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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, 25th of September, 2022

Playlist 25.09.22 (11:01 pm)

Vocals weave in & out of tonight's selections, often in unusual settings, from minimalist arrangements to glitch-beats, mangled raps and stretched choirs...
If you're in Sydney this week, can I recommend you pop over to the Powerhouse Museum for Powerhouse Late between 5 & 9pm on Thursday the 29th? I'll be DJing for the whole four hours, so you can enjoy some Utility Fog selections in person!

LISTEN AGAIN because you can 'Fog at home anytime. Stream on demand with FBi, or podcast right here.

Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden - Close [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden - Other side [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
If you know the work of Swedish musician Ellen Arkbro, it's probably as a composer of super-minimalist works for organ or horns or guitar, with strange chords ringing out one by one. Thus her stunning new collaboration with fellow Swede Johan Graden, a free jazz pianist & arranger, might come as a surprise. Yes, it's minimalist, but the deceptively simple arrangements for multiple bass clarinets, tuba, contrabass and piano, as well as occasional sparse drums, trumpet and other instruments, underscore Arkbro's fragile, candidly melodic voice. The opening track is a beauty, but "Other side" stands out from an already stand-out album with its unusual harmonies (each piano chord includes two notes a tone or semitone apart), the all-bass orchestration (bass clarinet, tuba and contrabass join the piano's left-hand in the second half), and the gorgeous, subtle vocal loop that carries through the last phrases. No sign of Chet Baker among these originals, but I Get Along Without You Very Well achieves all the subdued emotion of the jazz standard it's named after, with even fewer ingredients.

Ian William Craig - A Crack and a Shadow [130701/Bandcamp]
Ian William Craig - A Given Stack [130701/Bandcamp]
This album's source comes as a surprise for the classically-trained singer and tape manipulator Ian William Craig. His free-floating, looped, fluttering and degraded vocal lines and modular synths don't immediately scream "computer game soundtrack", yet Music for Magnesium_173 is just that - full tracks (some over 10 minutes long) in Craig's usual style, written to accompany a quantum mechanical puzzle game released on the Steam platform. As the game development was delayed (not an uncommon experience), some earlier works created for it came out on his 2018 album Thresholder. Suffice to say it's vintage Craig, lovely experienced on its own.

Abdel Ja7eem Hafeth - Eed B Eed (Ma3 El Shaytan) ft. Sheekie Sheekie [Drowned By Locals]
Produced by 1800s Internet, this piece from the people behind the Jordanian label Drowned By Locals is a rather touching tribute to Daniel Johnson, mostly just piano and cigarette-stained voice, but steeped in noise and faint backing vocals. Lovely.

Jason McMahon - You Dear, Woody Houses? [Shinkoyo/Artist Pool/Bandcamp]
Jason McMahon - Enchant a Rare Time Wander [Shinkoyo/Artist Pool/Bandcamp]
Jason McMahon - Who'd Forecast Shade [Shinkoyo/Artist Pool/Bandcamp]
Run by Matt Mehlan of the experimental b(r)and Skeletons, Shinkoyo and the associated co-operative venture Artist Pool are gradually releasing some very creative & inspiring music. I loved Chicago cellist Lia Kohl's Too Small to be a Plain earlier this year, and now we have the second solo album, It's That Time Again, from guitarist Jason McMahon. It's a mostly-instrumental song suite meant to be played all the way through, and so we're excerpting three tracks in a row here. It's somewhere between psych-rock, psych-folk and folktronica perhaps, all performed by McMahon except for some memorable drumming from Greg Fox on one track. While the one vocal track isn't featured tonight, I do want to mention that McMahon describes it as "sung in my faux-gibberish style", and if that's not a drawcard I don't know what is.

Makaya McCraven - High Fives [International Anthem/Bandcamp]
Makaya McCraven - This Place That Place [International Anthem/Bandcamp]
I feel like by now Makaya McCraven has been heralded enough on this show and elsewhere that he doesn't need a huge introduction. A brilliant drummer and producer of "organic beat music" in which improvisations and arrangements performed by the cream of free jazz musicians from around the world are carefully, both subtly and radically edited, he really is something of an iconoclast. New album In These Times represents a milestone for McCraven that's been a long time coming, as he's honed tracks in his songbook that are based around odd time signatures, recorded them in studios and performance spaces all around Chicago and further afield, and spent countless hours editing. The result is a little more smoothed around the edges than his previous albums for International Anthem, at times almost too polite, but that would be to ignore the stellar playing, the off-kilter rhythms, and the utter sumptuousness of the arrangements and compositions.

Ahm & Defpet - Searching [Ahm Bandcamp/Defpet Bandcamp]
Ahm & Defpet - Slipping [Ahm Bandcamp/Defpet Bandcamp]
Following some intense solo IDM/deconstructed club releases and remix work, it's great to hear Melbourne producer Ahm aka Andrew Huhtanen McEwan working in a more live setting with fellow Melbournite Hannes Lackmann aka Defpet on drum kit and myriad other instruments. It's uncategorisable music that slips between experimental electronica, jazz, postrock and more. Just what we like on the 'Fog.

Naco - Sanc [Scuffed Recordings]
Kyoto-based Naco runs the 85acid label and produces the kind of music that melds house & techno with breaks & jungle and more, which perfectly suits London's Scuffed label. Here chopped amen breaks are inserted in increasingly complex, syncopated fashion into a 4/4 structure, dizzyingly joyful.

Patrick Brian - Flooring It [Sneaker Social Club]
This new release on Sneaker Social Club, home of UK bass music and that whole 'aardcore continuum, comes from an LA native. Patrick Brian is highly influenced by grime and drill, as well as predecessors like uk garage, and he skilfully channels those styles on this new EP while putting his own spin on them.

µ-Ziq - Hello [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
It's been a big year for Planet µ boss Mike Paradinas aka µ-Ziq, with the 25th anniversary re-release of his brilliant Lunatic Harness album, and a series of releases with new music on the same tip - melodic idm inspired by jungle and hardcore techno - the archetypal drill'n'bass. The final release in this series is the Hello EP, mirroring the Goodbye EP and, if his recent sets in Canberra & Melbourne are any guide, going deeper into the jungle. The CD edition features all the Goodbye tracks as well, for fans like me :)

pale sketcher - today [GIVE/TAKE/Bandcamp]
pale sketcher - golden skin [GIVE/TAKE/Bandcamp]
It's been many years since we've heard from Pale Sketcher, the IDM project of Justin K Broadrick. It's a long way from the pioneering grindcore of Napalm Death, the industrial metal of Godflesh, or even the shoegaze metal of Jesu, but in fact the origins of Pale Sketcher come from a set of deconstructed ambient/electronic remixes Broadrick made of his 2007 Jesu album Pale Sketches. The tunes on new album golden skin were created a little after this, up until 2013, and were originally going to be released on Aphex Twin's Rephlex Records before the label shut down. They've now finally found a home on US label GIVE/TAKE, which is a blessing because this stuff is just so good. It's got a bit of the shoegazey outlook of the Jesu origins, but with those wordless vocal snippets playing the same role they do on the recent µ-Ziq work, and among the crunchy beats are plenty of accelerated drill'n'bass funtimes to be had. JKB has hinted that there will be more actually-new Pale Sketcher material coming too - can't wait!

Dev/Null - Time 2 Rhyme (GOOOOOSE Remix) [Evar Records]
Breakcore veteran Dev/Null released his tribute to jungle & jungle tekno, Microjunglizm, on LA's Evar Records a year ago. Evar now follow that up with Microjunglizm Remixes, featuring a bunch of jungle/hardcore proponents from both sides of the Atlantic, but it's excellent that they also chose to invite Shanghai's GOOOOOSE to the party. It's not the first time he's mashed up jungle breaks in his music, and as usual it's brilliantly skewed.

s8jfou - Soft [s8jfou Bandcamp]
s8jfou - Phase [s8jfou Bandcamp]
French musician s8jfou's name is a pun. It's pronounce "'suis-je fous?", as 8 = huit in French, and translates as "Am I mad?". And perhaps he was mad to create his new album Op-Echo using only the Operator synth and the Echo effect in Ableton. It's an exercise in proving you don't need modular synths and outboard gear to create something special, and it seems to me he's succeeded admirably. It's a bit of a love song for UK dance music and IDM, yet the melodies give it a distinctly French twist - I hear a similar temperament to the violintronica of Chapelier Fou or a much less manic Ruby My Dear. Well worth checking out.

Aphir - Red Giant [Provenance/Bandcamp]
Naarm/Melbourne mastering/mixing engineer, producer, singer and songwriter Becki Whitton is soon releasing her very personal electronic pop album Pomegranate Tree through Provenance, the label that she took over and rebuilt into a collective a few years ago. The album is an elegant and emotive exploration of her experiences growing up with, grappling with, and eventually leaving the Christian faith, and Whitton's dedicated studies in electronically-mediated quasi-choral work, her beat-making and her well-honed production skills all serve to make this album something to anticipate.

Aasthma - It's Just Your Style (feat. Jonnine) [Monkeytown Records/Bandcamp]
Aasthma - Power Ambient Piano Ballad [Monkeytown Records/Bandcamp]
OK look, here's what I said when I last played Aasthma on the show: Pär Grindvik and Peder Mannerfelt have been intrinsic members of the Swedish electronic music scene for the last decade or more – Grindvik runs the Stockholm LTD label, the latter his eponymous Peder Mannerfelt Produktion, as well as being part of the experimental duo Roll The Dice and a frequent collaborator with Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife). That was 2019, and it's taken a few years for their album Arrival to... arrive... courtesy of Modeselektor's Monkeytown Records. While there were collaborations on their singles (including the wonderful Penelope Trappes), it still seemed more of a club project than a pop project. That's flipped on its head for this album, where even the instrumentals are full of sampled vocal hooks, big synths and sparkly melodies. It seems to lean into Euro-dance-pop rather gleefully, while still allowing itself to be charmingly weird, especially on the closing "Power Ambient Piano Ballad". Among the guests is the very busy Jonnine Standish of HTRK, who also appeared recently on The Bug's Absent Riddim.

clipping. and Evicshen - Sheba [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
clipping. and TENGGER - Say the Name (TENGGER Remix) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Six years after their last REMXNG outing, noise-hop masterminds clipping. are releasing a series of four remix EPs (compile them on CDs guys!) starting with REMXNG 2.1. The tracks are all credited to clipping. and the remix artist, with some more like collabs than remixes. Victoria Shen aka Evicshen destroys "She Bad" from Visions of Bodies Being Burned, further upping the horror quotient with blasts of noise and mangled vocal samples; but "travelling musical family" TENGGER, from Seoul, take a tiny bit from the outro of "Say the Name" and construct a blissed out ambient oscillation from it.

part timer - no voice [part timer Bandcamp]
part timer - with a whisper [part timer Bandcamp]
John part timer McCaffrey continues to make magic with just a laptop and a piano (I'm not sure it's even a real piano). While in COVID isolation, he made five tracks of subtle post-classical beauty, with sparse orchestrations on wind instruments and strings conjured from the aether. It's a fitting closer after Arkbro & Graden's opening tracks tonight, so go support great music.

Listen again — ~202MB


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