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Utility Fog

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Wednesday, 14th of September, 2022

Playlist 11.09.22 (11:01 pm)

Big experimental pop album released this week, but there's also an array of experimental sounds from around the world...

LISTEN AGAIN, it's your royal duty. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Jockstrap - Angst [Rough Trade/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - Joy [Kaya Kaya Records]
Jockstrap - The City [Warp/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - Beavercore 3 [Warp/Bandcamp]
Jockstrap - Debra [Rough Trade/Bandcamp]
So here it is. After a couple of brilliant singles, following the two extraordinary EPs released on Warp in 2020, and their debut EP on Kaya Kaya Records in 2018, UK duo Jockstrap's first full album I Love You, Jennifer B is finally out from Rough Trade. The songs and sumptuous string arrangements of Georgia Ellery (also of Black Country, New Road), with the shiny-but-experimental production of Taylor Skye, make Jockstrap a unique and joyful experience. Part of Jockstrap's brilliance is the juxtapositions: irreverant humour with deep emotion, luscious jazz harmonies & progressions with glitched programmed beats, intensely catchy pop sensibility with experimentalism. The album covers all the ground of their previous EPs, including frequent references to "the city", and tracks named after women's names. And that pop sensibility is unquestionable.

Nathaniel Mellors - Digital Worms [Nathaniel Mellors Bandcamp, coming soon]
British artist Nathaniel Mellors is one quarter of the brilliant, unclassifiable band The God In Hackney, who have a new album coming out soonish. Mellors is perhaps better known internationally, though, as a multidisciplinary artist, working in video, painting, sculpture, animatronics and more. A new exhibition called Estate is opening soon at Matt's Gallery in London, featuring Neanderthal-themed works from the last decade, including videos for Mellors' solo work and The God In Hackney, and along with that is a limited 7" single with two tracks - "Life Becomes A Promo" and "Digital Worms", of which I chose the b-side to play tonight. Mellors' work abounds in work-play and genre-slippage, as can be found here.

Bird Eternal - Forest Burial [Bird Eternal Bandcamp]
From around 2008 to 2016, Melbourne-via-Blue Mountains musician Bob Streckfuss released a slew of brilliant experimental electronic music as 0point1 (or, earlier, 0.1). He mixed postrock & shoegaze influences with glitch and idm in a unique way. He's back now under the new name Bird Eternal, with a beautiful track of processed vocals and electronics. His incredible digital art can be found on Instagram.

Briana Marela - You Are a Wave [Briana Marela Bandcamp]
Briana Marela - Eclipse [Briana Marela Bandcamp]
After her third album Call It Love was released in 2017, Briana Marela moved to Oakland to complete an MFA at Mills College. Her previous albums combined her talents at indie songwriting with electronic processing, but You Are A Wave is both more personal and more unforgiving for the listener. The influence of her fine arts studies is here in the extended instrumental modular synth works, stridently unmoored in melody or rhythm, and in her collaboration with the contemporary music-focused Eclipse Quartet, but so is the upheaval of the pandemic, and the tragic loss of her father in April 2022 - he was in Peru, and she was unable to return for over a year. The combination of uncompromising sound-art and her ethereal vocals singing of loss makes ultimately for a very contemporary album, one well suited to a time where pop music, indie music, jazz, club and experimentalism have very slippery boundaries at best.

Nonsemble - Argentavis [Nonsemble Bandcamp]
Nonsemble - Argentavis (Madeleine Cocolas Remix) [Nonsemble Bandcamp]
Something like 15 years ago I discovered Brisbane musician Chris Perren via his folktronic solo work and his postrock band Mr Maps. In the interim, he also formed the contemporary classical ensemble Nonsemble, where his compositions, guitar and electronics are joined by a group of strings, piano and percussion. It's been a while since the last Nonsemble release, but they're returning now with a recorded version of their Archaeopteryx Cycle inspired by prehistoric birds. The first single celebrates the carnivorous Argentavis, probably the heaviest flying bird to have ever existed. A nice mix of rhythmic strings and electronics, it's supported on the single by a blissful remix with added vocal drones by fellow Brisvegan Madeleine Cocolas.

Catherine Graindorge featuring Iggy Pop - Mud II [Glitterbeat/Bandcamp]
Last year Belgian violist/violinist Catherine Graindorge released a lovely album on Glitterbeat of dark, layered electronic string works. It seems they caught the ear of veteran pre/postpunk all-round rock ledge Iggy Pop, who played some tracks on a radio playlist he put together, and one thing led to another and Graindorge sent him some tracks which he spoke/sang on. Although the title track is the lead song on The Dictator EP, I liked the vibe of "Mud II", and it segues nicely into the ultra-dark of our next act...

The Bug - Satan ft Nazamba [Pressure Records]
The Bug - Oceans ft YL Hooi [Pressure Records]
Kevin Martin was asked to provide a remix for post-metal/sludge superground Absent In Body (a group whose future is in doubt now that Scott Kelly (also ex-Neurosis) has been outed as an abuser). The first thing he sent them was rejected as not heavy enough(!) and so instead it became the Absent Riddim, a versatile instrumental that, dancehall/dub style, he shared with a whole slew of collaborators to create versions ranging from ethereal song to hard-hitting rap. This technique is something Martin's used in the past, with b-sides of tracks like "Poison Dart" and others featuring alternate versions with different MCs. The riddim is sludge-slow and covered in sooty static, very clearly The Bug, and his choices of collaborator range from Jamaican and grime MCs, US underground rappers, to metal vocalists, indie singers and jazz musicians. Two of the artists tragically passed away very recently - one is Jamaican MC Nazamba, who died of a heart attack, and who contributes a hellish set of verses titled "Satan". Also present is incendiary jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch, whose death two weeks ago at age 39 came as a massive shock. I didn't play her track tonight, but it's wonderful - mostly her singing but with some trumpet in there too! There are so many great people on here, including frequent sparring partner Justin K Broadrick, the great industrial hip-hop MC dälek, King Midas Sound's Roger Robinson (featured on last week's show), Moor Mother and many more. Two Australians also appear: Jonnine Standish of HTRK, and Melbourne's YL Hooi, who I played tonight.

YL Hooi - Always In Jokes [Efficient Space/YL Hooi Bandcamp]
Russian-Chinese musician Valya Ying-Li Hooi is YL Hooi, a member of Kallista Kult with every-present Melbourne noisemaker Tarquin Manek - which provides a direct connection to Carla dal Forno, who I'd see as one touchpoint for YL Hooi's sound, along with HTRK's Jonnine Standish. Not that Hooi is derivative in any way - in fact, other than her delicate, semi-detached vocal style, the connections are more about the postpunk/dub style that inhabits some of her work. But you'll just as likely find her making massive granular drones out of her voice, or sparse filligree soundscapes, or strange Casio keyboard ditties. The anything-goes approach on her twice-released Untitled is intruging and both redolent of that Melbourne scene and of the current zeitgeist (e.g. the Briana Marela album above). I hope her presence on The Bug's album indicates more things to come, as this album is a few years old now!

Tom Allum - under [Tone List/Bandcamp]
Tom Allum - time [Tone List/Bandcamp]
Not long after exploratory Perth label Tone List released 504's Salvage Rhythms, made out of repurposed found sounds & field recordings, they now bring us Tom Allum's CANAL ROCKS. Here the burbling landscape of Canal Rocks, near Margaret River in Western Australia, is documented and repurposed by Allum in various ways. Field recordings are processed and "blasted back into the environment at night"; hydroponic recordings featured from deep under the water. All these watery sounds are played both straight and chopped into rhythms and shapes at times, and they are overlaid with synth pads and guitar at times. It really is evocative of a place where the sea meets the land.

KAVARI - Mirroring (Like Me) [KAVARI Bandcamp]
KAVARI - Attachment Style [KAVARI Bandcamp]
Glasgow artist KAVARI (Cameron Sofia Winters) has some great collabs under her belt and demented edits & remixes, but it feels like Suture EP is her most fully-formed work yet. Here she she effortlessly combines jungle, dubstep and trap influences with current experimentalism (have we stopped using "deconstructed club" now?), including creepy metal-adjacent vocal growls. All of that makes for ideal Utility Fog music, so get on it.

Ibrahim Alfa Jnr - TQSM [Mille Plateaux/Bandcamp]
Ibrahim Alfa Jnr - NPNX [Mille Plateaux/Bandcamp]
Brighton-based Ibrahim Alfa Jnr has been making his brand of wonky, rhythmically-unusual techno since the mid-to-late '90s. It's not a surprise to find him now on the re-formed experimental imprint Mille Plateaux, but it is a surprise to find many of the tracks on Messier87 sporting jungle breakbeats. Mille Plateaux, in their theory-infested way, call it "Hypercussion", which is a nice coinage anyway. I like the buried swing beats at the start and end of the first track tonight, and the hyper nature of this new music in a new direction from a techno veteran.

Frank Bretschneider and Giorgio Li Calzi - In The Dark [Umor Rex/Bandcamp]
Frank Bretschneider and Giorgio Li Calzi - Human-to-Human [Umor Rex/Bandcamp]
Jazz trumpet melded with electronics has a long heritage - back to Miles Davis easily, along with Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær. Giorgio Li Calzi has also worked his trumpet in with electronics during his long career, and here the electronics are provided by another veteran, Frank Bretschneider, co-founder of the Raster label, before it merged with Alva Noto's Noton, and then de-merged a few years ago. This album, though, is released on the forward-thinking Mexican label Umor Rex. With Zero Mambo the two artists switch between glitchy machine funk and more sparse & dubby feels, with the translucent trumpet of Li Calzi perfectly aligned with the purity of Bretschneider's tones and hits. Man-machine music.

Carl Stone - Vatanim [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
We're not done with veterans yet. Our last track comes from LA/Tokyo-based pioneer of sampling and granular techniques, Carl Stone. Unseen Worlds showcased his back catalogue on two compilations in 2016 & 2018, which catalysed a renaissance of creativity in Stone, with multiple EPs and albums released through the label since then. Gall Tones, a typically punning title, is an EP produced on laptop & headphones in hospital following a gall stone operation, with the subject of his rhythmic chop-and-shuffle being pop music of some sort. There's a brass link here though - some kind of mambo horn section is stuttering about in this track, it seems. Unhinged as only Stone can do it.

Listen again — ~203MB

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