a wholly owned subsiduary of
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experimental electronica
electric string quartet

Utility Fog

Your weekly fix of postfolkrocktronica, dronenoise, power ambient, post-everything improv... and more?
Sunday nights from 9 to 11pm on FBi Radio, 94.5 FM in Sydney, Australia.
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Playlists are listed with artist name first, then track title and (remixer), then [record label]. Enjoy the links.

Wednesday, 22nd of May, 2024

Playlist 12.05.24 (9:04 pm)

Spoken word, song, fizzling glitch & noise, post-thingy beats, electro-acoustic invention. It's Utility Fog.

LISTEN AGAIN - and again and again... stream on demand at FBi's website or podcast here.

Shellac - Prayer to God [Touch and Go/Bandcamp]
Like everyone else, I woke up on Thursday and somehow picked up that Steve Albini had died! Via social media posts. And it's super fucking sad. Shellac, his longest-lived band, were on the cover of The Wire, so I'd literally been reading him, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer laconically not talking about their new album, due out in just about a week. Albini was known as a spiky, acerbic guy with staunch politics but also zero compunction for being stratospherically offensive. And that changed - he was helped along the way by his wife, friends like Kim Deal of the Pixies, and others, and in the last decade or so had become equally unflinching in calling out his own shortcomings, refusing to excuse them, and turning his acid tongue to those, like his former self, who just don't get it. And you can see the progress, see him grow and learn. One part of that learning experience, I feel, was his long interview about feminism with Evelyn Morris, who toured with Shellac and was a longtime fan, and wanted him to confront some of the many problematic parts of his catalogue. Evelyn, whose Pikelet was a femme mask and who has since come out as nonbinary, was processing their own experience with sexual trauma. Albini here is professing his right-on politics and mostly saying the right things, but clearly not yet taking the responsibility he would later see was essential. I should say that Evelyn's LISTEN project was instrumental in changing my own understanding of gender and privilege, immeasurably for the better.
Anyway, Albini's straight-talking, trash-talking sensibility - which was absolutely not put on, it was just who he was - can be seen in all its glory in this 30-year-old Invisible Jukebox from The Wire. And his talent for showing ugliness under harsh lights is shown in the utterly compelling "Prayer to God", with which I opened tonight.
Albini would've hated a large portion of what I play on this show, and that's fine. Each to their own is something I think Albini lived and breathed, after all. RIP to a real mensch.

Gordan - The Bell Is Buzzing [Glitterbeat/Bandcamp]
Glitterbeat continues to be one of the best sources of weird and creative global sounds. Gordan is a cross-cultural band powered by the rhythnm section of Andi Stecher on drums and Guido Möbius on bass and electronics (who play together as G.A.M.S), but the core influence comes from Svetlana Spajic's intense Serbian vocals. Spajic's Balkan folk stories and legends, sung full-throated in Balkan style, are embedded in distorted doom-drone riffs, clattering free jazz percussion, krautrock percussion grooves and whatever else the players have up their sleeves - usually quite minimalist, and despite the clamour and noise, always there to support the vocals. Strange in the best way.

Richie Culver - Contra 3 (Urine Cop remix) [Industrial Coast/Bandcamp]
Richie Culver - Richie Culver (Delta Kane Mix) [Industrial Coast/Bandcamp]
When Richie Culver's debut album I was born by the sea came out in 2022, it already followed a small number of experimental releases, including the Post Traumatic Fantasy EP released by the far-reaching Italian label Superpang. But here, in full album form, was Culver's musical art, featuring his spoken word embedded in abstract sound and noise, and fog-laden memories of post-club music. The album already generated an album of remixes about a year ago, with figures from the more avant-garde end of electronic music, including fellow travellers like Rainy Miller and Space Afrika, but it feels entirely appropriate that northern English label Industrial Coast have compiled a collection of contemporary noise artists reinterpreting Culver's work from that debut. For now, Born Coast (see what they did there?) is available in a cassette edition, and digitally streaming. Culver's words, especially intoned in his deadpan northern accent, feel weighed down with doom and depression, but - like his visual art - also come with substantial humour. The noise/industrial/power electronics scene too mixes humour with aggression, thus we get the Illinois artist Urine Cop, whose clanging drones and hammering rhythms incorporate Culver's voice in abstracted form, looped and chopped. Meanwhile, Delta Kane is the alias of Canadian noise artist Ryan Bloomer, who dials back the distortion and selects short phrases to drop in alongside primitive drum machines and synth sequences.

Kathy Hinde - Twittering Machines (extract from beginning of side A) [TBC Editions]
Bristol composer/sound-artist Kathy Hinde premiered her audiovisual performance Twittering Machines at Mutek in 2019. The audio is now available on vinyl & digital from TBC Editions, a half-hour composition split into 2 sides. The album's release marks the 100th anniversary of British cellist Beatrice Harrison's broadcast on BBC dueting with a nightingale, which - a century ago - was organised at least partially to draw attention to the bird's declining population. Interestingly (if not surprisingly for modern listeners), the nightingale's song was faked in the broadcast - and in her Twittering Machines, Hinde too simulates birdsong in various electronic ways. John Keates' famous "Ode to a Nightingale" is translated into Morse code, and its stuttering rhythm evokes an electronic cry for help, as bird populations the world over are increasingly threatened by our human-generated climate crisis. The words of British ornithologist Peter Holden MBE and a contemporary birdcall imitator - Helmut Wolferstetter - are cut to dubplates and manipulated along with other electronics. The piece begins with electronic birdsong and buzzing noise, which over the course of a few minutes slowly slides down in pitch. It's quite eerie and moving, and the rest of the work does not disappoint.

Tashi Wada - Subaru [RVNG Intl/Bandcamp]
LA-based musician Tashi Wada has been around for some time now, inhabiting the world between contemporary classical, ambient/experimental and indie music. Among others he works with cellists Charles Curtis and Judith Hamann, Yoshi Wada (his father, who was involved with Fluxus) and Julia Holter (his partner). His minimalist compositions have come out on his own label Saltern, alongside Charles Curtis, Éliane Radigue, Morton Feldman, his father and others. Finally this year a proper solo album, What Is Not Strange? will be released by the intrepid RVNG Intl, in which classical minimalism, folk, and various avant-garde approaches are harnessed in service of song - of a sort. Like the songs, perhaps, of the Books. No doubt the album is going to be lovely.

Keeley Forsyth - Turning (feat. Colin Stetson) [130701/Bandcamp]
Keeley Forsyth - A Shift [130701/Bandcamp]
When The Leaf Label released the debut album from actor-turned-musician Keeley Forsyth in 2020, Debris, it had an immediate impact. With antecedents like Scott Walker, David Sylvian and Talk Talk, Forsyth's work was striking for her deep, dramatic voice, as well as for the subtle arrangements made with Sam Hobbs, Mark Creswell and creative pianist Matthew Bourne. Follow-up Limbs was created with Trestle Records co-director Ross Downes as well as Bourne again, and the pair re-join Forsyth for The Hollow, this time on Fat Cat subsidiary 130701. Forsyth's voice is as forthright as ever, even when pitch-shifted into an eldritch choir or muttering in the doom-laden musical settings - but holds its own in almost a capella settings frequently. And singular saxophonist Colin Stetson is used with aplomb in "Turning". I think what I find particularly terrifying about Forsyth is the vibrato - inherited from Scott Walker, whose voice I also find challenging, to say the least. And I guess the reason I still like both artists is that their music is deliberately disturbing and at times ugly, so... go figure!

Martha Skye Murphy - Pick Yourself Up [AD93/Bandcamp]
I first heard English experimental singer/songwriter Martha Skye Murphy on a duo release with double bassist Maxwell Sterling on American Dreams in 2022. The two long tracks were the result of long improvisations melding Sterling's processed double bass and Murphy's wordless vocals. Martha Skye Murphy's solo work is a stark contrast, with emotive songs using piano and guitar as well as electronics, although nothing is quite so straightforward. The album is, after all, released on AD93, best known for experimental club productions (albeit by no means exclusively), and the home also of Sterling's early solo work. The first two preview tracks for Murphy's Um are both utterly beautiful songs, deceptively sweet but with baroque, avant-garde arrangements. This is going to be an amazing album.

Finlay Shakespeare - Face Value (Trio Mandala) [Editions Mego/Bandcamp]
When I first heard Finlay Shakespeare's music it seemed like a strange fit for Editions Mego, but he's since well and truly convinced me. The clincher was his track on a tribute to Mego boss Peter Rehberg, who passed away unexpectedly in 2021. (My Eyes) "Glazed Over" references, well, one interpretation of MEGO stands for, and is 6 minutes of Tears For Fears-style passion-pop. His new album Directions Out Of Town will be released on the still-active (for now) Editions Mego in mid-June, and the first single is a gorgeous piece of synth-pop with a vocal melody that Martin L Gore or Marc Almond would be proud of - but with lots of lovely stuttery glitchiness to remind us of Mego's groundbreaking legacy.

Selvedge - Arc [Selvedge Bandcamp]
Selvedge - By Accident Or Design [Selvedge Bandcamp]
The new album from Lawrence, Kansas musician Chance Dibben, who records as Selvedge, would have been a beautiful addition to the original Mego roster in the late '90s or early '00s. Dibben has been working on his lo-fi abstract sound since at least 2018, building up a large catalogue of drum machine experiments, drone and noise. It's all quality stuff, by turns abrasive and lush. But I feel like new album HOLLER is a leap ahead. Crackly lo-fi loops, droney or rhythmic or clattery or chopped from some other musical source, are bathed in swarming, fluctuating noise. Something is always in motion, so that however abstract or abstracted the underling sounds are, there's something for the ear to follow. If you listen to one noise album this week/month/year, make it this one. (I mean, don't stop there, but start here!)

Rutger Zuydervelt - Places (feat. Roshanak Morrowatian) [Machinefabriek Bandcamp]
Frequently heard as Machinefabriek on this show, Dutch sound-artist Rutger Zuydervelt also makes music under his own name, sometimes IDM-adjacent synths'n'beats, but often the name is also used for his music for stage. Out now is Kites (music for a performance by Roshanak Morrowatian), written for an interdisciplinary performance called Kites, by the Netherlands-based Iranian choreographer Roshanak Morrowatian. It draws from Morrowatian's own childhood, fleeing her country of origin and building a new life in a new country, and the scars left by this childhood trauma. Zuydervelt's soundtrack incorporates cassette recordings of pre-Revolution Persian pop music, brought to the Netherlands by Morrowatian's parents, and these spectral recordings float in the background at times. Also present is Morrowatian's own voice, found in the moving "Places", which we heard tonight.

EPRC - DARK RED [ LACQUERED ] [Stray Signals/Bandcamp]
Deep listeners to this show will know I'm a huge fan of Elisabetta Porcinai's duo Aperture with her brother Emanuele. When I heard the two tracks on SOMETIMES from her duo EPRC with Roberto Crippa I immediately connected it with Aperture, before realising it is in fact Elisabetta's voice. A visual artist, her spoken word adorns both groups, along with industrial-leaning electro-acoustic audio. On the debut EP SOMETIMES we have one track of pummeling industrial beats and one of drawn-out synth ambient, both with Elisabetta's voice scratchily interjecting. These tracks precede an album that I'll be waiting for with baited breath.

Lila Tirando a Violeta, Sin Maldita - Viconian Cycles (Amnesia Scanner Remix) [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Last year the excellent Ugandan producer Camila Domínguez aka Lila Tirando a Violeta found herself signed to Hyperdub in duo form with Berlin-based Sin Maldita. Their album (EP?) Accela has now been remixed by four contemporary producers, with the first cab off the rank being Amnesia Scanner, who performed their hyper, genre-shifting audiovisual last year at Soft Centre and Dark Mofo. Their remix is a mélange of synthetic and processed sounds as is their wont.

STILL - Resistance Riddim [Love Boat/Bandcamp]
3Phaz - YKK [Love Boat/Bandcamp]
Boutique Turin label Love Boat have released a compilation of experimental European and MENA artists to raise money for MAP. It's called We Will Stay Here - Music for Palestine and is all recommended. First up here we have Italian producer STILL, who frequently works with North African artists, with a riddim partially made from samples of Moroccan women demonstrating in Cassablanca last year. Then Egyptian producer 3Phaz chops up vocal samples and sub-bass and tumbling percussion clattering at double speed.

Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy - Wat2a وطأة [Amphibian Records]
Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy - Oktof أقْطُف[Amphibian Records]
Europe-based Egyptian musician Abdullah Miniawy has now worked with the German trio Carl Gari since 2015, releasing their first album on Whities (now AD93) in 2019. Miniawy's electrifying voice and poetry can be found also in the astonishing jazz ensemble (for want of a better word) Le Cri du Caire, as well as in collaboration with French bass musician Simo Cell and Indian-Danish producer Hvad. With Carl Gari, there's a distinct dub/bass music influence too, with a certain freeness that comes from live performers. Shoot The Engine ا​ق​ت​ُ​ل​ْ ا​ل​د​ا​ف​ع is the first full album (released on luscious CD, if you can afford the postage!) from Prague label Amphibian Records, and it's a richly rewarding listen.

Comatone - Phaserate (2002) [Feral Media]
With the help of Feral Media, Blue Mountains-based Comatone is releasing music from his 20+ years of archives, including stuff like this, IDM from 22 years ago, still sounding fresh IMO! Only on streaming services for now, look him up!

Sepehr - Delicate Senses [Dekmantel/Bandcamp]
Iranian-American DJ & producer Sepehr runs the Shaytoon featuring diaspora Iranian electronic musicians, and makes very varied music himself. His 2021 album Survivalism gave nods to his love of '90s d'n'b as well as techno, and there are forays into electro, acid and experimentalism to be found. His debut for Dekmantel certainly melds all these influences together, and "Delicate Senses" is a nice nod to '90s breakbeaty ambient techno.

Atsushi Izumi - Prophecy [Ohm Resistance]
Atsushi Izumi - Dissenter [Ohm Resistance]
Like many, I first discovered Atsushi Izumi with his amazing Houzan Archives album on OPAL a couple of years back. It came as no surprise that he'd previously made snarly, techy d'n'b as Anode, but under his own name branches out into industrial dub, bass-heavy techno and plenty of mind-boggling syncopation, if not actual drum'n'bass. Follow-up Schismogenesis continues in the same vein, as is a perfect fit for the venerable Ohm Resistance. Can't recommend highly enough, really.

Sachi Kobayashi - Crack [Phantom Limb/Bandcamp]
The latest artist to feature in UK label Phantom Limb's Spirituals series is Japanese ambient musician Sachi Kobayashi, from this first single a perfect fit for the sub-label's mien of ambient-not-ambient. It's not that "Crack" is unsettling, exactly, but nor is it precisely peaceful - not surprisingly, perhaps, as Lamentations was "was born out of my sadness and grief towards the current wars" as Kobayashi says. More from this beautiful album soon.

Jeremy Gignoux - Meditempt (feat. Rebecca Bruton) [Jeremy Gignoux Bandcamp]
Canadian fiddle player, jazz violinist and composer Jeremy Gignoux suffered a nerve injury a few years ago that put him out of action for a few months. During that time he turned to new ways of making music, and conceived of the idea behind the collaborative album Odd Stillness. In the place of virtuosity, clever jazz progressions etc, here as he says, he "embraces stagnation". There were some rules - play only one note (in different registers), without rhythm, record multiple overdubs without listening to the other parts - but these were freely broken when it felt right. The result was seven tracks with various collaborators, themselves talented improvisors, with Keith Rodger's mournful harmonics and plucked anti-basslines on contrabass a particular highlight. But perhaps the strongest in a very strong collection of recordings comes from fellow composer & improviser Rebecca Bruton, whose voice is layered low and close-mic'd, high and fluttery, shouting nonsense syllables, or breathing white noise. It's something like Aphex Twin's SAW II performed for voice. Wonderful.

Listen again — ~209MB

Sunday, 5th of May, 2024

Playlist 05.05.24 (11:00 pm)

We've got weird vocal manipulations, splattercore beats, amazing electro-acoustic and purely acoustic conceptions.

LISTEN AGAIN via stream on demand on the FBi website, and learn how to mutate songs too. Or podcast here.

Jan Jelinek - Social Engineering 1 (The narrative of the heritage) [Faitiche/Bandcamp]
Jan Jelinek - Social Engineering 7 (A vague allegation & the concrete blackmail) [Faitiche/Bandcamp]
Everyone encounters phishing emails these days, whether the classic Nigerian prince scam, the fake blackmail or the fake notification. Jan Jelinek isn't the first to think of putting them to music - 11 years ago Brisbane-now-London musician Leah Kardos used spam emails as the basis for Machines, an album of electronic pop with a soprano. Jelinek, however, who's a master of electronic estrangement of source material, embeds these texts in a wholly digital environment. The voices are mostly synthetic, and are further processed in ways that may or may not comment on the texts themselves. The vocoded harmonies on the first track are quite gorgeous, but there's an underlying sinister quality to the electronics. Far more gripping than an album from these sources ought to be.

Derek Piotr - Perfect Matrimony feat. Reuben Walton, Fennesz [Derek Piotr Bandcamp]
Derek Piotr - Bell, Book, Candle [Derek Piotr Bandcamp]
The latest album from Derek Piotr indulges and benefits from his post-modernist deconstruction of disparate sources. In this case the sounds are very much beloved works of his, comfort music that he turned to during a very dark period. So we find interpolations of work by My Brightest Diamond and Dirty Projectors, and guest appearances from Olivier Alary of Ensemble and Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt. Piotr is a folklorist as well as composer and vocalist (he recently launched the online Fieldwork Archive), and folk blurs into classical and blurs also into glitch - the closest parallels to Piotr's work as Matmos' voraciously recontextualised sampling and The Books' de/re-constructed folk. Piotr is much more fond of discordance though, which can melt back into familiar structures for an emotional hit just when you're not expecting it. An unexpected guest on "Perfect Matrimony" is Derek Piotr's own 16-year-old self, whose recording (the first pop song he ever wrote) is chopped and edited into a new song featuring underground r'n'b singer Reuben Walton and the fuzzy guitars and keyboards of Fennesz. Meanwhile, "Bell, Book, Candle" is almost all Piotr, but to the bouncy IDM beats his friend Kyle Adamcik contributes strings, which are granularly filtered through the mix.

Driftmachine & Ammer - The Siren Is A Simple Device (feat. Ted Milton) [Umor Rex/Bandcamp]
There are a lot of connections flowing around the latest release from German post-kraut duo Driftmachine. Both Andreas Gerth and Florian Zimmer have been in the orbit of legendary Cologne indietronic group The Notwist for decades. For this new EP Sonic Behaviour, they are joined by Ammer, a writer & TV producer who is known for writing radio plays. But Ammer also has many many releases with Martin Gretschmann aka Console, another longtime Notwist member, and meanwhile Andreas Gerth's Loopspool alias released a spoken word + electronica album with Ted Milton in 2000 (it's great, the whole thing's on YouTube). Ted Milton? He's one of those characters who is simultaneously obscure and well-respected and influential. He formed the punk/free-jazz band Blurt in 1979, and continues now, at the age of 81, with squalling saxophone and acerbic vocals.
OK, but what does this sound like? Well, it's post-krautrock electronics - modular synths and pulsating rhythms - with postpunk and post-industrial undercurrents. And spoken word. A little sinister, very arty, very German. Really great.

HTRK - Dream Symbol (Loraine James Remix) [Ghostly International/Bandcamp]
Melbourne's iconoclastic HTRK, part of a proud tradition of underground bands finding substantial popularity, are turning 21 this year, which is ridiculous - except that Utility Fog and FBi are also 21 this year, so. Yeah. A series of remixes and covers is coming, and who better to reset Jonnine Standish's spectral voice and Nigel Yang's guitar (not a complete catalogue of instruments for either) than the ever-impeccable Loraine James? She's chosen "Dream Symbol" from their 2019 album Venus in Leo, adding jittery beats but definitely keeping the vibe. Nice.

Focal Point - Manufactured Superstition [The Collection Artaud]
I may have given Yu Miyashita's label The Collection Artaud a little rave a couple of weeks ago, when Miyashita released a 12" from fellow Berlin resident Laurén Maria. Here he's got 2 tracks from UK musician Mat Ranson, who as Focal Point releases halftime d'n'b/techno/bass music, but for TCA goes a little more glitchy and IDM. Quality as usual, mastered by Miyashita.

Comatone - One Mile North (Radio Edit) [Feral Media]
I mentioned also a couple of weeks ago that Blue Mountains-based Greg Seiler aka Comatone has reactivated in commemoration of (yes, again) 20 years of Comatone's bass/IDM music. Hopefully some new stuff coming, but meanwhile streaming platforms will get a series of EPs of unreleased tracks from through these 2 decades. "One Mile North" is a track I had a copy of in about 2007, an epic of dark electronics and glitch-beats, here cut down to a more consumable radio edit.

Lila Tirando a Violeta - 1 [Lila Tirando a Violeta Bandcamp]
Uruguayan producer Lila Tirando a Violeta knows her IDM well, along with Latin American styles and bass music in general. The excellent O.Ded on OD3 is possibly only up for a limited time, and features 5 tracks of crazy beats sent through her beloved Boss OD3 distortion pedal. A classic, not just for guitars! And the tracks are far from throwaway morsels, they're great and the bass and breaks benefit from the overdrive.

XENIA REAPER - Luvaphy [INDEX:Records]
Berlin's XENIA REAPER doesn't give much away about her/their identity, but has built up something of a name among discerning types, so debut album Luvaphy, released on Glasgow's INDEX:Records, comes with some anticipation - which it delivers on easily. There's bubbling ambient electronics for sure, but also scampering beats too individual to be quite d'n'b or anything else, but fitting well after the shuddering almost-d'n'b/almost-gabber of Lila Tirando a Violeta.

Godwin. - Massive Attack - Teardrop (Durag Bootleg) [Godwin. Bandcamp]
Irish producer Godwin. may mostly produce beats for r'n'b and hip-hop artists, but he's always loved the illicit remix/bootleg/edit too, and Bootleg Durags Pt. 2 (like its 2023 predecessor Durag Bootlegs) is a fine example, with junglist takes on a few recent and less-recent tracks. Massive Attack's "Teardrop" isn't one I would've chosen for the jungle treatment, but in Godwin.'s hands it retains its beauty while gaining from the breakdowns and drops.

FaltyDL - Minds Protection [Central Processing Unit]
I think of Sheffield's Central Processing Unit (generally CPU Records) as a label that deals mostly in electro, albeit always with an IDM bent. But the IDM basis does take them into other realms - breakbeat, even d'n'b and jungle. Similarly Brooklyn's Drew Lustman aka FaltyDL has dealt in rave-influenced IDM since the late '00s on labels like Planet µ and Ninja Tune, and for some reason his music doesn't always resonate for me. But I'm always interested in what he's up to, and the first single off his new album on CPU, In The Wake of Wolves, is very funky jungle type gear with warm melodic IDM synth lines. The previews on SoundCloud suggest this will be a lovely collection through & through.

Tim Reaper - Scorched Earth A1 [Future Retro London]
London's Ed Alloh aka Tim Reaper is one of modern jungle's finest exponents, and the collaborations and artist EPs he releases give prominence to many others in the scene. A Reaper-only 12" is always likely to be quality, and Scorched Earth sees him experimenting with the structure of his breaks in pretty amazing ways. The way the beats are chopped on this first track is pretty dazzling, while still keeping the feet moving on the dancefloor.

Ruby My Dear - Monksy [Analogical Force]
Another label that tends to take more of what I think of as an electro approach to IDM is Spain's Analogical Force - but again, they're gregarious in their tastes, as seen with the five-track EP Smooth Working from the one & only French breakcore legend Ruby My Dear, one of the most musical breakcore producers. Of course there's plenty of IDM in Ruby My Dear's lexicon, and there's even a slower track (downtempo?) on here, but also the splattercore breaks and melodies that are his bread & butter.

Klahrk - Z2 [All Centre/Bandcamp]
London's Ben Clark, going by Klahrk, literally only just put out a Blistering EP last month, but he's back now with his first outing on London's reliable bass/breaks/techno label All Centre. On Z2 Klahrk's obscuring the tempo in the extended intro until you pick up that this is slow-fast, de-centring lower-tempo grooves with high-speed glitch intrusions. Advanced beat science or plastic surgery disasters? Why not both?

Mick Harris - Full time grafter (Big Wiley Monster v) [Mick Harris Bandcamp]
There's nothing quite like a Mick Harris beat. Often touted as the originator of punk's d-beat, he left grindcore pioneers Napalm Death in the early years (as did Justin K Broadrick) and by the early to mid-'90s was producing bass-bin destroying industrial dub as Mick Harris (initially with another Napalm Death fugitive, Nicholas Bullen). It could also be argued that Scorn was dubstep a decade before the genre came to be, but Harris has also made various types of jungle & drum'n'bass as Quoit, ambient as Lull, techno as Fret... and more. Under his own name, in the mid-'00s he made a collection of "HedNod Sessions" that could be classed as "illbient", or dubby instrumental hip-hop. Those being the first four HedNod Sessions, in 2021 on his Bandcamp he dropped HedNod Five, and has continued these live studio jams up until this week's HedNod Twenty, which he reasonably enough feels is enough for now. Each one is filled with industrial-strength dubby swung-hip-hop grooves, usually with a few alt versions, absolutely head-nodding gear. Always a pleasure, thanks Mickey Mongoose!

Pugilist - Satisfy [Pugilist Bandcamp]
Naarm/Melbourne-based bass maestro Pugilist is comfortable anywhere between dubstep and jungle, and this year started putting out a series of Ruff Trax EPs, the sort of thing that would've been white labels back in the day. The first was jungle, the second 140bpm, and for Vol 3 we have a double EP's worth (eight tracks!) of dubstep... or so he says. The tempo's largely in the 140 range, but the beats vary from Burial-style uk garage to dubstep, with dub delays and ragga samples but also jazzy breaks. Essential whatever you call it.

Damos Room - Commencement [Nudibranch Records/Bandcamp]
London's Damos Room defy categorisation. Last year Matthew Herbert's Accidental sublabel Accidental Jnr released the EP Ein, a rather arch approach to a debut, in collaboration with UK rap experimentalist LYAM, which was recovered and reworked from a hard disk crash. Their new EP Commencement // Mineral Blend, released via Nudibranch Records, presents two tracks through which position the trio in Bristolian territory with two dub-soaked tunes, one a kind of ambient grime, one kind of dancehall. The ambient wash-out is notable with LA's Gonjasufi on the remix, while others shift into techno or experimental territory - but I particularly love Damos Room's own opening track, with its harmonised vocal chorus.

Slolek - Object Desire [Of Paradise/Bandcamp]
With only a couple of EPs to his name, UK artist Slolek has already perfected a post-genre mélange of dubstep, dub techno and jungle. The cavernous sounds on his Object Desire EP travel through all those styles with syncopated subs and slow/fast beats along with dubby ambient passages that wouldn't be out of place on a Future Sound of London record. The first two tracks on this EP - thumping minimal drum'n'bass and choral ambient dubstep - are pure gold.

Eamon Ivri - wud u [Spirituals/Phantom Limb/Bandcamp]
Irish artist Eamon Ivri is better known as Lighght, under which he's produced club-leaning works including co-productions with both Klahrk and Lila Tirando a Violeta - but he's also released psycho field recording noise song, clambering experimental electronic and who knows what else under various monikers. But Phantom Limb's Spirituals imprint is dedicated to ambient styles, and thus we have the debut(?) of Eamon Ivri under his own name: In The Red Eye Of Evening. This is ambient, but it's not easy listening. Obscured narratives, timestretched, pitch-shifted voices, mutated found-sounds and even gentle freak-out beats mix with plangent piano and ambient autotune r'n'b. Not quite like anything else out there.

Andreas Trobollowitsch feat. Alex Kranabetter and Martin Eberle - SEITENHIEB [Futura Resistenza/Bandcamp]
Sometimes the concept for a piece of art is so obvious yet ingenious that it's just obviously going to be good. Vienna-based Andreas Trobollowitsch is an electroacoustic composer and sound-artist, and a musician himself, but in this case once he'd come up with the concept and some of the music, the performance was handed over to two Austrian trumpeters, Alex Kranabetter and Martin Eberle. The concept? A turntable, but the musicians are on the spinning disc. In practice, the piece was more complex than this, with the musicians facing outwards and their sounds being amplified and acoustically mutated through a system of pipes around which the audience walked. For a spatialised work like this, a stereo recording can only capture part of it, but the rotating trumpets sound super cool, playing also with extended techniques to create an uncanny sound world.

Michelle Moeller - Sift [AKP Recordings/Bandcamp]
Michelle Moeller - Crimson [AKP Recordings/Bandcamp]
From LA-based AKP Recordings comes the debut album from composer/pianist Michelle Moeller, an extraordinary, distinctive take on ambient exotica. Piano does play a central role in much of this music, but Moeller has also spent many years learning and devising her own vernacular of electronically-produced music, using Max/MSP to remove the temptation to treat synths like a piano. Her unique approach does not sound like modular synth proponents such as Suzanne Ciani or Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, virtuosic though they are, and nor does it sound quite like ambient originators like Brian Eno or Harold Budd, much though it no doubt owes to all of them. The way her electronic sounds flit and tumble is weirdly lifelike, and the music is constantly surprising (and delightful) as synthetic sounds are juxtaposed with piano, percussion, or the flute of Mitch Stahlmann, as featured on "Sift". The album is mixed by Briana Marela, whose presence points to another strain of experimental sound-art, but also features avant-garde percussionist William Winant on one track, connecting the work to a long, venerable strain of jazz and improv. There's some aural alchemy going on here that can only come from hard work and great talent.

tilt - tilted [Dear Life Records/Bandcamp]
tilt - fall again [Dear Life Records/Bandcamp]
We heard Brooklyn musician Isabel Crespo Pardo only a few weeks ago with their trio sinonó, in which cello and double bass - both improvising musicians - accompany the lyrical poem-songs of Crespo. I recommend settling down to listen to la espalda y su punto radiante as soon as you've finished imbibing the gorgeous tones of tilt, another trio, again with two low-pitched instruments. Crespo's bandmates in tilt, double bassist Carmen Quill and trombonist Kalia Vandever, also sing, the first clue that this is quite a different beast from sinonó. Where the first trio play Crespo's poem-songs (with lyrics in Spanish), composed by Crespo but with substantial improvisation and a focus on the two instrumentalists' musicianship, the improvisation in tilt feels secondary to the composition, and the vocal harmonisations (so carefuly interspersed with the musicians' playing duties) are striking. Notably, in tilt all three members take on composing duties - indeed, unknowingly I chose one song by Vandever and one song by Quill tonight. The songs are also striking in their use of repetition and subtle change, as well as the way the phrasing underlines or undercuts the expressive but elusive words (here in English). What's unquestionable is that these two trios represent a new generation of artists for whom genre is irrelevant, comfortable making songs that blur the line between composition and improvisation. Alongside the works heard last week from Eugénie Jobin, solo as Ambroise and also with Isaiah Ceccarelli and their co-creators in House of Gold, there's something new & inspiring going on.

Listen again — ~209MB

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