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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, 23rd of April, 2023

Playlist 23.04.23 (9:44 pm)

Experimental pop, noise artists not being noisy, ambient artists being noisy...
Cut out the noise by LISTENING AGAIN on stream on demand @ FBi Radio, or podcasting here.

The God In Hackney - In This Room [Junior Aspirin/Bandcamp]
The God In Hackney - Bardo! [Junior Aspirin/Bandcamp]
You may remember nigh on 3 years ago, I discovered transatlantic band The God In Hackney via the cover CD on an issue of experimental music mag The Wire. "The Adjoiner" is still one of my favourite tracks from their second album Small Country Eclipse but there's way more to enjoy there, and now we can extend our enjoyment further with The World In Air Quotes, out this coming Friday. This is left-field art-pop with leanings to '80s pop experimentalists like Peter Gabriel or Magazine, but with everything and the kitchen sink thrown in, whether krautrock, drum'n'bass, free jazz... It's undeniably arch (I mean, "The World In Air Quotes"), and "art", but there's some kind of sincerity there too, such as the Tears For Fears-ian "In This Room". After all, an album about the current moment is going to be struggling with the visibly collapsing anthroposcene and the rise of far-right populism, as well as the degredation and atomisation of the public sphere. Meanwhile "Bardo!", also heard tonight, somehow manages to encompass live d'n'b drums, big band brass, and... Peter Gabriel fronting Talking Heads? The album is co-dedicated to the late Andrew Weatherall, drawing in other clear influences: dub and techno. The second dedicatee is the late Brian Catling, an often challenging performance artist, poet and sculptor, whose various artistic pursuits overlap considerably with those of TGIH singer Nathaniel Mellors.

Richie Culver - Daytime TV (Rainy Miller Remix) [Participant/Bandcamp]
Richie Culver - Love Like An Abscess (Aho Ssan Remix) [Participant/Bandcamp]
Another artist combining poetry, art, sculpture and music is Richie Culver, whose late-2022 album I was born by the sea carried his apocalyptic, declamatory poetry with abstractions of rave music. Tracks from that album have now been remixed by an inspired list of musicians, available on vinyl and digital. A notable earlier release was a provocative collaboration with bleak northern drill master & choreographer Blackhaine, and frequent Blackhaine producer Rainy Miller puts his dark drill silt over one track, while Paris-based Ghanaian sound-artist Aho Ssan floats Culver's voice in granular soundwaves and sub-bass.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - Waiting For The Light To Quit [Constellation/Bandcamp]
ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - Lie Down In Roses Dear [Constellation/Bandcamp]
Speaking of ambient waves, synthdrone is a big element of the new duo ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, the Montréal duo of Ariel Engle, recent Broken Social Scene member sometimes working as La Force, and Efrim Manuel Menuck of, well you know: Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A/Thee Silver Mt. Zion etc. The curmudgeonly Menuck has long been dedicated to hating things deserving of hatred (the music industry, capitalism), and has apparently now decided to add guitars to that mix, and in 2021 put together a demo tape with Engle of shoegaze-noise-folk that established the duo as equal parts This Mortal Coil, Emeralds and The Pentangle. Debut album "Darling The Dawn" (yes, the double quotes are part of the title) fleshes out some of those pieces, emphasising the folk roots by adding Jessica Moss's violin to the glistening synths on "Lie Down In The Roses Dear". But mostly it's Menuck's stacked synths and his usual anguished singing juxtaposed with Engle's sweeter voice.

Aphir - viscosity angel [Art As Catharsis/Bandcamp]
Vocals with drones become vocals as drones on The Halo Is Shapeless, the beautiful new album from Melbourne's Becki Whitton aka Aphir. 2021's Plastichoir documented her marathon processed vocal improvisations livestreamed over the months before its release, feats of stamina and creative dedication that Whitton has continued to build on since then. Eclectic Sydney label Art As Catharsis, best known for various strains of metal, had been keen to work with Aphir, and the progressively-built artificial choirs of The Halo Is Shapeless proved the perfect resonance for the label. Shapeless these pieces are not, however: vocal edifices are constructed, and then carefully pulled apart and reshaped, as the first single able demonstrates - for the rest you'll have to wait a month or so!

The Leaf Library vs Kemper Norton - Iris [Front & Follow/Bandcamp]
Andrew Haines vs Steve Hadfield - A 500AD Portal to the Boomkat Attics [Front & Follow/Bandcamp]
Manchester label Front & Follow has a very solid back catalogue of varied left-field artists from experimental electronics to folk, and also a strong line in thought-provoking compilations, which goes back a good 10 years to Joseph Stannard's cross-genre catalogue of the uncanny, The Outer Church. Mid-2020 they started on a five-volume project called Isolation and Rejection poking fun at the endless Covid isolation comps by collecting previously-rejected songs - each volume's profits being donated to a charity helping out the least privileged people in the Manchester area. The brilliant, spooky and uncanny compilation You Can Never Leave followed in 2021, parodying aspirational luxury apartment complexes while raising money for the homeless. Elaborating on that theme are the RENTAL YIELDS compilations: three volumes in 2022, and now RENTAL YIELDS: VOLUME FOUR. Each track on these compilations pits one artist against another - well, kind of. I'm not sure whether the right-hand side of the "vs" is always the original artist and the left-hand the remixer/appropriator, but it's never stated, so these roles remain obscure. UFog faves The Leaf Library, part indie band, part space rock, part electronic entity, have previously appeared on the other side of the vs. Here they adapt a piece by the wyrd "slurtronic" folk bloke Kemper Norton, ethereal but slightly menacing. And Andrew Haines attempts to lighten up the usually dark & industrial Steve Hadfield's sounds with glitchy beats. These masses of music may seem overwhelming, but rest assured that it's not just the rental yields that are high. Stream them on Bandcamp and put 5 quid down on a couple, hey?

Marc Codsi - The Entity [Discrepant/Bandcamp]
Among the plethora of electronic acts and releases from the so-called Middle East are a plethora of different musical approaches, of course. Storied Lebanese musician Marc Codsi has worked with many key players in Lebanon, Egypt and beyond as well as writing soundtracks; his previous solo album A New World created a purely electronic Arabic ambient music as a venture into hopeful world-building, and Songs from the Aftermath continues its musical interests, with quarter-tone scales conveying a sense of strangeness - and perhaps newness - to those used to the common 12-tone equal tempermanent found in pop music and "Western" synthesiser works. I love the dancing 24-tone sequences of the opening track, but I opted tonight for the mysteries of "The Entity", which expands the palette with percussive quasi-glass bell sounds over drones and warm bass. The slow synth melody that enters halfway through opens up this space to transcendence.

Soheil Shayesteh - Perceptual Deformation [Zabte Sote]
The Zabte Sote label was founded in 2018 by Ata Ebtekar (aka Sote, visiting Sydney in June for Soft Centre!) and continues to promote adventurous music from Iranian artists. Two albums were released in March: first tonight, we hear from Amsterdam-based Soheil Shayesteh, whose nhA is an electro-acoustic wonder build primarily from the rich sound of his kamancheh - but far from a collection of string drones, the music veers wildly from evolving granular loops of plucked strings through melodic bowing, coupled with a soprano on one track, to the shuddering digital slabs and sliding sub-bass drops on the track heard tonight. Wonderful.

Hamid Rahmati - Joyous Indifference [Zabte Sote]
The second March release from Zabte Sote comes from Tehran-based composer Hamid Rahmati whose acoustic contributions, alongside electronics and field recordings, come from piano and electric guitar. These instruments may make it sound like this music is more contemporary classical than classical Persian, but it's filtered through digital signal processing, made with 24-tone tunings, and shot through with beautiful spectral melodies at surprising moments.

Ana Quiroga - Atalaya [Bandcamp for EarthPercent]
Last week we heard Ana Quiroga's remix of On Man, and this week she's back courtesy of EarthPercent, an organisation co-founded by Brian Eno to encourage the music industry to help fight the climate crisis by giving 1% of their earnings towards climate action. Of course for many musicians that's a moot point as their earnings are frequently negative, but the low percentage of philanthropic giving that contributes to protecting the environment is striking. Each Earth Day, EarthPercent compiles a huge selection of exclusive music from a wide variety of musicians via Bandcamp, and you can pick & choose as you prefer if £25 is too much for the whole shebang. Quiroga's track Atalaya combines field recordings of the natural world with undulating synths.

Lagoss - Mango UFO [Discrepant/Bandcamp]
Lagoss - Los Aquachachos [Discrepant/Bandcamp]
Featuring Discrepant boss Gonçalo F Cardoso, Lagoss is a Tenerife-based trio imagining future sub-tropical archipelagos via an electronically mutated tropicalia and faux field-recordings, sidestepping the problematic appropriative aspects of "fourth world" music by engaging its ethnography with an imaginary future civilisation based in their home in the Canary Islands west of Africa. Palestinian producer Muqata’a also contributes a glitchy remix.

dprk - CRAZY LITTLE CORKSKREW [Studio Fabrik/Bandcamp]
From the deep recesses of Eora/Sydney's noise, free improv and industrial scene/s comes new quartet dprk. Richard Fielding has been making weird noises since his involvement in Severed Heads' tape music years in the early '80s, founding The Loop Orchestra shortly after, and Nick Dan is a free/noise scene stalwart particularly with his duo xNoBBQx. They're joined by visual artist & recent Loop Orchestra member Juke Wyat and also Christian Durham. This is sometimes motorik, sometimes sludgy primitivist, proto-industrial synth stuff. Despite any noise and industrial references Shitville Tourist eschews the harsh tones of power electronics for other abstractions, and opening track "Crazy Little Corkscrew" could almost be early IDM, with unaligned loops of synthetic xylophone, tape crackle and a parping bassling burbling along pleasantly for 7 minutes. The album title indicates a different kind of enthnography from Lagoss' faux-future island life, instead exploring the scungy backstreets of insalubrious city suburbs.

Michel Banabila - Threat [Tapu Records Bandcamp]
Dutch sound-artist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Michel Banabila has managed to maintain a consistent musical character (and quality!) through his 40-year career, with a sustained interest in sound manipulation (through tape, samplers and computers), non-Western instruments, processed voices and so on. More recently he's extended his interest in classical instruments (such as the viola and electronics from 2014) to creating ersatz compositions, constructed through computer editing - and on Tightrope classical piano and strings uneasily cohabit with drones. The style, if not mood, seems to change every track, and on "Threat" we have mysterious electronic tones and a beat that slowly grows to pummelling quasi-techno.

Shit and Shine - BBC BEACH [The state51 Conspiracy/Bandcamp]
Shit and Shine - DIRT BIKE [The state51 Conspiracy/Bandcamp]
London-based (still?) Texan maverick Craig Clouse has at times extended Shit and Shine/Shit&Shine/$&$/etc into a full-blown band, but it's usually safe to say it's himself solo these days - and while the psych-noise roots still inform the sound, he's found a singular style with a kind of disco-funk base, with cut-up glitch-beats, hip-hop, industrial and more thrown in, along with his trademark YouTube-sampled bizarro spoken word. As usual with $&$ there's a good dose of trying your patience and wrong-footing your groove, so yes, 2222 and Airport could only be Shit and Shine, and I for one wouldn't have it any other way.

France Sauvage - Tears me, love me [Murailles Music/Bandcamp]
France Sauvage - Faire les dents repousser [Murailles Music/Bandcamp]
Here again is some kind of free noise collage industrial that somehow isn't the aural confrontation you'd expect. Courtesy of Murailles Music we're introduced to France Sauvage, long-lived trio whose latest incarnation finds all three on electronics. Drum machine beats, wobbling processed vocals, remnants of exotica - this is strange music from the wilds of France, captured and ready for your hi-fi stereo system.

Fire! Orchestra - ECHOES: I see your eye, part 1 [Rune Grammofon]
Scandinavian free jazz big band Fire! Orchestra continues to thrill on their latest for Rune Grammofon, a big double CD and triple LP set that, as usual, confounds the "free jazz" tag with beautiful orchestrations and right-on riffs: the rhythm section of Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin are unparalleled, completed in trio form with fellow Swedish musical royalty Mats Gustafsson on roaring saxophone and noise-making machines. When Fire! Orchestra first assembled it was a full big band of brass and wind instruments plus three of Swedish jazz & improv's greatest vocalists. The extraordinary Mariam Wallentin does appear, and it concludes with a mind-bending vocal turn from legendary jazzer Joe McPhee, but it also has vignettes for smaller ensembles, a few covers, and some gorgeous string arrangements, beautifully played by arranger Josephin Runsteen and ensemble (there are two violins, two cellos and another double bass credited). "Echoes: I see your eye, Part I" opens with a traditional Fire! Orchestra sound, hypnotic bassline carrying through almost 10 minutes of arrangements and soloing. The album's a lot to take in, but it's married together with various "Echoes" variations throughout, returning to "I see your eye" right at the end with McPhee's vocal turn replacing the strings. Incredible work.

Leah Kardos - Pegs [bigo & twigetti]
Winding things up tonight with a different take on "classical" from London-based, Australian raised academic, composer & producer Leah Kardos. The bigo & twigetti label have coaxed another track out of her for their Perceptions Vol. 4 compilation of piano music - no drastic mutations, but pretty Spotify-friendly music in the main. Kardos offers here a piece in her vein of cyclic prepared piano (Aphex Twin drukqs fans will be in familiar territory) - and Kardos has a keen ear for the heart-pulling chord changes. It's simple enough, with a couple of crescendos bringing a bassline in and tapering back to finish, but it's the kind of stuff I'd happily leave on repeat for hours.

Listen again — ~204MB

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