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experimental electronica
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Utility Fog

Your weekly fix of postfolkrocktronica, dronenoise, power ambient, post-everything improv... and more?
Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.

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Sunday, 3rd of September, 2023

Playlist 03.09.23 - 20 Years of Utility Fog! (11:00 pm)

Incomprehensibly, Utility Fog has been on-air for 20 years as of this week! That means, of course, that FBi Radio has survived 20 years - something to celebrate. The station has had an undeniably massive impact on Sydney's music scene, brought fourth musical careers, provided a focal point for music obsessives all over Sydney & surrounds. I'm proud to have been part of it, and on this show I'll be celebrating music & artists who've been of significance to this show over this period. In just 2 hours I'm trying to give representation to 2 decades' worth of artistic output - and for perhaps half that time the show itself was 3 hours long! (Sheesh, don't remind me...) So forgive me for all the fades & edits and talking over music that I've done in order to tell this story.
And please forgive this very self-indulgent write-up. Hopefully it's fun & interesting!

LISTEN AGAIN to 20 years in 2 hours... Stream on demand via FBi, podcast here!

the books - the lemon of pink [Tomlab/Temporary Residence/Bandcamp]
I heard the first album from The Books right about when it came out, as I'd already come across Nick Zammuto in the old email list days. Weird laptop music with cello (Paul De Jong) - that was always going to be right up my street! When their second album the lemon of pink was announced, I knew I was going to be starting Utility Fog later that year, so I wrote to Tom at Tomlab and asked for a CD promo. It's probably accurate to say this was the first promo I ever got for UFog, at least by request - and what a top tier legendary piece of work too. This is where The Books came into their own. Beautiful folksy, quirky cello playing, impeccably chaotic digital edits, acoustic guitar, and somehow singing as well. Oh, and those unplaceable spoken word samples, often found on tapes in thrift stores by both members. What is it? Laptop folk? Neo-classical? No, it's just The Books. Sadly, after their fourth album, the pair had a falling out and that was that.

In any case, the un-pin-downable nature of The Books' music is a perfect encapsulation of what I wanted to do with Utility Fog - music that sits uneasily in musical norms, not just of genre but even of "songwriting"; composition vs improvisation, acoustic vs digital, noisy vs beautiful. Let's problematise all the binaries!!!

tunng - mother's daughter [Static Caravan & many reissues/Bandcamp]
Just want to note here that these selections are not going chronologically. I've sequenced the music much like a normal Utility Fog - a musical journey.
Still, The Books' "laptop folk" fitted a strain of music that UFog favoured from the start, call it folktronica. And when I discovered Tunng in 2004, they immediately resonated. Here were songs that sounded like they came from an arcane English past, but filtered through contemporary electronics. I got hold of Tunng's first two lathe-cut 7" singles and played those to death even before the debut album mother's daughter and other songs came along later that year. They caught the ear of Danny Jumpertz while listening to the show, who promptly licensed the album for Australia on his Feral Media label (a label that would feature frequently in UFog playlists).

65daysofstatic - drove through ghosts to get here [Monotreme Records/Bandcamp]
Here's another hugely important band in the UFog story. Like Tunng, I picked up 65daysofstatic's very first EP through Norman Records based on their description, which as I recall was "Like Mogwai being mugged by Squarepusher in a dark alley". I guess when you're a young band you notice when you're getting played, and boy did I play stumble.stop.repeat! Paul from 65 sent me cool oddities like their unreleased/unreleasable comps, and by the time their second album One Time For All Time came out, I was stoked to find my name ("Peter Hollo at Utility Fog") in the thank yous. The best story, though, came round to me later. Birdsrobe brought them out to Australia to tour with sleepmakeswaves, and they ended up re-releasing all the 65dos albums in gorgeous card sleeve editions. Around that time Mike Solo from Birdsrobe mentioned to me that it was hearing 65daysofstatic on Utility Fog that put him on to the boys in the first place. Rad.

Four Tet - My Angel Rocks Back and Forth (Four Teas on English Time - Icarus remix) [Domino]
Killing two birds with one stone here. 2003 was a watershed year for Four Tet, with the release of the still-legendary Rounds album. Hip-hop beats and acoustic samples chopped'n'glitched, it's miles away from Kieran's club-ready sounds of the last decade or more, but it was hugely influential. In the lead-up to FBi's official launch, a looped playlist was broadcasting on 94.5FM, and She Moves She was one of the tracks that would come round, hour after hour. Suffice to say it already felt like home.
Many singles were ripped from this album, and in 2004 "My Angel Rocks Back and Forth" came with this insane remix from Icarus. I'd heard of this band but only glancingly, but something in the frenetic pace of this remix felt like drum'n'bass. I quickly discovered that Icarus's debut Kamikaze in 1998, and to some extent the followup Fijaka a year later are jungle-leaning drum'n'bass perfection. Following this, the duo ventured further and further into abstraction, drawing on the history of musique concrète, granular processing and glitched jazz - but somewhere inside there's always a heart of junglist rhythm'n'bass.
I got in touch with the duo - cousins Ollie Bown and Sam Britton - and discovered that Ollie had been living in Melbourne, working as an academic. Years later, he's been a Sydneysider for over a decade and we play in Tangents together.

Department of Eagles - Sailing by Night [Isota/Melodic/Bandcamp]
Another 2004 discovery, initially feeling like they fit into the folktronica/indietronica mould, with zany sampling and rhythm programming antics befitting music written by college students on cheap computers. But Daniel Rossen's songwriting and emotive voice put Department of Eagles on a whole different level, something which created a beautiful alchemy when he joined Grizzly Bear shortly after. I love everything he does, but I'm still super fond of the awkward first album, and songs like "Sailing By Night" and "The Horse You Ride" already possess the beauty of his later work.

Hood - Over the land, over the sea. [Domino/Bandcamp]
When Utility Fog started I was already a dedicated Hood fan. Again they encapsulated so much of what the show was aimed at - my unweildy postfolkrocktronica term (intended as an amalgan of postrock and folktronica) fits this band with indie DIY/noise roots, a deep engagement with technology and electronic music, a deep understanding of the original roots of "postrock" (late period Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis), and a complicated relationship with the pastoral northern English countryside. Hood were always a hard band to sell, with obscured lyrics and self-effacing vocals, but their influence is incalculable on generations of indie/electronic bands the world over.
This track is one of my faves, postrock textures and electronic beats - as with many Hood favourites, a non-album track, here found on "The Lost You" EP that preceded their last album. Meanwhile Chris Adams' breakcore/drum'n'bass project Downpour and indie/experimental project Bracken, Richard Adams' The Declining Winter, and many other side projects have featured regularly on Utility Fog.

part timer - thinking, unthinking feat. Danielle McCaffrey [Moteer/Bandcamp]
Craig Tattersall and Andrew Johnson were both members of Hood in the '90s, as well as with their own indietronic band The Famous Boyfriend. They morphed into the minimalist electronica band The Remote Viewer, whose incredible first LP I heard playing at Pelicanneck in Manchester when travelling in 1999 (Side note: Pelicanneck became online store Boomkat a few years later, and the rest is history). I had to double back and buy the LP, which became a prized possession (and was replaced on CD some years later). Like Chris Adams' Downpour, I was a fan of this project before I knew the Hood connection.
Craig and Andrew started a boutique label called Moteer in 2003, whose first release was a self-titled 12" from a duo called Clickits, followed by an album in 2005. When I played Clickits for the first time, I was quickly contacted by John McCaffrey, one half of Clickits, who had moved to Melbourne with his wife Danielle (this moving to Melbourne thing, what's up with that). John was excited to be played on the radio in Australia, and sent me a batch of solo stuff as Part Timer. And for years afterwards I would regularly receive CD-Rs in the mail from John, charming and intricate folktronica which I would always play. Many years later, Part Timer has come back with a more post-classical bent, and John still sends me tracks on the reg, and I still play them.

billy woods / kenny segal - spider hole [Backwoodz/Bandcamp]
There'll be more UFog history coming, but here's a perfect album from recent years. East coast underground rap hero billy woods, curator of the impeccable Backwoodz Studioz, released his second album with west coast producer Kenny Segal earlier this year, and Maps will no doubt be topping many year-end lists for 2023, but for me 2019's Hiding Places is untouchable. woods' raps are sardonic and melodic, documenting the fucked-up state of America and his own psyche in surrealist stanzas, while Segal twists his samples out of shape, pitched down, reversed, chopped, interjecting and undercutting. The ascent of billy woods, his duo Armand Hammer and his Backwoodz label has been slow/fast - his first, lost releases were in 2003 (two decades, folks) but his restart was 2012, also over a decade ago. Hip-hop has always been experimental music, but this is pretty far-out stuff, and it works. Which is just right for the times.

Collarbones - Kill Off The Vowels [Collarbones Bandcamp]
So. I first played Marcus Whale when he was just 16 - here, under his early solo alter ego Scissor Lock. He'd already been sending me music for quite a while. That solo stuff was freeform improv, sound-art, drone stuff. Marcus would often chat to me online, and at one point in 2009 he told me he had a new project with a friend he'd met online (Travis is based in Adelaide) - and it was pretty different. What I was hearing were the earliest Collarbones tracks, dance beats and cut-ups, and Marcus (a saxophonist and guitarist) as front-man, singing in pop/r'n'b fashion. And it was good. So I was the first person to play Collarbones on the radio, from their debut EP in 2009, Waiting For The Ghosts. Their next singles, which ended up on the album Iconography (sadly not online), were far more accomplished, with heavily-edited samples and beats, and super catchy hooks. FBi was all over them by then.
Further pop & dance projects from Marcus included the Sydney supergroup BV (RIP) with Lavurn Lee (best known as Cassius Select) and Jared Beeler (best known as DJ Plead) - and Marcus's Inland Sea is a masterpiece.
Oh - and Marcus also ran a homegrown 3" CD label called CURT that released my first solo EP in 2010 (same year as this single).

clipping. - All in Your Head (feat. Counterfeit Madison & Robyn Hood) [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
OK, clipping. represent the intersection of so many UFog interests. Daveed Diggs, half-Jewish/half-black frontman, is a genius rapper, a smart lyricist who inserts deep cultural references into everything he does - and a charismatic front-man. Making the innnssaaaane beats are William Hutson - composer and noise musician - and Jonathan Snipes - also a composer and noise musician, but also one half of the notorious rave/hardcore hooligans Captain Ahab. Clipping are the best. They just are. And every release they do is different - well, OK, other than the duology of Horrorcore albums. And there's the thing: clipping take the tropes of sci-fi, hip-hop, horror, and turn them inside out. This song - and its intense video - is horrifying, violent and beautiful, raised ever higher by the raps of Robyn Hood and the singing of Counterfeit Madison. And that crescendo to the finale!
Oh and for true horror, before This Is America (which rules btw) there was Knees On The Ground.

Venetian Snares - Hajnal [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
But here's another axis around which Utility Fog has always revolved. Jungle's experiencing an extended renaissance at the moment, something I already started seeing at least 10 years ago... But in 2003, drum'n'bass was mostly tech-step, and breakcore was where you went for your crazy beat juggling. Along with "postfolkrocktronica", when I started Utility Fog I threw in a few other made-up genre mashups - including "orchestral breakcore". So imagine me if you will, 2 years later, when Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares releases Rossz Csillag Alatt Született on the ever essential Planet µ. Here it is! I spoke it into being. Not really, but Aaron spent some months in Hungary, and was inspired by the poetry and history to make an album in his characteristic 7/4 breakcore, built out of impeccably sequenced and chopped classical samples. There's Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto, there's Stravinsky and Paganini - oh and of course there's Billie Holliday doing the famous Hungarian suicide song (cut to 7/4). And there's Bela Bartók. 18 years later this album still boggles my tiny mind. Sure VSnares was always clever, funky shit, but this is next level.

Exile - Silicon Chop (feat. Sub Focus) [Planet µ/Buy via Planet µ (not on Bandcamp ?)]
Yes, Planet µ has long been the place to go for forward-thinking electronic music. When Planet µ released his first album Pro Agonist in 2005, Tim Exile (at that time still going by just Exile) was a renowned producer in the drum'n'bass world. But this album saw him spreading his wings into far more experimental waters. The album is cheeky, sometimes grotesque, self-referential, and super complex, but it starts with a veritable banger, featuring - of all people - stadium d'n'b powerhouse Sub Focus. This is noughties d'n'b as jungle. Legendary.

DJ C - Conscience A Heng Dem (Aaron Spectre Remix ft. Capleton) [Mashit]
Alongside breakcore, in the early oughts there was a trend (crossing over from breakcore) for "ragga jungle". In the mid-'90s heaps of dancehall classics were given jungle makeovers - the tempo and feel of dancehall lends itself perfectly to the drums and the bass of jungle. This was taken up in the decade later by the next generation of bedroom producers and noise kids, but in a way that felt like appropriation of a slightly squicky nature: using the disembodied voices of black people for the coolness factor. I don't doubt the dedication of Baltimore's DJ C to Jamaican artforms, though, and on the very first 12" from his Mashit label (released in 2003), the voice of Capleton is credited. This is another release I played to death in those early years - both DJ C's side and Aaron Spectre's incendiary remix.

Wordcolour - Babble [Houndstooth/Bandcamp]
I wanted to give some representation to current jungle trends, and I couldn't go past young producer Wordcolour, whose debut album The trees were buzzing, and the grass. came out on Fabric's in-house label Houndstooth last year. The album is gorgeously produced, with beatless sound design pieces, spoken word, quasi-classical interludes, and some of the most expertly programmed beats I've heard of late.

Loefah - Root [DMZ/Bandcamp]
But now we must switch gears again. I felt like it took me a while to get my head around dubstep when I first encountered it. Still intoxicated with jungle, the 140bpm tempo seemed to slow, and I couldn't switch perspective from music led by the drum breaks. But once I understood that dubstep is led from the bass, it all fell into place. When Mala played Sydney, hearing it on a real soundsystem really brought it home, and I was hooked. Despite this delay, playing dubstep tunes on my show from about 2006 stood out - I remember getting a call from Paul from Garage Pressure one Sunday night, who was super surprised to hear dubstep played outside of their show. While Skream and Benga became the pop stars of dubstep, Digital Mystikz were among the pioneers. DMZ was Mala alongside Coki, but the third figure in DMZ was Loefah, whose early dubstep singles were simple yet profound.

Colleen - blue sands [Leaf/Wind Bell/Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
For some reason when Colleen's beautiful album les ondes silencieuses came out in 2007, with dubstep on my mind I used mix "blue sands" in with Loefah's beats. It sort of works? This album is exquisite - a kind of lonely post-classical/folk made with acoustic instruments including the viola da gamba (an older relative of the cello). Incidentally, Colleen's more recent work is dub-inspired modular synth stuff.

The Bug - Black Wasp feat. Liz Harris of Grouper [Ninja Tune/Bandcamp]
But back to dubstep for a minute. Kevin Richard Martin, in all his incarnations, has been an ever-present fixture on the show. Pre-dubstep, I played the punked-out dancehall of The Bug's aptly-named album Pressure, co-released on Rephlex and Tigerbeat6. When London Zoo came along in 2008, I was fully signed up - in fact it started in 2007 with the immortal Skeng released on 12" by Kode9's Hyperdub - with a remix from Kode9 on the flip. It featured two grime greats, Killa P and Flowdan of Roll Deep, who improvised their lines in the studio at the end of a session. Incredible stuff. Oh look, I played both sides when it came out. And by the way, Loefah's remix of the other Flowdan masterpiece off the album, Jah War, is an oft-rediscovered masterpiece.
Again I've gone off on tangents, because what I played was not from London Zoo but from the Angels & Devils era. That album features a beautiful track with Liz Harris of Grouper, but they actually recorded two, and "Black Wasp" is ethereal beauty in a spectral dubstep frame.

Andy Stott - Numb [Modern Love]
Speaking of ethereal beauty, Andy Stott's Luxury Problems, and the preceding Passed Me By and We Stay Together represent, for me, a long-needed broadening of horizons, having for too long disdained 4/4 techno and house. The power of these records cannot be denied, especially Stott's collaborations with his childhood piano teacher Alison Skidmore. This wasn't quite the beginning - I would have already been a Matthew Herbert fan, and I'd been pulled out of my comfort zone by the pumping rhythmic variations of Emptyset's self-titled debut. Still, glorious stuff.

shoeb ahmad - the orchids [Mystery Plays]
I clearly remember the Andy Stott EPs and album of this era being the subject of music-geek conversations with Shoeb Ahmad, something we've done for about as long as UFog's been on air. My recollection of our first meeting was Shoeb sending me a message via LiveJournal (those were the days) remarking that he'd seen me at the recent Tortoise gig. Being randomly recognized was pretty bizarre, but Shoeb had great taste and we talked a lot, exchanged musical loves (we were both huge Hood fans), and eventually met in person. In fact our first physical meeting was about 2hrs before we performed an improvised duo set together at Hibernian House in Surry Hills.
A few years later we setup another improvised gig with musicians who all knew each other but had never performed together: Evan Dorrian, drummer with Shoeb in their brilliant duo Spartak; Adrian Lim-Klumpes, piano & keyboard player in Triosk; and Ollie Bown from Icarus. That first performance became Tangents' first album, after which Ollie contacted Jeremy from Temporary Residence, who'd earlier released Icarus, and Temp Res have now released three albums from us.
This long friendship aside, Shoeb's music has always featured heavily on this show - and not only Shoeb's music, but also the music released on Shoeb's impeccably-curated label hellosQuare. I'm having trouble with pronouns, as I'm very used to using she/her with Sia these days.
In any case, sometime early in the Tangents days, Shoeb released the wonderful album watch/illuminate through Mystery Plays, a label setup by Stefan Panczak of the wonderful Inch-time, an Australian medical doctor who was living in London at the time. I still feel this album was unfairly overlooked - beautiful shimmering guitars, hidden vocals, flittering rhythms. This track also has sampled piano from Adrian Lim-Klumpes sprinkled throughout.

Jenny Hval - blood flight [Rune Grammofon]
Here's another pivotal album for me. Jenny Hval spent a few years studying in Melbourne, and released two lovely indie albums as Rockettothesky, but by 2011 she'd moved back to Oslo and created the remarkable album Viscera with various Norwegian experimental musicians, including producer Helge Sten aka Deathprod, a member of Supersilent, who like this album were released on the legendary Rune Grammofon label. Thus Hval's songs, with artfully explicit lyrics, are garbed in expert experimental arrangements, Hval's voice and melodies like an even more unhinged Kate Bush. Over the following albums Jenny Hval found great success, but this one seemed to puzzle a lot of people. Well fuck'em, this is another immortal classic to me.

9T Antiope - Nocebo (B) (excerpt) [PTP/Bandcamp]
I discovered the Paris-based Iranian duo 9T Antiope first via Kate Carr's Flaming Pines label. If you're a listener to this show you've heard releases from Kate and Flaming Pines a lot. Back in 2016, Flaming Pines released a landmark compilation of experimental music by Iranian artists, Absence, curated by Arash Akbari, with an introductory essay by the excellent composer/producer Siavash Amini. Later that same year, 9T Antiope contributed to the label's Tiny Portaits series, with a track called Brobdingnagian. I quickly gobbled up all I could from them, and was pleased when, in 2019, Geng from PTP sent me an advance promo of their album Nocebo. Here we have the imposing soundscapes of Nima Aghiani and the poetry and pure vocals of Sara Bigdeli Shamloo, some kind of mix between noise, drone and classical music. Since 2020 the duo have released a series of beautiful electronic pop songs sung in Farsi as Taraamoon.

Sote - Pipe Dreams [Diagonal Records/Bandcamp]
9T Antiope are only one part of the tapestry of Iranian music that I've discovered in the last 8 or so years and been inspired to play. I knew Ata Ebtekar's music as Sote (literally "sound" in Farsi) from way back via a pair of heavily overdriven drum'n'bass tracks on the Warp label, Electric Deaf. Some 5 years later I found the Wake Up 12" EP on the disarmingly-named Record Label Records, which to some degree followed in Electric Deaf's footsteps, but already by then Ebtekar had moved back to Tehran from the United States, and was connecting with Persian classical music and early electronic music with Dastgaah. This engagement has generated more & more inspiring music from Sote, often in collaboration with musicians playing traditional instruments like the santour, tambour and tar, melding these sounds with intricate sound design.
I was lucky enough to interview Ata ahead of his first appearance at Soft Centre in 2019. As well as his own inspiring music, Ata runs the label Zabte Sote on which, in 2019 he released a massive four cassette, 42-track survey of Iranian experimental music, Girih - and yet this only scratches the surface of the incredible music coming out of Iran (even under brutal sanctions and an equally brutal ruling regime) and from the Persian diaspora.

ZULI - Robotic Handshakes in 4D [UIQ/Bandcamp]
But let's move now to north Africa, where in Cairo we find the master of bent bass beats ZULI, whose debut EP Bionic Ahmed was released by Lee Gamble's great UIQ label in 2016, and who's gone from strength to strength since. ZULI represents one facet of a thriving experimental music scene in Egypt. The label he co-founded in 2020, irsh, has released two excellent compilations from the Egyptian experimental scene, starting with did you mean: irish - but electronic music is only part of the story, with free jazz, psychedelic rock and more coming out of Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere.
Of course you can also find exciting sounds from Uganda, Morocco, Jordan and more.

Muqata'a - Ikmal إِكمَال [Hundebiss/Bandcamp]
Also notable is the hip-hop and experimental music scene in the occupied territories of Palestine. Muqata'a was a member of the hip-hop collective Ramallah Underground, whose music I first came across in 2018 on an album released by Discrepant sublabel Souk. Kamil Manqus كَامِل مَنْقوص was a standout in 2021, glitchy hip-hop informed by an Arabic numerological science that invokes the voices of Muqata'a's ancestors and evokes the suffocating experience of living in the world's largest open-air prison. Muqata'a is also co-founder of the Bilna'es بالناقص label, showcasing cutting-edge Palestinian music.

Ben Frost - Through The Glass Of The Roof [Bedroom Community/Bandcamp]
I first met Ben Frost around the turn of the millennium, when he handed me his EP Music for Sad Children, which I'm still fond of, even though Ben probably wants to disown it. Some years later Ben had decamped to Iceland, to work with Valgeir Sigurðsson in his studio, honing his composition skills and production expertise. The first output from this was Theory of Machines, released in 2007 by Bedroom Community, with heavy bass, dark ambient drones, Swans samples... But for me By The Throat in 2009 was where he really got started. Cold and beautiful and brutal, it evokes snowscapes and snarling wolves with a lot of acoustic instrumentation and a lot of overdriven electronics. It seems to me that the growling distorted bass surges so popular in electronic music these days can be traced back to these albums (if not exclusively - of course drum'n'bass and dubstep's basslines are another source). Anyway, epochal.

Jockstrap - Acid [Warp Records/Bandcamp]
Shifting gears again, Jockstrap have only been around for around 4 years, but already have climbed the pantheon, with virtuoso electronics, Broadway-informed string arrangements and poetic, sardonic lyrics, all rolled together in glorious cacophany. Like a lot of leftfield music, the quirks and disruptions annoy some people, but... fuck 'em. I've listened to the Wicked City EP and now the self-titled album over and over.

Leah Kardos - Sexy Monday [bigo & twigetti/Bandcamp]
Back in late 2011 I was introduced to the music of Brisbane musician Leah Kardos, long resident by now in London. Her debut album Feather Hammer was a creative take on piano in electronic music, with real emotion and real production dexterity. On follow-up Machines, she enlisted the classically-trained Leah Wolk-Lewanowicz, another ex-pat Aussie, to sing sophisticated electronic/classical pop songs, with lyrics cut out of spam emails. It's strangely touching. Leah works as an academic, as well as leading projects at Visconti Studio, named for Tony Visconti, longtime producer for David Bowie. Indeed, Leah's love of Bowie led her to write an in-depth analysis of Bowie's final works, published as Blackstar Theory by Bloomsbury. She also frequently writes reviews and articles for The Wire. I'd love it if she released more music though!
I interviewed Leah back in 2013.

Aphir - Green Valentine Blues (Rework of Allen Ginsberg) [Provenance]
In the earlyish days of FBi, Stu Buchanan co-presented a radio show (with Danny Jumpertz of Feral Media) called New Weird Australia, which also served as a record label, compiling the best of Australian experimental music over a long series of releases. Some time later, post-NWA, Stu formed a new label called Provenance, in an attempt to see how to do a record label in post-Spotify times. A number of artists highlighted by the label came from a thriving Canberra and Melbourne scene of artists melding experimental electronica with a certain pop sensibility - and when Stu decided to give up the label, those artists stepped in to remake Provenance as a collective. It seemed to me that Becki Whitton aka Aphir was a driving force in this new form of the label. Becki lends her engineering, mixing and mastering skills to many artists, and her own music as Aphir has continually evolved, with highly personal songs wrapped in pop songs with adventurous production - and more recently her marathon late-night improvised vocal processing sessions have led to a plethora of textured ambient "choral" work. Tonight I chose something different though - a poem of Allen Ginsberg's set as a kind of electronic folk song, from one of Provenance's compilations.
Circling back to Stu, he restarted New Weird Australia last year with single-artist releases and compilations on Bandcamp. Absolutely essential.

Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden - Other side [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
As we reach the end of our allotted 2 hours in which to summarise 2 decades of music, I need to fit in some of the more lower case, minimalist sound-art that I also love to feature. This album was utterly unexpected - Swedish musician Ellen Arkbro is known for her super minimalist compositions exploring alternate tunings on instruments like organ and brass. But here, working with fellow Swede Johan Graden, she has crafted a singular album of delicate, touching songs. I get along without you very well (which contains no Chet Baker inside, despite the title) is a masterpiece of songform, which carries its experimental elements with great subtlety - unusual harmonies based around discords, unusual voicings and instrumental choices, and very subtle electronics.
Here, Utility Fog's mission of boundary-crossing musical forms is given expression through the meeting of free jazz, minimalist composition and songwriting. Another example, approaching from a very different direction, is the recent albums by Ashley Paul: Ray and I Am Fog.

soccer Committee & machinefabriek - for i have none [Morc/Digitalis/Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Here, though, is the most minimalist of minimalist song, courtesy of Dutch singer Mariska Baars aka soccer Committee. This year she gifted us the beautiful ❤️ /Lamb, but my first encounters with her were via another very important member of the Utility Fog musical family, Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek. Machinefabriek's music brought me into the realms of drone and sound-art, and he's been a recurring presence in these playlists. His collaboration with Baars, 2018's drawn, pairs soccer Committee's highly understated, yet heart-pulling songs with Machinefabriek's talents in sound design and signal processing. Also indispensible is the album redrawn, made up of remixes and reworkings of the original album by the cream of experimental music as of 2012.

Burning Star Core - Beauty Hunter [Hospital Productions/Bandcamp]
As we draw to a close, we need some representation from the proper noise scene - and who better than C Spencer Yeh, leader and often sole member of Burning Star Core. The psychedelic, freeform onslaughts of BxC could range from power electronics to improvised, crashing, droning out-rock, mangled vocals and mangled violin. The noise scene has transformed many times since the '90s and early '00s, and while some projects are still alive & kicking (see Wolf Eyes), Spencer folded up BxC in 2010, following it with sporadic oddities under his own name. Some of Burning Star Core's massive discography can be found at his Bandcamp, and I strongly recommend digging in.

the body - the west has failed [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
And finally, extreme metal and hybrid metal goings-on could not be better represented than by the body, creators of beautiful ugliness and ugly beauty. Though they're ostensibly some kind of blackened doom band, they have always featured collaborators who transform and enhance the crushing guitars and drums of the core duo, such as singers Chrissy Wolpert and Kristin Hayter. In the last decade, as well as female choirs and piano, they've increasingly incorporated electronic beats and production into their music, in collaboration with Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets. This doesn't just mean industrial metal, but also draws widely from Beyoncé (really! so they say), dancehall, dub, drum'n'bass and more. Here also is music unchained from the constraints of genre. On this track, heavy guitars, industrial drums and distant black metal screetches give way to dubbed out beats and the sampled voice of Eek a Mouse.

And there you have it. This didn't even come close to scratching the surface of 20 years of musical exploration, but everything I've included here is pivotal and inspiring. Here's to the next 2 decades...

Listen again — ~209MB

One Response to “Playlist 03.09.23 - 20 Years of Utility Fog!”

  1. Alistair Says:

    Many thanks for 20 years of Utility Fog! I might not have been listening for all that time, but I've hugely enjoyed the last few years.

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