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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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Playlists are listed with artist name first, then track title and (remixer), then [record label]. Enjoy the links.

Sunday, 24th of December, 2023

Playlist 24.12.23 - Best of 2023, Part 2! (11:34 pm)

Wait, it's still 2023... but... why?
(PSA: It will still be 2023 next Sunday too, just. I will be away though, so somebody else will keep you company until Sunday the 7th of Jan, when we'll have the final Part 3 of Best of 2023, with the year finally out of the way!)
Tonight is non-dancefloor, non-song music... Except the first track is a bit of a segue from last week.

LISTEN AGAIN, careful now! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

soccer Committee - No Turn To Harm [morc tapes/Bandcamp/soccer Committee Bandcamp]
I have been a dedicated fan of Dutch singer-songwriter Mariska Baars for many years, via Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek - both working with him under her own name, and then in equally mysterious projects such as Piiptsjilling and FEAN with the Kleefstra brothers and others. Where Jan Kleefstra performs his poetry in Frisian, Baars sings either wordlessly or in English. Her work, as soccer Committee and in other groups, is characterised by an exquisite restraint, whereby if you're listening you can't help but be drawn into the patiently unfolding melodies and subtle but essential textures. Even without Machinefabriek's sensitive deconstructions around the edges of their collaborative work, Baars seems to dismantle and rebuild the fabric of her songs so that they are as attenuated as possible while still holding together. In 2023 she released ❤️ /Lamb, her most confident and fully-realised album yet. I do want to point you to where I discovered Mariska Baars, with Machinefabriek on their incredible album Drawn, which birthed the Redrawn compilation of remixes and covers - an album I return to frequently.

Yara Asmar - objects lost in drawers (found again at the most inconvenient times) [Hive Mind Records/Bandcamp]
The artistry of Beirut's Yara Asmar doesn't end with synth waltzes and accordion laments, beautifully descriptive though this album title is. She creates delightful video art on Instagram that's somehow lo-fi and modernist at the same time, and beautiful, strange puppetry. All is tied together with whimsy and delicateness, with her own music accompanying the performances and videos. It's a very different take on the YouTube-archaeology of vaporwave, all her own, and these synth walzes and accordion laments feel like they come from somewhere outside of time.

DAAU - Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung - Cinema [Sub Rosa/Bandcamp/DAAU Bandcamp]
This was a really nice surprise. I discovered Belgian shapeshifters DAAU (short for Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung, or "the anarchist evening entertainment") in the late '90s, by accident in a European CD store, noting that they were a kind of cross between a classical chamber group and an indie band. In 2000 they appeared on my radar again contributing an incredible remake of The The's song ShrunkenMan (you can listen here, switching between chamber classical, jazz and almost industrial rock - there are also interpretations by Foetus and John Parrish, each as different from each other as they are from the original).
It took me a while to collect DAAU's catalogue, which ranges from acoustic classical, folk and jazz (the original lineup was violin, cello, clarinet and accordion) to electronic, indie/hip-hop hybrids and more. Releases are so few and far between now that one keeps thinking they're gone for good, but while the lineup has changed frequently, here they are again, in a collaboration with Rudy Trouvé, an original member of another legendary Belgian band, dEUS. Musik f​ü​r Animierten Tonspurfilm is, well, "music for animated soundtrack film", or rather music for a series of animated films by Trouvé. The writing process was a back-and-forth between acoustic/analogue and electronic, originating with tape recordings of accordion, double bass, clarinet and percussion, which were passed to Trouvé who sampled, edited and chopped them up into loop-based collages. These were then overdubbed by the band using electronic instruments: not double bass but bass guitar, not accordion but synths etc. The music retains a kind of cabaret vibe of twisted jazz and classical, filtered through krautrock and electronic aesthetics. In some ways DAAU have always been an alternate-universe version of Utility Fog's aural obsessions, a strange bridge between my "other" musical side of rock string quartet, gypsy/klezmer and 20th century classical which only surfaces occasionally within these playlists. Here, more than ever, DAAU have found their way right into the core of what this show of mine's all about. I don't like to make this all about me, but maybe this will explain why this release is really special to me. (Now to convince Guy-Marc and Fred of Sub Rosa to put it out on CD!)

WSR - Flatwound [WSR Bandcamp]
Aperture - Siren [Stray Signals/Bandcamp]
Siblings Elisabetta and Emanuele Porcinai, Italians based in Berlin, work together in various ways. Elisabetta's artwork has adorned the releases by Emanuele under the name WSR as well as other releases from the wider Berlin scene that Emanuele has appeared in. But with Threads in 2018 the brother & sister became a musical duo, Aperture, in which Elisabetta's poetic spoken words, in Italian and English, are embedded in Emanuele's productions. The debut album was described as an exploration of "aural intimacy", an apt description also of their follow-up Stanze five years later. The self-described intimacy is achieved through explicitly spatial mixing and recording techniques, in which acoustic and electronic sounds creep and rattle around virtual rooms while the voice whispers close, or finds itself shudderingly degraded through slap delays. Simple poised acoustic guitar or piano lines are interrupted or underlined with huge industrial bass thrums or unplaceable percussive anti-rhythms of found-sound. Many of these techniques are common to both albums, but on the new release the duo are joined by guests on a few tracks - including brief, crushing drums from Andrea Belfi on one track - and notably Elisabetta's words are sung by Emanuele on two pieces. This is uncompromisingly avant-garde, experimental music, but sonically engrossing in a way that should have broad appeal.
When Aperture's brilliant debut Threads came out in 2018, I initially didn't realise that I'd been following Emanuele since his second EP Chambers, released under the name WSR. Now, three years after the last WSR release, Dicasmia showcases a similar aesthetic to the earlier releases: close-mic'd acoustic instruments - notably cello - are moulded into dark, heavy masses of sound, seamlessly mutated into industrial electronics. The juxtaposition of acoustic and electric instruments with digital sound-design is very much what WSR is about, and as you know it's very much what Utility Fog is about too, so I couldn't be happier to have both these new works out in 2023.

tom schneider - serpentines [Macro/Bandcamp]
The first solo album from German pianist Tom Schneider should be no surprise to followers of his recent band Loom & Thread, which took the traditional jazz piano trio into the cyber realm with live sampling and manipulation - and the sampler as instrument is something Schneider has perfected in his other band KUF, in which Schneider plays the role of lead vocalist entirely from the sampler. The surreal piano manipulations are found throughout Isotopes, which, like both previous projects, is released on Stefan Goldmann & Finn Johannsen's Macro Recordings. Virtuoso jazz piano runs and sensitive melodies coexist with granular processing and re-sampling of the instrument, sending the sounds into stratospheric pitch-shifting, or stuttering glitches, blended together so that it's impossible to tell what's composed or improvised, produced live or processed in post. It's mastered very quietly, and works best as listening music to close your eyes to.

Leah Kardos - Pegs [bigo & twigetti]
Australian-raised academic, composer & producer Leah Kardos is busy writing books, writing reviews & features for The Wire, and organising the Kingston University Stylophone Orchestra. In 2023, the bigo & twigetti label coaxed one track out of her for their Perceptions Vol. 4 compilation of piano music. 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.

Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective - What Cherubs [Nhạc Gãy/Bandcamp]
When I first came across Vietnamese musical explorers Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective 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.

world's end girlfriend - FEARLESS VIRUS [Virgin Babylon/Bandcamp]
Katsuhiko Maeda's music as world's end girlfriend is absolutely emblematic of Utility Fog's mission: genres such as IDM, breakcore & glitch are mashed up with post-rock, punk, classical and J-pop, in a fashion, mind you, that's perfectly natural within Japanese culture/counter-culture. Maeda also runs the phenomenal Virgin Babylon, collecting a diverse array of artists covering most of those aforementioned genres - think Vampillia, Kashiwa Daisuke, DRUGONDRAGON, and more recently idoru figure Madobe Rika. From a varied career over 2+ decades, including acclaimed movie soundtracks as well as many albums, Resistance & The Blessing seems like a suitable capstone (although I hope it's not his last!) It's released on 3CDs or 4LPs, many of which are now sold out, as well as a 35-track download. The physical editions are gorgeous - the 3CDs are slipped into a vinyl-sized package in a box with cut-outs... Three CDs allows ample space for Maeda to indulge all sides of his work, so we have pretty piano passages switching into thrashing guitars, plenty of breakcore splatter-breaks, glitch and ambient interludes, spoken word, song... and in amongst it all are some absolute gems, as great as anything in his catalogue. I didn't play it tonight, but his setting of Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" is superb, in which the sampled soprano's voice is drowned in static or heard through layers of crackle, but the music surges in time with Schubert's beautiful progressions - until eventually everything's subsumed in blast-furnace noise, dissipating back into Schubert to finish. Bracing, yes, but also euphoric.

Noneless - Neurocannibal [☯ anybody universe ☯]
The North Sydney/Kuringgai artist now known as Noneless previously released some pretty crazy breakcorey hybrid music as elfaether, but has returned to music production a couple of years later with their amazing album A Vow of Silence. It has the well deserved cachet of being released on ☯ anybody universe ☯, the label run by Japanese IDM/breakcore latter-day legend Laxenanchaos. On this album their classical violin training and love of erhu is married with breakcore splatterbeats, joyous distortion and a bit of Zen Buddhism. Lovers of World's End Girlfriend or Kashiwa Daisuke, not to mention Venetian Snares, will gobble this up. Compulsory listening.

DREAMCRUSHER - In Due Time [PTP/Bandcamp]
Non-binary New York-based interdisciplinary artist DREAMCRUSHER has been plying their trade for 2 decades, and is as energetic and creative as ever. Suite One, released through PTP, collects two short tracks which combine heavy shoegaze textures, heavy beats, warped samples and plenty of oversaturated distortion in patented DREAMCRUSHER style. Both cuts essential IMHO.

Deepchild - Underworlds [Seppuku Records]
2022 was a big year for Sydney's Deepchild, now comfortably ensconsed on Gadigal land after many years in Berlin. His deep techno know-how is evident in releases like last year's Black Atlantic and the recent 77, a set of DJ tools in tribute to the long-running Club 77 where he has a residency. But in 2022 Rick Bull also unleashed his ambient side, harkening back perhaps to his days with Frigid/Cryogenesis and Club Kooky in late '90s and early '00s. The archetypal '90s ambient underground label Mille Plateaux (sister label to techno heavyweights Force Inc) released Fathersong, his moving tribute to his late father, and then LA-based idm/ambient lovers A Strangely Isolated Place released a postscript to Fathersong, Mycological Patterns, which spread like fungus into the nooks and crannies of the ambient internet - a highly deserved success. Deepchild's follow-up ambient (or at least non-techno) album Portals came out in August through his own Seppuku Records, with more murky and profound electronic works, still redolent of life's passing. Lots of humanity goes into these pieces as always.

Saint Abdullah & Eomac - Wali [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Last year's Patience of a Traitor was a revelation from two forward-thinking acts, the New York-based Canadian-Iranian brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani aka Saint Abdullah and Irish IDM/techno producer Eomac (Ian McDonnell of Lakker). 2023 saw two new releases from the group: the EP A Vow Not To Read in July and the album Chasing Stateless in October. Despite the brothers and McDonnell still not having met in person, there's a clearly sympathetic resonance between the artists' styles, across cultural and physical distances, and even with Saint Abdullah working on outboard gear and Eomac in the box. There are electronic beat workouts and pieces with the location-based recordings Saint Abdullah often use (Shia mourners on "Wali"), and the EP is just as great as the album. Essential work, all of it.

Yuko Araki - ‡Magnetar [Room40/Bandcamp]
Japanese multi-instrumentalist Yuko Araki is the drummer in psych-rock trio Kuunatic; her earlier solo EPs & albums drew from harsh noise, rock, free jazz and more, culminating in End of Trilogy for Room40 in 2021. It seems it wasn't really the end, nor a trilogy, because IV appeared this year, again via Room40. This seems like her strongest work yet to me: a kind of industrial post-club music, still with noise references, with a sinister throughout.

Starving Weirdos - Haiku Nagasaki [Discrepant/Bandcamp]
Brian Pyle aka Ensemble Economique and Merrick McKinlay have made uncategorisable weirdo music for almost 2 decades, but it's been over a decade since their last, 2012's Land Lines. It's very hard to pin down what they do, which makes it archetypal Utility Fog music - anything from drone to psych rock, folk, postrock... To me, it feels like "noise" in the very broad sense that includes Burning Star Core and Wolf Eyes and so on. This album surprises from the get go with percussive electronic bass drops triggering delay tails, slowly being subsumed under churning drones. There are layers of sound densely packed with sounds and styles that probably shouldn't go together, but somehow work. Coming in without expectations, I was pretty floored - especially the sonic elements that seem to come from that deconstructed club/bass music.

Simone Sims Longo - Babele [Esc.rec/Bandcamp]
The highly dependable Dutch experimental label Esc.rec brought a number of excellent releases this year. Paesaggi integrati (integrated landscapes) is an album of electro-acoustic sound-art from Italian composer-producer Simone Sims Longo that takes sound from a host of acoustic instruments - sax, cello, horn, violin, accordion, tuned percussion and clarinet - and transforms them into electronic music, split into granular fragments, flittered across the stereo field in rhythms that accelerate and decelerate, seemingly referencing deconstructed club techniques but outside of the club context. The sense of discombobulation is only heightened on headphones by the use of mid/side technique - technically this means that the left & right are in opposite polarity (so if you try to listen in mono you'll lose a lot of the signal!), but it also means that the stereo image is particularly vivid.

David Bird - Aetheric Resonance [Oxtail Recordings/Bandcamp]
The now Sydney-based Oxtail Recordings also had a very strong year. The stunning album Wire Hums sees NYC/Chicago composer David Bird deconstruct and reimagine the cello in ways never before seen. Inspired, we're told, by the (gut-wrenching) sound of a cello falling to the floor and snapping its neck, Bird set out to recreate the physicality of the instrument itself through software modelling. There are no real cello recordings here, yet in amongst the frenetic layering, smudged melodies and glitches, it's impossible not to hear vibrating strings, resonating (and sometimes splintering) wood, catgut and rosin. The techniques of modern composition and electro-acoustic production combine to create a set of uncanny solo cello études twisted through folded dimensions. I'm sure that as a cellist I'm particularly attuned to these resonances, but I'm also sure that anyone interested in sound-art, glitch or contemporary music will be highly rewarded.

Kirk Barley - Courtyard [Odda Recordings/Bandcamp]
I'm very pleased to say I've been supporting Kirk Barley's delicate, rhythmic music on Utility Fog since his 2019 album Landscapes. Although that's the debut from "Kirk Barley", it wasn't by any means his first release - he'd previously appeared as Bambooman among others, at times making feints towards the dancefloor - but under his own name he consolidated a sound that filtered acoustic guitar, cello and field recordings through an idiosyncratic electronic lens - and often with drums from Matt Davies, with whom he has since frequently collaborated under the name Church Andrews. For the second release on Thea Hudson-Davies' Odda Recordings, he's Kirk Barley again, presenting a mixture of new and previously-digital-only recordings. The music on Marionette comes from modular synths, guitars, and on this track cello upon cello, looping little phrases, undulating in amongst the sound of running water. Unassuming music, but please give it your attention!

Nicholas Thayer - on growing [Oscillations/Bandcamp]
I'm so glad that I'm following new London label Oscillations, which started operations last year with an EP from Gabriel Prokofiev, the composer who founded the nonclassical label back in 2004. Oscillations calls itself an electronic music label, but so far has had a "composer" bent to it, and it has gifted us with this brilliant album from Nicholas Thayer, a composer & producer from the Netherlands who happens to have some ties to Australia - he's composed for Sydney Dance Company and Queensland Ballet, although he's now based in Groningen the north of the Netherlands I believe. Actually it's not an album, although it briefly appeared as such before being split into 3 in:finite EPs. The music here is again for a dance work, titled in:finite, commissioned for the Swedish Skånes Dansteater, and in the vein of contemporary dance, it encompasses abstract sound-art, contemporary composition, glitched audio and even some beat-heavy sections. Thayer clearly has a love for drum'n'bass in there, with fidgety programmed breaks on some tracks, and growling neuro basslines elsewhere (d'n'b/dubstep legends Noisia happen to hail from Groningen too). I also can't pass by the Motley Crüe reference in his bio! Cello is the main acoustic/classical instrument here, beautifully performed by Mikko Pablo, expressively interpreting Thayer's score which is at times straightforwardly melodic, elsewhere processing the sound or employing extended techniques. It makes sense that the performance this music is written for is considered a work of "multilayered hybrid art", combining choreography, music, set and costume design, as this is not just music for accompanying a stage performance - it's a very rich, satisfying listen on its own, highly recommended.

Helen Money / Will Thomas - Thieves [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
As Helen Money, Alison Chesley has never been a conventional cellist, preferring to play through guitar pedals and amps even on her solo work, as well as playing with the likes of Earth, Neurosis, Russian Circles - and I do believe she used to call herself a "doom cellist". Her last album Trace - her third on Thrill Jockey - drew away from the looped metal riffs which on the previous two had been augmented with drums from Neurosis' James Roeder, instead complementing riffs with drones and melodies accompanied with piano and synthesizers, including electronics from soundtrack composer & producer Will Thomas. Now we have a whole duo album from Helen Money & Will Thomas, even more sumptuous and experimental than the last. On "Thieves" shimmering loops of cello harmonics are accompanied by stop-start industrial techno beats and thrums of distorted cello. It's cinematic stuff, the work of two excellent musicians working on the same wavelength.

Lawrence English & Lea Bertucci - Geology Of Fire [American Dreams/Bandcamp]
The quite incredible first collaboration between sound-artist/composers Lawrence English & Lea Bertucci, Chthonic, came out on American Dreams in August this year. This is the sound of tectonic plates moving against each other, of mountains slowly rising. Across these 5 tracks, Bertucci's many instruments (cello, viola, flute, lap steel guitar) blend with field recordings and electronics from English, sumptuously mixed in cavernous ultra-widescreen. This is very different from the tape manipulations and acoustic instruments of Bertucci's two duo releases last year. Differently brilliant.

Koenraad Ecker - Copper Mountain [Koenraad Ecker Bandcamp]
Belgian cellist and sound-artist Koenraad Ecker is known to me equally for his mutated club music with duos Lumisokea and Stray Dogs (both of which strayed into beatless sound design frequently), and for his electro-acoustic works involving cello and myriad sound sources. Ecker has recently uploaded a stash of unreleased music to his Bandcamp, encompassing stereo mixes of installation works, high-definition field recordings, found-sound constructions, and more. Copper Mountain is a rich and wondrous electro-acoustic stew of differently pitched (and re-pitched, stretched, bent) chimes (including a "very drunk carillon"), field recordings, and one one track, the haunted voice of fellow cellist and vocal experimentalist Audrey Chen. It's beautiful and surprising. I do recommend checking RACING MUSIC for the contrast to this track: two short, sharp electronic tracks made, but not used, for a car racing game - perhaps the level of distortion along with hammering kicks was too much for the game designers.

emer - sea salt [Lillerne Tapes]
sea salt is the debut release from Brussels-based Lithuanian sound-artist Marija Rasa under the emer moniker. Rasa is one half of electro-acoustic/electronic duo Ugné & Maria, from whom we heard a lovely album in May. With Ugné Vyliaudaite, Rasa hosts a monthly show on Kiosk Radio; similarly with Konradas Žakauskas she makes experimental electronics as Forgotten Plants, and they too have a monthly show, on Radio Vilnius. So it's no wonder, perhaps, that this "debut" solo release is so accomplished, but it is truly special - downtempo ambient beats and synth pads, with pitch-shifted vocals and an estranged, slightly flanged sheen to the sounds. It could almost come from some '90s ambient, post-rave compilation - almost, but there are reminders throughout that this is music of now. Superb.

Daniel Bachman - Someone straying, long delaying [Three Lobed Recordings/Bandcamp]
"American Primitive", the fingerstyle guitar technique pioneered by John Fahey in the 1950s, was from the outset a way of playing folk and country blues but transforming it in experimental ways. The incredible Imaginational Anthem series released by Tompkins Square charts the style from its earliest days to the futuristic present, and our man Daniel Bachman has indeed appeared there. This is all to say that When The Roses Come Again, Bachman's remarkable new album, is perhaps not as radical as it may appear, despite the lovely fingerstyle guitar being sent through all manner of processing, turning into distorted noise, crackling drones, or fizzling glitches. The album is really one long work split into separate tracks (and the track titles are the lyrics of the Carter Family song from which the album takes its title). It's stretched-out and deconstructed, but it's still American Primitive in all its freeform gregariousness, and it's a beautiful listen from start to finish.

Jamie Hutchings - Everything Alive is at War [Jamie Hutchings Bandcamp]
Jamie Hutchings was lead singer/songwriter for legendary Sydney indie band Bluebottle Kiss and more recently fronts the krautrock-inspired rock band Infinity Broke. In both these bands, Hutchings and cohorts have been comfortably uncompromising with their experimental aspects - free jazz references, unusual structures and harmonies - along with his emotive singing. Making Water, however, is something different. At least, superficially it is: these are not songs, even if there's some singing at times; this isn't a band at all, in fact most of the playing is done by Jamie himself; and the instrumentation shifts from clattering found-object percussion to abandoned piano to scrabbling, detuned acoustic guitar, often recorded in unusual ways. And yet there's a definite Jamie Hutchingsness to the proceedings, and not just the occasional wordless vocals. Maybe because this adventurous musical spirit has always been present in his work, this seems almost like a logical progression. There's a purity to it, messy and primitive and spontaneous as it is. Listen with open ears.

Megan Alice Clune - Sonic Metaphor [Room40/Bandcamp]
Following her exceptional album If You Do, released in 2021, Eora/Sydney singer/composer/sound-artist Megan Alice Clune is back on Room40 with the beautifully deceptive album Furtive Glances. It's derived from a large collection of piano improvisations recorded as voice memos on her phone, generally little asides when preparing for something else. These unpretentious non-compositions have been repurposed via MAC's impeccable ear and craftsmanship into something new, with little added except vocal snippets - but there are other extraneous sounds allowed to be present, like the feedback that opens the album. Even the most contemplative of tracks are accompanied by distant, filigree distorted drones, or almost-inaudible vocal layers, or that robust feedback heard here... It's a disturbed peace, but peace all the same, in Clune's capable hands.

Machinefabriek - + Christine Ott [Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Machinefabriek - + Jeremy Young [Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
The first release for 2023 from Machinefabriek was comprised of 52 tracks, each derived from a 1-minute improvisation contributed by a different musical friend of the artist. It presented a solution to Rutger Zuydervelt's circumstances in the latter part of 2022, having become a father for the first time, trying to work out how to balance his time with making music, design work and parenting. Creating a collection of short works seemed like the ticket, and the result is the monumental album simply titled +. As you'd expect, Zudervelt's collaborators range from acoustic instrumentalists to electronic experimentalists. Canadian tape manipulator and sound-artist Jeremy Young contributes the sine waves and radio that he's been using lately, and Christine Ott her signature ondes martenot. Ott's track is a good example of how Zuydervelt absorbs and reworks the sounds of his collaborators, with jungle's amen breaks buried somewhere in the analogue sounds.

Ben Carey - Towards the Origin [Hospital Hill/Bandcamp]
When I first met Eora/Sydney musician, composer & academic Ben Carey he was playing saxophone with autonomous electronics, investigating computer improvisation. For some time now, though, he's become more & more proficient in the fractally deep world of modular synthesis. His first album on Matt McGuigan's Hospital Hill came out of some of his early work with Eurorack modular systems, but Metastability was produced in two sessions at Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) with the LaTrobe Serge modular synth, designed in the mid-'70s by Serge Tcherepnin for the La Trobe University Music Department, and restored more recently so that anyone can work on it at MESS. Linking back to my first encounters with Ben, he describes working with the so-called "Paperface" Serge as a process of dealing with the human/non-human interaction necessitated by the complex way that it works, and the delicate balance required to produce desirable sounds. This complexity aside, the pieces Carey has created are beautifully refined and incredibly organic-feeling, tactile and emotive, and the interleaved drones of closing track "Towards the Origin" are exquisitely detuned, like separate alien transmissions hesitantly singing their lonely chorale in deep space.
Later in 2023, Ben and Sonya Holowell released their first studio album as Sumn Conduit, Valve Is Released, which I also cannot recommend highly enough.

Martyna Basta - Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering [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. Her equally wonderful second album Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering came out early in 2023, again released by Adam Badí Donoval's Warm Winters, Ltd.. This is again 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. Also notable, in December Belgium's STROOM.tv released her EP Diaries Beneath Fragile Glass.

Ryuichi Sakamoto - 20220404 [Milan Records]
Tragically lost in 2023 was Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose cancer returned and took him from us. While he was in remission, Sakamoto recorded an album of 12 pieces mostly improvised on dates throughout 2022, either on his signature piano or synthesisers or both. These are very sparse works even when involving the electronics, ranging from quite short studies to still quite short, beautiful contemporary classical works. Sakamoto was always brilliant at heart-pulling little melodies - he was after all a soundtrack composer as much as a pop musician, electronic trailblazer and all the rest. As well as melodies, there are little ambient works along the lines of his old friend Brian Eno, and also some more avant-garde piano works. I was honestly expecting something much thinner than what we have here - it's a genuinely captivating work of some substance, only made more touching as it's his last recording.

Listen again — ~199MB

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Sunday, 17th of December, 2023

Playlist 17.12.23 - Best of 2023, Part 1! (11:00 pm)

Well, it's been a year. A year divided into two, I daresay.
Nonetheless, it's been another year of incredible music, and this first "Best of 2023" show is attempting to focus on vocal music. "Songs", if you will.
I have had to cut so many darlings, you have no idea of the pain. But what's left is 100% excellence.
The below words are mostly taken from the original playlist where I played the track, except when they're not.

LISTEN AGAIN to the first part of the best. Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Freda D'Souza - The Love Song of J Alfreda D'Souza [demo records/Crossness Records/Freda D'Souza Bandcamp]
I'm very grateful to the brilliant & adventurous singer-songwriter/producer Ana Rita de Melo Alves, aka Anrimeal, for sending me this stunning EP from fellow London-based musician Freda D'Souza, which Ana has co-released on her own demo records in conjunction with friends Crossness Records. D'Souza plays free improv, does experimental performance-arty stuff, and even fronts a black metal band, but the music here is a collection of sumptuous songs which owe as much to Jenny Hval as the obvious Joni Mitchell, Linda Perhacs and perhaps Kate Bush comparisons. The smart lyrics are perhaps best embodied by the wistful but slyly humorous "The Love Song of J Alfreda D'Souza", with its references to T.S. Eliot ("Do I dare? Do I dare?"), echoing the paralyzing anxiety of growing old, albeit from a more youthful perspective. As Alves' label name may suggest, these are demos or derive from them, but D'Souza's vocal performances are so rich and confident that one can't pretend these are in any way incomplete. Still, the idea of using demo recordings to capture a particular feeling, a space or a time, is something a lot of creators will connect with.

Mayssa Jallad - Baynana [Ruptured Records/Bandcamp/Six of Swords Bandcamp]
Ziad Nawfal & Fadi Tabbal's Ruptured Records is a dependable source of brilliant music from Lebanon and further afield in the MENA region. And so often a new release is a surprise - take Mayssa Jallad's album Marjaa: The Battle Of The Hotels. Originally released in March, it was re-released by UK label Six of Swords in November with a handsome vinyl edition. It merges Jallad's research work in architectural history and her parallel career as a singer-songwriter. These interests and imperatives have combined in the past: see last year's collaboration with Syrian musician Khaled Allaf which examines the trauma of post-explosion Beirut (incredible video here). But this is different, a walk through only slightly less-recent history, focused on urban warfare in the Hotel District of Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (specifically 1975-76), which Jallad discovered was "the first high rise urban battle in the world". With the help of Fadi Tabbal and a selection of Ruptured-affiliated musicians, we're treated to a highly evocative & moving collection of narrative songs (even for those of us who don't speak Arabic), which musically inhabit a space on the corner of 1970s US folk, Arabic melisma and sound-art. A haunting, engrossing work.

Minhwi Lee - Borrowed Tongue [Alien Transistor: LP here/Bandcamp]
South Korean singer/songwriter Minhwi Lee is an accomplished soundtrack composer, jazz musician, indie rock musician, and also plays bass in doom metal band Gawthrop. She is also responsible for this wonderful solo indiefolk album Borrowed Tongue, released in Korea in 2016 and now available more widely on LP via The Notwist's label Alien Transistor. The album shows off Lee's composition and arrangement talents with instrumentals at the start and end and in between (check out the Sakamoto-like cello & piano work that closes the album!), but you'll also find classic folk and acoustic chamber pop songs that owe a lot to her composing style but also recall Japanese psych-folk like Eddie Marcon and Nick Drake. A thousand thanks to The Notwist for bringing this incredible music to our attention.
I should add here that Lee released a new album in November which I'm only just now getting to listen to.

YATTA - Fully Lost, Fully Found [PTP/Bandcamp]
Absolute stunner from Ricky Sallay Zoker aka YATTA, originally from Houston and now I believe based in New York. Their music has mostly come out through the mighty PTP, and twists and turns so that it can be lonely accidental acoustic recordings at one moment, fully-orchestrated jazz or neo-classical, then switch into electronic processing. Their 2020 release with Moor Mother, DIAL UP, is also genius, and slowly new solo work is forming. This track, which is featured in the soundtrack to the movie Nanny, perfectly encapsulates YATTA's skilful melding of musicianship and technology.

Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole [Perpetual Flame Ministries/Bandcamp]
As Lingua Ignota, Kristin Hayter released three electrifying albums - two on Profound Lore, one on Sargent House - that were based around her piano and voice, classical training filtered through noise and metal. Her guest spots with the body, and as part of Sightless Pit with Lee Buford of the the body and Dylan Walker of Full of Hell, were phenomenal as well, bringing deep emotion and musicality. But the suffering that infused the Lingua Ignota projects was drawn from life, and performing her personal trauma through that music became too much of a burden. So SAVED! comes to us from Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - she really is ordained, although as she told The Quietus, "it is also true that you can become ordained as a minister in about five minutes online". SAVED! is by no means an easy listen, even compared to her previous work, but there's humour as well as redemption strung through these gospel covers and original songs. Recorded with Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets, the all-analogue production suffuses the album in hiss and tape warping, although thankfully the shuddering stops and starts of the first track are toned down later. There are still jarring splices - particularly shocking when Hayter's anguished (or is it ecstatic?) glossolalia interrupts a hymn-like piece. This postmodern treatment aims to evoke the dubbed-and-redubbed tapes of gospel music shared among Christian households when Hayter was growing up. The final summation is an album with real beauty and sincerity that nevertheless undercuts itself fiercly throughout, its protagonist forever marked by trauma, but finally arriving to her salvation.

Popular Music - Lifetime Achievement [Sanitarium Sound Services]
Back in the mid 2000s I loved the music of Parenthetical Girls, the experimental pop project led by Zac Pennington, with contributions from the likes of Jherek Bischoff and Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart. Pennington disbanded Parenthetical Girls in 2017, but the strange orchestral, electronic, cabaret vibes continue with Popular Music, a collaboration between LA-based Pennington and Melbourne-based musician Prudence Rees-Lee. Jherek Bischoff's there too, along with Deerhoof's Greg Saunier. As often is the case with great pop, there's an aura of "reminiscent of" about it, and everything it's reminiscent of is great, so. This was the first single from Minor Works of Popular Music, a song cycle about Armageddon in Los Angeles, as you do. It's all this good.

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 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. Anyway, I love this track so much. "Love Is Not A Place" features her old band Your Government, and was initially released earlier in 2023 as a fundraiser for Kyiv charity repair.together.

The God In Hackney - In This Room [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 2023 album The World In Air Quotes. 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.

JOBS - Ask New York [Ramp Local/Bandcamp]
Here's some more experimental pop from a bunch of experimental musicians including renowned jazz/improv violist Jessica Pavone, along with bassist Ro Lundberg, guitarist Dave Scanlon, and drummer Max Jaffe. Jaffe recorded & mixed the album but all contribute some keyboards, and all sing. Their music can be deceptively straightforward postpunk pop, but there are a lot of electronic elements (Jaffe plays a custom hybrid drumkit), and Pavone's viola is a significant force throughout.

alice does computer music - Coiled [JOLT Music/Bandcamp]
New Yorker Alice Gorlach's primary instrument is the cello, but she dubbed herself alice does computer music for her indietronic pop project. Shoegaze 5G is her debut album proper, drawing equally from the scratchy cello-fuelled outsider pop of Arthur Russell and the idm/indietronica of the early oughts. And shoegaze, obviously. There's the kind of cut-up glitchy production and manic beats that this show has cleaved to for almost 2 decades, but it's made special by the blissful songwriting that the instruments and programming are supporting. I'm still a little dubious about the artist name, but that's on me. Highly recommended.

Water From Your Eyes - True Life (Nourished By Time Version) [Matador Records/Bandcamp]
New York experimental indie/postpunk duo Water From Your Eyes released their latest album Everyone's Crushed in March this year. It's an excellent mix of snappy songs and weird tangents. But then right near the end of the year they inverted the title as Crushed By Everyone, a track-by-track remix album from friends and touring mates of the band. I've always had a soft spot for remix albums - even for artists or albums I'm not familiar with - because I guess the concept of the remix is so close to the heart of what Utility Fog's mission has been: music recontextualised, taken out of normal standards of genre and presentation, hybridised, de/reconstructed. That's all present on Crushed By Everyone, where strong original material is turned inside-out. There's everything from noise to black metal to folk-ambient here, but all with the DIY-punk-dance thing going on. And perhaps because the artists are almost all touring friends, a lot of care has gone into making these well-rounded tracks. It was hard to single one out, but Nourished By Time expand the original "True Life" with an incredibly catchy refrain... kinda genius.

Mandy, Indiana - Pinking Shears [Fire Talk/Bandcamp]
Somehow lately "pop" music (whatever that is, broadly taken) has once more become accommodating of experimentation and extremeness - maybe it's the political climate, or just where we are now. Maybe you'll turn around to me and say, "Come on, Manchester's Mandy, Indiana might sound like raucous noisemakers with their live industrial beats, squalling synths and shouted vocals, but this comes from a great tradition going back at least to punk and new wave if not further". And you'd be right, my friend. Even so, it's exciting hearing stuff as uncompromising as this being fêted by the arbiters of the zeitgeist. Touchpoints for their debut album i've seen a way have been the unusual recording techniques - recording drums in a cave, vocals in a shopping mall, field recordings on iPhone... The noise, for sure, but also the fact that Valentine Caulfield's vocals are entirely in French - a distancing effect for much of their audience despite the fact that they are emphatically personal and defiantly feminist. On "Drag [Crashed]" she's shouting out phrases that she's been subjected to as a woman: "She’s gonna pop some fly buttons", "Cover your shoulders, you’ll distract the boys", and of course "Souris, souris, souris, souris" which you may recognize is "Smile, smile, smile, smile". It's a visceral evocation of how tiring and infuriating this treatment is. And "Pinking Shears", recently subjected to a clipping. remix, is a paean to how fucking tiring this shitty world is. So right.
Oh - also, Mandy, Indiana contributed a great remix for Water From Your Eyes above. Nice.

Armand Hammer - Empire Blvd (feat. Junglepussy & Curly Castro) [Fat Possum Records/Bandcamp]
Around 5 years ago, Armand Hammer released their Paraffin album on various labels on cassette, vinyl and CD, and it brought them the highest level of acclaim they'd yet seen. This was further cemented by billy woods' incredible Hiding Places with Kenny Segal the following year. So by now woods' Backwoodz Studioz is known as a vital home to NYC underground hip-hop, and he and Elucid have the recognition they've deserved for a good decade. We Buy Diabetic Test Strips finds them on Fat Possum Records as part of the label's growth from a Mississippi blues focus into other genres, but they're no less adventurous or incisive in their commentary on the state of the USA. The album's title itself refers to the signs that turn up in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods where those not fortunate enough to have health insurance purchase unused diabetic test strips necessary for them to manage their diabetes.
Following Haram, which was entirely produced by The Alchemist, woods and Elucid bring their tremendous intelligence and experience to a suite of tracks produced by many of their usual collaborators like Segal and Willie Green, and JPEGMAFIA on a number of tracks. Meanwhile a jazz ensemble headed up by Shabaka Hutchings brings some additional cohesion to the proceedings, but this has never been lacking on Armand Hammer albums, as the duo bring poetically-chosen spoken word samples and other aural oddities into play. As I mentioned when discussing woods in my 20th anniversary special, hip-hop has always been an experimental genre, but woods and Elucid consistently make super leftfield shit just work perfectly. What could be more perfect than the Sun Ra call-and-response referenced in "Total Recall"?

billy woods & Kenny Segal - Babylon by Bus featuring ShrapKnel [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
OK so. The 2019 album Hiding Places was a phenomenal collaboration between the aforementioned iconic underground rapper billy woods & the creative producer Kenny Segal. The sequel Maps had a lot of expectations hanging on it - but as fans we know these two artists well enough to know that defying expectations is built into their art. Segal as usual pulls samples from everywhere & anywhere, pitching guitars way down inside drones and sub bass, dropping pop snippets, looping lopsidedly, scratching - and I had to highlight the (heavily slowed-down) Aphex Twin sample at the start of the ShrapKnel-featuring "Babylon by Bus". While Hiding Places was about hiding from the darkness of the world, Maps is a post-pandemic album about venturing out. The theme of travel & touring permeates the album, from the joy of flight and seeming freedoms to the pain of separation and the exhaustion of having no home. Although every album from billy woods' and Armand Hammer's repertoire is of the highest quality, this second Kenny Segal collab does feel destined to become a classic on the level of Hiding Places.

seina sleep & YoursTruuly - Soothsayers [PTP/Bandcamp]
You can always trust Geng and his Purple Tape Pedigree to turn up really interesting music. Here we have the first album from a very young Austin, TX producer calling themself YoursTruuly, with surrealist rapper seina sleep, also from Austin. The sounds from Xóchitl aka YoursTruuly are full of psychedelic & spiritual jazz samples, but through a grainy, tape-decayed filter (especially see the two instrumental interludes). And seina sleep, who likes to call this genre "gift rap", has a talent for surrealist lyrics and wordplay, and is joined by a number of other Austin crew throughout the album.

Blockhead - The Cella Dwellas Knew ft. Quelle Chris [Backwoodz Studioz/Bandcamp]
New York beatmaker Tony Simon aka Blockhead has a long history of solo albums, and has released a bunch on that once home of instrumental hip-hop Ninja Tune, as well as billy woods' Backwoodz Studioz. There are no instrumentals at all on The Aux, his latest for Backwoodz, and the guest list is enough to leave the most casual underground hip-hop fan salivating, with woods and his duo Armand Hammer, Danny Brown, Open Mike Eagle, AKAI SOLO, ShrapKnel and many others appearing, as well as his frequent collaborator Aesop Rock. Quelle Chris's feature is a stand-out though, with his customary drawl rhyming "lost" with "source"/"sauce", and Blockhead's funky sampled jazz choir and skittering boom-bap beats. Check the cool animated video just released with the album.

Aesop Rock - Black Snow (feat. Nikki Jean) [Rhymesayers/Bandcamp]
Blockhead used to be Aesop Rock's main production partner, going way back to at least 2000's Float, although in 1999, Appleseed was already mostly self-produced, with just one Blockhead number. Aes's last album saw the two get back together - Garbology is officially credited to both - but Integrated Tech Solutions is more of a follow-up to the last self-produced opus Spirit World Field Guide. Like that album, ITS is a sardonically parodic concept album, and once again Aes's production is the perfect foil for his nimble dictionary-in-a-sentence raps. For years now Aes has commented on his anxiety & depression, and his tendency to keep to himself. On "Black Snow", the album closer, he imagines himself prepping for a climate doomsday augured by the snow turning black: "Precipitation should be clear or not at all, but..." Nikki Jean's sweet bridge is just as chilling when you listen closely, and the change-up for the last verse is a genius of perky beats and dark-as-fuck lyrics. "Aes get the dark cloud active" as depression takes hold, and "See you in the morn, the forecast ain't right". A helluva finish to another brilliant album.

Aho Ssan - Away (feat. Exzald S & Valentina Magaletti) [Other People/Bandcamp]
When I previewed the stunning new album Rhizomes from Aho Ssan back in August, we heard the track featuring both clipping. & Polish cellist Resina. The Paris-based West African producer, Désiré Niamké to his family & friends, has gathered an incredible cast of collaborators for the album, released on Nicolas Jaar's Other People. The physical format is a further collaboration, with illustrator Kim Grano exploring Deleuze & Guattari's concept of the "rhizome" through abstract shapes which respond to the music. The book also makes available bonus tracks and a sample pack from the artist - if only postage to Australia didn't basically double the price! Check the full album for the rest of the awesome collaborators, but for our best-of I chose the phenomenal piece with Exzald S (fka Fawkes, aka Sarah Foulquiere) and ubiquitous percussive genius Valentina Magaletti.

Shapednoise - Poetry (feat. Moor Mother) [Weight Looming]
Nino Pedone has been destroying speakers and dancefloors with his since 2010 as Shapednoise. Pedone has one foot in the noise realm, with releases on Prurient's Hospital Productions among others, and one foot in the bass world, collaborating with Mumdance & Logos on the cyberpunk project The Sprawl. His latest Shapednoise album, Absurd Matter, is the most "musical" yet, grounding the crushing, heavily overdriven beats with some basslines and hints of melodic content, as well as some star turns on the mic, including Armand Hammer. Moor Mother speaks of resisting erasure on "Poetry". Allowing hip-hop to shape his noise here inspires the best work yet from Pedone.

Teether & Kuya Neil - MYTH [Chapter Music/Bandcamp]
STRESSOR hell of a mixtape from Naarm/Melbourne underground rapper Teether and producer Kuya Neil. The amen-breaks-infused single "RENO" was a sign of things to come - the rest of the tracks follow a similar trajectory, with impeccable productions that reference the distorted, time-out-of-joint club musics of the moment, skittery chopped beats & plenty of bass, with low-key melodic raps from Teether and occasional guests like Realname. Best shit.

Izambard - Leather Me [Kingdome Recordings/Bandcamp]
Bizarre mutations of bass music from London enigma Izambard, affiliated with the Kingdome crew and a2b2, the deeply confusing project of Death Grips' Andy Morin. Izambard's 2023 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. 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. He's released a bunch of music this year on various labels, but Box N Lock is his own home and "All Of The Above" is classic Chimpo, d'n'b with swooping basslines and lyrics about embracing all types.

ben sloan - toomuchinternet (feat. serengeti & josiah wolf of why?) [New Amsterdam Recordings/Bandcamp]
You may not realise it, but you've probably heard Ben Sloan's playing before. He's a drummer who's played with artists such as *quotes from bio* The National, Moses Sumney, Beth Orton, Mouse on Mars, Rozi Plain, Serengeti, and WHY? - many of whom as you can see here appear as guests on his restless, rhythm-heavy, eclectic debut solo album muted colors, released by New Amsterdam Recordings (a label known for boundary-pushing contemporary classical music, but also branching out into other kinds of experimental music and indie/pop). In amongst the expert playing & singing from himself and his guests there are field recordings and other found sounds that he's collected over many years. The result is a very dense, very enjoyable record that retains a core of skilfully skittery percussion through myriad briefly-touched-on genres, from schoolchildren singing through drill'n'bass with half-heard hip-hop vocals, to contemplative piano, modal jazz, hints at r'n'b pop and more. Nothing is immune to interruption from manic drums or beats, although the closing track featuring Moses Sumney does the best at keeping to a sunny jazz-pop template with experimental edges. If you missed this when it came out, don't waste time now!

Liv.e - Gardetto. [In Real Life/Bandcamp]
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.

Debby Friday - Good Luck [Sub Pop/Bandcamp]
Debby Friday is a musical polymath: she can chop jungle breaks with the best of them, but she plunders hip-hop, r'n'b and pop, often with a penchant for industrial-level distortion and plenty of bass, and is a talented rapper & singer too. Her album Good Luck was first class, taking in all those influences at once. Also notable was the standalone single "let u in", a co-pro with Darcy Baylis recorded while she was on tour in Naarm/Melbourne earlier this year. Again with the jungle influences, this one eschews the industrial heaviness to the extent that it could be a PinkPantheress song - no shade! It's lovely.

fromjoy - seraph (feat. iRis.EXE) [fromjoy Bandcamp]
The latest album from Texans fromjoy handily combines industrial metal with breakcore, as well as ethereal pop in places. There's plenty of twisted breaks sliding into double-kick metal drumming, plenty of hardcore vocals and lovely clean vocals (especially in the cameo from iRis.EXE). The '80s easy-listening sax music in the second last track and the album fadeout is the vapourwave icing on the cake of this cyberpunk dream made real.

BRACT X BAYANG (tha Bushranger) - HOMESICK [Bract Bandcamp]
Some 5 years ago or so I discovered an Eora/Sydney band called Coward Punch, making growling, throbbing industrial metal & noise, and sending all the profits of their EPs to Grandmothers Against Removal (debut) and Black Rainbow (follow-up). Those releases sat in my collection, but somehow I missed that the band renamed themselves BRACT, so when this phenomenal collaboration with Dharug/Western Sydney-based rapper BAYANG (tha Bushranger) came out, it took me a minute to make the connection. Anyway, BAYANG has clear delivery and hella flow (check this drum'n'bass-laden track produced by Kuya Neil), and hearing him over these chugging industrial rhythms and murky textures is a strange thrill. The artists see it as a musical representation of the often-hellish melting-pot that is Sydney, a place where (thankfully) punk, noise, hip-hop and club sounds rub freely up against each other - something I'm convinced we can at least to some degree thank FBi Radio and its various music directors for. In any case, this is a no-holds-barred, vicious, scungey piece of filth, with occasional flashes of light.

Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann - 10.14.4 [greyfade/Bandcamp]
The second album from New York duo Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann came out at the start of December. 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. Frequently bewitching.

Farhad Bandesh & David Bridie - Freedom [David Bridie Bandcamp]
Melbourne treasure David Bridie may be cast these days as a pleasant "adult contemporary" pianist-singer-songwriter, but he's always worked in unexpected areas musically, from the ambient/proto-postrock/global-folk gregariousness of the frankly uncategorisable Not Drowning, Waving to the post-Penguin Cafe Orchestra chamber pop of My Friend The Chocolate Cake (never quite as twee as their name would suggest). Lyrically, Bridie has often focused on stories of working class, middle Australians, little people - and also on his dedicated activism, whether for the freedom struggles of West Papua or against the inhumanity of Australia's punishing treatment of refugees. All this comes to the fore on his 2023 album It's Been A While Since Our Last Correspondence. Each track is a short story or piece of poetry, spoken (and occasionally partly sung) by its writer, and all the breadth of Bridie's lyrical interests is there. I really recommend the whole album, even if you're leery of spoken word and music (he says, having just released such an album this year too, maybe check it out?) All contributors have risen to the challenge with deeply engaging and moving vignettes, and I really wanted to showcase Kit Kavanagh-Ryan's gently heartbreaking "Thanks For Five Years", but in the end I settled for the essential piece from Kurdish refugee, artist and musician Farhad Bandesh, freed as part of Medevac but still fighting for resettlement (ten years on from fleeing Iran). The mixture of his spoken word and electrifying singing with Bridie's postpunkish backing is a highlight.

Le Cri du Caire - Sadiya (Purple feather) [Les Disques du Festival Permanent]
Poet, singer, trumpeter, actor, electronic producer: it seems there's little that the Europe-based Egyptian Abdullah Miniawy cannot do. He has a long-running collaboration with German trio Carl Gari, fusing dub, techno and trip-hop influences with rapturous sufi singing and jazz trumpet, and those same inputs from Miniawy are present in his 2020 album with French bass producer Simo Cell. His own Bandcamp carries obscure electronic self-productions and poetry, and a different take on pre-Islamic Egyptian spirituality can be found on his collaborative album with Danish producer of Indian descent HVAD (previously Kid Kishore). Meanwhile the jazz comes to the fore with the astonishing ensemble Le Cri du Caire. The group started with Miniawy's meeting with French saxophonist Peter Corser, a little later the legendary French trumpeter Erik Truffaz joined. This is notable enough, but the group really comes together with the addition of Paris-based German cellist Karsten Hochapfel. Sensitive playing and creative arrangements support and augment Miniawy's songs and compositions, making their self-titled debut album a thrilling listen, whether you're a fan of jazz or not.

Yirinda - Yuangan (Dugong) [Chapter Music/Bandcamp]
Butchulla songman Fred Leone is starting to blow up, with A.B. Original's producer trials remixing his first single "Yirimi Gundir", and some high-profile live apeparances. He's one of three Butchulla songmen left, a custodian of endangered Butchulla language and song. Yirinda is a remarkable project linking Leone with double bassist and composer Samuel Pankhurst. The intimate voice and strings setting of this first track immediately draws the listener in, and the rest of the album promises horns, synths, piano and percussion added into the mix.

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Comments Off on Playlist 17.12.23 - Best of 2023, Part 1!

Sunday, 10th of December, 2023

Playlist 10.12.23 (11:00 pm)

Strange echoes tonight as we hear some (quite avant-garde) freak-folk, prog-folk(?), alt.hip-hop and plenty of proper drum'n'bass - but also very modern sound-design jungle, acoustic experimentalism edging on classicalm, free jazz and postrock, and... more?
This is our last "new music" show of the year. The next two shows will be "Best of 2023" Parts 1 & 2, and I'm taking a break on the 31st of December.

LISTEN AGAIN and embrace the new! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Jameson Feakes - Preston Point [Jameson Feakes Bandcamp]
Jameson Feakes - Neutral Pausy [Jameson Feakes Bandcamp]
I first heard Perth guitarist Jameson Feakes performing contemporary compositions and improvisations on ...until..., released in 2017. More recently he was developing a practice of improvised folk guitar that must have fed into this major new work, Albany's Famous Gardeners. Here we have a suite of "freak-folk" songs performed by a band made of musicians from the Perth experimental scene - it reminds me a lot of Annika Moses' incredible 2021 album Of Cloven Hoof in Honey, and indeed Feakes played on that and Moses plays on this. The songs here are inspired by the colonial history of the Whadjuk Noongar, Wiilman and Minang boodja. The guitar phrase that opens "Preston Point" indicates an expressionist style which is mostly only hinted at, as the songs take on rather a melodic, harmonically rich, rapturous style like Grizzly Bear or perhaps Punch Brothers. Fans of indie-folk and the more adventurous ends of folk and country/bluegrass should adore this.

Junkboy - Chase the Knucker (feat. Hannah Lewis) [Wayside & Woodland/Bandcamp/Junkboy Bandcamp]
Junkboy - So Breaks Tomorrow [Wayside & Woodland/Bandcamp/Junkboy Bandcamp]
The roots of Jameson Feakes' folk seem very American to me - American Primitive or country blues. Junkboy, on the other hand, are from the south-east of England, and their approach to psych-folk owes a lot to the English folk revival, along with certain arms of postrock and psych/spacerock. On Littoral States, co-released with epic45's Wayside & Woodland label, brothers Mik and Rich Hanscomb gather a group made up of violin, cello, trumpet and lapsteel banjo(!), and on a couple of songs the vocals of Hannah Lewis. Around the lush folk arrangements are synths and little bits of electronic processing to remind ourselves we haven't slipped back a century or so.

Abstract Concrete - Almost Touch [The state51 Conspiracy/Bandcamp]
Few musicians have been as prescient and creative over as long a period as British drummer Charles Hayward. His earliest group This Heat bridged art rock and postpunk, while also developing tape techniques and studio production in parallel with early industrial music. Hayward's drumming from the start was proto-breakbeat, and in most of his projects there's a rhythmic drive that's almost like jungle - but the flipside to the experimentalism and virtuoso drumming is Hayward's talent for yearning melodies, often sung in high register, like the great Robert Wyatt. With Abstract Concrete, Hayward has connected with a group of first-class contemporary musicians: Agathe Max plays viola (she appears on the incredible UKAEA album that I was talking about last week), guitarist Roberto Sassi appears in a long list of experimental bands, and I'm familiar with both clarinettist/keyboardist Yoni Silver and bassist Otto Willberg from their work with experimental songwriter Ashely Paul. This pedigree results in a band that's part-improvisation, part-songwriting, with a sweeping range that incorporates everything from art rock to post-punk to psychedelia, with rich arrangements courtesy of the unusual, brilliant line-up. Really, what a gift.

Buck 65, doseone, Jel - Kill Or Be Killed [Handsmade/Bandcamp]
Buck 65, doseone, Jel - Not Weird [Handsmade/Bandcamp]
North American Adonis exists! Way back in 1998, these three Anticon-affiliated artists put together a set of demos that never properly saw the light of day. Jeffrey Jel Logan is one of the great early proponents of fingerdrumming, creating beats live on the pads of E-Mu SP-1200 and Akai MPC samplers. He was half of Themselves with Adam Drucker aka doseone, whose nasal tones and avant-garde cut-up poetry are synonymous with that "alt" hip-hop strain that Anticon represented. Richard Terfry, meanwhile, as Buck 65 did start off in that scene but found more major success. What's interesting about this now-completed album is that it was all recreated now, with Jel building the beats from the original SP-1200 disks, and doseone and Buck 65 riffing on the original raps but pretty much creating them anew. And it's great hearing dose - who's been busy writing computer game music - and '65, whose style has moved in different directions since this period, both rapping in ye olde leftfield style. Jel's beats are as insane as you'd expect, it's a real joy. You can read more about it via Buck 65 here.

TLF Trio - Suite X [Latency/Bandcamp]
TLF Trio - March-like, Wild (Moritz von Oswald Variation) [Latency/Bandcamp]
French label Latency, which I know mostly for minimalist electronic music, prides itself (absolutely correctly) in covering a broad spectrum of music from around the world. That's how the Danish TLF Trio have ended up on there, made up of cellist Cæcilie Trier (aka CTM, heard on Danish experimental labels like Posh Isolation), pianist Jakob Littauer and guitarist Mads Kristian Frøslev. With this acoustic lineup they can mimic early classical or baroque music, but even on last year's debut album Sweet Harmony they introduced a drum machine beat on one track; now their follow-up EP New Songs & Variations sees two of their tracks reworked by minimal techno pioneer and post-jazz explorer Moritz von Oswald, and given another beat by Claus Haxholm. TLF Trio are one of those postmodern entities entirely at home in the liminal now where seemingly there's no such thing as genre anymore. Given that's kind of what this show's always been seeking out, I can hardly complain.

Pelayo Arrizabalaga & Eli Gras - Turbio [La Olla Expréss/Bandcamp]
Pelayo Arrizabalaga & Eli Gras - Agua Negra [La Olla Expréss/Bandcamp]
Two well-established Spanish experimental musicians join up for the second time on their album Áridos. Pelayo Arrizabalaga is a bass clarinettist but also employs turntables and electronics, while Eli Gras is known as an experimental luthier, but here plays electric guitar and acts as sound engineer, producer and mixer. Their very abstract music is sometimes created entirely acoustically, but here is very electronically-mediated. I love the mystery of many of the sounds, and the way they flit between free jazz musicianship and experimental electronics.

Slowfoam - Sporadic Dawning [mappa]
Slowfoam - Phantom Memories, Iambic Limbs [mappa]
Berlin-based musician Madelyn Bird aka Slowfoam has an MSc in Neuroaesthetics, and the connection between art and science is present in their music and curation as well as their research. Their music blurs the line between dance music and sound-art, between organic and digital, and none moreso than on their new album Worlding With Earth on Slovakia's might mappa label. Here Byrd evokes the sounds of the post-Anthropocene, a time when (hopefully) humans no longer dominate the environment but rather live in harmony with it. Thus these pieces are part faux field recordings, but as much as they conjure up the sounds of future biotech, they also shape the sounds into flittering dance rhythms. It's rare for conceptual instrumental music to make its themes as audible as they are here.

Oblaka - Infinite Cycles [YUKU/Bandcamp]
Czech producer Ladislav Zensor, previously known as Exhausted Modern, initiates a new moniker, Oblaka, for the album Petrichor Memories on YUKU (also based in Prague). It's intricate sound-design and deconstructed club forms, with jungle's jackhammers appearing even when there aren't constant beats.

Prado - Overload [Buh Records]
Prado - Hysteria [Buh Records]
Nicolás Prado introduced his surname'd project with the album Machines last year on Peruvian label Buh Records. For the follow-up, a very short EP called Overload, the machines are indeed overloaded, while jungle & breakcore beats, with heavy bass thump, clatter and sometimes sputter out. When it really gets going, if still only briefly, it's got heaps of energy.

TRC2 - Facing The Void [Offish Productions/Bandcamp]
TRC2 - Straw Hat [Offish Productions/Bandcamp]
Poland's Offish Productions specialise in drum'n'bass & jungle from all round the world, from drumfunk to halftime to techy stuff. On his full-length Deep Audio Introspection, Welsh producer TRC2 covers plenty of ground, with breakbeat choppery and massive bass. Jungle & drum'n'bass heads will find a lot to love, and should explore the rest of the label's catalogue.

Abstract Drumz - Ambient Illusion [Over/Shadow/Bandcamp]
Nectax - Voychek [Over/Shadow/Bandcamp]
The Over/Shadow label was formed a few years ago by hardcore/jungle originals 2 Bad Mice, aiming to bring back the halcyon days of the Moving Shadow label, including artists of the time like Dom & Roland, DJ Trax, Paradox and others. Their latest project features four contemporary producers with an EP each making up Quadrant Vol 1. Detboi and Overlook each contribute, and tonight we heard Abstract Drumz from Quadrant 2 and Nectax from Quadrant 4, each with drum workouts, Abstract Drumz' more ambient and Nectax on a dark & heavy tip.

Hassan Abou Alam - Te3ebt (ZULI Remix) [YUKU/Bandcamp]
The great YUKU may be based in Czechia, but they draw artists from around the world. Here's Hassan Abou Alam, from the thriving Egyptian scene, bringing percussive beats and bass, with four remixes, two of which are also Egyptian artists. The great ZULI drives "Te3ebt" into crunched distortion and ragged breaks.

DRUGONDRAGON - せーぞんせんりゃく (Saison Senryaku) [Virgin Babylon]
DRUGONDRAGON - もんくつらつら (Monk Tsuratsura) [Virgin Babylon]
It's been 5 years since Virgin Babylon released DRUGONDRAGON's last album DokkanoNaneka DarekanoNanika ("something for someone else"). This new one, イ​ノ​セ​ン​ト (Innocence), is along the same lines: punkish indie songs with breakcore madness slipping in all over the place. It's classic Japanese stuff, where not conforming to genre is the norm! Love.

Nicholas Remondino - its [shhpuma]
Nicholas Remondino - stick [shhpuma]
Finishing tonight with the Italian drummer & experimental musician Nicholas Remondino, whose work as LAMIEE I've played a lot in the last couple of years. One of the great things about Nicholas's music is that every release is different, whether in his many groups or solo, ranging from extreme electronic editing & processing to contemporary jazz to noise to singer-songwriter. His solo album on Portuguese label shhpuma, Ocra Rossa (Red Ochre), is for prepared drums only, beautifully mic'd up so that you can hear every movement of every object. Sounds tumble around, anchored (sometimes) by a booming bass drum. It's always rhythmic although never in recognisable patterns. But it's sonically so interesting that it doesn't need bar lines.

McCorman - sfiorarsi//perdersi [Kohlhass/Bandcamp]
McCorman - posarsi//ritrovarti [Kohlhass/Bandcamp]
In McCorman, Remondino plays prepared bass drum and synth, and whistles on one track. He's joined by two other jazz-trained Italian musicians, Stefano Calderano on prepared guitar and electric guitar, and Francesco Panconesi on tenor sax and "extended sax". Panconesi also sings, somewhere in the back of the room, on our closing track, "posarsi//ritrovarti" (settle//find yourself again), an eerie piece primarily for slow-moving electric guitar. The slow-moving lines on guitar and sax make "sfiorarsi//perdersi" (touch each other//get lost) quite eerie too, with shuffling drums pushing it along. Their album A Page Is Turned | A Mountain Collapses | A Guy Leaves is evocative music in the interstices of jazz, postrock and folk. Highly recommended.

Listen again — ~210MB

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Sunday, 3rd of December, 2023

Playlist 03.12.2023 (11:00 pm)

Many crunchy, glitchy sounds tonight, voices submerged in beds of audio soup, folktronica, post-classicism and uneasy ambient.

LISTEN AGAIN and experience the glory. Stream on demand via FBi, podcast here.

Richie Culver - Swollen ft. billy woods [Participant/Bandcamp]
Richie Culver - Say 4 sure [Participant/Bandcamp]
Conceptual artist & poet Richie Culver collaborated with Blackhaine in 2021 on a provocative pair of tracks before releasing his autobiographical album of spoken word and heavy electronics, I was born by the sea in late 2022. This year we've heard an incredible remix collection from that album, as well as a harrowing piece about sleep paralysis for Drowned By Locals (with its own remixes), and he now rounds out the year with another full length album, Scream If You Don't Exist. Again his spoken word is centred, but often swamped by industrial drones and sometimes crunching beats. The connection with underground hip-hop is made explicit here with guest spots from billy woods, Moor Mother and MOBBS, who contribute further to the oppressive atmosphere. I don't exist, but I must scream.

BAYANG (tha Bushranger) - Bioluminescent [Prod. Ryan Fennis] [CONTENT.NET.AU/Bandcamp]
Sydney's finest purveyor of underground hip-hop BAYANG (tha Bushranger) has a mixtape out this week called Antarctica, with many guests on mics and production duties. Ryan Fennis gives post-rave vibes to "Bioluminescent", in which BAYANG (the Bushranger) meditates on choosing light over darkness.

General Magic - g1000 [GOTO Records/Bandcamp]
General Magic - Nervoesnigg [GOTO Records/Bandcamp]
Way back in 1995, the duo of Andi Pieper and Ramon Bauer collaborated with Peter Rehberg on a series of Fridge Trax, under the name General Magic & Pita. These strange, clicky, frigid pieces were ostensibly based around the buzz of an old fridge, and their focus on malfunctioning material kicked off the Viennese strand of "glitch" music, with samples cut to emphasise sharp discontinuities, granular processing turned to the max, digital clipping celebrated. The trio ran the influential Mego label for many years until it was dissolved and turned into Editions Mego, enthusiastically run by Rehberg until his untimely death in 2021. Pieper and Bauer's General Magic was always one of the most playful and varied of the Mego acts, incorporating rhythm and beats more than most (other, perhaps, than Farmers Manual), and injecting humour even when at their most abstract. Their Bandcamp showcases music made over the last few years, including multimedia collaborations with Tina Frank, who was responsible for the distinctive collaged art of the Mego releases. After the very short Softbop last year, Nein Aber Ja ("No But Yes") is the first album of new material from the duo in many years, released on CD and cassette by GOTO Records. Never ones to sit still, Pieper and Bauer here traverse viciously crunched techno, ersatz krautrock and some kind of mashed & mulched-up hip-hop. It's a very different paradigm from the current crop of high-fidelity deconstructed club and experimental producers, a reminder that everything new is old again, and vice versa.

Water From Your Eyes - True Life (Nourished By Time Version) [Matador Records/Bandcamp]
Water From Your Eyes - Structure (The Cradel Version) [Matador Records/Bandcamp]
A few weeks ago I played Mandy, Indiana's remix of Brooklyn indie pop duo Water From Your Eyes, one of the first cuts from Crushed By Everyone, a collection of remixes of their 2023 album Everyone's Crushed. I've always had a soft spot for remix albums - even for artists or albums I'm not familiar with - because I guess the concept of the remix is so close to the heart of what Utility Fog's mission has been: music recontextualised, taken out of normal standards of genre and presentation, hybridised, de/reconstructed. That's all present on Crushed By Everyone, where strong original material is turned inside-out. There's everything from noise to black metal to folk-ambient here, but all with the DIY-punk-dance thing going on. And perhaps because the artists are almost all touring friends, a lot of care has gone into making these well-rounded tracks.

Clark - Silver Pet Crank [Throttle Records]
Clark - Pumpkin [Throttle Records]
Earlier this year, Chris Clark added a new string to his bow, having dived right into perfected IDM, birthed it anew with saturated live drums, filled dancefloors, and then turned his hand to soundtracks, complete with orchestra and choir. On Sus Dog elements of all this were gathered in service of songs, gently sung by himself. While waiting for the album to come out, he couldn't sit still, and created a series of interstitial, looser pieces for social media. Cave Dog is that music developed into a full companion album, with orchestral and other contributions gleaned from Sus Dog's collaborators, and tbh it's as enjoyable as the "album proper". There are more songs, there's more IDM, and the processed piano on "Pumpkin" is super pretty.

Fairie - Jillian [Provenance Records/Bandcamp]
Following three impressive singles, Melbourne's Fairie, aka Lucy Li, has now released her full-length debut album Nastic Appeal. It's likely the last single-artist release to come from Provenance Records, who will concentrate on regular compilations from the collective's musicians - and if it is, it's a high note to go out on. Li's songs bear the influence of Kate Bush (of course a groundbreaking, multi-talented composer and performer), and also of the club music that Li has previously released. Throughout this entirely self-produced album there are snippets of everyday life and moments from the recording sessions that contrast nicely with the often dense electronic production. "Jillian" dispels the denseness, with gentle piano, layers of vocals and lots of field recordings and chatter threatening to overwhelm the song, all lending a touching delicateness to the work.

Niecy Blues - U Care [kranky/Bandcamp]
Delicate is one word that could be used to describe the unique music of Niecy Blues. Living in Charleston, North Carolina, she draws in the gospel music of her youth - but slowed down into a heavy-lidded miasmah, mixed with contemporary r&b, and slung through arrangements that are often closer to ambient and slowcore than what you'd expect from r&b. It's beautiful and surprising and enveloping.

Massimiliano Cerioni - Kickin' In [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
Massimiliano Cerioni - Inner Landscape III - Angst Vor Dem Trail (Feat. Function Store) [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
Massimiliano Cerioni - Ritualistic [Elli Records/Bandcamp]
The ever-reliable Elli Records, run out of Marseilles but with deep connections to Italy as well as France, presents a concept album from Amsterdam-based sound-artist & composer Massimiliano Cerioni. The opening, title track of Inner Landscape was created first, with a looped piano melody as a through-line within various electronic sounds, whether glitchy or percussive. Cerioni then shared the stems with three fellow musicians, but rather than remixes, these versions are collaborative reworks. Maybe most interesting then are the interstitial tracks, which are his own extensions from those collaborative sessions into shorter studies. Tonight we heard the version created with Berlin's Function Store, which its preceding interlude, and then another short, experimental interlude.

Sully - Stop [Uncertain Hour]
In 2014, Jack Stevens aka Sully, who had heretofore made grime and 2-step-inspired music, released the extraordinary double EP Blue on Keysound, in some ways kickstarting the jungle revival. This year there have only been a few split releases from Sully, until now with the third 12" on his Uncertain Hour label. Proving again what a master Sully is of jungle beats and pacing, these are both killer tracks worthy of dancefloors anywhere & everywhere.

Chimpo & Dub Phizix - Skyward [EQ50]
Everybody loves Chimpo. If you don't, you just need to get into Chimpo, Manchester's charming jungle & bass-music lover. Anyway, here he is collaborating with Mancunian d'n'b bod Dub Phizix, with their contribution to EQ50 Presents 4GAZA, a big (but not unweildy) compilation of drum'n'bass music of all stripes, which will send all profits to Anera and Decolonize Palestine. It's a great collection of, as far as I can see, exclusive tracks from across the gamut of drum'n'bass & jungle, even though the mastering between different tracks is a bit patchy - a minor complain in any case!

PYUR - Intersections [Subtext Recordings/Bandcamp]
Following a debut on Scuba's Hotflush Recordings, Sophie Schnell's PYUR released a big, ambitious album on Subtext Recordings in 2019 called Oratorio for the Underworld, mixing the experimental and industrial ends of bass music & techno into classical composition, including violin and cello. It was intensely complex, and brilliantly executed. Her follow-up comes over 4 years later with Lucid Anarchy, to be released in January 2024. Eschewing the classical elements, it also replaces beats with rhythmic pulsing electronics - although this should come with caveats, as there are mangled classical samples groaning and flittering through the tracks, and some percussive elements. The whole album is rad, but in the meantime check the throbbing single "Intersections".

HUUUM - Chapi [Accidental Meetings/Bandcamp]
Rojin Sharafi is a Vienna-based Iranian sound-artist and composer, who I was first introduced to through Ata Ebtekar's Zabte Sote label. Her uncompromising spirit and musical depth is confirmed here in the trio HUUUM, which features the voice of Omid Darvish, a singer & musician with Kurdish roots born in Tehran, and is rounded out by the expressionist reeds of Astrid Wiesinger (along with a few guests). Many streams of avant-garde, including free jazz and noise, unite with folk forms from Iran and beyond, in what HUUUM call "folk futurism". It's a unique and moving offering that I can't recommend highly enough.

WSR - Flatwound [WSR Bandcamp]
WSR - Aria [WSR Bandcamp]
Earlier this year we received the unexpected gift of a second album from Berlin-based Italian brother-and-sister duo Aperture. In Aperture, musician and acoustician Emanuele Porcinai is joined by his sister Elisabetta Porcinai, whose spoken and whispered poetry and visual art adorn their releases. When Aperture's brilliant debut Threads came out in 2018, I initially didn't realise that I'd been following Emanuele since his second EP Chambers, released under the name WSR. Now, three years after the last WSR release, Dicasmia showcases a similar aesthetic to the earlier releases: close-mic'd acoustic instruments - notably cello - are moulded into dark, heavy masses of sound, seamlessly mutated into industrial electronics. The juxtaposition of acoustic and electric instruments with digital sound-design is very much what WSR is about, and as you know it's very much what Utility Fog is about too, so I couldn't be happier to have this new work alongside Aperture's album from earlier this year.

Jérôme Noetinger, Anthony Pateras - Coruscation 2 [Penultimate Press/Bandcamp]
Jérôme Noetinger, Anthony Pateras - Coruscation 4 [Penultimate Press/Bandcamp]
15 Coruscations is the second duo album of Jérôme Noetinger and Anthony Pateras on Mark Harwood's Penultimate Press. Harwood is originally from Melbourne, as is Pateras, a powerhouse modern composer and performer on piano and other keyboard instruments. Noetinger is an electroacoustic composer based in France, who's often found at Cafe OTO in London, which Harwood was associated with for a long time. The pair, who have worked in different configurations together since 2009, will sometimes perform with Pateras on piano and Noetinger on his tape machines, but here they are both working with concrète sound manipuation and electronic noisemakers. Even at their most abstract these coruscations are rich with compelling mystery.

Alexander Tillegreen - Re-Orientate (Intermezzo) [raster/Bandcamp]
In Words is the debut album for Danish artist Alexander Tillegreen, who has hitherto created visual art and installation works while also study psychoacoustic phenomena. Many of the pieces on the album are based around manipulated voices, manipulated with granular synthesis into glitchy swarms of phonemes, in keeping with raster-media's place in purist post-club experimental electronics. Through the album there are also beautiful tectonic ambient works of synth pads and sub-bass rumbles, but the glitched vocals are the heart of it.

Toada - Duet [Toada Bandcamp]
Portuguese producer Valdir da Silva aka Toada looks to early '90s folktronica on his new EP Slow-Paced Tangents. There's a delicateness to the fidgety melodic and rhythmic sounds that harken back to the UK garage and hip-hop-inspired early sounds of Four Tet and Caribou (then Manitoba), with a welcoming breeziness.

Adam Coney - Seal Sands [Trestle Records/Bandcamp]
To judge Adam Coney's album from one track would be a mistake. Coney's pure electric guitar intertwines with a synth and swishes of cymbals, only for us to switch to a kind of angular kraut/post-rock bass-and-drums-driven groove, and then a pentatonic guitar melody over a skittering snare pattern. If we thought we understood what we were hearing, the next track gives us another bass-and-drums groove, this time with a slightly unhinged distorted guitar solo/melody. Central to all of this is Coney's guitar, and when we reach the gorgeous closing track "Seal Sands", the guitar is is either acoustic or gently amplified, playing through arpeggiated chords that softly pull at the emotions, joined a minute in by Coney overdubbing simple cello lines, while a half-speed echo of the guitar provides a subtle low-end undertow. Ashwin & Above is an album whose logic unfolds from careful listening, and it certainly rewards repeat plays.

Sophie Hutchings - Into The Wild [Mercury KX]
I've been playing cello with Sydney pianist Sophie Hutchings for over 13 years now, but when I first played her on this show, we'd never met. She's a dear friend and I played a little bit on her new album A World Outside, but I'm also a fan, and on this new album she's raised the bar, working with composer/producer/violist Nick Wales to build rich arrangements, incorporating sounds from remote areas in the north of this continent, and collaborating with the extraordinary Yolŋu songman Rrawun Maymuru and young Larrakia singer Lena Kellie. The album is accompanied by amazing visuals filmed on location: I recommend watching the video for "Into the Wild", which I played tonight. It's a song that's unmistakeably Sophie, albeit driven forward by pattering drums and low-end synths, and expanded outwards by beautiful vocal drones.

IKSRE - dawn in a foreign city [Constellation Tatsu]
Steven Ramsey's Constellation Tatsu is a wonderfully-curated label from Oakland that focuses on ambient and experimental fare. So it was great to hear from Melbourne's Phoebe Dubar that her next IKSRE album abundance will be coming out on the label early next year. Her music is a blissful kind of theraputic ambient driven by electronics and her layered voice. The first single, "dawn in a foreign city", is streaming everywhere now.

Martyna Basta - Diaries [STROOM.tv]
Martyna Basta - Beneath [STROOM.tv]
In a scant couple of years since her stunning debut Making Eye Contact With Solitude, Polish artist Martyna Basta has become compulsory listening. This year a follow-up album was released on Slovakian label Warm Winters, Ltd., and she closes out the year with the EP Diaries Beneath Fragile Glass via Belgium's STROOM.tv. From her first release, her modus operandi has been to use field recordings and domestic sounds along with voice and various acoustic instruments including the zither, seemingly recorded while they weren't looking. The music feels effortlessly casual, but is meticulously constructed with affecting tenderness. Not many have such a talent for emotive sound-art.

JWPATON - Aunty [Room40/Bandcamp]
Joshua William Paton aka JWPATON is a Yuin artist and musician currently living on Darug Country, Western Sydney. His interest in the intersection of rural and urban environments is palpable in his work, which can be both highly electronic and very naturalistic. Aunty (which is completed by a gorgeous video) is a case in point, with field recordings of rain and nature seemingly transforming into semi-rhythmic white noise like free jazz brushed snares while processed guitar bubbles over it, at times blooming into distortion. Even without the video these pieces tell a story about the natural world and the world created, for better or worse, by human cultures.

Listen again — ~199MB

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