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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 15th of October, 2023

Playlist 15.10.23 (11:00 pm)

It's been a hell week for many of us. This isn't the place to talk about it really, but let's just acknowledge the pain that so many are feeling, and get on with doing good where we can.

LISTEN AGAIN if you have the mental wherewithall - it's good for your soul. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Mary Ocher - Love Is Not A Place (feat Your Government) [Underground Institute/Bandcamp]
Berlin-based Russian-Jewish musician Mary Ocher incorporates activism into her art, to the extent that her forthcoming album Approaching Singularity: Music for the End of Time comes with a substantial (and great) essay about politics, philosophy and art (if I dare sum it up with such broad strokes). She writes movingly about how she holds two passports - Russian and Israeli - both of which she is ashamed of, as Russia invades Ukraine and Israel pummels Gaza to dust. Of course, nothing's simple, but the simple fact that nothing justifies killing civilians anywhere, much less children, should hardly be controversial. As it happens I'm not playing her latest single, "Zone (A Tale of a Mourning Mother)", which mourns children killed in war, because I love this track so much. "Love Is Not A Place", featuring her old band Your Government, was released earlier in 2023 as a fundraiser for Kyiv charity repair.together, and is a bit of an experimental electronic pop anthem.

Olivia Louvel - We Are One Land [Cat Werk Imprint]
Born in France but long based in Britain, Olivia Louvel has made conceptual art-pop since the mid-'00s, but I feel like her music has erred more on the sound-art side for some time. Her latest project doggerLANDscape, is based around Doggerland, the evocatively-named landmass that once connected Britain to continental Europe before the last Ice Age. It's a powerful concept in the age of Brexit, clearly expressed in the first track to be released, "We Are One Land". There is a video work accompanying this, documenting Louvel's location-specific research and comprising this track and one more. The imagery of coastlines and occasional ghostly human figures is beautifully evocative, but the audio works beautifully by itself too - narrative spoken word, treated vocals, floating drones. I look forward to hearing more.

Jay Glass Dubs - Goodbye Forbidden Hell (feat. Richard Youngs) [Jay Glass Dubs Bandcamp]
Jay Glass Dubs - Wild Terrier (feat. Christina Vantzou) [Jay Glass Dubs Bandcamp]
I usually think of the music of Dimitris Papadatos aka Jay Glass Dubs as dub techno and minimal dub, but that's only a slice of what he does. A great entry-point is his new album You Would Love Me Now, which ventures into trip-hop via the dub roots that always lay in the genre. But Jay Glass Dubs has also always been an avant-garde project, so there are some pretty interesting guests here. Richard Youngs' verse, entering in the last 3rd of "Goodbye Forbidden Hell", is a real beauty, while I'm guessing sound-artist and composer Christina Vantzou is heard speaking in "Wild Terrier", but perhaps she also contributed some of the sounds?

Vanishing Twin - Lotus Eater [Fire Records/Bandcamp]
Vanishing Twin - Afternoon X [Fire Records/Bandcamp]
Dub plays a part in the sound of Vanishing Twin too, alongside krautrock and Broadcast-style sunny experimental pop. The band began as a five-piece, but have whittled themselves down to three for this album, with Brussels-born Cathy Lucas joined by the brilliant drummer/percussionist Valentina Magaletti, and Susumu Mukai aka Zongamin on bass. That said, the bandmembers aren't credited to specific roles, with synths and samples throughout (and both former members also appear as guests). Vanishing Twin's music does that Broadcast/Stereolab thing of sounding vintage while employing contemporary technology - and like both those bands, the songs are lovely and the grooves strong.

Pynuka - Tá N'agua [Translation Loss Records/Bandcamp]
If you didn't know, you'd be unlikely to pick up that Justin K Broadrick is one third of Pynuka. Well, that's not entirely true; once you know, there are distinct Jesu vibes to some of the songs (e.g. "Shampoo"). It's eclectic stuff, as with most of the music Christian McKenna's been involved with for some time. His Translation Loss Records still focuses mostly on metal, but there's also stuff like his hip-hop project C Trip A with Anthony Adams, and now Pynuka, where McKenna and Broadrick join Anda Szilagyi in an eclectic selection of electronic pop. Szilagyi's background is in soul, funk and Brazillian music - she's played trumpet with the likes of Antibalas and Sharon Jones - but Pynuka ends up sounding different from any of its constituent artists, not grindcore or metal or industrial, not jazz or funk, but something nonetheless musically rich and also catchy. Unexpected!

Arthur Clees - Stay [Macro/Bandcamp]
Arthur Clees - I'll Hold You [Macro/Bandcamp]
Stefan Goldmann's take on techno has grown steadily stranger over the years, as well as branching out into dark ambient and other weirdnesses - but with Macro, the label he founded with DJ Finn Johannsen, techno is also only one part of the proceedings. So here we have Luxembourg vibraphonist, drummer, pianist, and vocalist Arthur Clees with a solo album of great restraint. If I told you it was a cross between Dntel's indietronica circa Life Is Full Of Possibilities, Herbert's always jazz-inflected glitch-pop, and James Blake's soulful song-shadows, you might get the idea? I think it lives up to those comparisons too. These are fragmented song-shapes, with cut-up voice and instruments, beats that drop in halfway through songs, and an air of wistfulness. It's quite beautiful.

Popular Music - Bad Actors [Popular Music Bandcamp]
OK so I've played two singles from Popular Music's new album Minor Works of Popular Music, and now it's finally out. I love these works - self-referential and determinedly pop-culture-referential (and only sometimes minor) as they are. They're cabaret songs with the emo edge that Zac Pennington brought to Parenthetical Girls, orchestrated by Popular Music's other half Prudence Rees-Lee with performances from OpensoundOrchestra, Jherek Bischoff, Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and more... And yet, even at their most dramatic, these songs are redolent of Leonard Cohen's Casio keyboard era - no shade, that's high praise! The duo moved from LA to Rees-Lee's hometown of Melbourne, where they'll be launching the album at Carlton's John Curtin Hotel on October 26th. Would love to see them come up to Sydney, but where? Ah, Sydney...

Glasser - Vine [One Little Independent/Bandcamp]
Ten years after her last album, Cameron Mesirow has brought Glasser back with crux, as experimental and pop as ever. It's no surprise it's released on One Little Independent, as it has quite a Björk feel at times - although it also reminds me of Braids or Chairlift too. Her singing's very strong here, and the pop hooks are decorated with acoustic instruments as well as synths, and IDM beats that clatter and tumble. If this is pop music, sign me up.

Toumba - Daboor [Toumba Bandcamp]
The UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians is an organisation I've seen reliably mentioned for helping Palestinians in Gaza. Jordanian producer Toumba makes beats that fit with UK bass and club forms, but with a lot of input from Levantine music - rhythms and scales and instrumentation. He's released For Palestine, a collection of dubs and unreleased material, to raise funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians, and the tunes are well up to the standards of his official releases.

Pugilist & Tamen - Extract [RuptureLDN]
Perfect liquid junglism from Pugilist & Tamen, from NZ & UK respectively but now based in Naarm/Melbourne. Pugilist's roots in dubstep inform the bass weight here, and footwork and techno bubble under the chattering rhythms.

Aroma Nice - Made Your Bed [YUKU/Bandcamp]
Czech label YUKU is really at the forefront of mutated bass/jungle/IDM/techno sounds, from all round the world. Aroma Nice, from the north-west of England, brings some lovely nostalgic jungle/d'n'b with undertones of jazzy downtempo and IDM circa mid-1990s.

Architectural - Clothed In Light [R&S Records/Bandcamp]
Spain's Architectural is not a name you'd usually associate with jungle or breakcore, with a background in beautifully immersive minimal techno, but for his second EP on R&S Records the 4/4 beats are spattered with amen breaks in an almost breakcore fashion.

alva noto - HYbr:ID Ectopia Field 1 [Noton]
For minimal electronics, we might as well go to the king himself, alva noto, whose HYbr:ID Vol.2 teases out intricate spikes of sound with mirrorshade-smooth pads hovering over distilled dub bassweight. A masterclass in how to do the purest of pure digital electronica.

Ümlaut - The great twin leitmotifs [esc.rec/Bandcamp]
Ümlaut - This immense motionless pause [esc.rec/Bandcamp]
The work of Jeff Düngfelder aka Ümlaut also uses tiny spikes of digital sound, but melds them with cleverly-edited field recordings to build impressionist sound-paintings. On "This immense motionless pause" the tiny sounds sweep up and down in pitch like some alien natural phenomenon. Like a nature documentary soundtrack for an alternate reality, this music contains all the busyness and peace of life going about its business.

Kamran Sadeghi - Day One Part Two [LINE/Bandcamp]
But lo, we still have more jittery shards of sound! Here we hear Kamran Sadeghi working with Nam June Paik's Wobbulator - which is not, in fact, a wobbulator, but rather a cathode ray tube setup to paint beautiful visualisations from audio inputs. Sadeghi used two vintage synths to create the sounds to feed into the CRT Wobbulator: a Doepfer A-100 modular system, and a Korg MS-20. Sadeghi's experiments, recorded over 5 days, use a deliberately constrained sound palette, creating a kind of primitive version of alva noto's clicks'n'pads. It's raster-noton if performed by a malfunctioning fridge. It's great.

Nickolas Mohanna - Mixed Numbers [Run/Off Editions/Bandcamp]
Nickolas Mohanna - Light Sleeper [Run/Off Editions/Bandcamp]
I was introduced to the work of NY-based composer Nickolas Mohanna through two labels of Sydney's Andrew Khedoori. A couple of albums came out on Preservation, and more recently the 22-minute track Throwing the Chain came out on Longform Editions. Mohanna's new album Double Pendulum extends outward from a graphic score Mohanna created as part of his interdisciplinary artistic practice, and a selection of quite different pieces merge into and out of each other through the album's 5 tracks and 32 minutes. There are deconstructed orchestral strings, flittering cymbals and krautrock guitars, unidentifiable percussion. It feels like Mohanna has converged on a similar space to some of Oren Ambarchi's recent work, where very arcane experimental music is coalesced into a highly digestible form of psych-rock. Some of the joy of the album comes from the slow segues, as one texture, genre, composition melds into another. New perspectives are found in the sounds we've just been listening to, and those we're about to find emerging out of the last. A highly rewarding listen in full.

Islaja - Featherless [Other Power]
Islaja - Urvogel [Other Power]
Having concentrated more on songforms for her last couple of albums, Finnish musician Merja Kokkonen aka Islaja has now created a stunning work of composition and sound-art. Angel Tape, released by new Helsinki label Other Power, stems from the vibrant imaginings of childhood experiences: in this case, listening to a much-redubbed recording of church music that her mother played her, which she thought of as the "angel tape". So Islaja, whose early connection with the legendary Finnish label Fonal has already linked her to dusty, distorted rememberings of folk-music-that-never-was, here uses voice, acoustic instruments and electronics to (re-)imagine a music of an unknowable angel-world, beautiful but slightly disquieting, not quite of this reality. It is, to continue the religious iconography, quite a revelation.

Amby Downs - Ngunmal (excerpt) [Room40/Bandcamp]
Tahlia Palmer is a Murri/European artist who works in multiple media, and the two substantial works on her upcoming Room40 album Ngunmal exist as filmworks that will be downloadable with the purchase of the album. Purely as audio documents, they are extraordinarily evocative and painterly, juxtaposing and blending visceral sounds that seem to come from industrial machinery, people or animals breathing, the amplified movement of a fence recorded by Room40's Lawrence English, and the ponderous respiration of the land itself. Unlike some other adapted field recordings, Amby Downs' pieces don't capitulate to conventional expectations of musical composition, keeping the sound sources' complex tonal profiles. It's no wonder Palmer credits herself as "sounds collected and put together by". But if these works resist being labelled "music", they're nevertheless products of great artistry.

Johannes Malfatti - And At That Moment [LINE/Bandcamp]
Johannes Malfatti - Someone Pointed [LINE/Bandcamp]
The second album released on Richard Chartier's LINE Imprint this week (next to the aforementioned Kamran Sadeghi) is an album of subtle, unassuming etudes for church organs from Johannes Malfatti. A composer, multi-instrumentalist and experimental musician, Malfatti has been part of Olivier Alary's varying project Ensemble, which started as glitchy IDM, and captivated me with chanson-postrock on Excerpts back in 2011. More significantly, Alary & Malfatti released the exquisite u,i in 2020, an album that captures the yearning of distance with buried vocals, string arrangements and smudged electronics. Somehow that aesthetic is reproduced in this collection of organ works, In the glow of distant fires, recorded as part of Malfatti's creation of a soundtrack to a film about the Berlin churches where they're housed, churches created in the '50s and '60s as memorials to the horrors of war and the Holocaust. In this background, Malfatti coaxes from these organs a music of whispers, minor gestures, exhalations that capture the idiosyncracies of the instruments in question. Alongside Rishin Singh & Martin Sturm's mewl infans these pieces show the expressive range of these strange mechanical instruments.

Claire Deak - In Defiance of Time [Lost Tribe Sound/Bandcamp]
Melbourne composer Claire Deak tends to operate in the background, whether writing arrangements for friends' bands, or composing for film, TV and stage. In 2020, however, we were treated to a wonderful album, the old capital, that Claire created with her partner Tony Dupé, himself a producer building incredible arrangements and treatments for indie and postrock musicians. That album was picked up by Ryan Keane at Lost Tribe Sound, and their connection has blossomed further with, finally, some solo work from Claire Deak. Sotto Voce is a solo album that emerged from Deak's investigation of two female baroque composers, Francesca Caccini (1587-c.1645) and Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677). So many female composers have been erased or buried, so Deak has gathered what traces remain into diaphenous scores, like an acoustic, classical version of vaporwave's nostalgic vision of 1980s media. Deak plays a large selection of instruments and is joined by Tony Dupé on various stringed instruments, as well as three other musicians, who perform compositions that blend and smudge, as if a sheaf of musical scores was dropped in the rain. These performances are then further treated, soft drones added, and in the case of tonight's choice, snippets of tape are looped and embedded in reverb. "Sotto voce", an instruction typically for playing as soft as possible, literally means "under the breath", and these touching tributes to women's work from bygone eras are whispered to us by a woman more used to being behind the scenes.

Listen again — ~200MB

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