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Utility Fog

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Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.

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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.

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