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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, 10th of July, 2022

Playlist 03.07.22 (6:07 pm)

Experimental song, experimental folk, experimental beats, sound-art.
Thanks to the legend Marcus Whale for stepping in at the last minute last Sunday when I fell ill with Covid and was entirely unable to do the show. Feeling better now thanks (but will the fatigue ever go away?)

LISTENING AGAIN may improve your symptoms. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Shearwater - Xenarthran [Polyborus/Bandcamp]
Shearwater - Everyone You Touch [Polyborus/Bandcamp]
I first fell in love with Shearwater circa their very first album, where Jonathan Meiburg started making folky postrock with Will Sheff as a side project from Okkervil River. The influence of late-period Talk Talk has always lain heavily over their music (including bird & tree motifs on their early album artwork), but there's a characteristic Shearwater sound, partly purely from Meiburg's soulful vocals and his melodic/harmonic tendencies, and partly from the subtleties of the arrangements, the skittery jazzy percussion and postrocky dynamics. The last Shearwater album came out in 2016, just in time for Donald Trump to take power in the US. Six years later, Trump's gone and there was some sense of hope (much of which has been sapped now with the realisation of the intentions of the Republicans' Supreme Court), and that ambivalent sense of, well, something, is what led to The Great Awakening, which is a return of sorts to the original sound - with particularly phenomenal string arrangements adorning many of the tracks. It's a special one, this.

Ashley Paul - Escape [Orange Milk Records/Bandcamp]
Ashley Paul - Not Myself [Orange Milk Records/Bandcamp]
Following a couple of stunning albums on Slip, the wonderful London-based American musician Ashley Paul returns to Orange Milk Records with the same trio as her 2020 album Ray - Yoni Silver on bass clarinet & viola, Otto Wilberg on double bass, and Ashley Paul herself on sax, clarinet, percussion and vocals. This is another set of sparkling yet subtle songs, obliquely touching.

Hatis Noit - Jomon [Erased Tapes/Bandcamp]
Hatis Noit - chuchr ideins ouy [Virgin Babylon Records/Bandcamp]
Singular Japanese singer Hatis Noit releases her first album on Erased Tapes with Aura. It's one of those weird signings that makes total sense when you hear the final product - I knew Hatis Noit for her very Japanese, glitchy productions like the bizarre track I played second, from the mighty Virgin Babylon Records, with her multi-tracked choral constructions chopped up in fine fashion. For this new album, her voice is the only instrument, very much layered up but not edited in any obvious way. Operatic and choral sounding techniques abound, but so do full-throated approaches from Bulgarian folk styles, and extended techniques. The original recordings from Japan were taken to London during lockdown, where Erased Tapes' Robert Raths suggested re-amping them in a church, giving the multi-tracked recordings a physical, live feel.

Cameron Deyell, Laurence Pike - Greta [Endless Recordings/Bandcamp]
Cameron Deyell, Laurence Pike - Calling [Endless Recordings/Bandcamp]
Two jazz-trained, broadly exploratory Australian musicians team up here for Isola, an album of shimmering soundscapes and skittering rhythms. Guitarist Cameron Deyell plays with many jazz masters, but also with pop stars. Laurence Pike is of course known for his complex drumming with PVT and Triosk, and here his playing draws from the drum'n'bass-via-jazz of his earlier work and also the percussion and live samples of his more recent solo efforts.

François Robin & Mathias Delplanque - Perdu [Parenthèses Records/Bandcamp]
L’Ombre de la Bête ("Shadow of the Beast") finds François Robin pitting his chosen instrument the veueze (a French bagpipe), along with doudouk, mizmar and violin, against the electro-acoustics of Mathias Delplanque. The result isn't so much folktronica as a natural music from a parallel reality, with krautrock grooves, drones and plucked ostinati combining in whirling motion.

Nanook Of The North - Heide III [Denovali/Bandcamp]
Nanook Of The North - Heide VII [Denovali/Bandcamp]
Nanook Of The North - Pingajoq [Denovali/Bandcamp]
The debut self-titled album from Polish duo Nanook Of The North was a revelation at the time - combining the talents of DJ/producer Piotr Kaliński, who records club-adjacent music as Hatti Vatti, with classical musician Stefan Wesołowski, a collaborator with another electronic/post-classical Polish artist, Michał Jacaszek. The first album has a very northern European feel, with ambient depth and bassy beats. For follow-up Heide, again released on Denovali, the duo emphasize their classical side, with very few beats and with help from mezzo-soprano Margarita Slepakova on many tracks. It's very cinematic and rather avant-garde.

Prequel Tapes - Alone [VEYL/Bandcamp]
Prequel Tapes - I Hate You [VEYL/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based Prequel Tapes has been responsible for some nostalgia-fuelled ambient and techno, driven initially by unearthed VHS & DAT tapes from his youth. On his latest album The Golden Cage, Marco Freivogel includes his own voice for the first time, albeit mostly through vocoder effects, and this is a guide to the approach - '80s electronic pop meets rave aesthetics through a contemporary glaze. It's energetic and works well as a pop/dancefloor crossover.

The Fear Ratio - Death Switch (feat. King Kashmere) [Tresor/Bandcamp]
The Fear Ratio - STMS [Tresor/Bandcamp]
IDM duo The Fear Ratio are made up of UK techno producers James Ruskin and Mark Broom, so it's a little bit less bizarre to find their latest effort released by legendary Berlin techno club Tresor. Nevertheless, this is typical little melodies, crunchy syncopated beats and basslines found in IDM since the '90s, albeit with some vocal guests on a few tracks such as UK rapper King Kashmere - a reminder of their recent EP from Seagrave under the Deadhand alias. UK bass genres like grime certainly feature here too, but it's mainly glitchy beats as per Gescom et al, and very fine too.

Sig Nu Gris - Amphibia Blip Eladril [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Sig Nu Gris - Space Alen 100 [Spirit Level/Bandcamp]
Melbourne's Erin Hyde aka Sig Nu Gris became essential listening as soon as Spirit Level released her first earliest singles, including the edits she calls "Fixations". Her debut album Threshold finds her trying to express the inexpressible about surviving Melbourne's endless lockdowns with very little to do except make music. So the dancefloor is there, mashed up with IDM and experimental sound techniques, along with ambient sound design and a strange psychedelia. It's undeniably fun though, and brilliantly produced.

Esc - Lumberjack's Groove [Straight Up Breakbeat/Bandcamp]
Finland's a surprising home to a highly dedicated drum'n'bass & jungle scene, and Straight Up Breakbeat has become a great outlet for that talent. Here's Esc with some dark jungle-tinged d'n'b from Summer of '96, the "extended EP and mixtape" version of the label's Midsummer Murdas EP. As well as Esc's track there's another bonus track and a two-sided DJ mix from label head Dizzy available on cassette and digital.

Wordcolour - Babble [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Wordcolour - Crescent [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
Young UK artist Wordcolour wrote music for TV & film before releasing his sound design-oriented club tunes, starting with the incredible Tell Me Something for Lapsus in 2020. The producer is highly adept at UK club forms of all sorts - Djrum's presence as remixer on the recent Bluster single is a good indicator - and so we get jungle-influenced tunes, hints of dubstep and deep house, and always IDM, but also crystalline ambient passages with distinct classical and jazz influences and crazy glitch interjections a la Japanese figures like Kashiwa Daisuke. Spoken word throughout adds to the pleasant sense of mystery and gives additional depth to a thought-provoking album, one I can see myself returning to a lot this year.

part timer - loose leaf [part timer Bandcamp]
part timer - freeway [part timer Bandcamp]
It feels silly to still be banging on about the "return" of John McCaffrey to making music as part timer, given this recent phase started about 3 years ago in 2019. But every new drop brings much joy, and self-released new album Interiority Complex is a magnificent synthesis of the sensitive, poised post-classical piano & string arrangements he's produced of late with the glitchy, head-noddy beats and samples of his early folktronica, which featured nearly every week on Utility Fog for years, back when. If you haven't gotten behind the new part timer phase then shame on you, but for $10 AUD on Bandcamp, Interiority Complex is the perfect place to start.

Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker - Speling [Machinefabriek Bandcamp/Anne Bakker Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker - Folklore [Machinefabriek Bandcamp/Anne Bakker Bandcamp]
Dutch violist Anne Bakker has collaborated with Rutger Machinefabriek Zuydervelt for some years now - the earliest work I can find is from 2007, with Greg Haines included. Wisps is their third duo album together, based around a selection of violin, viola and vocal improvisations Bakker recorded and passed on to Zuydervelt. The short tracks range from folky sounding strings to rather abstract sound works, all quite bewitching. Oh, and listen out for the Don Cherry samples on a couple of tracks!

Alexandra Spence - Air Pockets [Room40/Bandcamp]
Alexandra Spence - Wind [Room40/Bandcamp]
Finishing with some quietly stunning sound-art from Sydney's Alexandra Spence. Her latest album for Room40 is Blue waves, Green waves, an exploration of bodies of/and water, and particularly the Pacific Ocean. As usual with Spence's work, concrete sounds produced from specific objects merge with musical elements and at times spoken word. The glooping, sliding "Air Pockets" are a particular highlight.

Listen again — ~203MB

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