums of The Body, and in particular last year's MSC & The Body collaboration I Don't Ever Want To Be Alone), perfect for those who find harsh vocals a bit much to deal with.

Kcin - Moon (Part 1) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Kcin - Salt Ghost (Ambient Mix) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Next week on the show I'll be talking to Nick Meredith aka Kcin about his new album Decade Zero. It's out very soon, but in the meantime we have a few tracks, including the oceanic ambient mix of album track "Salt Ghost". Myriad percussion and other instruments are fed through effects, played through amps and re-recorded, and processed more to create a visceral sound like no other.

Listen again — ~207MB

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