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experimental electronica
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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, 26th of May, 2024

Playlist 26.05.24 (11:00 pm)

Everything from groundbreaking postrock to glitch-jazz, auto-techno to bass musics fast & slow - and more.

LISTEN AGAIN, you deserve it! Stream on demand from FBi, podcast here.

Gastr Del Sol - The Seasons Reverse (live) [Drag City/Bandcamp]
Gastr Del Sol - The Bells Of St. Mary's [Drag City/Bandcamp]
It's almost impossible/unnecessary to describe Gastr Del Sol here, but then I did write about Steve Albini a couple of weeks ago, so. They were the duo of Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs, both independently massive influences on experimental music, postrock, sound-art, improv, you name it. They were also key members of Chicago's music scene, from postpunk & hardcore through the defining period of postrock as Tortoise formed out of ensembles both had been involved with, while simultaneously O'Rourke was making freeform sound-art on tape and then computer. It's almost impossible to overstate the significance of their albums, especially (I'd suggest) their final album Camoufleur. Some 26 years after that album was released and they disbanded, we're treated to a double CD & triple LP collecting rarities and previously unreleased live tracks, and from the very start, Camoufleur's beloved opening track "The Seasons Reverse" appears in live form from a performance the year before the album was released, and sounding remarkably full given that the album was quite non-linearly constructed by O'Rourke out of recordings from both musicians apart and together. The song, and the music here in general, shows what classic songwriters both were, and also how willing they were to bury their gorgeous songs 10 minutes in to drones and abstract sound-art, or deconstruct those songs. "The Bells of St. Mary's" was recorded for a Japanese Christmas compilation, and as O'Rourke quite rightly detests Christmas music, it's a complete deconstruction of glitching electronic bell tones, minimalist piano and organ drones that kind of is Christmassy if you squint and look at it from the right angle. Lovely stuff, lucky us!

John Kameel Farah & Nick Fraser - Dirge [Nick Fraser Bandcamp]
John Kameel Farah & Nick Fraser - Waltz [Nick Fraser Bandcamp]
I discovered Toronto pianist, jazz composer, electronic musician John Kameel Farah way back in 2010, somehow via a breakcore/idm link I think - yes, the album Unfolding was released by the Canadian breakcore label Dross:tik. It's a mix of brilliant jazz piano, electronic processing and Squarepusher-style beats. It's been 15 years since that album came out, and here's Farah working with the Toronto drummer Nick Fraser, key player in the Toronto jazz/improv scene. Fraser reached out to Farah specifically for this project, which is rooted in improvisation. From an initial set of studio improvisations, Farah worked on the recordings - with Fraser's guidance - with all sorts of electronic interventions. The result is very different from that earlier Farah album, but carries the spirit of technically proficient jazz, with an emotive/emotional core, and advanced electronics/rhythms. You don't need to be a jazz head at all to enjoy this though! And this kind of interaction between improvisation and electronic post-production is central to this show's mission - especially when it's done as beautifully as it is here.

Frédéric D. Oberland, Grégory Dargent, Tony Elieh, Wassim Halal - Black Powder [Sub Rosa/Bandcamp]
Venerable Belgian experimental label Sub Rosa here releases a collaboration between four seasoned collaborators. Frédéric D. Oberland has appeared frequently on Sub Rosa as part of the great postrock/psych band Oiseaux-Tempête, who have themselves collaborated deeply with Middle Eastern & north African artists; French oud player Grégory Dargent works deeply with musicians from Lebanon, Algeria and further; Tony Elieh is a key member of Lebanon's music scene, from shoegaze to improv and noise; and darbuka player Wassim Halal has also worked with musicians from Lebanon and Turkey among others. Their music together includes all these instruments, electric guitars and bass, and many variegated electronics, and together they create their own new language. At times abrasive and atonal, at times weirdly melodic, and entirely unpredictable.

Nightports w/ Matthew Bourne - Traction [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
Nightports w/ Matthew Bourne - Plads [The Leaf Label/Bandcamp]
In 2018, UK electronic duo Nightports inaugurated their "Nightports w/" series with experimental/post-classical pianist Matthew Bourne, with an album that explored the expressive and physical nature of the piano. Bourne was an ideal collaborator, an exploratory musician himself, and after some excellent work with percussionist Betamax and double bassist Tom Herbert, as well as some processed field recordings, they're back again with Bourne but working with very different sounds. The dulcitone is a very rare gem of an instrument, mechanically a bit like a Fender Rhodes - an array of tuning forks hit by piano hammers - with a clear bell-like sound. The name "Dulcitone 1804" doesn't refer to when it was built (they're mid-to-late 19th century instruments) but rather the manufacturer's number for the instrument used. Already an unearthly-sounding instrument, the dulcitone is further manipulated both by Bourne in his performances and by Nightports' Adam Martin and Mark Slater on electronics, both live and in post-production.

Splashgirl & Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe - More Human [Hubro/Bandcamp]
Norwegian trio Splashgirl are a postrock band made of jazz musicians, or maybe a jazz trio leaning into postrock, or maybe I'm just getting bogged down in genres. The three musicians are adventurous in their own rights, and in particualr we've heard double bassist Jo Berger Myhre in various contexts on this show. Myhre and the two Andreases on piano & drums are joined here by another jazz-influenced experimenter, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, often known as Lichens, whose history takes in punk & metal, industrial and experimental rock, as well as ambient and drone. Their album together, More Human, addresses what humanity is in a world dominated by ersatz humanity in AI and automation, with lovely vocals from Lowe and even a Talk Talk cover of sorts. Released by the ever engaging Hubro label.

James Devane - Searching I [Umeboshi/Bandcamp]
James Devane - Kilter [Umeboshi/Bandcamp]
James Devane - Last Strut [Umeboshi/Bandcamp]
Bay area musician James Devane follows up his 2022 album Beauty Is Useless with Searching, again released on Swedish label Umeboshi. The former smeared sounds from the techno idiom into fuggy textures that sometimes highlighted beats, and sometimes buried them entirely. On Searching a different technique abstracts techno into lopsided patterns that point at dub or minimal techno without quite lining up. You'll hear bits of Laurel Halo, Flying Lotus, Actress, Wolfgang Voigt's Gas and Vladislav Delay, but none quite describe the artful disorientation here.

Bjarni Biering - I can let go (Jlin Rework) [Curious Music/Bandcamp]
Icelandic composer Bjarni Biering released his Andvaka Suite on US label Curious Music in 2021. Its classical/electronic evocations of stillness were transportive, and have now earned a release on vinyl, along with which a remix of "I can let go" has been commissioned from Jlin aka Jerrilynn Patton. Of course Patton, who has gained high respect from folks like Philip Glass and Michael Vincent Waller of late, does wonderful work here.

NikNak - You Were Supposed To Be Good (Feat. Grifton Forbes Amos & Cassie Kinoshi) [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
NikNak - Break My Bones [Accidental Records/Bandcamp]
The amazing Ireti is a masterful debut album from UK turntablist, producer, composer NikNak aka Nicole Raymond. Released by Matthew Herbert's Accidental Records, it paints its Afrofuturist, post-cyberpunk vision of dystopia with help from friends like trumpeter Grifton Forbes Amos and saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi (both prominent in the UK jazz scene, with NikNak performing on Kinoshi's recent album for International Anthem), singer & flautist Chisa Agor and singer Agaama. Still, most of the album is NikNak's production and vinyl manipulation, sumptuous arrangements, intricate beats and all. Each time I listen to this I'm sure it's one of the albums of the year, and the multiple listens are a pretty good sign of that too. Don't miss it!

Krampfhaft - Anticline [Maloca Records/Bandcamp]
HIIIT are a versatile ensemble, formerly known as Slagwerk Den Haag (I first heard them in Lunch Music, a brilliantly weird collaboration with Netherlands-based composer Yannis Kyriakides). Renaming themselves after many decades to indicate that they're no longer just a percussion ensemble, HIIIT have been producing a number of collaborations - you can see a bunch of YouTube videos of music made with Jlin. SIIIX is a project released by Brussels label Maloca, which is presented as a compilation - HIIIT are not actually credited unless you look at the description. Each artist, from drummers Valentina Magaletti & Julian Sartorius to producers such as upsammy and Azu Tiwaline, created sketches over which HIIIT improvised layers of sound which were then given back to the artists to create new pieces. I could happily have played any of the tracks, all of which creatively use percussion with electronics, but chose Utrecht (Netherlands) producer Joris Van Grunsven aka Krampfhaft, who created a patiently evolving piece of syncopated bass music. The compilation is highly recommended.

David August - Workout I [99CHANTS/Bandcamp]
Italian-German composer David August is the founder of 99CHANTS, with a small catalogue of great ambient & experimental music. For many years he was making house music, but founding 99CHANTS took him in more experimental directions, and last year's VĪS was a mystical mixture of ambient, post-classical, and deconstructed club music. For the WORKOUTS EP he's in rhythmic mode, with four pieces of tumbling, percussive bass techno. This first Workout is a good indicator of the goodness to come.

Kiwanoid - ក្ផានអវី [Mille Plateaux]
Dizzying glitch for Mille Plateaux here from the Estonian "multichannel meta-artist" Kiwanoid. Each track title is apparently the word "nothing" in various languages - although "Vanat​ü​hi", the album title, is "Old one" in Estonian (according Google translate anyway!) There are a lot of manipulated voice samples in here, along with not so much deconstructed club as demolished club. Fun though!

Mutant Joe - Malfeasance [99CTS RCRDS]
Meanjin/Brisbane's Mutant Joe (based, I think, in Berlin) is an expert at, well, mutant beats in various genres, and on this new EP for NYC/Paris label 99cts (it's meant to be 99 cents I think), there are four stomping hybrids of hip-hop, dubstep and other bass genres, with nods to jungle around the edges. Quality.

Ben Pest X Kursa - Totally Kippered [Love Love Records]
Mutant bass from two heavy operators from the UK, Ben Pest and Kursa. All the tracks here are somewhere around grime or dubstep, but inflected/infected with jungle/d'n'b, techno and electro. But the bass slams on all these dancefloor weapons.

The Lazy Jesus - Smok (Dengue Dengue Dengue remix) [Shouka/Bandcamp]
Ukrainian musician/DJ/producer Ehor Havrylenko aka The Lazy Jesus takes ancient music of Ukraine and brings it into the percussive world of contemporary techno and bass music. The UA Tribal Vol. 2 EP is out later this month via French-Tunisian label Shouka, along with two remixes. Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue up the percussive energy in their remix of "Smok".

Thief - Paramnesia [Prophecy Productions/Bandcamp]
Thief - Dulcinea [Prophecy Productions/Bandcamp]
Dylan Neal has been a member of cult black metal/dulcimer band Botanist, but his solo material as Thief is a very different affair (even though Botanist can sound more like folk-shoegaze or even trip-hop more than metal at times). With Thief, Neal makes industrial electronica with characteristic choral samples all through. The poppier ends of Nine Inch Nails are recalled and there's IDM-influenced beat programming. Bleed, Memory finds Neal dealing with his father's descent into dementia, and how that affected his memory and personality, as well as his perception of the world around him. Neal's granularly-manipulated choral samples give these songs an unearthly aura - the album is intentionally haunted, and it's touching listening.

Moin - Lapsed [Kuboraum Digital Sound Residency/Bandcamp]
Kuboraum are, as far as I can see, a Berlin-based designer of glasses frames ("masks") who also have various artistic ventures, one of which is the Kuboraum Digital Sound Residency, offering music downloads for those who sign up to their newsletter. The first 12 of these are now available on vinyl and also as downloads on Bandcamp, and it's a pretty impressive list, including exclusive music from Space Afrika, Emma DJ, MC Yallah & Dembaster, Ziúr, µ-Ziq, Lucy Railton and others. Moin's track matches what they've made in the last couple of years - angular postpunk riffage with decontextualised vocal samples. Excellent.

KRM & KMRU - Ark [Phantom Limb/Bandcamp]
Stunning, unexpected collab here in which Kenyan ambient sensation Joseph Kamaru aka KMRU teams up with Kevin Richard Martin, and not just because of the three letters. Under his full name, KRM has been making extremely washed-out uneasy ambient that still has a core of the heavyweight dub/dancehall/dubstep he makes as The Bug. Surprisingly, at Martin's request, the record features Kamaru's voice on some tracks, although "Ark" (one of two preview tracks available) is instrumental, with gaseous synths driven by a very Bug-like pulse.

Véronique Serret - Migrating Bird [Véronique Serret via Planet Company/MGM/Bandcamp]
Full disclosure: I've known Véronique Serret since we were school kids in youth orchestras. She's a brilliant violinist who has made a successful classical career - playing in the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as with Bangarra Dance and Sydney Dance Company, as well as being concertmaster of the Darwin Symphony. But she's also been involved with non-classical music for as long as I have (*ahem*), as a founding member of CODA with composer/violist Nick Wales, and later a member of improvising string quartet The Noise, as well as contributing or directing strings for many international & local musicians. Migrating Bird is her first solo album of music written by herself, and performed on six string violin along with her own voice. Kim Moyes of The Presets (also a classically trained muso from way back) provides electronic touches in the production, and Véronique has incorporated many field recordings Mt Cootha/Meanjin which accentuate the music's theme of the natural world. These songs evoke the landscape and fauna of the Australian continent and also of her homeland Mauritius. Great stuff.

Claire Cross - Theta [Art As Catharsis/Bandcamp]
Finishing with an accomplished jazz musician from Naarm/Melbourne (now Berlin-based), Claire Cross, taking her electric bass into ambient territory on an album that explores the Sleep Cycle. The ensemble here features drums, bass and voice, all used with copious effects, playing and improvising around compositions from Cross that draw from the frequency ranges detected in EEGs during the different phases of the sleep cycle. So let's float away with delay-ridden textures from all four musicians...

Listen again — ~204MB

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