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Playlists are listed with artist name first, then track title and (remixer), then [record label]. Enjoy the links.

Sunday, 25th of December, 2022

Playlist 25.12.22 - Best of 2022 Part 2!! (12:50 pm)

It's really been another monster year for new music, and so much so that after last week's "songs" episode, this is now part 2 of 3 (THREE). Next week is all beats, a 2hr mix. Tonight is a "mix" too, of mostly non-beats music, mostly non-vocal. Neither of these rules are hard & fast, but this is experimental music that's not "songs" and not for the dancefloor.

LISTEN AGAIN to more of the best of the best! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin - II [Drag City/Bandcamp]
This year saw the release of a brilliant new solo album from Oren Ambarchi, Shebang, released on Drag City and featuring a horde of great collaborators. From his origins in free noise, extreme minimalism and drone/doom metal, about 10 years ago Oren Ambarchi found himself a minimalist, evolving experimental rock groove with the remarkable Audience of One, and has since then embellished and refined this style over a number of releases. Shebang follows in that sequence, and deservedly headed up a lot of people's best-of-the-year selections. However, I'm going for the other album, his trio work with Johan Berthling & Andreas Werliin titled Ghosted. On groove-based, kraut-jazz jams you'd be hard-pressed to find a better trio than these three. His collaborators here are established members of the Swedish experimental scene, both members of the legendary *ahem* postfolkrocktronic band Tape, and the two also make up the incredible rhythm section of the free jazz/psych ensemble Fire! with Mats Gustafsson. The stoic, dubby, krauty basslines Berthling lays down in Fire! are here, as are the freewheeling rhythms of Werliin (probably best known for his duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums with his brilliant wife and Fire! Orchestra member Mariam Wallentin). It was clear before it even came out that Drag City were on to a winner here, and it easily lived up to expectations. Track II is particularly blissed out. You won't regret spending 40 minutes with this music.

clipping. and Cooling Prongs - Down [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
This year clipping. followed up their 2016 RMXNG collection with FOUR sizeable RMXNG 2 12"s - that's four EPs each with 7 tracks, totalling over 2 hours of music reworking tracks from their last two albums of "horrorcore" rap. Each EP featured an impressive lineup, and we'll be hearing from them again in next week's best of 2022 part 3 with some jungle/breakcore mayhem. But their noise/drone roots also surface, with French-Ghanayan ambient/glitch maestro Aho Ssan managing to preserve the energy of Daveed Diggs' performance without any beats to speak of, and on tonight's selection, frequent clipping. collaborator Christopher Fleeger as Cooling Prongs combines field recordings with the glitched vocals of Daveed Diggs and barbershop quartet-style harmonies - it's got to be heard to be believed.

Loom & Thread - O**ne* [Macro/Bandcamp]
Leipzig/Berlin band Loom & Thread aim to turn the traditional jazz piano trio inside-out, much like pianist Tom Schneider's other band KUF do to dance-pop. Tobi Fröhlich on double bass and Daniel Klein on drums are immaculate jazz players, and Schneider is a great jazz pianist, but his nimble playing is also fed back into the trio improvisations by way of his sampler: sped up, stuttered into static clouds of notes, shifted in time. We're told this happens in real-time but if so, he's masterfully controlling the sampler simultaneously with his keyboard gymnastics... I feel like there are digital re-edits of the jazz improvs, but in any case this is a brilliant and unique take on post-jazz, with moments of true beauty and dazzling sections of both instrumental prowess and technological creativity.

Carl Stone - Wat Dong Moon Lek [Unseen Worlds/Bandcamp]
LA/Japan-based computer music pioneer Carl Stone has seen a renaissance since the Unseen Worlds label released two archival albums of his a few years ago. Active since the mid-1980s, Stone developed a technique to time-slice through existing recordings using granular synthesis to produce garbled yet musical live remixes & mashups. On his last couple of albums this has resulted in strangely rhythmic stuff that's like dance music as interpreted by 19th century robots(?) - and on the title track of his latest, Wat Dong Moon Lek (all his titles come from the names of Asian restaurants), a Vietnamese or Thai lounge jazz track is the source, smeared and sliced for 5 minutes, while the intro and coda are charmingly left untouched. We had an embarrassment of riches from Stone this year, with EP Gall Tones (just as good as this album), an album of reworks of Finnish label We Jazz, and indeed a remix of clipping. too!

Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker - Speling [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!

Lueenas - Witches Brew [Barkhausen Recordings]
Copenhagen duo Ida Duelund (double bass, drum machine, Moog bass and "pedals") and Maria Jagd (violin and pedals) create improvised and composed soundscapes as well as music for soundtracks and installations with their amplified instruments, voices and effects as Lueenas. Their self-titled debut album proper came out this year on Barkhausen Recordings, after a series of soundtracks and shorter works. The string instruments are the core, but some of the best material comes when the violin is screeching through distortion and the double bass is producing thundering drones. There are also tracks on the more subdued side, including a gorgeous piece of almost-jazz featuring a touching vocal from Emma Acs (whose current band is Evil House Party). Through the album there are filmic violin swells, drones, thudding rhythms from the instruments' bodies, and groaning noise drones as well as beautiful pizzicato lines and delicate string interactions. Very special stuff. Also notable, Duelund was based for a time in Melbourne - always nice to have an Oz connection.

Florent Ghys - Véranda [Cantaloupe/Bandcamp]
French musician Florent Ghys is a composer, double bassist, electronic musician and video artist. He's a longtime Bang on a Can collaborator, so it's no surprise to find his latest album released on the New York collective's Cantaloupe label. It's two albums, Ritournelles released on CD and the accompanying digital Mosaïques (tracks from both were collected on a special vinyl edition at the end of the year too). The former album focuses on double bass and other instruments, but they're often sampled and edited into complex tapestries, while the latter is more electronic, with Ghys' penchant for sampled speech coming to the fore, but there's also plenty of double bass on that album too. They're cut from the same cloth, and are well taken together. Fans of The Books will love what they find here - a wonderful revelation.

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.

Mabe Fratti - Desde el cielo [Unheard Of Hope/Bandcamp]
Based for some time now in Mexico City, Guatemalan cellist Mabe 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!

Lia Kohl - First Picture of the Weather Pattern [Shinkoyo/Bandcamp]
Indeed, it's always a pleasure to discover another cellist taking their instrument into uncharted territory, so I'm thankful to Matt Mehlan of Skeletons' label/collective/thing Shinkoyo/Artist Pool for introducing me to Chicago cellist/sound-artist/performer Lia Kohl. Her album Too Small to be a Plain is a stunning concoction of acoustic cello loops, mournful/calm synths, field recordings and voice. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Dominic Voz - Dan Ryan [Accidental Records/Bandcamp/Beacon Sound/Bandcamp]
Sound-art and social justice are at the heart of the work of Chicago-via Portland artist Dominic Voz. His Portland origins connect him with the adventurous Beacon Sound, who co-released his album Right To The City with Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records. The title "Right To The City" references Voz' dedication to fair housing and contestation within urban settings, but also more generally his love of cities (something I very much share). Instruments and voices of friends are found throughout, often disarmingly casually dropped into the recordings, and ruthlessly sliced digitally, along with Voz's own instrumentation (is that him on cello?) and his folktronic, deconstructed production techniques. It's a beautiful combination of early-'00s style folktronic acoustic manipulation, '90s early jazz-fusion postrock and contemporary sound-art ambient. This track was a highlight, named for Dan Ryan Jr, who helped construction of expressways around Chicago including the Dan Ryan Expressway, opened shortly after Ryan's death. The track combines all the album's characteristics, from sliding synths supported by classical instruments to urban field recordings and glitched rhythms.

Tegh & Adel Poursamadi - Ijaad ایجاد [Injazero Records/Bandcamp]
Istanbul/London label Injazero Records this year released the first in a new series from Tehran's Tegh working with acoustic instrumentalists. On Ima ایما fellow Iranian violinist Adel Poursamadi draws from Persian classical music as well as drone, arranged by Tegh along with his signature rumbling bass and stretched, glitched electronic processing. It's powerful stuff - that we're promised a whole series of this is something to be excited about.

Bridget Ferrill & Áslaug Magnúsdóttir - Tapestry [Subtext Recordings/Bandcamp]
US-born sound-artist and engineer Bridget Ferrill - now based in Berlin - and Icelandic musician Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, clarinettist in Icelandic electronic pop group Samaris and now based in Denmark, met in Reykjavik while Ferrill was living there. Much of Ferrill's recent work involves processed classical instruments and works, including collaborations with viola da gamba player Liam Byrne; and Magnúsdóttir has a classical background too. Nevertheless their new duo work Woodwind Quintet is not a quintet and doesn't feature woodwind in any obvious way, which perfectly encapsulates the artists' strategy here. The album uses classical signs and sounds (possibly including viola da gamba, harp and choral samples from Ferrill's previous work) while avoiding classical forms. Sounds are glitched and granular processed, obfuscated from their origins but recognizable enough. The cover photo - by Liam Byrne - depicts a beautiful zither splattered with concrete and dropped into a half-filled bath. Apposite!

Deepchild - Songs You'll Never Hear [A Strangely Isolated Place/Bandcamp]
Sydney prodigal son Rick Bull aka Deepchild was a regular on 2ser and FBi for many years who started making beats around the same I did in the late '90s, and was comfortably ensconsed in the Berlin club scene, playing at the likes of Berghain for years. He released his stunning Fathersong on Mille Plateaux earlier this year - a tribute to his late father, who passed away from dementia-related complications during the pandemic - and its follow-up Mycological Patterns then came out on ambient/idm blog-turned-label A Strangely Isolated Place, hitting high spots in the ambient & electronic charts - a much-deserved success for Rick! It's a one-two punch of ambient techno bliss from an artist of great depth who found immense success among a small cadre of music-makers and connoisseurs but struggled to break out in the way he deserved. Some of the half-forgotten club and pop sounds filtered through grainy delays and drones from Fathersong are echoed here, but this fungal-themed album also harnesses Holly Herndon's Holly+ voice model on two tracks, and sneaks into beatless techno territory on some more uplifting compositions. Wonderful stuff.

Arve Henriksen & Kjetil Husebø - Slow Fragments [Smalltown Supersound/Bandcamp]
Two big figures in the Nordic jazz and experimental scene get together for some blissful electronics and jazz here. Arve Henriksen is a purveyor of gorgeous, melodic & mellow trumpet, often electronically treated, as well as otherworldly vocals - especially in the extraordinary Supersilent. Kjetil Husebø is a classical & jazz-trained pianist with a particular interest in combining live piano with live electronics. Although the music is highly informed by jazz and improvisation, it was recorded separately, Henriksen in Gothenburg, Sweden (although he is originally from Norway) and Husebø in Oslo, Norway. Both musicians employ clouds of electronics as well, creating big textured drones on some pieces, while Husebø is inclined more towards melody on his piano than chordal harmonies - even on the one track where Henriksen sings (not in his usual falsetto), where sampled, reversed and treated piano nevertheless moves as a single bass counter-melody to Henriksen's singing, with further decoration from mostly-untreated piano and trumpet. Booming and shuddering sounds from the physicality of the piano are sampled for reverberant or percussive effect, as are breaths through the trumpet and patterns of prepared piano. This is a striking pairing of musicianship with technology at every level, and a striking pairing of two musicians who long admired each other.

Madeleine Cocolas - Resonance [Room40/Bandcamp]
Brisbane musician Madeleine Cocolas returned to Australia a couple of years ago after time in Vancouver and New York. The gorgeous Spectral finds Cocolas weathering the Covid lockdown in her own way, collecting the sounds of her neighbourhood on daily walks, which are woven into a musical narrative, expressing deep emotions through the sounds of industrial machinery, swarms of crickets and huge storms, combined with Cocolas' sensitive keyboards and piano. In the middle of the album, eight-minute track "And Then I Watch It Fall Apart" is a harrowing crescendo of tension, which wondrously releases in the following track "Resonance", heard tonight.

Sylvain Chauveau - DC [Sub Rosa/Bandcamp]
Pierre-Yves Macé - More Gloom and the Light of That Gloom [Sub Rosa/Bandcamp]
Here's an unusual project. French polymath Sylvain Chauveau created a collection of small pieces of audio, composition ideas, snippets of vocals and so on, and sent them to his friend Pierre-Yves Macé, another French composer & producer, with whom he has collaborated frequently in the past. This time it's not really a collaboration - both artists have taken Chauveau's initial ideas and created a full album from them. Cult Belgian label Sub Rosa has released both under the title L'Effet Rebond (The Rebound Effect), with Macé's subtitled "Version Iridium" and Chauveau's "Version Silicium". The source material and the artists' similar aesthetics mean that the two works fit together very well, but they have certainly put their own spin on the proceedings. Each album consists mostly of short studies, with Macé finding space to craft beautiful melodic vignettes on piano, strings, woodwinds and other acoustic instruments, but the composer also inserts glitchy crackles and edits. His half ends with a beautifully subtle 18-minute piece of minimalism, with tiny piano samples slowly burbling away, harmonies gradually expanding and shifting. Chauveau meanwhile begins his half with a 17-minute work with cyclical guitar, clarinet and piano, but it's not made from studio edits - although much of the rest of his album is small pieces, often just single phrases. Both composers have enlisted various colleagues to join them, with Peter Broderick & others on backing vocals with Chauveau, and our friend Rutger "Machinefabriek" Zuydervelt contributing electronics (he also did the gorgeous layouts & design). Conceptual elements aside, this is very enjoyable listening and right on point for Utility Fog's liminal genre-agnosticism.

To Move - Mirroring [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
We last heard from Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter and her partner, musician & sound-artist Ed Hamilton when they released a wonderful album as Dead Light back in 2016. Earlier still, Carter had a legendary duo called Moon Ate The Dark which combined her always attractive neo-classical piano with Christopher Bailey's tape effects, synths and other electronics (and also violin from Carter). Hamilton also loves tape manipulation and drones, and the pair made some powerful cinematic music as Dead Light for Village Green. Their latest project To Move finds them back on Monique Recknagel's Sonic Pieces (who released the Moon Ate The Dark albums), for a set of recordings made with fellow pianist, film composer and filmmaker Alex Kozobolis. Whenever Kozobolis visited Carter & Hamilton's home in the English countryside, the two pianists would improvise together (four hand piano, with one player on the bass end and one at the treble), full of the characteristic heart-pulling musicality of Carter that's clearly shared by Kozobolis, while the sounds are degraded and crumbled by tape and other analogue effects. It's as gorgeous as you'd expect if you know their previous work, and worth getting in one of the boutique physical editions if you can afford it!

Robbie Lee & Lea Bertucci - Twine and Tape [Telegraph Harp]
I initially knew NYC composer Lea Bertucci from her exploration of site-specific acoustic phenomena (e.g. the brilliant Acoustic Shadows), work with computer, and her own playing on clarinet, sax, flute and other instruments. On Winds Bells Falls however, she's working tape and effects in realtime while fellow New Yorker plays Robbie Lee plays celeste, flutes, gemshorn, contrabass recorder and orchestral chimes. These different instruments each interact in beautiful and strange ways with their tape-manipulated shadows, warping in pitch and flickering in and out alongside their real counterparts. A little bit of magic.

Ben Vida + Lea Bertucci - Murmurations [Cibachrome Editions]
A couple of months after Bertucci's work with Robbie Lee, she released a second duo, this time with veteran US experimental musician Ben Vida (who released three beautiful albums as Bird Show on Kranky some years ago). Here Bertucci brings her wind instruments to the studio - sax, clarinet, flute - as well as the tape manipulation that made her Robbie Lee collaboration so special, and both her voice and Vida's are divorced of meaning in cut-ups alongside the acoustic textures and the rumbles and gurgles of Vida's synths. Compellingly off-beat stuff.

Ben Frost - Wirus Sie Rozprzestrzenia [Invada/Bandcamp]
Following his excellent soundtracks for the three seasons of Netflix's German science fiction series Dark, Iceland-based Aussie composer Ben Frost is continuing to work with the makers of Dark, soundtracking their new series 1899. This is a truly excellent soundtrack, up there with Ben's studio albums, with full orchestra, various vocal contributions, and a plethora of electronics as well. Ben's typical bass-heavy surges do make appearances, along with beautiful pitch-bent synth melodies and shuddering, stuttering studio effects. And although there are segments of the music you could claim are scene-setting soundtrack stuff, it's mostly anything but: there are creepy and eldritch vocal pieces, moving orchestral & synth compositions, and even thundering percussion. Don't ignore it.

Christina Vantzou - Greeting [kranky/Bandcamp]
This album was something of a surprise to me. I know Christina Vantzou as a composer of highly minimalist music, right from her earliest work as one half of The Dead Texan with Stars Of The Lid's Adam Wiltzie. It's not that No. 5 isn't quiet and minimalist, but it's nevertheless full of movement and variation, constructed in a collage-like way from 17 musicians' performances. It's not quite the ADHD channel-flipping of certain contemporary artists, but the odd juxtapositions and shifts are very enjoyable, as are the intrusions of different sonic spaces, presumably derived both from the disjoint recordings and from post-processing. It's beautiful music that places classical vignettes in a sound-art setting.

Natalie Beridze - Salt [ROOM40/Bandcamp]
Georgian musician & DJ Natalie Beridze has a long & illustrious career both in her native Georgia and in Berlin, with recordings ranging from techno to IDM and ambient across many notable labels, both under her own name and as TBA or TBA Empty. Her album for ROOM40 this year, Of Which One Knows, and its accompanying EP In Front Of You, find her in mostly contemplative mode, collecting unreleased studies and pieces which never made it on to other recordings. Despite this provenance, the material is highly cohesive, a real journey through drones, sparse piano and strings, vocal snippets, glitches and field recordings. Don't let that make it sound more nebulous or half-formed than it actually is though - this is beautiful and assured music that deserves multiple listens. And everything on the EP is as good as the album proper - the noise loops, ambient pads and pitch-shifted vocals here are gorgeous.

Christophe Bailleau & Friends - Prologue / Mère Nature [Optical Sound/Bandcamp]
French label Optical Sound specialises in French sound-art from cross-disciplinary artists, although from further away, Simon Fisher Turner, Robin Guthrie and others have turned up there on occasion. On new album Shooting Stars Can Last, Belgian "free musician" Christophe Bailleau decided to bring some community to lockdown life by inviting friends to provide field recordings, electronic programming, instrumental soundscapes and the like for this hybrid album. The result is a work that rejects easy classification, at times offering up glitchily-edited folktronica, at times post-classical pastiche, at times gothic chanson-dub. Whatever it is, it's compelling listening, and a little window into the francophone sound-art scene.

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, and because of the wide range on this brilliant work, it gets to feature on both parts 2 & 3 of this year's best of celebration!

Alexandra Spence - Air Pockets [Room40/Bandcamp]
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. Not long after, Spence released A Veil, The Sea on the Mappa label, further exploring these themes.

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.

Machinefabriek - Texturalis 4 [Cassauna/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Here's Rutger again! Via Important Records' cassette imprint Cassauna, Texturalis was a litte gem, featuring 18 two-minute vignettes, each concerned with one particular sonic texture, many surprisingly rhythmic. Lovely.

Hüma Utku - Continuing Bonds [Editions Mego/Bandcamp]
I was transfixed by the work of Berlin-based, Istanbul-born Hüma Utku since her first EP (as R.A.N.) in 2018 on Karlrecords. An album followed in 2019, and she was then given the high accolade of signing to the great Editions Mego - but tragically, the label's Peter Rehberg died of a heart attack in mid-2021. Lucky for us, everything slated for release is still being put out by the various artists & others associated with the label, so we get Utku's magnificent album The Psychologist, released as it should be on Editions Mego. The title is a reference to Utku's qualifications in psychology, but also to the album's focus on psychological phenomena, and the human element of Utku's own voice, albeit often pitch-shifted and processed. Aside from this, the album continues her use of industrial ambiences and textures, repetitive beats and samples, but also introduces creative string arrangements. All this lifts The Psychologist to a new level in an already gripping career.

Other People's Children - Swallow Glitch [Observable Universe Recordings]
Ahead of Nice Music's release of a NEW album from his beloved duo Pretty Boy Crossover with Cailan Burns, Adelaide's Jason Sweeney spent much of 2022 compiling a slew of archival releases - in fact starting last year with the Decades (2001-2021) collection of soundtrack work as Panoptique Electrical. They appeared on his Observable Universe Recordings Bandcamp, including the massive 5-hour, 84-track Disappointment Archives 1986-2016 - and before you run away from this acknowledged (but justified) excess, maybe you could start with the more manageable Selective Memory 1998-2003 collection from Jason's indietronica band Other People's Children? I first became a dedicated fan of Jason's work when I was handed an advance copy of the aforementioned Pretty Boy Crossover's album the building and formation around 1999 - a phenomenal collection of IDM tunes, melodic, minimalist, with tweaked drum machines and lo-fi synths that's never stopped being deeply evocative. It's lovely hearing those lo-fi sounds married with Jason's indie songwriting - his melancholy vocals, with guitar or keyboards - on songs old and new. Jason's been involved with many projects over the years, including scuzzy indie rock, post-classical and ambient, IDM, indietronica and more. Such an important, versatile Australian musician.

Ayala and Zac Picker - wet cat - old bark - deep breaths [Ayala Bandcamp]
Based on a story by Zac Picker called "Bessamim" published in Soft Stir Vol 2, this stunning work combines Zac's spoken word with music and sound design from Ayala aka Donny Janks. Picker is in fact a physicist, but his talent for that very mathematical of sciences is balanced by a talent for very evocative prose, generating nostalgia via all the senses in a story about being (almost) 13, training for bar mitzvah. Picker's lush, wry storytelling is carried here by the sensitive setting by Ayala, allowing the spoken prose to float in a bed of electronic tones, occasionally subtly processing the vocals. I left out the core section of the story here deliberately - I can't recommend enough that you listen to the whole thing from start to finish.

Listen again — ~209MB


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Sunday, 18th of December, 2022

Playlist 18.12.22 - Best of 2022 Part 1! (10:49 pm)

Helluva year once again, folks! So many good musics.
Tonight is about the songs. It may feel like Utility Fog is an instrumental music show, but I do play a lot of experimental song, and so tonight is mostly vocal music, across all genres.

LISTEN AGAIN because it's a real humdinger. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

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.

June McDoom - The City [Temporary Residence/Bandcamp]
I was blown away by the first released track "The City" from new Temporary Residence signing June McDoom. When her debut self-titled EP was released later in the year, this song was not included - although the five new tracks take a similar approach. McDoom plays all instruments and sings the soft vocals. She draws from her Jamaican heritage as well as her love of classic folk artists, classic r'n'b and reggae - I can't help thinking of early-to-mid period Grizzly Bear. There's a hazy analogue sheen to these songs, with instruments all melding together so that you hardly notice the beats in the mix even as you're nodding your head. McDoom has a keen ear for melody and harmony, making these the most gently catchy songs you're likely to hear this year.

Lucrecia Dalt - Enviada [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
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.
Also don't miss her soundtrack to the HBO series The Baby, released earlier in the year.

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 was finally released this year on 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.

Aoife O'Donovan - B61 (Olga Bell Remix) [Yep Roc Records/Bandcamp]
Back in 2011, the great, restless cellist Yo-Yo Ma teamed up with some of the top bluegrass musicians in the world - banjo player Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer and certified genius Chris Thile of the Punch Brothers on mandolin & vocals - for The Goat Rodeo Sessions. On a couple of tracks the band were joined by Irish-American singer Aoife O'Donovan, and her song with Thile, "No One But You", is gorgeously heart-pulling, and so I always notice her name when it comes up. The lovely track "B61" from her recent album Age of Apathy was remixed this year by Russian-American producer/composer/musician Olga Bell, turning the gentle folk-pop into a transportive piece of minimal techno. It's beautifully unexpected.

Borja Flames - Nuevo medievo [Murailles Music/Bandcamp/Les Disques du Festival Permanent/Bandcamp]
Originally from Spain but based in France for many years, Borja Flames has been plying his unique electronic folk weirdness for some time. He's frequently worked with Marion Cousin, a singer with a deep interest in sidelined folk musics of the Iberian Peninsula - their duo June et Jim has recently transformed into Catalina Matorral. Borja Flames' last two albums were released through Les Disques du Festival Permanent, the label run by cellist Gaspar Claus (who is French, but his father Pedro Soler is a highly respected flamenco guitarist), although the latest is co-released with booking agency Murailles Music. Nuevo Medievo is indeed titled in Spanish - it's "New Medieval", a very nice description of the contents. Along with Cousin again, Rachel Langlais also joins on synths and vocals, and Paul Loiseau lends additional percussion. It's part of a wave of highly idiosyncratic, groundbreaking music from France, highly recommended.

Claudia Molitor - Change [Nonclassical/Bandcamp]
Utterly idiosyncratic is the work of English-German composer & sound-artist Claudia Molitor. Well-versed in composing for orchestra, chamber groups or solo instruments as well as creating installation works and other sound-art, here Molitor is working at song length, often indeed writing songs - but with field recordings or abstract drones at their base, contemporary poetry sometimes forming the lyrics, and avant-garde composition rubbing up against songwriting. A must for connoisseurs of strange music.

Fatäk, Romance Relic, Tettix Hexer - To The Beauty Of Being [Eastern Nurseries/Bandcamp]
Eastern Nurseries is a Portuguese label that releases experimental music seemingly of any nature, including plenty of noise and drone. There's something of that on this collaborative track, as well as contemporary sound design, and a sensual poem by Aude Barras which turns sinister courtesy of the production. Spoken word aside, it's the work of two Danish producers - Fatäk and Tettix Hexer - and the Finnish Romance Relic, all associated with Copenhagen label Janushoved. As best I can work out. In any case, it's great.

Brian Eno - who gives a thought [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. The beautiful "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, although Eno's voice is not as rich as any of those. In any case, it's an immensely affecting album.

Randi Pontoppidan & Povl Kristian - Juno & Eros [Chant Records/Bandcamp]
Danish singer Randi Pontoppidan is powerhouse of vocal creativity - not just vocal techniques, but also the use of technology with her voice. She is also an accomplished improviser, and it's perhaps more surprising to find that her collaborator here, the film composer Povl Kristian, interacts so instinctively with her on the piano in this wonderful album of spontaneous compositions, Life In Life. There's little to indicate that these aren't contemporary compositions, with ambiguous tonal centres and quiveringly evocative discords, and beautiful extra-musical touches from Pontoppidan's electronics. It's an antidote to the glut of "neo-classical" prettiness - any "subtle electronics" here are employed in a context of an unsettling and deeply satisfying lack of compromise.

LSN & Roger Robinson - Pray [Artikal Music/Bandcamp]
If there's one lesson I've learnt from 2022, it's that trip-hop is back, baby! Dubsteppers are particularly enjoying bringing the trip-hop vibes, and who better for LSN to invite than the poet Roger Robinson of King Midas Sound and more. There's more than a little of Massive Attack circa Mezzanine on these four tracks, with heavy ponderous riffage sweeping in at times, but there's also the influence of dubstep and grime. References aside, this is deeply evocative stuff, deserving of a wide audience.

Blackhaine - Stained Materials [Fixed Abode/Bandcamp]
Named in part after the incendiary French movie La Haine, Lancashire rapper Blackhaine makes the bleakest and angriest drill I've heard, with cohort Rainy Miller and more recently Croww underlining and entwining his anguished howls and poetry with industrial menace. Meanwhile Blackhaine himself, aka Tom Heyes, accompanies his vocals with astonishing and moving contemporary dance - check his insane choreography for Flohio's Unveiled (and some intense behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage). Intensity is the name of the game with his work, whether unsettling calm or massive distorted waves of sound that at times overwhelm his voice. He gives visceral voice to the depressing realities of working class life in post-Brexit England.

Chad Dubz ft. Riko Dan - In The Red [Deep Medi/Bandcamp]
New on Deep Medi is a minialbum of heavyweight dubstep from Chad Dubz, Bristol founder of Foundation Audio. The vocal tracks are heaviest of all, with grime collabs and intense productions like this one, with snarling riffs a la Distance or The Bug, and indeed Riko Dan has worked with The Bug before. Here he spits lines about all the ways his enemies will get, well, fucked up.

The Bug - Your Laws Aint Free ft Jaimie Branch [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 (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 - including at least a couple of Australians. 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". Very close to our heart here @ Utility Fog Towers was incendiary jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch, whose death two weeks ago at age 39 came as a massive shock. Her version features both her evocative, politically-conscious singing and her trumpet playing. It's a hell of a collaboration and all the more tragic that she's gone.

Keeley Forsyth - Land Animal (Ben Frost Remix) [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
The unique voice of British actor-turned-musician Keeley Forsyth often invites comparisons with Scott Walker and Talk Talk. Her second album Limbs was remixed this year by four beautifully-chosen artists - the others are industrial royalty Cosey Fanni Tutti, post-classical don Yann Tiersen, and sound-art genius Simon Fisher Turner - but the most brilliant to my ears was Iceland-based Aussie Ben Frost, whose throbbing low-end growls and compositional sensibility are ideal to enhance the emotive, androgynous range of Forsyth.

Boris - (not) Last song [Relapse Records/Bandcamp]
When Boris are on, they're on (it's most of the time), and so not long after the brilliant W came Heavy Rocks, their third album to be bestowed that name (and indeed their second of THREE albums to be released in 2022!). They do rock, heavily, most of the time, and this album is dedicated to heavy rock in all its heavy rockiness. Nevertheless, Boris are not to be pigeonholed, and this album was again produced by the brilliant suGar Yoshinaha of Buffalo Daughter. On the last track, *ahem* "(not) Last song", we get a piano refrain with periodic glitches, crackling noises, guitar feedback, and pained vocals from Atsuo. It's typically atypical for Boris, and just rad.

Joe Rainey - no chants [37d03d/Bandcamp]
Released by 37d03d, this was the first single from the astonishing album Niineta by Ojibwe singer Joe Rainey, who has collected and made recordings of Pow Wows from his Native American culture for many years. The album features his powerfully moving vocals combined with heavily distorted and edited percussion and other sound from Rainey's archives, produced by the great Andrew Broder, whose production has moved aeons on since the (excellent) early lo-fi days of Fog. The songs here draw on a musical tradition that has been banned by the US government, and is central to Rainey's culture, but to protect the sacred art (I believe), the songs are all Rainey's. It's absolutely devastating and essential.

Chat Pile - Slaughterhouse [The Flenser/Bandcamp]
Keeping with the heavy bands for just a moment longer, here's Oklahoma's Chat Pile, whose album on The Flenser has been eagerly awaited. Their combination of hardcore punk, noise rock and sludge/doom metal is unapologetically political - in a recent interview they said the album is an attempt to "capture the anxiety and fear of seeing the world fall apart". There's a surprising amount of clean vocals, rendering the lyrics comprehensible, and there are plenty of catchy riffs and basslines. The menacing opening track is a visceral conjuring of the haunted space that is a Slaughterhouse.
“And all the blood
All the blood
And the fuckin sound, man
You never forget their eyes”

Wu-Lu - Night Pills Feat Asha [Warp/Bandcamp]
Brixton's Miles Romans-Hopcraft has been making hip-hop as Wu-Lu since 2015, but for his new album Loggerhead, his debut on Warp, he's gotten angry and political, and backs up the rapping with a mix of grungy punk and even drum'n'bass beats at times. It puts him in the company of the likes of Tampa Bay's They Hate Change on the one hand, and fellow Londoners Bob Vylan on the other. Wu-Lu doesn't really sounds like either, let alone the '90s intergalactic punk-rock hip-hop of Pop Will Eat Itself or anyone else. And sounding exactly like oneself is a great place to be, especially at a time like this.

Coco Em - Winyo Nungo Feat. MC Sharon & Wuod Baba [InFiné Music/Bandcamp]
Emma Nzioka is a filmmaker and an electronic producer as Coco Em. She's a leading light in the fantastic electronic scene from Nairobi, Kenya, taking many African styles including kuduro, lingala and ampiano and mixing them with worldwide electronic dance styles. That's resulted in a truly exciting listen on her Kilumi EP with French label InFiné Music, with various vocalists joining her along the way.

Sijya - Another Thing [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
The latest release in a busy year from Accidental Records is the debut EP, entitled Young Hate, from young New Delhi graphic designer Sijya. Her understated songs sit comfortably in the context of Matthew Herbert's label, the soft vocals and wistful textures recalling the minimalist r'n'b of Tirzah, or the trip-hop references of Sevdaliza, but all self-produced. No hate here - these are touching little pieces, and this is another EP I exhort you not to let pass you by.

Crewdson & Cevanne - Drinking Song [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
I discovered UK folktronic producer Crewdson via his 2017 album Toys on Slowfoot, full of his homemade instruments and electronic processing. Looking back at the credits, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian was there playing harp, but their duo as Crewdson & Cevanne sees the latter's talents as composer, orchestrator and singer come to the fore. It's not surprise to find this duo on Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records - it's just their natural home really. New EP Rites For Crossing Water imagines a new folk music around the idea of 21st century waterways, with a capella song, Cevanne's harp, string arrangements and occasional glitchy rhythms.

Leyla McCalla - Fort Dimanche [Anti-/Bandcamp]
It's only been 3 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. Her first album set the words of African-American poet Langston Hughes to music, and the second followed the musical template of bluegrass and Haitian folk, often played with strummed and bowed cello, sometimes in more traditional settings. A more recent album moved into more of a blues setting, but Breaking The Thermometer, her first for the ANTI- label, takes her back to Haitian folk territory, with a suite of songs derived from her stage work Breaking The Thermometer To Hide The Fever. This work saw her researching Radio Haiti, and the tragic, criminal colonial history of her homeland, and samples from interviews on that radio station as well as field recordings are interspersed through the album. This song is about the political prison Fort Dimanche run by the oppressive Duvalier regime, including excerpts from an interview from Radio Haiti with a political prisoner about the torture he was subjected to in the prison.

Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal - Still Life [Beacon Sound/Bandcamp/Ruptured Music/Bandcamp]
The beautiful album Snakeskin from Lebanese duo Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal was co-released by excellent Portland label Beacon Sound and great Beirut label Ruptured Music. Sabra is one third of dream pop trio Postcards, all of whose releases have been produced by Tabbal. Inevitably it's deeply influenced by the massive Beirut port explosion of August 2020 that left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and destroyed countless people's homes, but it also references other events from the region: the Palestinian uprising and Israeli crackdown in Sheikh Jarrah, and Azerbaijan's invasion of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Armenia. Sabra's soft voice expresses tragedy and loss, and the duo bring glitches and drones along with dubby Arabic percussion at times, all embedded in reverb. At times the more aggressive aspects of Postcards' shoegazey rock emerge, but mostly it's more quietly compelling. Don't sleep on it.

Jane Sheldon - Put my eyes out: I can see 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!

Marina Herlop - abans abans [PAN/Bandcamp]
Barcelona-based singer and pianist Marina Herlop is classically trained, and lists Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Béla Bartok and Aram Khachaturian among her influences. But then you notice Holly Herndon, Venetian Snares and Plaid in there too and you start to see how her latest album was released by PAN. Aided by James Ginzburg on the mix, the songs here shift and scatter with technological interventions, while retaining the classically-trained vocal precision and pianistic technique. Piano lines are glitched and stuttered while experimental beats drop in & out, and Herlop's vocal style draws from Southern Indian Carnatic traditions, Jewish cantorial singing, Eastern European folk choirs and of course r'n'b and pop as well as classical. There's a lot of joy in this work, a lot of emotion and a lot of that acoustic/digital slipperiness that Utility Fog loves so much.

Kee Avil - I too, bury [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Montréal's Vicky Mettler co-founded Concrete Sound Studio, and curates an online live series there as well as producing music. She's played with many musicians in the Montréal experimental music scene, including Sam Shalabi's Land of Kush, and her production skills and experimental credentials all feed into her solo work as Kee Avil. The songs on this album are very hard to pin down - often strangely amelodic, but also strangely compelling, with timbres and orchestrations that sometimes seem like postpunk or indie, sometimes like freak folk. Programmed beats coincide with queasy piano or wheezy accordion. It's an album that deserves multiple listens to really unravel what's going on.

John Zorn - Air [Tzadik]
Finishing the first "best of" for 2022 with a non-vocal track - an idiosyncratic take on the classic jazz piano trio form from longtime master John Zorn. Zorn has composed for string quartets and ensembles of all sorts as well as playing raucous punk and hardcore and seemingly everything in between, as well as running his massively influential downtown New York label Tzadik and for many years earlier the Japan-based Avant label. Despite his reputation as an enfant terrible back in the '80s and '90s, there's plenty of beautiful melodic work in his repertoire too, inspired by Jewish liturgical music, klezmer, and his hero Ornette Coleman among many others. For this incredible new Suite for Piano, he looks to the entire history of piano music, naming pieces after early classical forms - but it's still avant-garde jazz, with upright basslines anchoring the rhythm section, and composed heads which are then embellished with soloing before returning to the head. There are of course some Zorn-standard fast-moving bebop doggerel tracks that I can never get my head around, but there are also head-nodders in lopsided time signatures and pieces of incredible beauty. The compositions are supported by brilliant playing from Brian Marsella on piano with Jorge Roeder on bass and Ches Smith on drums. "Air" is exquisitely lyrical, and the trio's performance couldn't be sweeter (while still utterly virtuosic).

Listen again — ~203MB


Comments Off on Playlist 18.12.22 - Best of 2022 Part 1!

Sunday, 11th of December, 2022

Playlist 11.12.22 (11:00 pm)

Tonight is the last new music show for the year, even though artists & labels don't seem willing to let up! Next week and the week after I'll be cataloguing some of my favourites in Best of 2022 Parts 1 & 2!
Tonight, highly experimental electronic pop music, hyper-whatever, postpunk dubstep, nebulous strings, nebulous piano, nebulous modular synths. What even is a nebule? Answers on a cloud of nanotech to Utility Fog Towers, Newtown NSW 2042.

LISTEN BACK, your life may depend on it! Podcast here, stream on demand there.

Baker Ja Lehtisalo - Racing After Midnight [Ektro Records/Broken Spine Productions/Bandcamp]
On reflection, this was inevitable. Both Aidan Baker (of Nadja) and Jussi Lehtisalo (of Circle) are unstoppable collaborators and unquenchably prolific. Their duo album basically does exactly what you'd expect of a collaboration between these two, with expansive, dense waves of guitar and gruff downbeatness from Baker, and anthemic metal and synths from Lehsitalo, who has of late been rather fascinated with a form of electro-pop. They describe the music as new wave industrial doom songs, which is as good or bad as any descriptor I guess? I dig.

Eliot Sumner & Ben Frost - White Rabbit [Invada/Bandcamp]
Just a couple of weeks ago, I played some tracks from Ben Frost's soundtrack to the Netflix series 1899, a superbly Ben Frostian work of orchestral instruments, Chinese traditional instruments, voices and electronic treatments. Not found on the soundtrack itself is this cover of Jefferson Airplane's much-loved White Rabbit (you may recognise the song from its appearance in The Matrix Resurrections' trailer), which 1899 uses in the title sequence. Frost is joined by Eliot Sumner on vocals, who we've also heard quite recently under their Vaal alias. This isn't a particularly faithful rendition (don't expect those gorgeous key changes), but it's quite powerful in its own right.

Sandy Chamoun - Ahlam al khayal احلام الخيال [Sandy Chamoun Bandcamp]
I discovered Sandy Chamoun on two recent compilations from Lebanon: 2021's Beirut 20/21 and the recent Beirut Adrift. The long-awaited Fata17 فتى١٧ is her trilogy (three tracks) about the 17 October Revolution, and the complex feelings of hope and fear that arose from the protests, which toppled a government but whose ultimate achievements are difficult to measure and overwhelmed by the tragedy of Beirut explosion and the dampening effects of Covid-19 on organising. Chamoun's previous group The Great Departed issued political and social satire through acoustic Arabic music in a kind of cabaret folk vibe. Here Arabic music feeds into Chamoun's extremely well-produced electronic pop songs, deeply influenced by industrial and noise. Chamoun sings of "dreams of the imagination", in which "the people are a fantasy / the light is a fantasy / the streets are a fantasy... / injustice is a fantasy / subjugation is a fantasy / solitude is a fantasy", and ultimately "death is a fantasy / the tears are a fantasy / eternity is a fantasy". All these are dreams of those who rose up in the protests from the 17th of October, 2019, joined with those rising up in Chile, Iraq and elsewhere. Samples recorded by Chamoun in the streets appear alongside heavy electronics and her voice. It's powerful stuff.

Björk - Atopos (sideproject Remix) [One Little Independent/Bandcamp]
sideproject - come get me [post-dreifing/Bandcamp]
I was not terribly impressed by Björk's album fossora when it came out earlier this year. Give or take a couple of tracks, I found it musically quite unlikeable. Still, Björk always does good remix, and for the first fossora remix she introduces us (or me at least) to Icelandic trio sideproject, who bring a restless energy and glitchiness to "Atopos". I found them on Bandcamp and played a similarly IDMish track from their 2022 released kingfisher.

Xao - Bone Theory [C.A.N.V.A.S./Bandcamp]
Xao - Hyperfixate For Me [C.A.N.V.A.S./Bandcamp]
On his first album for the London-based C.A.N.V.A.S. after a couple of releases on Astral Black, UK artist Xao, now based in Berlin, explores self-stimulation in the cyberworld of information overload. Xao's roots in bass genres like trap & grime are still audible, but it's mostly highly dense electronic psychedelia, either beatless or off-the-grid. The music touches on the dancefloor at times, but usually veers off in weird, synthetic directions. The sci-fi references in the titles are apt, and I particularly like "Threnody For The Child of Omelas" (for the reference, you can read Ursula K Le Guin's parable here).

Objekt - Bad Apples [Objekt]
TJ Hertz' Objekt projekt started with his eponymnous whitelabels 11 years ago (Objekt #1 is now available on Bandcamp), so it's nice to have edition #5 out. It actually came out mid-year but I missed it somehow, and the vinyl seems to be making its way out in the world now. Two low-slung bass techno tracks, highly club-oriented but still brilliantly strange - I love the demented synths in the last third of this track.

Commodo - Eyewitness [Mysterious Trax]
A couple of months after the first Mysterious Trax EP, Sheffield's Commodo returns with a second that continues the winning combo of postpunk bass guitar lines with dubstep beats. Commodo's been making some of the most exciting sounds to come out of the dubstep world in the last few years, and vinyl lovers will be pleased that the two Mysterious Trax EPs are available together in a vinyl edition too.

Major Oak - Tune For Tune [Stolen Groove]
Nottingham dubstep duo Major Oak land on London's Stolen Groove with two tracks that deftly insert jungle breaks and UKG influences into the 140bpm dubstep template. Both topnotch tracks.

Feloneezy - Lipstick On My Double Chin [Knekelhuis]
Lara Sarkissian - Eternal Repose [Knekelhuis]
The Amsterdam label Knekelhuis put out its first compilation and felt like... in June 2021. Now they're following that up with ...it wasn't really me, another compilation reflecting their eclectic taste, spanning ambient dub to ambient techno. There's an exclusive track from Purelink, whose Puredub on Lillerne Tapes was a highlight of 2022 - and another Lillerne connection is Slowfoam. Serbian producer Feloneezy contributes a lovely piece of dubby trip-hop, and Armenian-American DJ Lara Sarkissian has a piece of bubbly peacefulness.

Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith - Song Of The Highest Tower (Atom™ Remix) [Bella Union/Bandcamp]
In 2019 and 2020, the Soundwalk Collective released three albums with Patti Smith, each a tribute to a different French poet or writer, collectively titled The Perfect Vision. Each found the collective travelling around the globe to understand the writers' experiences and source audio for the projects. Mummer Love took them to Ethiopia, following Arthur Rimbaud, and beautiful Sufi chants are interpolated with Patti Smith's spoken words. Now selected tracks from the triptych have been remixed by some significant artists for The Perfect Vision Reworkings - Brian Eno, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Laraaji, Lotic, Lucrecia Dalt and Jim Jarmusch are the others! But I've chosen a longtime Utility Fog favourite, glitch master Atom™, who also contributed to the last Soundwalk Collective album, Lovotic, featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg. Here Atom™ develops a slow chugging techno track with fragments of the Sufi chants and fragments of Patti Smith's phrases. Its repetitiveness does give it a trance-like quality.

Glass House Mountain - Foundation [Glass House Mountain Bandcamp]
Melbourne duo Glass House Mountain (Benjamin Graham and James O’Brien) released their debut single Perspective I in June, accompanied by a delightful tricksy video. Follow-up Foundation comes out just in time for the end of the year, with another Melbourne-centric, but more abstract video. The sound is a mix of synth-based postrock, techno and jazz, with live drums and driving rhythms, always brightly enjoyable.

KEDA - Flow pt. 4 [Parenthèses Records/Bandcamp]
French duo KEDA is made up of E'Joung-Ju, who is a master of the Koren zither called geomungo or hyeongeum, and the Burkina Faso-born French sound-artist Mathias Delplanque, who percussive pan-world music we heard a few weeks ago on the show. The four tracks on KEDA's Flow, just released by Brussels-based Parenthèses Records/, were created for a dance performance by the Swiss Compagnie Linga. On the first track, individual plucks from the geomungo are scattered in a windy ambience, while on the second the ambient textures become heavier and E'Joung-Ju draws more sinister tonalities from the geomungo, at times bowing the instrument. Part 3 is a beautiful solo piece for geomungo, while on part 4 (heard tonight), the instrument plays a lead melody supported by chugging rhythms and drones. Four very different settings, each as compelling as the other.

Lueenas - Scream [Barkhausen Recordings]
Lueenas - Codicil [Lueenas Bandcamp]
Lueenas - End Titles - Baby Pyramid [Barkhausen Recordings]
Only at the start of November, Copenhagen duo Lueenas released their self-titled album, but now they are releasing their soundtrack to the Danish movie Baby Pyramid, which explores the expectations and emotions around women's infertility. It contains music composed by contrabassist Ida Duelund Hansen and improvisations & compositions with the other half of Lueenas, violinist/violist Maria Jagd. Ida Duelund also plays drum machines and electronics at times - including a notable dance-pop tune with vocals from Emma Acs - but mostly it's the evocative sounds of the two string players and their arrays of effects pedals. The title music is a beautiful piece of almost-classical music that goes through a few iterations of drawn-out strings, and is also included in a lovely piano demo form. Soundtracks are a core part of Lueenas' work, and I'd like to also draw attention to The Raid, which came out last year (see middle track). Martin De Thurah's short Viking film is still showing at the National Museum of Denmark if you happen to be in Copenhagen (I wish I'd known!) and the music is their typically dark and mysterious work.

Kaan Bulak - Shapes of Patterns [Feral Note]
Kaan Bulak - Falling In A Dream [Feral Note]
It seems like a popular time at the moment to release genre-crossing albums of piano with electronic processing, and here's another fine example. Turkish-German musician Kaan Bulak alternates his piano - sometimes avant-garde, sometimes pretty and melodic - with synth, electric piano and other keyboards, sometimes embeddeding it in clicky beats owing a debt to his sometime collaborator Robert Lippok, and sometimes adding strings. Each track seems to inhabit a subtly different world (there's even an electric guitar piece), but with a consistent production and melancholy from Bulak holding it together.

Fieldhead - Engine Idling, Around 5am [Home Assembly Music/Bandcamp]
Fieldhead - this train is a rainbow [Home Assembly Music/Bandcamp]
Fieldhead - Save Our Steel [Home Assembly Music/Bandcamp]
I first fell in love with Paul Elam's music as Fieldhead way back in 2008 when his demo EP Introductions was included with a CD of The Declining Winter, with whom he was playing. From the start, Fieldhead used acoustic instruments in a folk and neo-classical way along with postrock dynamics and - at the time - quite heavy electronics. Debut album they shook hands for hours (see middle track tonight) is still a thrilling mix of that folktronic/post-classical tendency with dronenoise sidechained against minimal techno beats. He's back with the Leeds-based Home Assembly Music now for new album Engine Idling, Around 5am, joined as usual by Elaine Reynolds' weeping violin. The material switches between heavily-edited uncanny piano and programmed synths, accompanied by violin, and there's a disquieting tension between the very artificial electronics and the acoustic instruments, as there is between peacefulness and urgency. It's nice to have Paul and Elaine back.

Ben Carey - α [Ben Carey Bandcamp]
Surprise EP from Sydney modular synth guru Ben Carey (who also happens to be an ace saxophonist). Performed live at 107 Projects in Redfern, it's incredibly fresh-sounding, patient sound-design, which must have been a real pleasure to witness live (even though as the notes explain, Sydney was enveloped in a "miasma" of smoke haze from the unprecedented bushfire season that was underway. Over four lower-case Greek-lettered tracks, Carey slowly builds arrhythmic pulses from percussive-sounding synthetic sound and drones. The third track sounds like it's also got fluttering saxophone embouchure in there, but α, which we heard tonight, is an entirely synthetic, austere slow burn.

Listen again — ~206MB


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Sunday, 4th of December, 2022

Playlist 04.12.22 (11:00 pm)

Ambient to frenetic to intense to low-slung to delicately glittery...

LISTEN AGAIN for that comforting fear. Stream on demand via FBi, podcast here.

KŒNIG - جنگ، خودِ حقیقت است‎‎ - war is the unveiling of the truth (ft. Rojin Sharafi) [PTP/Bandcamp]
Starting tonight with a single track from Austrian percussionist KŒNIG, although the centre of this track is the voice and vocal processing of the brilliant Vienna-based Iranian musician Rojin Sharafi. Sharafi reads a poem by Parham Shahrjerdi that directly addresses the atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic, the forces who have ruled Iran in one way or other for decades. It's a fantastic piece of audio, and you can read the text in English on the Bandcamp page. PTP are passing on all proceeds to the Woman*-Life-Freedom Collective in Berlin, to support the feminist uprising.

Fatäk, Romance Relic, Tettix Hexer - To The Beauty Of Being [Eastern Nurseries/Bandcamp]
Eastern Nurseries is a Portuguese label that releases experimental music seemingly of any nature, including plenty of noise and drone. There's something of that on this collaborative track, as well as contemporary sound design, and a sensual poem by Aude Barras which turns sinister courtesy of the production. Spoken word aside, it's the work of two Danish producers - Fatäk and Tettix Hexer - and the Finnish Romance Relic. As best I can work out. In any case, it's great.

Stick In The Wheel - White Copper Alley [Stick In The Wheel Bandcamp]
Stick In The Wheel - Robot [Stick In The Wheel Bandcamp]
When I've played Stick In The Wheel in the past, I've emphasised the connection between Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey - now a duo - and the dubstep innovators Various Production. Among the bass tunes on their early 7"s, Various inserted strange occult English folk pieces, and Stick In The Wheel began as a project to resurrect or keep alive the English folk tradition. Along the way, they've released "mixtapes" in between the albums proper, with remixes and strange re-arrangements of their songs, but even those "proper" albums have dabbled with autotuned voice, electronics and amplified instrumentation. For the end of 2022 they've released mini-album Endurance Soundly Caged, which documents their live sound (albeit in-studio) with George Hoyle on bass and Siân Monaghan on drums. Here we find the band in quite raucous folk-rock mode, but there are also synths and the infamous autotune on their early single "As I Roved Out". On new track "Robot", Kearey tells a tale of a time-travelling robot, in her broad accent, with a melancholy guitar melody leading the band in a postrock-like surge.

Morwell - This Word, Life (21.11.22) [unreleased]
Max Morwell has continued dropping new material on his Bandcamp at considerable pace this year, with ravey reworkings of pop music and his own bass/jungle/hardcore/techno hybrids as well. However, lucky me, I've also been handed some unreleased gems, of which I've selected "This Word, Life" tonight. Max claims this is unfinished, but it sounds pretty fucking ace to me. Pitched-down spoken word samples, a head-nodding beat that goes double-time, warm subs... great stuff.

Arcane & Jon1st - Honey Dew [Defrostatica/Bandcamp]
Here's a surprising team-up showing the versatility of scratch DJ (one-time DMC champion) Jon1st who we heard earlier in the year with the aforementioned Stick In The Wheel. Here he's working with excellent Bristol junglist Arcane on an EP that flips jungle and techno tropes alongside Jon1st's turntable gymnastics.

Keita Sano - Inner Hall [ROW Records/Bandcamp]
Keita Sano - C2 [Keita Sano Bandcamp]
Keita Sano - TV (Tape Mix) [Keita Sano Bandcamp]
Keita Sano - Legacy From Leyton (Dayzero Remix) [ROW Records/Bandcamp]
Always love new discoveries. Keita Sano is by no means a new artist, but by and large his focus has been on house and disco, so I've not encountered him until recently. His second EP on ROW Records just dropped (he spent some time in Berlin before moving back to Okayama) and Legacy From Leyton brings a nice mix of head-nodding techno, IDM influences and even a bit of jungle, along with a classy garage/dubstep remix from Tokyo-based Dayzero. But a little search shows up that Sano has his own Bandcamp with a shocking amount of material uploaded just this year and last - surely so much that a lot is archival - and a huge range of styles is found. 2021's Keep The Party Going On seems to take on a different dance music genre on just about every track, with low-slung beats abiding, distorted snares, b-boy drum machines, even a bit of drum'n'bass. On other EPs mini-albums there are junglist versions of dub tracks, IDM-style beatworks and even some proper d'n'b, some very lovely grainy distorted slow techno a la Andy Stott, and lots more. Well worth exploring in depth!

Tapefeed - Snakes in Suits [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
The debut EP from Italian duo Tapefeed on Houndstooth takes them beyond the industrial techno they've released thus far, with some more syncopated bass styles, albeit still in a pretty 4/4 and industrial-influenced fashion. It's highly dancefloor-optimised (except for one ambient track), suitably since Houndstooth is an offshoot of London's fabric club, where Tapefeed have a residency. Looking forward to some more left-of-centre material from them on Houndstooth next year.

Gold Panda - Plastic Future (Skee Mask Remix) [City Slang/Bandcamp]
Always love a remix of a track I haven't heard - or a remix compilation of an artist I've never heard. I vaguely know Gold Panda but his music never really clicked with me. However Münich producer Skee Mask is a hero, and here gives us a skittery 5 minutes of percussive fun and a sunny vibe.

Sijya - Another Thing [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
Sijya - 52 [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
The latest release in a busy year from Accidental Records is the debut EP, entitled Young Hate, from young New Delhi graphic designer Sijya. Her understated songs sit comfortably in the context of Matthew Herbert's label, the soft vocals and wistful textures recalling the minimalist r'n'b of Tirzah, or the trip-hop references of Sevdaliza, but all self-produced. No hate here - these are touching little pieces, and this is another EP I exhort you not to let pass you by.

Arve Henriksen & Kjetil Husebø - Syntax [Smalltown Supersound/Bandcamp]
Arve Henriksen & Kjetil Husebø - Slow Fragments [Smalltown Supersound/Bandcamp]
Two big figures in the Nordic jazz and experimental scene get together for some blissful electronics and jazz here. Arve Henriksen is a purveyor of gorgeous, melodic & mellow trumpet, often electronically treated, as well as otherworldly vocals - especially in the extraordinary Supersilent. Kjetil Husebø is a classical & jazz-trained pianist with a particular interest in combining live piano with live electronics. Although the music is highly informed by jazz and improvisation, it was recorded separately, Henriksen in Gothenburg, Sweden (although he is originally from Norway) and Husebø in Oslo, Norway. Both musicians employ clouds of electronics as well, creating big textured drones on some pieces, while Husebø is inclined more towards melody on his piano than chordal harmonies - even on the one track where Henriksen sings (not in his usual falsetto), where sampled, reversed and treated piano nevertheless moves as a single bass counter-melody to Henriksen's singing, with further decoration from mostly-untreated piano and trumpet. Booming and shuddering sounds from the physicality of the piano are sampled for reverberant or percussive effect, as are breaths through the trumpet and patterns of prepared piano. This is a striking pairing of musicianship with technology at every level, and a striking pairing of two musicians who long admired each other.

To Move - Mirroring [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
To Move - In Pink [Sonic Pieces/Bandcamp]
We last heard from Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter and her partner, musician & sound-artist Ed Hamilton when they released a wonderful album as Dead Light back in 2016. Earlier still, Carter had a legendary duo called Moon Ate The Dark which combined her always attractive neo-classical piano with Christopher Bailey's tape effects, synths and other electronics (and also violin from Carter). Hamilton also loves tape manipulation and drones, and the pair made some powerful cinematic music as Dead Light for Village Green. Their latest project To Move finds them back on Monique Recknagel's Sonic Pieces (who released the Moon At The Dark albums), for a set of recordings made with fellow pianist, film composer and filmmaker Alex Kozobolis. Whenever Kozobolis visited Carter & Hamilton's home in the English countryside, the two pianists would improvise together (four hand piano, with one player on the bass end and one at the treble), full of the characteristic heart-pulling musicality of Carter that's clearly shared by Kozobolis, while the sounds are degraded and crumbled by tape and other analogue effects. It's as gorgeous as you'd expect if you know their previous work, and worth getting in one of the boutique physical editions if you can afford it!

Elyse Tabet with Pascal Semerdjian and Yara Asmar - Low Toms [Ruptured Records/Bandcamp]
Elyse Tabet with Pascal Semerdjian and Yara Asmar - Bright Bells [Ruptured Records/Bandcamp]
Yet more wonderful music from Lebanon, courtesy of Beirut label Ruptured Records. I played Elyse Tabet a few weeks ago from the Beirut Adrift compilation, from a duo album she made with the brilliant Jawad Nawfal, and from the same compilation I also featured Yara Asmar's wheezing accordion. For Low Toms Bright Bells and Darkest Spells, Tabet enlisted Asmar to play metallophone, and Pascal Semerdjian on drums. Semerdjian plays with shoegazers Postcards, whose singer Julia Sabra we heard in October with Fadi Tabbal on their album Snakeskin (co-released by Ruptured and Portland's Beacon Sound). For this new album, Tabet initially setup a recording session with Semerdjian to play drums along with drum machines and synths. Asmar later overdubbed the brightly ringing metallophone, and the removal of the drum machine beats leaves a trio of tracks suffused with mystery, two percussionists jamming with each other's ghosts, fragments of sounds looped and glitched, placed in artificial spaces, shuffled and re-composed. It's artfully done, all sounds beautifully recorded by Fadi Tabbal and edited, shaped and deconstructed by Tabet. As a bonus, the North Carolina-based Lebanese sound-artist Bana Haffar contributes a shimmering remix that begins ambient and becomes urgenty rhythmical.

Pretty Boy Crossover - Echo 12 [Nice Music/Bandcamp]
Pretty Boy Crossover - Echo 1 [Nice Music/Bandcamp]
Pretty Boy Crossover - Echo 7 [Nice Music/Bandcamp]
Adelaide musical legend Jason Sweeney had a busy year (and last year) collecting reams of archival music from his various projects - much of it on his Observable Universe Recordings Bandcamp. His duo with Cailan Burns, Pretty Boy Crossover (named after a cyberpunk short story by Pat Cadigan, PDF here), is of particular importance to me, responsible for a remarkable early artefact of Australian IDM that I originally heard on CD-R in about 1998. In October 2021 the duo offered up a collection of rarities and unreleased material called Traces Backwards, and sometime this year Jason hinted that new Pretty Boy Crossover material may be in the offing. Interestingly, their return with Echoes In The Sound Mirror feels rather like a clearing out of hard drives, with many of the tracks (each titled merely as a numbered "Echo") cutting off mid-flow, not even blending together mixtape style. It's an odd decision which denies these snippets their full power, but perhaps that's the idea. PBX's music was always redolent of indeterminacy, out of phase and out of its time, and perhaps the Sound Mirror that's producing these Echoes is cracked. It's wistful and evocative, a little disquieting, and essential even if one hopes there's something a little more complete on its way.

Third Space - Dowlais [New Weird Australia/BandcampA]
alsi - When you touch me, I see visions [New Weird Australia/Bandcamp]
After a pair of single-artist albums, Stu Buchanan's New Weird Australia returns to its original strength of impeccably-selected compilations of Australian experimental artists. Fragile States takes as its referents '90s ambient compilations such as Kevin Martin's incredible Ambient 4: Isolationismam, and as such, there are desolate drones (Madeleine Cocolas' literally breathtaking opening track), there's delicate softness, beatless maximalism and much more. And it's not, in fact, all beatless: Naarm/Melbourne's Third Space often makes techno that flirts with drum'n'bass tropes (or is it the other way round?) and here the first half of his track is ambient, and then it accelerates into skittering beats. Also hailing from Melbourne, on unceded Wurundjeri land, is alsi, whose disembodied voices are interlaced with glitched crackles and ominous sound-design on her track "When you touch me, I see visions".

Aviva Endean - Between Islands [Room40/Bandcamp]
Aviva Endean - What Calls In The Quiet [Room40/Bandcamp]
Solo work from Naarm/Melbourne clarinettist Aviva Endean is always a gift. Her contributions are always notable in other contexts - for instance, with Yolŋu musicians on the Australian Art Orchestra album Hand to Earth, with Senyawa and others on The Prey And The Ruler, or with Evelyn Ida Morris a few years back. As primarily a performer, making her latest solo album on Room40, Moths and Stars, afforded her the opportunity to carefully craft sounds, close-micing her clarinets for an uncommon intimacy, but splicing them with field recordings, e-bow and voice. But far from drone, the album starts with the pink and white noise of breaths through a clarinet's body, bubbling and shuddering across the stereo spectrum, while gradually pitched tones join. By the second track we have the pure clarinet tones drifting closer, at times beating, and across the first three continuous tracks the music shifts between interlocking tones and convulsive sibilants. The second half is another three continuous tracks, where slightly detuned clarinet tones slowly replace fast-moving ostinato patterns, initially peaceful, slowly attenuated by the final track into high- and low-pitched discords and disquieting plucked interjections. Moths and Stars couldn't be more apposite as a description. It's eerie, brilliant work.

Listen again — ~200MB


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