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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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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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