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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 30th of April, 2023

Playlist 30.04.23 (9:46 pm)

We have interesting cases of genre-bleed tonight: you'll never quite be sure if you're listening to sound-design or contemporary classical or improv; songwriterly work or experimental folktronica or grime or dubstep; r'n'b or drum'n'bass? Is this hip-hop or processed live percussion? Of course the answer is always "por que no los dos?"

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Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective - Pressure [Nhạc Gãy/Bandcamp]
Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective - What Cherubs [Nhạc Gãy/Bandcamp]
When I first came across Vietnamese musical explorers Rắn Cạp Đuôi, it was through their wonderful collection of sodden glitchscapes on Flaming Pines called Degradation. But everything about them changes radically from release to release, whether it's lo-fi punky indie or post-rock, messy proto-hyperpop, or deconstructed club sounds. Last year's album on Subtext, with production help from Ziúr, gained them a substantial new following, and on follow-up *1 key member Zach Sch is on most mixing duties, with production shared collectively (two tracks are mixed by Raphäel Valensi aka Nahash). The result is an album that combines all their previous influences and more - there's a lot of World's End Girlfriend there with breakcore and hard-chopped digital edits, and then there are choral vocals from a host of members, confounding switches to live guitars or equally to plunderphonic collages. Like their catalogue as a whole, you never know what's coming next, and that makes for highly enjoyable repeat listens. Get this on your stereo stat!

aus - Swim [flau/Bandcamp/Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
aus - Landia [flau/Bandcamp/Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
aus - Make Me Me (feat. Grand Salvo) [flau/Bandcamp/Lo Recordings/Bandcamp]
Yasuhiko Fukuzono, the man behind aus for almost 2 decades, is an important, albeit self-effacing, member of the Japanese music scene, releasing fragile, detailed, glittering music on the his flau label since 2006 (an ever-popular early album from Australia's Part Timer was released by them). Some traumatic events a decade ago meant that we haven't heard any new music from aus for that long. Everis is an extremely welcome return, and the mixture of melancholy and ecstatic, of acoustic and electronic, of expansive and contained, places it squarely in the contemporary aesthetic. Fukuzono's impeccable musicianship is evident throughout, and I want to particularly note the beauty of his collaboration with Naarm/Melbourne's Paddy Mann aka Grand Salvo, in which Mann's voice is accompanied by a simple drum machine, piano and synthetic strings, the piano gently stepping into chromaticism and the strings braiding into delirious rippling dis/harmony as the track progresses. What a return this is!

Jungstötter - Nothing Is Holy [[PIAS] Germany]
Jungstötter - Burdens [[PIAS] Germany]
Years after the more overtly rock/pop of his first band Sizarr, singer Fabian Altstötter moved out solo as Jungstötter with a kind of gothic pop, his voice now vibrating with emotion like Scott Walker or David Sylvian, the songs rooted in piano like the work of his partner Anja Plaschg aka Soap&Skin. By his second album One Star, released his week through [PIAS] Germany, the comparisons to Walker and Sylvian are not just in his vocals. Lyrical melodies are buried in industrial rumblings and shifting electronics, pitch-shifted shadows of themselves, scrabbling beats interrupt the flow, horn and string arrangements grow raucous. This is dramatic music from a resounding Berlin tradition.

The Selva - Dança Babuíno [Clean Feed/Bandcamp]
Portugal is a hub of adventurous improvised music, in & out of jazz traditions, as well as exploratory electronics. The trio of Ricardo Jacinto on cello & electronics, Gonçalo Almeida on double bass & electronics, and Nuno Morão on drums & percussion, ably exemplifies this. Their 2017 debut as The Selva (jungle in Portuguese) cleaved more to the acoustic possibilities in the instruments, while on the 2019 follow-up Canícula Rosa the free jazz workouts, and the more funky or lyrical pieces, are still played straight or with simple amplification. However, in 2021 the group teamed up with sound-artist extraordinaire Machinefabriek, deconstructing the individual instruments' sounds into a strange memory of an acoustic ensemble. So their new album Camarão-Girafa finds the electronics incorporated into the ensemble, operated by cellist Jacinto & bassist Almeida while playing their respective roles - with mixing help from Manuel Pinheiro. Some pieces are swathes of drone-noise from the strings, while on others Nuno Morão is a rock drummer, or krautrock groove-provider, and on tonight's excerpt the cello is treated to granular delays pitch-shifting, reverse and glitching the sound in aleatoric rhythms. I want to say that all avant-garde attributes aside, this is highly engaging & enjoyable music, taking bass strings + percussion (already an unusual proposition) into new territories.

Mindy Meng Wang 王萌 & Tim Shiel - Mirror Flower 镜花水月 [Music In Exile/Bandcamp]
Here's the welcome return of guzheng virtuoso Mindy Meng Wang 王萌 and electronic wizard Tim Shiel, whose Nervous Energy EP was a highlight of 2021. "Mirror Flower 镜花水月" feels like classic West-meets-East with a gentle chord progression over Shiel's downtempo beats and dropped-in samples (and hints of slide guitar?) - and Meng Wang gorgeously decorates her melody throughout.

Ayala - Intra [lovejoy/Bandcamp]
Following last year's evocative All prayers flow to the stormdrains with Zac Picker's spoken word, Ayala/Donny Janks returns with solo EP Rainfruit (Picker joins him on the final track, which I played a few weeks back). Here the Eora/Sydney DJ mixes up Four Tet-like house, downtempo melodic IDM and breakbeat techno, all with an ear for musical assonance and emotion.

TRAKA - Yosai (Commodo Remix) [YUKU]
Prague label YUKU has emerged as a home for exploratory electronic music & arts across Europe & beyond. YUKURMX001 inaugurates their remix 12" series and is a case in point for the label's international remit, with two tracks from Serbia's TRAKA and two from Istanbul's Granul remixed by two Turkish artists, Palestine's Muqata'a (heard later tonight) and Sheffield, UK's dubstep iconoclast Commodo, who puts his current TV cop-show dub-funk spin on a TRAKA's track "Yosai".

Bisweed - Matrix [Artikal Music/Bandcamp]
Wraz. - Knock [BLXCK TXPES/Bandcamp]
Two tracks here with technoid takes on dubstep. First a robotic sci-fi track from Estonia's Bisweed with a martial beat - his debut on UK's Artikal Music. Then we're pulled in the slipstream of the undulating synths and basslines of Québec's Wraz., last heard also on Artikal Music but here appearing on BLXCK TXPES, a sister label of Belgium's dubstep powerhouse Duploc.

Kahn & Neek - Delayed Atoms [Kahn & Neek Bandcamp]
Kahn & Neek - Rally (feat. Riko Dan, Killa P, Irah, Long Range & Armour) [Kahn & Neek Bandcamp]
Bristol's Kahn & Neek have worked together for years - both are members of legendary post-dubstep collective Young Echo and together previously formed Gorgon Sound - but Lupus et Ursus (Latin for Wolf & Bear) is their debut album together. There's a selection of more abstract textures a la Young Echo (always heavily dub-infused), but lots of lovely dubstep, with many guests from UK grime crew including the big team-up on "Rally". It's altogether prime UK bass music, not to be missed!

Izambard - Glue Glugger [A2B2 Records/Bandcamp]
Izambard - Ghost Note [Kingdome Recordings/Bandcamp]
And here's a rather different mutation of UK bass music from London enigma Izambard, affiliated with the Kingdome crew and a2b2, the deeply confusing project of Death Grips' Andy Morin. Izambard's latest EP B4 collects four tracks of digitally cut-up beats, syncopated bass and the artist's ever-changing voice, from gruff to high-pitched, spat into the mic at speed. It's fun stuff, as is his debut album Y from 2021, with a similar range and approach. It takes SOPHIE's industrial crunch a la Faceshopping or Ponyboy and grinds off the more overtly pop elements. On "Ghost Note" the clanging beats accelerate into drum'n'bass territory while somehow suddenly the vocals are in Deftones emo-metal land? Don't try and understand it, just take the pummeling.

Chimpo - All Of The Above [Box N Lock]
Manchester's Chimpo is never one to shy away from pop fun in his bass music, and he's a dedicated junglist. His Box N Lock is the place for all his artistic expression, with the latest being a bouncing drum'n'bass number with Chimpo MCing over his own beats. Most importantly, it's Chimpo, it's fun!

Liv.e - Gardetto. [In Real Life/Bandcamp]
Slightly delayed but never too late, here's Dallas r'n'b innovator Liv.e (the "e" is silent), whose indubitale r'n'b chops shine through on many tracks on her new album Girl In The Half Pearl, but more than ever the sweet harmonies and orchestrations are heard through a patina of experimental techniques - industrial distortion, technoid loops or, on a few tracks, drum'n'bass beats. Anyone who found Janelle Monäe's early work too challenging will run a mile, but this is catnip for leftfield music fans - it was FBi Album of the Week in February when it was released. Much of the production is from Liv.e herself, developed after an Artist in Residence stint at London's Laylow, and it feels like UK dance music crept into the mix with adventurous jazz/soul & r'n'b a la FlyLo, Thundercat et al.

kœnig - Last Dance (ft. Nappy Nina) [Ventil/Bandcamp/PTP/Bandcamp]
kœnig - Due Dilligance (ft. Dälek) [Ventil/Bandcamp/PTP/Bandcamp]
I loved the debut album from Viennese drummer Lukas König under his kœnig alias - live industrial/electronic percussion and post-processing that detoured from its more abstract moments into collaborations with the likes of experimental rapper Sensational. New album 1 Above Minus Underground is co-released by Vienna's Ventil Records and New York's PTP, and features an incredible line-up of MCs and guest musicians, including Moor Mother and Aquiles Navarro from Irreversible Entanglements, Vienna-based Iranian sound-artist Rojin Sharafi (whose collaboration I featured late last year), Guilty Simpson, Victoria Shen and her record needle nails, Elvin Brandhi, and Sensational again. It combines clattering live percussion with free jazz and hip-hop to brilliant effect. Tonight we heard Nappy Nina's conversational contribution and noise-hop pioneer Will Dälek Brooks with interjected apocalyptic horns from Martin Eberle and Chris Pitsiokos. This is really good, don't miss it!

Muqata'a - Irbak [Exist Records/Bandcamp]
UmKuBu & Firas Shehadeh - 01011 [Exist Records/Bandcamp]
Being born & growing up in Gaza, under permanent occupation and frequent attack, effectively imprisoned, results in "unsustainable" levels of PTSD among Palestinian children in Gaza. As described by Exist Records/Festival, Skate Gaza, a skate park near Gaza City, provides some temporary reprieve from their oppression, a sense of freedom and hope. The Exist Festival and label formed in 2019, and has put together the compilation No ComplY to expand Skate Gaza's ability to support Palestinian youth. The compilation features hip-hop, pan-African rap and experimental electronic sounds, including breakcore from BLKM3TA, who I've recently played, MC Yallah & Debmaster, who recently visited Sydney, and many others. The brilliant Ramallah producer Muqata'a appears with clickity beats and sub bass drops, and the compilation opens with two more Palestinians - UmKuBu's spoken words over glitchy beats and ambience from Firas Shehadeh.

Elisabeth Klinck - Winter Song [Hallow Ground/Bandcamp]
Elisabeth Klinck - Kiki [Hallow Ground/Bandcamp]
Belgian electroacoustic composer & violinist Elisabeth Klinck created her debut album Picture a Frame during a week in the Spanish Pyrenees, working with her friend the artist Oscar Claus collecting field recordings and experimenting with sound & space. The results glide between heavy electronic drones and raw violin extended techniques, glitched vocals and more. It's the sort of music that catches you unaware, suddenly realising you've been captivated for minutes.

Martyna Basta - Presentiment [Warm Winters, Ltd./Bandcamp]
Martyna Basta - Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering [Warm Winters, Ltd./Bandcamp]
Martyna Basta - Back and Forth [Warm Winters, Ltd./Bandcamp]
Like many, I was stunned by the debut release from Kraków-based sound-artist Martyna Basta, 2021's Making Eye Contact With Solitude. Adam Badí Donoval's Warm Winters, Ltd. again releases her equally wonderful new album Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering. Again we have patient music build from found sounds, vocal snippets and layers, guitar loops, zither, violin... These elements (including a guest spot from fellow sound-conjuror claire rousay) serve to build half-remembered emotional resonances, gentle tension and subtle release - and they add up to undeniable beauty. One to self-medicate with whenever required.

Listen again — ~210MB

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