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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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Monday, 24th of October, 2022

Playlist 23.10.22 (12:15 am)

Strange ambiences, with strange songs and strange settings, and some strange beats tonight.
Thanks once again to Marcus Whale for kindly filling in for me last week when I was too busy!

LISTEN AGAIN before the gibbering aliens eat your brainwaves. It's too late for me, but your can save yourself! Podcast here, stream on demand from FBi!

Brian Eno - who gives a thought [Opal/UMC]
Brian Eno - garden of stars [Opal/UMC]
It's strangely surprising that foreverandevernomore is the first Brian Eno album of songs in a long time. "It's not an ambient album!" claim all the stories, but... it kind of is? There are no beats, there are beautiful glacial keyboards. Eno is hardly known only for his pioneering ambient music (and for coining the term). Alongside producing huge bands across many musical eras, he has a rich heritage of songwriting himself, and no surprise, there are some beautifully moving songs here - appropriately for the subject matter, which is a kind of elegy for the world that might have been. Yes, Eno continues to urge humanity to do better - on climate change, on sociopolitics - but the muted, wistful tone here is not exactly a call to arms. It's also not an entirely solo album as I expected - yes, there are Eno children singing on a couple of tracks, but also a number of his other well-known collaborators, including his brother Roger Eno, the excellent experimental guitarist & producer Leo Abrahams, and good ol' Jon Hopkins, who in fact composed one of the loveliest tracks on the album, sung by experimental folk singer Clodagh Simonds. Of the two songs I chose tonight, "who gives a thought" only features Abrahams, adding soft drones to Eno's ode to the dispossessed - it struck me as something like Dead Can Dance's Brendan Perry, or David Sylvian or even Scott Walker, but Eno's voice is not as rich as any of those. On "garden of stars", as with a number of tunes, Eno applies digital effects to his voice (software designer Peter Chilvers is also here, playing keyboards), as well as inviting Roger Eno's daughter Cecily to sing (and Roger plays accordion). It's an immensely affecting album.

Jane Sheldon - Put my eyes out: I can see you [Jane Sheldon Bandcamp]
Jane Sheldon - In the deep nights I dig for you [Jane Sheldon Bandcamp]
Australian soprano Jane Sheldon may be best known to Utility Fog and indeed FBi listeners as the singer in the brilliant early 2000s genre-crushing ensemble Gauche, but like many of the band's members, she has forged a phenomenal career, hers in contemporary vocal music. Her incredible new solo album I am a tree, I am a mouth draws its lyrics from the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke in his Book of Hours, a collection of pantheistic odes to God. Sheldon's compositions call for two voices (both sung by her) that harmonise and separate over the eerie, enveloping sound of gong resonances, distended, re-pitched and edited into dronescapes. At times crackling, glitchy textures bubble to the surface - the technology used to produce these pieces is integral to the final works, even though Sheldon's settings of the German lyrics, her compositions and her exquisite vocal technique recall classical & romantic Lieder. You won't hear any other music quite like this anywhere else, and you shouldn't miss this!

SURACHAI | FYOHNA - But You Remember [BL_K Noise]
It can be hard to keep up with what Surachai Sutthisasanakul is going to sound like on each release, having buzzed and hammered between IDM, grindcore/doom metal, breakcore, noise and ambient over many releases in the last decade and a bit. Lately there have been a number of experimental, dark ambient-ish albums produced on modular gear. That gear is no doubt behind the new Violet EP, but this collaboration with singer Fyohna is a lovely, if short, collection of dark electronic pop songs. There's a bit of trip-hop in there, as is the style these days, tied up with Surachai's great talent for sound design and Fyohna's silky vocals.

Lucrecia Dalt - Dicen [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
Lucrecia Dalt - Enviada [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
Now, this. THIS is album of the year right here. One of the albums of the year, for sure. I've followed Lucrecia Dalt through her early hazy, increasingly experimental indie works (including a gorgeous early collaboration with Canberra's Spartak - find her as Lucrecia Perez on "Second-Half Clouded" here), then to her extraordinary genre-free electronic experiments, where her voice was used as just one more instrument or sound-source... and recently her brilliant, disturbing soundtrack work, as well as her inspired duo with Aaron Dilloway, Lucy & Aaron. Here she comes full circle - having been based in Europe for many years now (first Barcelona, then Berlin), Dalt originally comes from Colombia, and thus her return to song also finds her returning to South & Central American rhythms, harmonies, basslines and melodies. The lyrics, co-written with Miguel Prado, are in Spanish, and if you're not paying attention you may think it's a traditional latin band (and indeed it is, beautifully orchestrated) - until you hear the edits, détournements, smudges, the processed sounds melding with the real. It's a beautiful headfuck, emphasis on beautiful. Unmissable.

Mabe Fratti - Desde el cielo [Unheard Of Hope/Bandcamp]
Mabe Fratti - Cuestión de tiempo [Unheard Of Hope/Bandcamp]
Not far from Colombia, north along the Isthmus of Panama, is Guatemala, where Mabe Fratti hails from. Based for some time now in Mexico City, Fratti has created her own form of experimental song from her raw cello playing, often filtered through multiple effects, along with arrays of electronics and her delicate voice - her ear for melody is remarkable, with melodic lines rising up over scratchy riffs and drones. Although this album is deliberately sparser in orchestration than her last few releases, her usual collaborative process remains, with guitar, percussion and many other sounds contributed by fellow travellers in Mexico and also Rotterdam. Nevertheless, this is a creative vision that could come from noone other than Fratti, and I'm proud that she's a fellow cellist!

Marina Hasselberg - Só [Redshift Records/Bandcamp]
Marina Hasselberg - At A Distance [Redshift Records/Bandcamp]
Speaking of cello... Vancouver-based cellist Marina Hasselberg is classically trained, both in her native Portugal and in Canada, but on her album Red she takes a small handful of classical compositions into experimental lands, with scratchy, breathy playing and unusual drones surrounding even the ancient works. These are joined by a number of free improvisations, some augmented by guitar, drums and other instruments (if subtly). The end result is an album that travels far in terms of genres - and indeed date of composition - but retains an impressively consistent sound. Even the contemporary compositions are corralled into the album's schema: the beautiful solo cello composition "At A Distance" by Martin Reisle here has its melodies and repeating rhythmic ostinati overlaid with improvised guitar from Aram Bajakian.

Felicity Mangan - Dolphin Tricks [Warm Winters, Ltd./Bandcamp]
Nobody else is making music quite like that of Felicity Mangan, Berlin-based Australian sound artist. Her music's foundation is flora & fauna - many of her releases feature raw field recordings of the wondrous sounds of nature. But among her recent releases are works which take nature's creativity and notch it up a few levels. Insectile rhythms become electronic beats, flows of water are reversed, cut up and overlaid in unnatural patterns, and the "pedosphere" (the upper layer of the Earth's crust) is mined (pun intended) for sound. Wet On Wet was originally to be released by Russian label Klammklang, but Putin's lunacy caused the label to indefinitely stop operations, so Warm Winters, Ltd. stepped in to release it. While the album's main focus is on soil and its inhabitants, we also have the repurposed polyrhythms of dolphin sounds on tonight's selection.

Maral - Walk and A Talk [Leaving Records/Bandcamp]
Maral - Hold My Hand, Go For a Walk [Leaving Records/Bandcamp]
Both of LA-based Iranian-American artist Maral Mahmoudi's albums on Leaving Records sound on one level like typical fleet-footed beat records. Maral loves head-nodding breakbeats and loves mixing them up with riffs (the first track of hers I discovered was a brilliant remix of anarcho-punks Crass). But Maral has studied the setar, and the traditional Persian instrument features in her music along with voracious samplings of Iranian popular music of yore and Persian classical music. Yes, Ground Groove is grounded in groove (I am embarrassed to write this, but not enough to not write it), but it contains multitudes. Dude. Get into it.

Persher - Calf [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Arthur Cayzer (Pariah) & Jamie Roberts (Blawan) are Bristolian bass & techno stalwarts who gathered together as Persher to produce a very Thrill Jockey record indeed. Man With The Magic Soap is not techno, nor is it dubstep, although it has some low-slung basslines and reveals electronically-produced beats at times. But the closest comparison is surely the heaviest parts of Petbrick's metal/hardcore/electronic compound. At 26 minutes over 7 tracks, it's short & sharp, and unlikely to find itself on the same dancefloors as the artists' usual fare, but I'm willing to give it a go (hire me, I'm a DJ!)

Marco Zenker - Resistance [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Marco Zenker - Intuition Dub [Ilian Tape/Bandcamp]
Oooh and here's a real one. Marco Zenker is one of the Zenkers wot run the excellent Munich label Ilian Tape. And his new solo album Channel Balance is a beautifully realised example of most of what the label does oh so well - dub aesthetics cutting through genres from lugubrious ambient through breakbeat-loving techno up to (on the second half) jungle and drum'n'bass. The brothers came to techno and 4/4 electronics via a love of hip-hop and Jamaican styles, and somehow that really shows too. But it's the consistency of quality production and emotional depth across the ostensible genre changes through this album that make it such a highlight. Not to be missed.

Rasmus Hedlund - Chords Galore [Ljudverket]
Finnish producer Rasmus Hedlund recently became a father, and his new album commemorates that in its title, Far, which is Finnish for Father. The music itself cycles around dub techno patterns. Each track is relatively long - around the 8 minute mark - and pleasantly carries the listener with head-nodding 4/4 beats and, as this track tells us, "Chords Galore".

clipping. and Aho Ssan - Looking Like Meat (Aho Ssan Remix) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
The last of clipping.'s RMXNG 2 12"s is out now - that's four EPs each with 7 tracks, totally over 2 hours of music reworking tracks from their last two albums of "horrorcore" rap. As with the last 3 EPs, the last one features an impressive lineup, including Kenyan electronic hero Slikback, ex-DHR veteran experimentalist Patric Catani and frequent clipping. collaborator Christopher Fleeger as Cooling Prongs. A highlight is the rework by French-Ghanayan ambient/glitch maestro Aho Ssan, which manages to preserve the energy of Daveed Diggs' performance without any beats to speak of. Also notable is the opening track, from our very next artist!

Carl Stone - Omar [We Jazz]
Yes, glitch/cut-up originator Carl Stone also contributes a remix on the latest clipping. remix EP. But also released this week is We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2, which is the second time the Finnish We Jazz label has opened up its catalogue to a single artist to remix at will. We're not told who the original artists are here, and there are some quite interesting excerpts, including some apparent jazz settings of classical compositions. Stone juxtaposes different performances in surprising and sometimes deliberately jarring ways. He shuffles and re-arranges in his usual manner - everything gridded up, juddering along in seemingly controlled chaos, and as of his more recent work, the rhythms sections still hang together while solo parts are shredded. And yet, it's still clearly jazz, ripped apart though it may be.

RUBBISH MUSIC - Trash and Treasure (excerpt) [Flaming Pines/Bandcamp]
Kate Carr (proprietor of Flaming Pines) and Iain Chambers (who runs the Persistence of Sound label) come together here for the first - but not last - time as RUBBISH MUSIC, a project which describes itself in its name. Upcycling is their album, with one track each by the individual members and one together (which we've excerpted tonight), all working on the idea of, well, "upcycling" objects, taking discarded refuse from consumer society and using it for art. You can see a beautifully-shot video of the two performing via State51 and Nonclassical here.

Jonathan Higgins - 01 [Flaming Pines/Bandcamp]
Jonathan Higgins - sckt [Flaming Pines/Bandcamp]
Kate Carr's Flaming Pines is a rich source of experimental music, mostly derived from differeing approaches harnessing field recordings and found sound. But along with a general interest in ambient music, Carr also has a love of glitch, and two recent releases celebrate that in style. First, we have British composer Jonathan Higgins, whose Good thanks, you? uses glitch to express inner turmoil and anxiety. This feels close to my heart - the anodyne reply "Good thanks, you?" is all too common when asked "How are you?" or even (*shudder*) "RUOK?" The clicks & cuts on Higgins' album are produced from custom-modified CD players - a kind of mirror image of the CD desecration performed by artists like Oval in the '90s.

Kamran Arashnia - Black Screen of Death [Flaming Pines/Bandcamp]
Kamran Arashnia - Guru Meditation [Flaming Pines/Bandcamp]
The other glitch release from Flaming Pines, released pretty much simultaneously, comes from Iranian composer Kamran Arashnia. Drawing on a quote from Augustine of Hippo, Arashnia treats the glitch not so much as a malfunction, but as a treasured mistake. In this, Arashnia is returning to the origins of digital glitch music in the mid-to-late '90s works of the Mego founders alongside fellow Europeans like Pole, who all celebrated the glitch as the serendipitous hardware or software mistake that brings a patina of beautiful randomness to the ostensibly perfect digital realm. Of course, rock music itself is founded in the overdriven circuits that bring glorious distortion, and Arashnia revels in the distortions, clipping and chaos of his collected mistakes.

Sebastian Field - All Tomorrows [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
Sebastian Field - Somnambulist [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
While Canberra's Sebastian Field doesn't express the sonic aesthetic of his Prescients EP in quite the same terms as the previous two artists, the pieces here are also experienced through a patina of distortions - here, like last year's beautiful Sandcandles album to which he considers this a "prequel", Field is taking old tapes of his from 20+ years ago and looping, chopping and obscuring their origins through a fog of effects. Rather than sharp glitches and raw edits, the artistic principle here is one of smudging, of continuous modulation rather than disjunction, even though there are rhythmic cut-ups to be found inside the haze. This EP and its sister album both contain detail worthy of close appreciation.

SPILL - Residue [Corvo Records/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based Magda Mayas and Australian, often Berlin-based Tony Buck have partnered as the duo SPILL for over a decade. Mayas' piano playing is intuitive and virtuosic, much like Buck's drumming, and both are experienced collaborators - Buck has played with luminaries across jazz, noise, punk and more, and may be best known to listeners as the drummer in The Necks. Much of SPILL's work is quite challenging, in the vein of free improv, but tucked away at the end of Mycelium, their latest album, is the beautiful, sparse piece we end with tonight, performed with great sensitivity by these two accomplished musicians.

Listen again — ~210MB

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