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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, 19th of December, 2021

Playlist 19.12.21 - Best of 2021 Part 2! (6:39 pm)

We've somehow made it to the end of the year. I'm taking next Sunday off, and on the 2nd we'll have some kind of special before returning to new music in the new year.
In the meantime, following last week's focus on vaguely song-related stuff and some post-classical, tonight we're mostly split between beats and sound-art.

So give it a LISTEN AGAIN, via stream on demand from FBi or podcast here.

Aesop Rock x Blockhead - Difficult [Rhymesayers/Bandcamp]
We've gotten used to Aesop Rock producing his own beats over the last few albums. He's a master beat-maker, almost as much as he is a wordsmith (and indeed an artist!), recently producing an entire EP for his buddy Homeboy Sandman - but many of Aes's greatest tunes from his early days through to his 2012 return were produced by his close college friend Blockhead. So when Aes was finding creativity hard, in lockdown, following the tragic death of a close friend, he turned to Blockhead to provide some beats for him to write rhymes to. And these two do just gel so well - they seem to understand each other's creativity instinctively - so enough tunes flowed that they ended up with a full album, with the utterly Aesop Rock title Garbology. With Aes's usual self-deprecating observations and metaphor-laden vocabularianism, it's deeply enjoyable, like putting on an old jacket and finding it fits better than it ever did. Both artists are better at their game than ever.

Mick Harris - Devonshire drive [Mick Harris Bandcamp]
The legendary Mick Harris is a hardworking musician from Birmingham who's had a huge impact on a number of musical scenes - starting with popularising, if not inventing, blast beats as an originator of grindcore as drummer in the original lineup of Napalm Death. His involvement with extreme metal didn't end there, but he soon became fascinated with samplers, looping and dub music, and formed Scorn with Nik Bullen, also ex-Napalm Death. Bullen left fairly early on, but Scorn continued to leave its mark with incredibly heavy, pared down industrial dub, and a strange sideways precursor to dubstep. Harris also made drum'n'bass as Quoit, among many other pseudonyms and collaborations. Harris released an excellent Scorn album this year, but he's also revived another project, the HedNod sessions, to showcase pared-down dubby hip-hop. It's not that far from the Scorn material, but a little more casual, and a pleasure to listen to. He was broadcasting studio sessions on Twitter from last year, and has reliably churned out material on the Mick Harris Bandcamp, with HedNods starting from Five, as well as a short but great Scorn radio/live session from the mid-'90s.

SIMM - Gqom Squbulo (featuring Phelimuncasi) [Ohm Resistance]
The industrial dub sounds of Eraldo Bernocchi go back to the '90s, alongside dark ambient and sound-art work and film soundtrack recordings. An inveterate collaborator, Bernocchi worked extensively with Mick Harris of Scorn, including also their project with Bill Laswell as Equations of Eternity. SIMM has been one of his main aliases for the dub beats, and it's easy to hear the cross-pollination of his mate Mick Harris, whose mid-'90s Scorn work prefigures dubstep a decade before it coalesced in the East/South London scene. Bernocchi's new SIMM album Too Late To Dream, for the great Ohm Resistance (also responsible for some years for Scorn's recent output), finds him treading similar ground to The Bug or Harris, with dubstep & grime-adjacent bass music (often menacing, sometimes peaceful), and MCs on about half the tracks. Grime master Flowdan appears on a number of tracks here, and there's also a brilliant collaboration with South African gqom legends Phelimuncasi.

Loraine James - Self Doubt (Leaving the Club Early) [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Like many, I was blown away by Loraine James' debut album for Hyperdub in 2019, For You And I. I'd already heard the glitchy breaks of Button Mashing earlier that year on New York Haunted, and Sydney's Hence Therefore had alerted me to her talents when he remixed her "+44-Thinking-Of-You" the previous year. She's an anomaly and a product of the times - a young London-based queer black woman, who grew up listening to IDM and didn't quite fit into any scene. Her music blends IDM's experimentation and boundary-pushing with contemporary club sounds, r'n'b, jazz and more, and doesn't avoid directly addressing the personal toll of being queer and black. She also continues to collaborate widely, bringing in Antion alumnus Baths for some melodic indie vocals, as well as singing & speaking on a number of tracks herself.

Leo - death is quite clearly not what it used to be [YOUTH]
A member of Manchester collective Manteq in which Iranian refugees work with bass producers, Leo has produced some futuristic grime cuts for MC Tardast (rapping in Farsi) as well as DJing in various bass styles in that northern city. Leo's second album was released by Manchester's YOUTH, and as typical of that label, it refuses to sit still long enough to pin down the genres or themes - like a mixtape, showcasing this young producer's skill, whether it's crazily chopped breaks, instrumental grime or drill, mutated with strange distortions.

Blawan - Blika [XL Recordings/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based UK mainstay Blawan takes a break from his usual 4/4 fare with more bass-oriented syncopation here for XL Recordings, on the excellently-titled Woke Up Right-Handed. A restless beat and a distorted vocal that seeps into the subs make the opening track an instant freakish classic.

CORIN - Enantiodromia [UIQ/Bandcamp]
Filipina-Australian artist CORIN, once from Sydney and now based in Melbourne, goes from strength to strenth with international recognition courtesy of Bedouin Records' 2019 release of Manifest now extended to Lee Gamble's incredible UIQ records, who released her Enantiodromia album in 2021 - I think her best yet. The dark, cyberpunk-inspired sounds of the previous album are further exercised with propulsive beats and eerie ambient tracks exploring the idea of impermanence, the observation of things gradually turning into their opposites. An album for the times, and another great step for this talented producer.

Hiro Kone - Mundus Patet [Dais Records/Bandcamp]
Silvercoat the throng, the latest album from New York producer Nicky Mao aka Hiro Kone, sees her stretch her wings out from the techno focus of her last few brilliant releases into industrial ambient and sound-painting of various sorts, with various guests including an extraordinary spoken piece from travis of ONO, the hypnotic beat batterns of DeForrest Brown, Jr aka Speaker Music, and glitchy samples and cut-up beats from Palestinian producer Muqata'a (who's been heard a lot on this show). "Mundus Patet" strikes me as the most similar to Mao's earlier releaes.

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 their 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.

Muqata'a - Bilharf Alwahad بالحَرف الواحَد [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.

MSC - This 1 For The Scum [First Terrace Records/Bandcamp]
Manslaughter 777 - No Man Curse [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Brothers Isaac and Zachary Jones have formed many bands over the past decade and a half, starting with hardcore punk acts like GIANT and then Braveyoung, which gradually morphed into the postrock-informed sounds of their later period, with orchestral influences as well as tape manipulation alongside the hardcore and doom metal trappings. As Braveyoung they collaborated with ever-morphing beauty/noise proponents the body, and Zachary Jones is a longtime touring member of that band too. Braveyoung eventually was disbanded and replaced by their equally-uncategorizable soundsystem identity MSC, and alongside their incredible second collab with the body from last year called I Don't Ever Want To Be Alone, they have been exploring the power of junglist breaks and dub bass, still emphasising the catharsis of noise and the emotiveness of classical music-referencing samples and drones. It's no surprise that their new album What You Say Of Power is baffling and inspiring.
Earlier this year came the debut album from Manslaughter 777, which feels like something that's been a long time coming - the work of the body drummer Lee Buford and Zac Jones of MSC, 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 created something that's dark but less harsh than their usual work, perfect for those who find harsh vocals a bit much to deal with.

ZULI - Tany [UIQ/Bandcamp]
Cairo producer Ahmed El Ghazoly makes incredibly forward-thinking beats as ZULI (All Caps, as his new EP reminds us). Since 2016's Bionic Ahmed his releases have been compulsory for me, and this was only intensified with the jungle-leaning Trigger Finger in 2018. Cruelly, after the Terminal album was released in 2018, his laptop was stolen with an almost-completed follow-up along with his whole setup & sound library, forcing him to rebuild. Finally om March came the substantial new EP All Caps, with two absolutely mangled jungle tunes and mashed beats of all sorts. Also checkl the final track "Bro! (Love it)", which satirises western fans & critics' ugly tendency to filter all expectations through the lens of his ethnicity.

Sully - 5ives [Over/Shadow/Bandcamp]
Nobody has the flittering, dazzling rhythms of jungle down pat like Sully these days. His shift from grime to jungle & drum'n'bass in 2014 was inspired, and if anything he's only gotten better. 5ives/Sliding comes courtesy of Over/Shadow, whose usual playing field is mid-to-late-'90s style drum'n'bass, but the Moving Shadow connection goes right back to the early days, and Sully here makes the drum breaks not just dance but sing. A masterclass.

Grey Code - Opal [Metalheadz/Bandcamp]
Speaking of classical, young drum'n'bass producer Grey Code likes to mix up all sorts of influences with his drum'n'bass productions, and while his new single "Opal" for Metalheadz is meant to be inspired by his love of guitar music, it's quite unusual in a number of ways. Until the beats drop, it's effectively in 12/8 time (triplets), and throughout there's more harmonic movement (beautifully done) than your usual club tracks. There's a fair bit of this kind of invention through Grey Code's catalogue so far, but this is super impressive and hopefully indicative of what next January's album has in store.

Enfuse - Orchestrate [onesevenfour Records]
Speaking of classical-leaning jungle, Aus drum'n'bass label onesevenfour Records passed on some promos in October, and this beauty from Brisbane's Enfuse instantly grabbed my attention - flowing drum'n'bass with a clarinet melody and lush pads, and some nice surprises in the harmonic changes.

Bell Orchestre - All the Time [Erased Tapes/Envision/Bandcamp]
Massive highlight from earlier in the year here, from 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 the Aphex Twin cover on their second album! 12 years after that second album came 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.

Machinefabriek - SA AJ ET (with Shane Aspegren, Anja Jacobsen, Eric Thielemans) [Esc.rec/Bandcamp/Bandcamp]
The remarkable new album from Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek, With Drums, could be seen as a successor to his 2019 album With Voices, or conversely of his self-performed Drum Solos. Mostly, though, it's an unexpected extension of his large ouevre of sound art, and his penchant for collaboration - 24 short tracks, each collaged from contributed recordings from three drummers (a total of 42 drummers are featured, with many recognizable names appearing). This is not predominantly rhythmic music - some contributions feature tuned percussion, or bowed percussion, some are free jazz flourishes, and some do coalesce into grooves. Zuydervelt's command of sound and space is such that these disparate contributed recordings are sculpted into 37 minutes of music that flows as a single work, which is never less than gripping, and charming.

Kcin - Moon (Part 2) [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Listeners to UFog over the last few years will have become familiar with Nick Meredith aka Kcin's dark sound, that melds percussion, found sounds and electronics in a way both familiar and unique. Back in April, it was a pleasure to finally get to interview Nick on the occasion of his extraordinary debut album proper, Decade Zero, released via Spirit Level. Listening to this album, it's clear why it's given this special status - it's not just cohesive in sound, but a deeply accomplished work, compulsory listening for anyone with an interest in deconstructed club sounds, industrial techno, Ben Frost's sonic destruction and Utility Fog-style sounds in general. In our conversation, Nick outlined his workflow, in which sounds are sourced and created, built up in the digital world, blasted through vibrating air and re-recorded, further deconstructed and rebuilt. Check it.

Eli Keszler - The Accident [LuckyMe/Bandcamp]
On new album Icons, New York percussionist Eli Keszler strays even further from the avant-garde world with an album that strangely fits well with the Glasgow label LuckyMe who are releasing it. The album makes a little more sense when you note that Keszler's worked with Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin on a few projects lately - there's a hazy neon street sheen to some of the ambience here. There are some of the skittery beats that made 2019's Stadium so incredible, but there are also nods at downtempo as well as free jazz. It's not an album that welcomes a single interpretation, but it's always fascinating.

Gilded - Alden [Fluid Audio/Facture Bandcamp]
The 2012 album Terrane by Perth duo Gilded is one I hold close to my heart. The peaceful electroacoustic sounds centre on piano and guitar, with skittery percussion from a cut-down kit point at the postrock of Radian or indeed late Talk Talk. It's the work of Matt Rösner (who's released music on 12k, Room40, hellosQuare and elsewhere) and Adam Trainer (who played in the great indie/postrock band Radarmaker, released solo music on hellosQuare and has a long association with community radio), and it always seemed like the album was a one-off. So it was particularly great to hear from both members earlier this year that this second album was coming. Mostly recorded closely following the original album, it got caught in a series of life changes and took its sweet time to get it together. The piano is gone, replaced by synthesizers alongside the guitar, field recordings, and those flittering hi-hats. There's a strong sense of place, the marshlands and evaporated salt lake around Rösner's hometown of Myalup, and it's just gorgeous. There's promise of more to come from the reunited duo, and they'd better hold to their promise...

l'ocelle mare - Piano, Banjo, Orgue, Métronome... [Shelter Press/Murailles Music/Bandcamp]
Thomas Bonvalet has some decades of experience playing guitar in indie rock bands, and as a multi-instrumentalist playing with many French artists, but his solo project l'ocelle mare is quite a different approach to making music - he claims, “I don’t write music, it’s an assemblage of gestural memories”. Certainly Bonvalet uses the "real" instruments - guitar, piano, banjo, organ, drum skins etc - in much the same way as the telephone, amps, metronomes and so on. It's all sound, and although it's frequently rhythmical, it's not often arranged into melodies or harmonic movements. Extended techniques on the guitar & banjo, and this "organised sound" approach, make for mostly acoustic or out-of-the-box music that sounds sequenced or cut up - or at least, I think so. In any case, it fits in that highly-sought-after category of music I don't entirely understand, and therefore listen to repeatedly. A welcome discovery!

Ai Yamamoto - Late morning - Remote learning and house chores, remote working (washing machine, vacuum cleaner, printing, typing, clicking, pencil, paper, cup, glass bottle) [Room40/Bandcamp]
Nobody could quite have pulled off the iso album with the same delicacy and panache as Melbourne-based Ai Yamamoto has with her Pan De Sonic - Iso, released on Room40's Someone Good imprint at the beginning of the year. All the sounds come from field recordings taken in her family home during Melbourne's marathon 2020 lockdown, and they mostly evoke a peaceful intimacy, and a creative spirit doing its very finest with what it's been given. The source sounds are delightfully documented for each track, which Yamamoto adroitly maneuvres between direct reproduction and field recordings processed & arranged into rhythms and touching melodies. Despite the podcast excerpt at the very start, it's not gimmicky at all, but rather a very human piece of life-as-art.

Takuma Watanabe - Tactile [Constructive/Bandcamp]
Last Afternoon is the gorgeous 2021 album from film composer and David Sylvian associate Takuma Watanabe, featuring a string ensemble, tech wizardry from Akira Rabelais and the great avant-garde singer Joan La Barbara (on a track not featured tonight mind you). I discovered Watanabe via a release on Japanese label Inpairtment last year, featuring contributions from Rabelais and also Félicia Atkinson, all of which should give you a flavour of what you'll find here: delicate neo-classical composition of a high order (nothing derivative here!), shot through with the hiss & crackle of analogue & digital detritus. Also note the Delay x Takuma 12" released recently, in which Vladislav Delay reinterprets tracks from this album in heavy digital style.

Jeremy Young - Electricity Over Mirabel (with Pauline Kim Harris) [Thirsty Leaves Music/Jeremy Young Bandcamp]
I'd come across Montréal sound-artist Jeremy Young on a number of collaborations, but had failed to investigate his solo work until this year, when he released a remix EP, Amaro Extensions, in which tracks from his earlier 2021 album Amaro were reworked by some wonderful musicians from Montréal and beyond, including Constellation artist T. Gowdy and a familiar face 'round here, Machinefabriek. The album itself is also a set of collaborations, in which Young uses a custom-made set of three hand-tuned oscillators plus found objects and surfaces as rhythmic foundations, tapes and signal processing, while his guests sometimes contribute voices or traditional instruments (tonight, gorgeous violin from Pauline Kim Harris), and sometimes what you might call "featured found sounds".

Megan Alice Clune - Gentle Smile [Room40/Bandcamp]
The album If You Do from Sydney's Megan Alice Clune, leader of the non-Alaskan non-orchestra Alaska Orchestra is a masterpiece of understatement. Borne from a dream about writing an opera, it's built instead from the minutiae of stay-at-home existence imposed by lockdowns, captive to quixotic technologies and alienated from social or musical interaction. A vocal drone runs through it, overlaid with different approaches to layering and mutating sound - here, swooping synthesizers recall Alice Coltrane's spiritualist solo works; there, different vocal layers cut in & out with subtle swells of clarinet; and over here, the vocals end up cut into small pieces, pulsing in & out like a faltering radio. One for repeated listens in quiet spaces.

Australian Art Orchestra | Daniel Wilfred | Sunny Kim - Star Song [Australian Art Orchestra Bandcamp]
One of a number of projects from the Melbourne-based Australian Art Orchestra in 2021, Hand to Earth comes out of a residency by AAO members in the remote highlands of Tasmania with Yolŋu songman Daniel Wilfred and his brother, yidaki player David Wilfred. Across these tracks, ancient songlines intersect with the trumpet & electronics of Peter Knight, Daniel Wilfred's voice floats in a sea of Korean artist Sunny Kim's voice & electronics (the beautiful piece chosen for tonight's best of show), and David Wilfred's yidaki (a variant of the didgeridoo) merges wonderfully with the clarinets of Aviva Endean. I so also want to mention the 12" the Australian Art Orchestra released with Hospital Hill, featuring compositions by Peter Knight. "Diomira" is an extraordinary tribute to one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, in which voice and chamber jazz orchestra interact with turntables, drumkit via reel-to-reel tape machine, and live laptop processing. Too long to fit in tonight, so listen & buy!

Mindy Meng Wang - Stirring Flower 搅花 with Daniel Jenatsch [Heavy Machinery Records/Music In Exile/Bandcamp]
As well as a wonderful EP with beats from Tim Shiel, 2021 saw a new full album from Chinese-Australia guzheng specialist Mindy Meng Wang. Phoenix Rising is co-released by Heavy Machinery Records & Music In Exile and finds Mindy explicitly expanding the millennia-old Chinese zither into many different areas, working with musicians from jazz, contemporary classical, experimental & electronic circles. The allbum features a masterful piece with pianist Paul Grabowsky, there's classical percussionist Claire Edwardes of Ensemble Offspring and others. For the best of show, I played the skittery drums & processing of Brisbane experimental instrumentalist & sound-artist Daniel Jenatsch. It's a pretty stunning album, at the centre of which is Mindy Meng Wang's mastery of the guzheng.

Listen again — ~208MB

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Sunday, 12th of December, 2021

Playlist 12.12.21 - Best of 2021 Part 1! (11:35 pm)

It's that time of year again... And as usual it's extremely difficult to fit all my notable selections into two 2hr shows, so take it as read that this is just some of the best.
There's certainly been some stunning music this year - it perhaps wasn't the bonanza year that 2020 turned out (surprisingly) to be, but another good'un for sure.
This week and next will complement each other thematically, so tonight we have songs, words etc, and some post-classical and sound-art near the end. Next week we'll have beats as well as some more sound-art & experimental stuff.

So LISTEN AGAIN on the FBi website's stream on demand, or podcast here.

Low - White Horses [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Low - I Can Wait [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
It was almost worrying imagining how Low could follow up their almost-perfect 2018 album Double Negative, which took the already intense excursions into digital production techniques from 2015's Ones and Sixes and turned up the distortion, sidechaining and general glitchiness to 11 for a mournful ode to America under Trump. But HEY WHAT, like the last two produced by BJ Burton, manages to draw yet more inspiration and emotion from these techniques - see the segue from opener "White Horses" into "I Can Wait", in which the repeating delay ending the first track gradually changes tempo and diffuses into the backing for the second, with the crunching, shattering sounds of both accompanying angelic harmonised melodies. The digital production aside, wrong-footing juxtapositions like these have long been the modus operandi of husband & wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, often joined by a bass player but now just the two with Burton on the sound deck. There's nothing quite like them, and much though I adore the sonic experimentation, in the end it comes back to the songs, and the gorgeous vocal harmonies.

Crass - G's Song (Commoners Choir Remix) [Crass Bandcamp]
It's been so good that the ongoing remix 7" series from the original English anarchist punks Crass has continued through 2021... All profits go to UK domestic violence charity Refuge, and the political power of the original songs (currently all from their debut album The Feeding of the 5000), is retained - including this, the eponymous song for the collective's artist Gee Vaucher. This stunning version adds 5 minutes to the original 36 second punk jab, courtesy of the collected voices of the Commoners Choir, pulled together by none other than Boff Whalley of those other anarcho-punks (yep!) Chumbawumba.

Springtime - The Island [Joyful Noise Recordings/Bandcamp]
This debut eponymous album from Springtime is what happens when Gareth Liddiard of Drones/Tropical Fuck Storm gets together with Chris Abrahams of The Necks and Jim White of The Dirty Three. Of course Abrahams and White are masterful collaborators, and Abrahams' piano and organ on here, along with White's idiosyncratic drums, perfectly join with the raucous guitar and anguished vocal cords of Liddiard. It's an ensemble that feels like it's always existed, somehow, in the Platonic musical plane. Liddiard here returns to his typical storytelling vein, although the lyrics to a couple of the tracks come from his Irish uncle, Ian Duhig. Mostly, it's the sound of three consummate musicians playing together in a room, although there are subtle effects like the vocal delays and pitch-shifting on "Jeanie" which just add to the listening thrill.

Marissa Paternoster - White Dove [Don Giovanni Records/Bandcamp]
This stunning single from Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females comes from the album Peace Meter, much of which was co-created with Andy Gibbs from the phenomenal adventurous metal band THOU, with contributions also from cellist Kate Wakefield from the Cincinnati-based band Lung. It's a lovely album altogether, but this is one of my songs of the year.

Buffalo_Daughter - Global Warming Kills Us All [Buffalo Daughter Bandcamp]
SuGar Yoshinaga, Yumiko Ohno and MoOoG Yamamoto, sometimes with another member, sometimes a live drummer, have been Buffalo Daughter since the early '90s. They had an association with the Beastie Boys for a while, and were released on their Grand Royal label alongside other indie acts like Luscious Jackson, and had some major label releases too, but I haven't heard from them for ages. So it was rather nice when Boris mentioned this new album on their own Bandcamp feed. It has many of the hallmarks of the '90s crossover of Japanese and Chicago postrock & indie, including the lovely Brazilian pop feels of "Jazz", featuring vocals from Caetano Veloso collaborator Ricardo Dias Gomes - and perhaps even more than in the '90s, all this is minced up with electronic production techniques. I don't know what it sounds like without 20 years of context, but this crossover stuff (so beloved of UFog) seems pretty current to me - suitably for an album called We Are The Times.

Herbert - Might As Well Be Magical (feat. Allie Armstrong) [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
Sometimes trilogies can take a long time to manifest. Back in 1998, Matthew Herbert released the first of his "domestic house" albums, going just by his surname. Around The House was co-written with his then partner, Dani Siciliano, and featured jazz & r'n'b-informed deep house pop songs. Then in 2001 his masterpiece Bodily Functions was released, again mostly featuring Siciliano. And it's taken 2 decades and a lockdown to bring us Musca. Named for Musca domestica, the common housefly, it's got typical downbeat deep house and electronic tunes, with that jazz/r'n'b feel, and the vocalists are all relatively new or unknown artists, none of whom Herbert had met in person or worked with previously. The singers do a wonderful job, and the tracks are moody and blissful; despite being music for the home/music for the heads, it's got that head-nodding pulse, and spots of euphoria here and there, courtesy of Herbert's strong musicality, and his band's and singers' great musicianship. Joy.

Dntel - Fall In Love [Morr Music/Bandcamp/les albums claus/Bandcamp]
Dntel - Moonlight [Morr Music/Bandcamp/les albums claus/Bandcamp]
The music of Jimmy Tamborello, particularly as Dntel, is without doubt one of the instigators of what I wanted Utility Fog to be when it started. Electronic at its core, influenced by IDM as well as electronic pop, Dntel became a vehicle for something transcendent on the 2001 album Life Is Full Of Possibilities, when Tamborello brought in singers & other musicians from the indie music scene, creating hazy, granulated floating soundscapes and deconstructed songs among the glitched beats. Tamborello's an inveterate fan himself - presenting Dying Songs on LA's dublab - and that comes out in his approach to music, I think. This year he released two Dntel albums, and they're both wonderful. The second, Away, is his paean to pop, while March's The Seas Trees See showcased his more introspective, experimental & quiet side. Both albums, though, feature vocals, always highly processed - and on Away it's notable that although the soft-voiced vocals sound female, they are all sung by Tamborello, using auto-tune and other techniques to create a cyborg idoru version of himself.

Stick In The Wheel - The Cuckoo [Stick In The Wheel Bandcamp]
London's Stick In The Wheel are a collective with a close interest in English folk, and have released albums of revived, traditional song from across centuries. But as I've said as I've played them over the last few years, they also have a close connection to English club music, through Ian Carter aka EAN, who was a key member of dubstep pioneers Various Production. Stick In The Wheel is now primarily Carter and Nicola Kearey, who I believe was involved in Various at times too. In between their main albums, the band have traditionally (ha!) put out "mixtape" albums, the latest of which is Tonebeds for Poetry. These still sound like English folk songs (except for some interstitial instrumentals), but with sequenced synths (at one point closely echoing the Stranger Things theme) and oft-vocoded vocals.

Happy Axe - Growing In The Ground [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Maybe It'll Be Beautiful is the name of the 2021 album from Emma Kelly's Happy Axe - and yup, it sure is! No surprise there, as her previous, Dream Punching, was too: her looped violin, vocals and adept electronics are a winning combination, especially as she has a talent for blissful songwriting and clever sonic manipulations.

Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis - We Took Short Journeys [Brawl Records]
More strings for a while now, starting with the yearlong monthly series from cellist Kate Ellis and brilliant English folk musician Laura Cannell, who has recorded a number of stunning albums with overbowed violin, vocals and wind instruments in churches and other spaces in the UK. The monthly releases allow for a gradual exploration of what two string players can do, and while they gradually also introduced other collaborators (one or two a month) with poems, songs, field recordings and additional instruments, this track from May features Cannell reading a touching poem over their string drones.

Rakhi Singh - For Giri (Nüss) [Bedroom Community/Bandcamp]
Welsh/Indian violinist Rakhi Singh straddles not only the heritage of her background, but also the English cities of London and Manchester. She is Music Director of contemporary ensemble Manchester Collective, who record for Bedroom Community, but her name jumped out at me immediately due to a collaboration last year with Bristol's Seb Gainsborough aka Vessel, reworking his bendy, twisted "Red Sex" with virtuoso violin and keeping the rattling rhythms. But even this excellent pedigree didn't prepare me for the brilliance of the three-track Quarry EP released by Bedroom Community. Singh's violin is indeed virtuosic, but she is happy to take multi-tracked trills and short phrases and chop them into industrial rhythms, or take time with strung-out violin and vocal drones, with exquisite avant-garde harmonisation. Don't let this one slip you by.

Mabe Fratti - Hacia el Vacío [Unheard of Hope/Bandcamp]
It was wonderful to discover Mexico-based Guatemalan cellist Mabe Fratti last year. Her Pies sobra la tierra showcased beautiful, creative songs accompanied live with cello and electronics, and there's more of that to be found on her new album Será que ahora podremos entendernos ("Now we will be able to understand each other"). The album contemplates the idea of communication, and of how often people make understanding more difficult. As always, not only is her use of cello and synths creative and unique, she just writes beautiful vocal melodies as well.

The Bug - Vexed (feat. Moor Mother) [Ninja Tune/Bandcamp]
Moor Mother - Mangrove (feat. elucid & Antonia Gabriela) [ANTI-/Bandcamp]
Divide and Dissolve - Mental Gymnastics (Moor Mother Remix) [Invada/Bandcamp]
Camae Ayewa has been busy these last couple of years with multitudinous projects, from free jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements (who have another album coming soon) to the punkish Moor Jewelry to her side with JK Broadrick & Kevin Martin's Zonal, and the phenomenal BRASS with billy woods a year ago. But 2019 was the last solo album proper from Moor Mother. Powered by beats from Olof Melander, the Swiss producer with whom Ayewa released the album Anthologia 01 last year, Black Encyclopedia of the Air is consequently somewhat lighter than much of that other work (with only a couple of days to start ingesting it) - but no less powerful. Guests include elucid (billy woods' bandmate in Armand Hammer), Pink Siifu, and many others.
2021 also saw a new album from The Bug, the third in a trilogy that began with 2008's London Zoo. Having worked with Martin on that Zonal album mentioned above, it's not surprising to find Moor Mother appearing here, with a fierce track in that dubby style only The Bug can do.
And finally, a local connection, with Ayewa contributing to a series of remixes of indigenous doom duo Divide and Dissolve, whose stunning Gas Lit album came out in January. Moor Mother adds her apocalyptic spoken word over the emotive saxophone & guitars of Takiaya Reed (Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and drums of Sylvie Nehill (Māori) - welcome to the dangerzone!

Malaria! - I Will Be Your Only One (Lucrecia Dalt Mix) [Moabit/Monika Enterprise/Bandcamp]
Three important bands (all beginning with M) from the German underground were celebrated on the M_SESSIONS collection, courtesy of Gudrun Gut's Monika Enterprise. Matador, Mania D. and Malaria! all featured Gut, two featured Beate Bartel, two featured Bettina Köster and two featured Manon Duursma; all were all-female acts, working in post-punk, industrial and a particularly German strain of synth-pop. There's a direct link between this seminal music, Gut's deep involvement in the Berlin music scene, and the work she does with Monika Enterprise, including the "Werkstatt" she convenes with multiple generations of female electronic & experimental artists. Many of the Werkstatt artists appear on the first disc of M_Sessions, the new collection which unearths, celebrates and recontextualises this music. Along with a disc of "Rare Originals", with demos, live versions and non-album tracks all remastered, the first disc sees these works remixed and recreated by artists like Midori Hirano, AGF, Natalie Beridze, Sonae, Gut and Bartel, and featured tonight Lucrecia Dalt - who joins us again on the next track...

Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt - Yodeling Slits [Hanson Records/Bandcamp]
On the face of it, a collaboration between Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt is rather unexpected. Dilloway is a venerable member of the US noise scene, master of pedal-based sound manipulation, garbled vocal grotesquery, tape manipulation & harsh noise, while Dalt moved from adventurous singer-songwriting to exquisitely controlled minimalist modular synth-and-Ableton sound-art. Yet the pair felt an instant rapport when performing on the same lineups on various tours, and on Lucy & Aaron Dalt's soft vocals and sonic alchemy fit perfectly with the clatter and hum of Dilloway's noises. Like Dalt's recent albums for RVNG Intl, unorthodox, slippery-yet-catchy songs slide one into another, never quite in focus enough to be latched onto, yet compulsively re-listenable. From solo artists it's brilliant enough, as a duo it's something remarkable. Let this not be the last from Lucy & Aaron!

nobuka - The people (w/ Machinefabriek) [Esc.rec/Bandcamp]
From Dutch label Esc.rec here's a gem of an album from Michel van Collenburg as nobuka (he's from the Netherlands despite the vaguely Japanese-sounding name). Reiko contemplates the feeling of living in pre-apocalyptic times (see more at the dedicated micro-site), with field recordings and electronics combining with strings & acoustic found-sounds for a mostly-instrumental narrative of tension and real beauty. It's not minimalist, and not overly polite, and it also mostly avoids the surging sub-bass intensity of a lot of current-day experimental ambient. Nobuka also collaborated with two Dutch artists close to this show, Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek, should that tempt you to look further. I hope you do, because this is a very fine album indeed.

soccer Committee - Hazy [Morc Records/Morc Bandcamp/soccer Committee Bandcamp]
I first discovered the Dutch musician Mariska Baars through her work with Rutger Zuydervelt Machinefabriek - drawn from 2008 is a masterclass in heart-stopping slowcore, glistening songwriting coupled with expert sound art, and the following year's redrawn collected magical reworkings from the cream of the crop from the time. Meanwhile, Baars and Zuydervelt formed an array of minimalist ensembles such as Piipstjilling, FEAN and many others - and in 2019 the pair released the 30-minute single track eau, a drifting sea of processed voice and electronics. But Baars' very low-key songwriting and performances really shine on their own, so it's an unexpected pleasure to have this solo album, Tell from the grass, a mere 14 years after her only other solo release!

Malcolm Pardon - Beneath The Surface [The New Black/Bandcamp]
Stockholm duo Roll The Dice released a steady stream of electronic music since their debut self-titled album came out through experimental label Digitalis Recordings in 2010. Peder Mannerfelt is well-known for his gregarious club music under his own name, his involvement with Fever Ray, and for releasing fellow Swiss electronic artists on his Peder Mannerfelt Produktion. But the other half, Malcolm Pardon, has stayed more in the background, making music for film & TV, so his debut solo album is a very welcome occurrence. Hello Death doesn't take its title too seriously - it's more about the acceptance of the inevitability of death than anything more maudlin, with peaceful, enveloping piano and analogue synths echoing his work with Roll The Dice.

Clark - Lambent Rag [Deutsche Grammophon/Clark Store/Bandcamp]
I remember 20 years ago when Chris Clark was a precocious young IDM producer with his first records on Warp... He seemed to have a good command of the emotive backbone under the flashy beat programming, in keeping with the previous generation like Aphex Twin, µ-Ziq, Boards of Canada et al. A few years later, the Body Riddle album was the first step into something that felt truly new - organic-feeling crunchy beats and sounds, clearly still electronica, clearly referencing rave tropes, but also postrock, jazz and a lot more. Since then he's careened easily between dancefloor and campfire and everywhere in between, and somewhere in the last 5 years added soundtrack work as a new string to his bow - replete with piano and orchestra. So I assumed that this new album, Playground In A Lake, released by eminent classical institution Deutsche Grammophon, was another soundtrack - but it's something different. Starting with the solo cello of Oliver Coates, featuring muted piano, orchestral passages, choral and solo classical voices, it doesn't throw out the electronics - with Ben Frost-like surging bass, processed vocals and occasional rhythm programming. And it's a narrative of sorts - a tale of lost youth and innocence, with the submerged children's playground standing in for our loss of innocence as a species in the face of accelerating climate change. Weighty subject matter, and the music matches it with darkness and gentle sadness, give or take the sweet hopefulness of "Lambent Rag". All in all an excellent entry into Clark's oeuvre.

Yann Tiersen - Ar Maner Kozh [Mute Records/Bandcamp]
It's unfair that to a lot of the world, Yann Tiersen is synonymous with the twinkly prettiness of his soundtrack to the sweet French film Amelie. He's known and loved in France (and Europe and to those who know the world over) also for indie rock, chanson and postrock, but he does do that post-classical piano thing really well, as evidenced by new album Kerber, part of a more ambient turn of late. It's a very intimate album, and the glitchy electronics that envelop the piano and other instruments at times are welcome. There are jazzy drums in "Poull Bojer", but mostly the album focuses on piano, hints of strings, and these electronic effects. It's often quite lovely but simple quasi-classical fare, but at times the French sentimental melancholy surfaces, as with "Ar Maner Kozh". Inspired by living on the remote island of Ushant, off the north-west tip of France (hence the strangely-spelled track titles), the album soundtracks a film that you can watch online now.

Leider - Human Error [Beacon Sound]
The debut album from Berlin-based quartet Leider, A Fog Like Liars Loving, is the music & words of Rishin Singh, who studied music in Sydney and went through the improv & sound-art scene here before moving overseas. The music itself - minimalist, slow-moving, unsettling with its hints at microtonality - reflects the ensemble's unconventional makeup, with Singh on trombone, Derek Shirley on cello & percussion, Annie Gårlid on viola and Stine Sterne on flute. The two women also provide vocals, sung in an understated, unemotive manner, somehow making the songs even more touching. Singh's lyrics are allusive and cutting, even when quoting Charles Dickens. It's unusual and gratifying to find music so, well, unusual. I've found it gripping - and the Human Error Remixes are very well-chosen too - check them out for Iran's Tegh (on a roll with remixes lately) inserting rumbling sub-bass and shattered beats into the glacial sound-world.

Listen again — ~198MB

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Monday, 6th of December, 2021

Playlist 05.12.21 (12:00 am)

Nearing the end of 2021... and so this will be the last "new music" UFog of the year, with the following 2 weeks being Best of 2021, and Boxing Day a well-earned week off.
Tonight we have a beautiful mix of folk, indietronica, IDM, drum'n'bass, noise and acoustic drone...]

LISTEN AGAIN to complete the collection! FBi will let you stream on demand, or find the podcast here.

Leyla McCalla - Fort Dimanche [Anti-/Bandcamp]
It's only been 2 years since the last album by Leyla McCalla, but it's great to have her back, and in bluegrass-tinged Haitian folk mode to boot. McCalla is a brilliant cellist (and multi-instrumentalist) and singer who draws on her Haitian heritage, singing in both French-derived Haitian Creole and English, as well as the rich musical heritage of New Orleans. This song, her first released on the Anti- label, is about the political prison Fort Dimanche run by the oppressive Duvalier regime, including excerpts from an interview on the groundbreaking Radio Haiti, with a political prisoner about the torture he was subjected to in the prison.

Hymie's Basement - Phantom Throb [Lex Records/Bandcamp]
Hymie's Basement - 21st Century Pop Song [Lex Records/Bandcamp]
It's been nearly two decades since Andrew Broder (aka Fog) and Yoni Wolf (aka or of Why?) teamed up for a beloved album of alt.hop/indietronica as Hymie's Basement. That particular combination of nasal Jewish slacker pop and switched-on hip-hop-influenced production was never repeated, but both have stayed in similar circles, and it seems that finally it's time for something new. Broder's production of late has been outta sight, and Wolf hasn't lost his acerbic sense of nonsense, so I sure do hope that "Phantom Throb" isn't just a one-off!

Nosdam + Rayon - Desert [Morr Music/Bandcamp]
Nosdam + Rayon - Colours / Heavy Load [Morr Music/Bandcamp]
The indietronica-alt.hop connection was strong in the early '90s when Anticon was big, and The Notwist were finding success outside of Germany with their emotional blend of IDM and indie. Notwist members collaborated with Anticon's Themselves as 13&God, but the most idiosyncratic producer to come out of the Anticon stable must surely be David Madson aka Odd Nosdam, purveyor of "drum and space"... Acher and Madson have been pals for ages, but I'm pretty sure this new EP, From Nowhere To North, is the first music they've actually created together. The sweetness of Acher's indie songwriting is offset by the washed-out production and wicked drums from Nosdam, along with nice glitchy interlocutary snippets, and then there's the epic "Heavy Load" of the 10-minute last track... glorious.

SKY H1 - Freefall [AD93/Bandcamp]
SKY H1 - Elysian Heights [AD93/Bandcamp]
Belgian producer SKY H1 dedicates her debut album Azure to her mother. It sits well in the AD93 catalogue, with influences from '90s ambient and techno, and UK bass styles including drum'n'bass. Tonight we heard one track evoking classic techno through an IDM/ambient glass, and some blissful drum'n'bass vibes.

Yaporigami - Non-Acid Classic #1 [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
Yaporigami - Sun | Moon [The Collection Artaud/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based producer Yu Miyashita has released an impressive selection on his The Collection Artaud label this year, with music under his own name and as Yaporigami, as well as other like-minded artists. Earlier this year Yaporigami gave us IDMMXXI-L, and now comes its partner IDMMXXI-R. Both have their fair share of dextrously-mashed breaks and acid/non-acid melodies titled humourously, often referencing 20th-century modern art. We heard a track from each tonight.

Harmony - Photing [Deep Jungle]
Kid Lib - Living In The Zone [Deep Jungle]
Lee Bogush aka DJ Harmony doesn't stop. His Deep Jungle has been cranking out 12"s for each Bandcamp Friday all year, with classic jungle sounds, frequently represented by tracks from himself. Bogush has been around the jungle scene scene early in the '90s, and his tracks have that heritage with the benefit of modern-day technology. Meanwhile, Sheffield's Kid Lib has made a home on the label lately, and "Living In The Zone" has a great darkside feel...

RQ - 12 Strikes [Samurai Music/Bandcamp]
Roho - Anemia [Samurai Music/Bandcamp]
Berlin's Samurai Music is home to a particular strain of bass-heavy, minimal, tribal drum'n'bass that often skirts the edges of grey area techno - although they're not averse to firing off raging amen breaks when the mood takes them. For December's Bandcamp Friday they've released Outliers: 4, the fourth of their Bandcamp-only lockdown compilations collecting dubplates and other tracks from Samurai artists which haven't made it on to releases. Tonight we heard a couple of tracks that don't entirely cleave to the template of thumping syncopated bass and dark-as-fuck minimalist textures: New Zealand's RQ gives us stormy weather and buried trumpet with an amen heavy beat, while Russia's Roho is a bit closer to the current Samurai sound but also drops syncopated amens into his cyberpunk car chase.

TMUX - Wasteland [False Industries/Bandcamp]
TMUX - Hand Disinfection (Shackleton Remix) [False Industries/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based producer Yair Etziony was part of the drum'n'bass scene in Israel in the '90s, but makes IDM-leaning ambient music usually these days. During lockdown he found an outlet in new project TMUX, looking back at the drum'n'bass days, albeit often at slower tempos and with a melodic spirit. The debut TMUX album State of Exception was released last year, and just ahead of the follow-up Stars, which follows a similar path, he also released Altered State, with various bass-oriented artists contributing, including Christoph de Babalon and Appleblim among others. The latter's old Skull Disco partner Shackleton contributed a lovely dub-techno reworking which we heard tonight.

My Disco - Folterkammer [Heavy Machinery Records/Bandcamp]
My Disco - The Shore [Heavy Machinery Records/Bandcamp]
Melbourne's My Disco spent a decade and a half of their life making taut, rhythmic postpunk/math rock, including a set of albums on Temporary Residence, Ltd. But in 2019 they took a sharp left turn into bleak ambient industrial, with sparse percussion and dark synthetic textures. Now their follow-up Alter Schwede (a weird German exclamation, literally "old Swede") dives deeper into this new sound, with clanging percussion, FM synthesis and heavy bass, and occasional freakish vocal emanations. When rhythm does appear, it's alienating, as with the jackhammer of "Folterkammer". It's a brilliantly disorienting album.

Atsuko Hatano & Midori Hirano - Nocturnal Awakening [Alien Transistor/Bandcamp]
Cycling back to Markus Acher who we heard earlier, Alien Transistor is the label he runs with his brother Micha. Here we have two utterly unique Japanese artists working together; Midori Hirano is on a roll at the moment with her warped piano works, and Atsuko Hatano similarly treats her viola with all sorts of effects. The exchanges of recordings that went into creating this album produced what the artists describe as a Water Ladder, and the music does at times have a strange submerged feel. In amongst field recordings and drones, the piano interjects periodically, while the viola is at times blurred out of standard tunings. On this piece the viola takes on the role of staccato accents while the piano eventually tries to find peaceful repose.

Gilded - Alden [Fluid Audio/Facture Bandcamp]
Gilded - Cluttered Room [Hidden Shoal/Bandcamp]
Gilded - Bells Cutting [Fluid Audio/Facture Bandcamp]
The 2012 album Terrane by Perth duo Gilded is one I hold close to my heart. The peaceful electroacoustic sounds centre on piano and guitar, with skittery percussion from a cut-down kit point at the postrock of Radian or indeed late Talk Talk. It's the work of Matt Rösner (who's released music on 12k, Room40, hellosQuare and elsewhere) and Adam Trainer (who played in the great indie/postrock band Radarmaker, released solo music on hellosQuare and has a long association with community radio), and it always seemed like the album was a one-off. So it was particularly great to hear from both members earlier this year that this second album was coming. Mostly recorded closely following the original album, it got caught in a series of life changes and took its sweet time to get it together. The piano is gone, replaced by synthesizers alongside the guitar, field recordings, and those flittering hi-hats. There's a strong sense of place, the marshlands and evaporated salt lake around Rösner's hometown of Myalup, and it's just gorgeous. There's promise of more to come from the reunited duo, and they'd better hold to their promise...

Listen again — ~198MB

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