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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, 12th of May, 2024

Playlist 12.05.24 (11:00 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

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