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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 5th of November, 2023

Playlist 05.11.23 (11:00 pm)

All sorts of experimental electronic song tonight, and bits of postrock, dub, jungle, techno, sound-art...

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Maryam Saleh - Nouh Al Hamam [Al Gharib]
The Allegorist - Trees of Peace [Al Gharib]
The Allegorist - Dreams at Dawn (Midori Hirano Rework) [Awaken Chronicles]
Naarm/Melbourne-based label Al Gharib this week released their After The Last Sky compilation, with all proceeds going to Dalia, a Palestinian charity that works for systematic change in international humanitarian aid to properly respect Palestinian rights and provide lasting support to local communities. The compilation, with 11 tracks made almost entirely by female artists, is dedicated to the children of Gaza, and if you want your heart broken, click the "more" link on the Bandcamp page and scroll through the list of names of children killed - a number that's already out of date. The first track tonight is a beautiful song from Egyptian artist Maryam Saleh, who I know from the incredible collaboration Lekhfa with Egyptian polymath Maurice Louca and Palestinian singer & composer Tamer Abu Ghazaleh. And then we have a dark ambient piece from the Hungarian-born, Berlin-based artist Anna Jordan aka The Allegorist. She released her album TEKHENU earlier this year, and followed it with TEKHENU Retold a couple of weeks back, with reworks from the likes of Scanner, Subheim, Ben Chatwin and others. I played the reworking from the ever-reliable Midori Hirano tonight.

Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann - 10.14.4 [greyfade/Bandcamp]
Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann - 10.11.5 [greyfade/Bandcamp]
Here's a sneak preview of the second album from New York duo Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann. Bleckmann usually moves in the worlds of jazz and new music, but here sings in a fragile, high register, not unlike Arve Henriksen in Supersilent. Bleckmann's vocals are liberally sampled and cut up by Branciforte, using techniques the duo use in live settings - and although the basis of the recorded tracks is live, there are overdubs that enhance the structure of their compositions. But for tonight I've chosen two short tracks to give a taste of what there is on the album, which is released on the 8th of December.

Animal Hospital - Awful Beast [Sipsman/Bandcamp]
I've said it before, but I can't get enough of Kevin Micka's music as Animal Hospital. His 2009 album Memory is a kind of distilled essence of postrock, with its shorter tracks wrapped around two 17-minute tracks and one 12-minute, each of which patiently cycle through fragments of rock riffs, minimalist guitar patterns, and, on the title track, emotive string hairpins. This technique is still present on his new album, Shelf Life, which again deconstructs rock guitar tropes over two short and two long tracks. "Awful Beast", which I played tonight, is 9 minutes of Tortoise-style guitar refrains and skittery drums, but the 16½-minute track that follows does start with a drone before plunging into rolling drums and prickly synth riffs. It's quite a different take on the long track, which storming breakneck drums and interlocking masses of synths running through most of the track, before fading back into those repeating riff snippets - and because he can't help it, the last 2:43 of the track is stuttering glitched samples that start quiet and get quieter before the last track gives us almost three minutes of what sounds like to two live electric guitar takes and nothing else. Even within the Animal Hospital template, Micka goes in unexpected directions. Really can't recommend enough diving into his discography.

RSD - Babylon Dark Light [RSD Bandcamp]
RSD - Not Easy (Motherless Child) [RSD Bandcamp]
Rob Smith has been central to Bristol's sound through soundsystems to trip-hop with Smith & Mighty and jungle with More Rockers, and playing a part in the early careers of Massive Attack and Roni Size, DJ Die, Krust et al. RSD is the catch-all for mostly dubby productions over many years now, circling around dubstep, breakbeat, jungle and more, with ragga and soul influences aplenty. Decades collects music both new & old with a dub baseline, whether breakbeat dubstep or trip-hop. The second track here samples from an a capella version of the beautiful spiritual "Motherless Child", setting it to unusual chords that somehow do work.

Ola Szmidt - Rooted (Louf's Glass Room Exploration) [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
Ola Szmidt - Rooted (Sijya's I Feel Exploration) [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records introduced most of us to UK-based Polish musician Ola Szmidt last year with her EP3, a set of experimental songs based around self-sampling, looping and chopping her own voice. "Rooted" was a highlight from the EP, and has now been treated to ten reworks, dubbed "explorations" on Rooted Explorations. Louis Fitton aka Louf, who runs Valby Rotary, drops vocal samples into a breaky house beats on his reworking, and Delhi-based musician Sijya (who also debuted on Accidental last year) embeds Szmidt's vocal cadences in a casual downtempo groove augmented with electronic orchestrations.

Romeo Moon - animals / unfamiliar sun [Romeo Moon Bandcamp]
Naarm/Melbourne musician Kevin Orr is due to finally follow up his 2019 release It Unfolds sometime next year, but in the meantime the 3-track freewave is coming out this Friday November 10th as a stop-gap. The lovely opener bears Talk Talk and Radiohead influences, with acoustic drums and guitar rubbing up against electronics, and lyrically it deals with traumatic abuse experienced as a teenager. Highly recommended.

Leonardo Barbadoro - Hybr Spiro [HELICAL]
Sliding back into beats in the oddest way possible, courtesy of Florentine composer & programmer Leonardo Barbadoro, whose album Musica Automata is performed by the largest robot orchestra in existence, residing at the Logos Foundation in Ghent. Examples of these works in performance can be found at his YouTube page. The robots can play lyrical lines for woodwinds and horns or strings, and all manner of percussion. The percussive elements mean that on a track like "Hybr Spiro" one thinks of Aphex Twin's Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt2 EP, and there's an IDMish skitter to the music, but there's a lyricism here and elsewhere that puts it in a slightly different category. It's an impressive feat to precisely program these automata to perform so well, and to make good music to boot. Well worth your time.

Belia Winnewisser & Luca Durán - Luz [Präsens Editionen/Bandcamp]
Lucerne label Präsens Editionen brings a lot of Swiss experimental music to the rest of the world. Here they present an EP from two such figures, experimental singer & sound-artist Belia Winnewisser and experimental club producer Luca Durán. The two tracks (which are also remixed, by RHR and Low Jack) are pop-song-length excursions into contemporary IDM, all accelerated beats and bass throbs, with Winnewisser's voice alternately chopped into pieces and clean as a pop diva. Short and sweet.

Fracture - All of the Massive [Astrophonica]
On last year's 0860, drum'n'bass producer Fracture created a multimedia tribute to pirate radio and its role in the birth of jungle out of UK hardcore and soundsystem culture. Some tracks were released on vinyl and digital, but many more were created for the 0860 mixtape. All of the Massive is a joyful hardcore tune, previously only found on the mixtape, in which acid techno and proto-jungle breaks evoke that intensely creative time. This 4-track EP is an extension of the 0860.fm project, with more promised on the way.

µ-Ziq - Glow [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Meanwhile Mike Paradinas celebrated the 25th anniversary of his jungle-loving IDM classic Lunatic Harness last year with a deluxe reissue as well as new EPs and an album in the same style. His own tribute to hardcore and jungle continues with this stop-gap EP Galope, with a new album slated for next year. The 4/4 version of album track "Galope" has that hardcore techno feel down pat (and it's the original version in fact), and there are more jungle breaks to be found within. Dope.

Tone - Move Now (Suitman Jungle Remix) [Rhythm Section International/Bandcamp]
Tone - So I Can See You Part 2 feat. Coby Sey [Rhythm Section International/Bandcamp]
Basil Anthony Harewood's Afro-Caribbean and Welsh heritage combine in his music as Tone, which wanders between indie, r'n'b, dub and distant club influences on last year's So I Can See You. Tone's also a member of the CURL collective formed back in 2016 by Micachu, Coby Sey, and Brother May, and the Tirzah & Coby Sey vibes are strong. On the new So I Can See You (Remixes) various CURL collective members appear alongside well-known artists like Trevor Jackson. Suitman Jungle is one of the artists to take things into, yes, jungle territory. Meanwhile last year's album title track appears as "So I Can See You Part 2", a kind of '80s synth-pop reimagining, once again featuring Coby Sey.

Jockstrap & Taylor Skye - All Roads Lead To London feat Coby Sey & Ersatz [Rough Trade Records/Bandcamp]
Coby Sey also appears on the new self-remixed Jockstrap album. It's not the first time Taylor Skye has radically reimagined/destroyed their music before - see 2020's Beavercore. The tracks on I<3UQTINVU are simultaneously all-new and not at all new. "I Touch" is obviously a glitched-up "Glasgow" for instance. Featured tonight, on "All Roads Lead To London", chord progressions from "Concrete Over Water" slip in between Coby Sey and Ersatz's rapping and Skye's intense club deconstructions.

Mary Ocher - Pulse (feat Your Government) [Underground Institute/Bandcamp]
Mary Ocher - The Whip (album edit) (with Red Axes) [Underground Institute/Bandcamp]
In October I played the last single from Mary Ocher's album Approaching Singularity: Music for the End of Time. I wrote:
Berlin-based Russian-Jewish musician Mary Ocher incorporates activism into her art, to the extent that her album 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.
This is still true. It's an unpredictable album of electro-pop, rock, experimental production, Berlin club references and big thoughts about big questions.

Neinzer - Flurry [YUMÉ (forthcoming)]
Very pleased to be able to play a new track from Berlin producer Neinzer, whose EPs on the likes of AD93 and Where To Now? have been among the most creative and emotive house/techno releases I've heard over the last few years, with acoustic instruments, gorgeous sound design and complex harmonisations along with head-nodding beats. New single Flurry/Obsoletion will drop on YUMÉ on the 17th of November, with two tracks of fast-paced 4/4 club tools, one with syncopated breakbeats and ring modulation, the other with warm percussion, both grounded in delicious sub bass.

spectral gates - doomscroller [Spectral Gates Bandcamp]
Eora/Sydney duo spectral gates fit uncomfortably into the 4/4 techno straitjacket, but they are also not your normal guitar-drums instrumental rock band. There's plenty of synths, a 4/4 pulse, and clattering drums and jagged guitar here. Quite euphoric for doomscrolling!

Flightless Birds Take Wing x Benjamin Shannon - Bin Chicken [4000 Records/Bandcamp]
Flightless Birds Take Wing x Benjamin Shannon - Plains-Wanderer [4000 Records/Bandcamp]
Meanjin/Brisbane duo Flightless Birds Take Wing are made up of electronic producer/composer Madeleine Cocolas and Dutch saxophonist/composer Marieke Van Dijk. Their debut EP Taking Flight combined their synth, piano and sax playing with field recordings of nature and urban spaces. For their follow-up Ruffled Feathers, released later this week, the duo invited Meanjin drummer Benjamin Shannon to join them in seven bird portraits, again representing their self-proclaimed "Tropical Ambient Bangers" genre. Shannon brings a free jazz expressiveness to the trio, with tumbling rhythms at times, and subtle texture elsewhere. "Plains-Wanderer" (an endangered native bird) is a lovely ambient piece of very restrained piano and seemingly little else until you listen for the details.

J.WLSN - The beach, the sea, the waves [ROOM40/Bandcamp]
Jonathan Wilson is a musician and curator now based in Eora/Sydney. He was responsible for the phenomenal Volume festival at the Art Gallery of NSW, which featured two nights programmed by Lawrence English, and his second album on ROOM40 as J.WLSN - just like the first - is released on English's ROOM40. For Slipped, Wilson's source material is his own jams on a ¾-size nylon string guitar that he bought for his 7-year-old son. As well as the unusual sound of this small training instrument, the album is soaked in the analogue sound of tape - specifically the Audio Technica RMX64, which in the '80s repurposed standard cassette tapes for 4-track recording. The sounds slip and slide even when the guitar's sound is evident, amid drones and small gestures on FM and modular synths, piano and the like. It's an understated but affecting album.

Himalayan Beach Ensemble - A Rainstorm Of Pots Of Paint [Julien Mier Bandcamp]
Dutch-born electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist Julien Mier mainly records as Santpoort these days, but has resurrected his Himalayan Beach Ensemble alter-ego for Recordings of the Lost Valley. The album documents time spent in his mother's chosen home of Saman in south-west France, and a family trip to the French Pyrenées 15 years earlier. Primitive recordings of the family piano, a wonky Yamaha DX7, and all sorts of found objects merge together in this lo-fi work, which somehow does evoke the feeling of the fog-laden mountains, outside of time.

Alexandra Spence - The Well [Paralaxe Editions/Bandcamp]
Penelope Trappes - Weft [Paralaxe Editions/Bandcamp]
Finishing with another compilation for Palestine. For Palestine is a massive affair, 64 tracks compiled for the Spanish Paralaxe Editions by label-head Dania. As an Arab in the diaspora and also an Emergency Medicine doctor, the genocide in Gaza hits close for her, hence the compilation sending all proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières, whose 300 Palestinian staff continue to work in hellishly dangerous circumstances. There are many wonderful artists on here, predominately ambient and experimental, but there are detours into minimal techno, murky jazz and more. Of course there are a number of Australian contributors. Eora/Sydney's Alexandra Spence, who has toured underground & experimental music spaces in Europe a few times now, bequeaths a piece with her barely-there whispers and mysterious amplified objects that sound like tuned percussion and strings, while London-based Penelope Trappes (returning to Sydney for the Biennale in March 2024) layers distorted feedback, layers of spoken word and a slow-growing choir of voice and drones. Two beautiful highlights from an essential release.

Listen again — ~205MB

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