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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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Sunday, 21st of April, 2024

Playlist 21.04.24 (11:00 pm)

Another week filled with everything from warped pop to complex beats, granular sound destruction to delicate acoustic recordings.

LISTEN AGAIN and take notes this time (just kidding, the notes are all here)! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast right here.

claire rousay - 4pm [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
claire rousay - it could be anything [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
When I first heard of claire rousay, she was described as a "percussionist", and that's something I've had to unravel from my brain over the intervening years, as her music has tended to be brilliant minimalist constructions of slice-of-life conversations, found-sound and field recordings, and unexpected arrangements of classical instruments and electronics. But she was indeed a drummer in math rock and punk bands either before, during or after leaving the Evangelical Christian systems she grew up in. The first claire rousay recordings date from 2019, when she came out as transgender. There is (free jazz style) percussion, but as much silence as playing. It's not long until she's making artfully constructed collages of field recordings, ambient soundscapes, and words - words that would be heard via primitive text-to-speech programs, and later sung through harshly-set autotune. There's always been a confessional nature to these words, touching on mental health, sex and gender among other things, but at a careful remove. Even so, the text that begins the album ("4pm"), read by fellow sound-artist Theodore Cale Schafer is particularly wrenching - and it's immediately interrupted by a growing drone, that itself then morphs into the first song on the album. And yes, sentiment is an album of songs, sung through that autotune, accompanied by mournful major-key guitar, various strings and other instruments. There are strong vibes of Dntel circa Life Is Full Of Possibilities to me, which is totally welcome. Touching stuff, rightly being heralded as the next breakthrough for rousay.

BIG|BRAVE - chanson pour mon ombre [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
BIG|BRAVE - quotidian : solemnity [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
Also out this week on Thrill Jockey is the incredible, perhaps career best, new album A Chaos Of Flowers from Canada's BIG|BRAVE. Through the last few albums, vocalist & guitarist Robin Wattie has harnessed the words of others to express herself through BIG|BRAVE's music - from the poetry of Alexander Cree speaking of being mixed race to the repurposed folks songs on their collaboration with the body - and here she's drawing from the poetry of women, remarking that most well-known folk and traditional poetry is written by men. So "chanson pour mon ombre" (song for my shadow) is by 19th century poet Renée Vivien. Musically the folk turn of the body collaboration and to some extent also heard in last year's Nature Morte is even more emphasised here, offset by the crushing heaviness Seth Manchester of Machines With Magnets always provides. Like the last albums of the beloved Low, the juxtaposition of Wattie's emotive voice, the folky sweetness and the enveloping storms of distortion has a deep emotional impact. Tremendous.

Alex Sopp - Bougainvillea [New Amsterdam Records/Bandcamp]
New York's yMusic Ensemble are a classical chamber group who've collaborated across the spectrum with pop & indie artists like Ben Folds and My Brightest Diamond, and commissioned & performed works by many contemporary composers as well as the likes of MBD's Shara Nova, and Sufjan Stevens. They also perform music they've composed themselves, and so the prospect of one member's solo album - Alex Sopp is yMusic's flautist - is intriguing. Sopp sings as well as playing flutes, whistles and keyboards, and the album is co-produced by Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman. Sopp's songwriting style is strongly heard through songs that vary from more electronic to more classically orchestrated - occasionally sounding a little "Broadway musical", but also the baroque indie style of Sufjan or Shara, and especially Julia Holter. These are enjoyable songs enhanced by creative arrangements and production.

Amatorski - Welcome [Crammed Discs/Bandcamp]
Inne Eysermans, founder and multi-instrumentalist behind Belgian band Amatorski, if affected by unilateral deafness, meaning that she's never been able to experience sound in stereo. After a few years' break, her band is back with a collection of great songs, Curves and Bends, Things Veer, and this time round Eysermans decided to lean into her own experience, and mix the album in mono. For this she worked with the brilliant Yves de Mey, and they produced something that sounds rich even with the reduced soundstage (for two-eared normies at least!) Lyrically the songs the dance around ideas from ecological philosopher Timother Morton, ideas about the relationship between humans and nature and technology, and the band mix field recordings in amongst the instrumentation. There's something refreshingly new about the approach taken here.

Travis Cook - empowering bright futures [Travis Cook Bandcamp]
Now that Travis Cook and Marcus Whale have brought the Collarbones era to a close, these occasional single tracks that Travis puts up on his Bandcamp are the only way we'll hear new music from him (I think!) for now. This one's quite dark, with some beats that clatter and skip almost like jungle but not quite...

µ-Ziq - Hyper Daddy (Single Mix) [Planet µ/Bandcamp]
Sometime last week I noticed Mike Paradinas foreshadowing something on Instagram. Maybe I hadn't been paying attention, or maybe the new µ-Ziq did creep up on us with little warning. I note that in a Planet µ email from March it's listed in the forthcoming section, but not before then. First single is "Hyper Daddy", which adapts some themes from 2022's "Uncle Daddy" from Magic Pony Ride into something more like a footwork-jungle hybrid. Mike's been thinking about the IDM of the '90s (and how nobody liked the term), and is reconstructing it from the ground up with the melodic nature of the music he & his cohorts made back then, but taking in dance styles from then through to contemporary times. Look, it's gonna be rad, count the days till June 14th!

Jesta - Liquor Snurf [Straight Up Breakbeat/Bandcamp]
The folks at Finnish drum'n'bass label Straight Up Breakbeat are always putting together new compilation series, and the latest is States of Art, four 12"s and then an extended digital compilation. For the first vinyl EP States of Art I I was instantly grabbed by the pre-release single from Jesta, one half of course of Gremlinz & Jesta. Punchy jungle-informed d'n'b, or is it the other way round? Dancefloor killa.

Yraki - Percolate [Early Reflex]
Mariano Sibilia is London-based, but was born in Italy, so it's nice to see his latest EP as Yraki coming out from Turin's Early Reflex label. And his deconstructed club sounds really suit the label, referencing grime and dubstep as well as techno, always with the bass weight. The title track starts with repetitive 4/4 drum machine beats, with a nicely reverbed synth-shriek, but then the kicks stutter and the closed hi-hats shift out of time, before a syncopated sub-bass re-grounds us. What's nice about this music is that it never settles on one thing, shifting into a halftime groove that's almost hip-hop, then reasserting the 4/4, then somewhere else.

3Phaz - Reset [CEE/Bandcamp]
One of Egypt's finest electronic producers, the apparently anonymous 3Phaz, appears here on Primary Forest 02, a compilation from the online-only Lapsus sublabel CEE. The Barcelona-based label seeks to interrogate the relationship between technology, nature, and art. This second Primary Forest comp has a well-curated group of artists from Egypt, UK, Spain and Italy, all working non-Eurocentric percussive and musical elements into their post-club forms. As usual, 3Phaz's track is dizzying.

Franck Vigroux - Jolin [Aesthetical]
Back on his own label Aesthetical after his second outing on raster-media, French electronic producer Franck Vigroux is in fine familiar form. Synths both analogue and digital course through the album, often surging into industrial beats.

Innode - Air Liquide [Editions Mego/Bandcamp]
From France to Austria, where Editions Mego was based, under the loving leadership of Peter Rehberg until his untimely death in 2021. Innode are a trio that certainly reside in the radius of Mego's influence: glitchy textures joined with postrock/krautrock momentum with synths rather than rock instruments. On drums is the great Steven Hess, a central member not only of black metal/drone/noise band Locrian but also minimalist electro-acoustic trio Haptic. Stefan Németh is best known as a member of the wonderful Radian whose music is probably the closest to what we find herein. And finally Bernhard Breuer, member of live techno band Elektro Guzzi and various rock and improv outfits. I really loved Innode's second album Syn, which came out on Editions Mego in 2021, and grain is similarly inclined, based around rhythms both glitchy and organic, created by layering different takes from the musicians on drums, percussion and electronics, and all held together with judicious synth work. If you like the postrock of Tortoise and their ilk, or moreso the European style from Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Radian, Trapist and so on, this should scratch that itch very comfortably.

Tim Koch - Shudder ROM (Shudder to Think Adrien75 Mix) [Tim Koch Bandcamp]
In July 2020, Adelaide's Tim Koch released Scordatura, the album that, more than any other, launched him from his IDM roots into new territories, with granular processing to the fore, of acoustic or electric instruments at least as much as purely electronic sound sources. It's a great album, that was (maybe still is?) available in a multitude of formats. Some years later he's bringing those works to our ears through the lens of various of his mates (not including me. I was just too slow. Sorry). It's all great, mostly of a piece with the original album. Another old IDM hand, Adrien75, preserves the glitchiness but corrals it into something resembling broken beats. Nhulunbuy, Arnhem Land-based Kris Keogh responded with his style of granular ambience, which he turned to some years back after his beginnings in breakcore, and of many other highlights I can recommend those of NZ's Jet Jaguar and Osaka-based Onkonomiyaki Labs (Ian Masters of Pale Saints, and more recently Tim's experimental electronic pop project Isolated Gate).

Xani - Unknown Area [Xani Bandcamp]
Since last year's An Inaccurate History of Electronic Dance Music, Naarm/Melbourne violinist Xani Kolac has been trickling out bits of her experimental pop & violin looping on her Bandcamp. Out now is a pair of tracks: Keep Moving/Unknown Area which showcase both of these. While her solo act mostly really is her absolutely solo, triggering electronic parts with her feet as well as looping her instrument and singing, here she's joined by drummer Justin Olsson, which immediately recalls her rock/folk/indie duo The Twoks from something like a decade ago, then with drummer Mike Leahy. The first track is a song about having too, well, keep moving even when the world is making you want to hide under a blanket (my interpretation). But the 8-minute second track is an instrumental improvisation that shows what Xani can do with her violin and live sampler/looper, with Olsson helping to propel it in a krautrocky way.

Laurent Pernice - La décision d'un homme [ADN/Bandcamp]
Laurent Pernice - Une fine poussière le recouvrait [ADN/Bandcamp]
Coming out of France's industrial scene in the '80s, Laurent Pernice has taken a number of left turns in his career, into ambient and techno, then quasi-jazz collages from which he has integrated more acoustic sounds, ending up with works composed for the stage, in collaboration with various musicians. On Antigone, written to accompany a setting of Sophocles' play by Anima Motrix, he's worked with violist Violaine Sultan to coax many sounds out of her viola, set in amongst delays and reverbs, as well as some lovely melodic passages accompanied by his basses or harp and zither - appropriately for an adaptation of an Ancient Greek play. Many of the tracks are short cues, but even they hold plenty of listening pleasure, and the album flows well without the theatrical and spoken elements.

Seabuckthorn - Serre Long [quiet details/Bandcamp]
Seabuckthorn - Sage Word [quiet details/Bandcamp]
From the beginning, English musician Andy Cartwright's music as Seabuckthorn has held a tension between his masterful folk guitar fingerpicking and his interest in extended approaches like bowed guitar and e-bows, shoegazey textures and field recordings. On this warm, this late, released by quiet details, all these elements are present along with previous collaborator Phil Cassel's double bass and trombone, which add an "ensemble" feel. It's not that Cartwright's very personal studio creations aren't wonderful, but there's something to be said for two musicians playing together.

J. Campbell - Parade At The Moorings [Nice Music/Bandcamp]
Newcastle musician Jason Campbell is best known for his uneasy industrial ambient as Stitched Vision and his industrial techno as Collector, but as "J. Campbell" he builds narrative works out of field recordings, industrial electronics and acoustic instruments such as piano. Erosion of Memory, released by iconic Naarm label Nice Music, reflects on family and the (post-)industrial lanscape of Newcastle. It's quite deeply affecting.

asher tuil - Opus VII [Room40/Bandcamp]
The latest album on Room40 (of many) from the resolutely lower-case asher tuil is a 75-minute work divided into 10 sections. All the music is made from three main elements: rhythmic sounds made from filtered noise, field recordings from his surrounds in Providence, Rhode Island, and a sequence of synth harmonies. As the full Opus unfolds, a sonic environment is revealed, sometimes more rhythmic, sometimes floating, while real-world sounds interject. The emergence of the passing truck or plane near the end of "Opus VII" demonstrates the artfulness with which tuil combines these elements, in a work that never gets boring in its hour and a quarter length.

Laurén Maria - Forms Emerge Anew and [The Collection Artaud]
Yu Miyashita's label The Collection Artaud is primarily an outlet for his own glitched electronica under his own name or as Yaporigami, but occasionally like-minded artists are hosted too. Here fellow Berlin resident Laurén Maria gives us two tracks of seemingly abstract electronics that hide within them processed voice and deconstructed club sounds. They're mastered by Miyashita and represent the high quality production of his label.

Langham Research Centre - Nachholbedürfnis (Beatriz Ferreyra Remix) [nonclassical/Bandcamp]
The idea of formidable musique concrète/acousmatic composer Beatriz Ferreyra doing a "remix" is both wonderfully bizarre and also not that far-fetched. At 87 years old, Ferreyra is not only being re-released and collected by various contemporary labels including Meanjin's Room40 but also still making music - and of course her music has always been about manipulating sounds. If she is to do a remix, who better than Langham Research Centre, the UK quartet who use original techniques and technology of those concrète pioneers, including several ¼" tape machines. Their Tape Works, Vol. 2 came out in 2021 from Nonclassical, four years after Vol. 1 - and Vol. 1 was remixed in 2018 by Jim O'Rourke and group A. It took a little longer this time, but now we have the two reworks here (the other is by modular synth maven Kara-Lis Coverdale). Of course Ferreyra's rework is no less astract than the original material, but full of colour and movement.

Olivia Block - Violet-Green [Black Truffle/Bandcamp]
Chicago sound-artist and composer Olivia Block has, since the late '90s, comfortably straddled the linkes between musique concrète, noise, and contemporary composition. Block has often been able to bring poignant emotion to her electroacoustic constructions, albeit in a different way from the deeply personal work of claire rousay with which we started tonight's show. But The Mountains Pass, her new album and first on Oren Ambarchi's Black Truffle, takes her work into the unfamiliar territory of song, incorporating Block's voice and lyrics for the first time, along with drums from the great Jon Mueller. Naturally, these songs are nevertheless somewhat abstracted, fragmentary things, appearing out of long electro-acoustic passages, where Block sings of endangered wolves and mysterious bird die-offs among cut-up piano, droning organs and trumpet. This is a stunning, beautiful album that you owe it to yourself to explore in full.

Listen again — ~209MB

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