Sunday, August 21, 2016
Nearly 25 years into Sean Booth and Rob Brown's singular sonic quest to bridge the modernist traditions of Musique Concrete and pure computer music of INA-GRM and IRCAM, with the wave of music issuing from New York City and Detroit's urban beat explosion of the 1980s, Autechre arrive at a new plateau with "elseq 1-5". This hybridization detailed in the audio engineering and music production journal Sound on Sound in 2004, "In Producing their Complex, Abstract Electronic Music, Autechre have Taken the Idea of the Studio as an Instrument to New Extremes" following on the heels of their 21st Century mission statement, "Confield" and it's divisive mid-decade siblings, "Draft 7.0" and "Untilted". This era producing what appeared to be two schools of thought on their musical output. Drew Daniel of Matmos makes this schisming of the listenership the focus of his interview, as those converted on the first decade of output struggled to adapt to the new developments and abandonment of dance music signifiers within Autechre's work. For many, 2008's "Quaristice" and the companion album of "(Versions)" not only acted as Pitchfork suggests, a return to form, but a balancing of old and new. Along with this, there was a newfound abundance on offer as well; all told, "Quaristice", it's companion "(Versions)" album, and "Quaristice.Quadrange" produced a sonic corpus totaling in at over 5 hours. This move toward works that cycled between assimilation of past gestures and sounds, couched within explorative forays into new territory culminated in 2013's "Exai", which saw "Autechre Looking as Forward as They did Back". At over two hours, the album reinforced the abundant modus of the current phase, which would culminate in what FACT Mag called, "Autechre Bury the post-Club Poseurs in the Digital Dirt", with this year's release of the sprawling, "elseq 1-5".
The duo are to appear throughout Central Europe this fall, after touring the UK and North America extensively in 2015. The west coast leg of "Autechre's Maneuvers in the Dark" found Booth and Brown central to the final installment of Seattle's Decibel Festival. Their performance delivering a chimerical three-dimensional sound object suspended in a hyper-delineated stereo field. Less a performance of music broadcast to a receiving body, the listener was instead located within the framework of a exertive, dynamic, ever changing aural-kinetic sculpture. Their current process has abandoned a degree of the hardware-centric focus of the previous decade's modus operandi in favor of what Joe Mugg's extensive interview for Resident Advisor, "Autechre: elseq et al" reveals to be a complex programming of modules and patches generated within Cycling 74's MaxMSP. Booth and Brown's role is then one of actuating the engineering of the sounds to emerge from these processes into structures, as sculptors of the finely crafted, yet oblique architectural spaces that describe the music. Their longstanding use of fragmented language allows insight into the titling of "elseq", which clearly implies it's source as a methodical assembly of "edited-live-sequences". Acquiescing the inscrutable nature of this voluminous and titanic work, Derek Walmsley's review in the July issue of The Wire comes closer than any other in it's cartography of "elseq"'s Gordian terrain:
"As you move through "elseq", sonic parameters widen, structures become more open-ended, and the constraints imposed by the album format are left behind. The dimensions of an album can lend a sense of place, balance, narrative, even closure to music. What Autechre do however, rarely offers listeners this kind of shared experience with the artist. Their music is not expressive, representative or story-telling in any of those early 20th Century definitions of aesthetics. Instead, Autechre's music is more like a wide open field of possibilities. The ideas they deal with - process, textures rather than notes, mathematics rather than time signatures, control versus chance - are the big ideas of late 20th Century music, as well as the central ideas of club music from the 2000s onwards. So the beauty of "elseq" is that of Iannis Xenakis and Alvin Lucier; or for that matter, of Ricardo Villalobos and Errorsmith. If it doesn't seem beautiful, perhaps you are living in the past. Given the multidimensional rinse of their music, attempting to provide a single account of what an Autechre album is 'like' is a critic's folly. "elseq" is not the sound of Autechre in any kind of particular mood, mellow, brooding or otherwise; it has its moments that make the heart sing and other that crush the head like a vice, and both carry their own thrill. "elseq" can be as dense as 2013's "Exai", as gently reflective as 2010's "Oversteps", and as obsessively detailed as 2001's "Confield". "elseq" is as radical as Autechre have ever been, but this time it's their choice of format that is particularly bold. The extended duration opens up further horizons for new experiments, forms and structures, with dancefloor impact and innovative composition working hand in hand."
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Next month The Showbox will host SWANS on the final tour of their current iteration. How the timing of this development relates to the turmoil in band member's personal lives disclosed on social media is unknown. One thing is certain, having led the towering rock outfit through numerous manifestations over the decades since it's inception, including a brief phase as the orchestral folk ensemble Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. After the physical endurance-testing rock olympics of 2011 in which Michael Gira's SWANS reformed after a 15 year hiatus, we are blessed with a fourth and final album in this current half-decade of reinvention and metempsychosis. At the end of their previous incarnation with the grandiose heights scaled in "Soundtracks for the Blind" and "Swans are Dead", they took celestial bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic intensity. The post-reform "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the rapturous "To Be Kind" and this year's "The Glowing Man" scale similar heights of those of decades past. "Michael Gira on ‘Dangling Off the Edge of a Cliff’ for SWANS Epic Final Album" for The Observer maps the musical trajectory's Oroborous-like path back to itself, as SWANS of the 21st Century has birthed a supreme amalgam from it's own DNA. One that encapsulates the totality of their 35 year trajectory from brutalist No Wave minimalism to Musique Concrete and extended tonal and Drone compositions to electric Rock, Psychedelia, Folk and Americana.
The albums of this decade are the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recordings process, "A Little Drop of Blood: Michael Gira of SWANS Interviewed" for The Quietus describes the often arduous writing, rehearsal, touring and recording in a dynamic creative systole and diastole. The undertaking of then translating these recorded works to a marathon live experience documented in an interview with Pitchfork of 2014, "Michael Gira Talks about How Swans Returned without Losing Any Potency". Even more personal and confessional, The Quietus have produced a lengthy interview on the explicitly spiritual, transcendental nature of their live incarnation, "This is My Sermon: Michael Gira of Swans Speaks". From which Gira is quoted; "I hope there's a spiritual quality, but it's not a denominational kind of thing, it's an aspiration towards some kind of realization, or breathing the air that the spirits breathe, or going somewhere that is bigger than myself when I conceive these songs. It's a great feeling. I think The Stooges had a kind of abandon and release, if you listen to Fun House. But electric guitar music has the ability to do that to people, and it's also like the Master Musicians Of Jajouka, where they just keep going and you lose your mind but find it simultaneously. That's sort of the idea. My personal spiritual beliefs are irrelevant. Music is the practice." And like the albums of their previous iterations in the 1980's and 90s, the live realization of this practice has far exceeded their corresponding recorded works. Gira and company's live performances this decade have watched as almost a ritual of invocation, bringing with it the crushing, visceral and transcendental effect of mind-frying, body-numbing volumes to elevate all.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Throughout July and August, Japanese heavy rockers, Boris make their semi-annual return to the west with a string of Us tour dates. Seattle's night in the tour with Earth, though likely to not compare with 2013's performance wherein they played the totality of their magisterial opus "Flood", alongside a second night of "All-Time Classics" will still promise an evening of the from the-heart-of-the-sun intensity Boris are known to deliver live. The past decade of semiannual tours have seen them manifest their ever mutating mix of Doom Metal, Heavy Psych, warped J-Pop, willfully dysfunctional Indie Rock and more recently, their own thrilling take on Dream Pop and Shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series and more recently refined on the near-perfect "Attention Please" and the more guttural Psyche assault of "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with it's pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". This summer's tour is a return to the territory they carved out with 2005's "Pink" and the heights they were propelled to by the lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the new edition of "Pink" will feature a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March issue of The Wire recaps the trio's 25 year recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Japanese noise legend Masami Akita himself entering into a succession of recent collaborations, which The Quietus explore in their "Razor Blades in the Dark: An Interview with Merzbow".
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Center & "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat" at Pivot Art + Culture: Aug 4 - 7 | Out of Sight at King Street Station: Aug 4 - 28 | "Death and the Maiden 2" final group show at Roq La Rue: Aug 6 - 20
Proceeding the success of last year's inaugural Seattle Art Fair there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time the little the public had to go on included the fair's press release which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers and an emphasis on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The majority of the then dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair" and the New York Times, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and Art News "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the art fair as it relates to the moneyed local tech industry. All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's conception became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim.
Next week Seattle Art Fair returns for it's sophomore edition, this year with an expanded body of galleries, some 80 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events around the city, including the In Context: Satellite Exhibition. Notably, in the way of influential presenters, "Roberts & Tilton and Marlborough are Among New Galleries" yet New York preeminent arts entity, Gagosian will not be present next week when, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight make a Return". Organized by new Artistic Director Laura Fried, the fair's Projects present immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation, offering a platform for presentations beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city. This year's Talks program present a daily two-person dialogue by an array of artists and leaders in creative fields. Teaming musician and artist Kim Gordon, actor Carrie Brownstein, art historian Branden W. Joseph, architect Sharon Johnston, artist Rita McBride, curator Anne Ellegood, and actor Kyle MacLachlan, in discussions both in and outside their respective fields. Foremost among the Projects on offer this year, Paul Allen's Pivot Art + Culture space host the return of the KaiKai KiKi collective and it's cultural figurehead, Takashi Murakami, as "KaiKai KiKi & Juxtapoz Curate a Pop-Up Group Show in Seattle". In collaboration with Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, their group show "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat" follows in the footsteps of Murakami’s previous curatorial efforts which began with 2001's SuperFlat exhibit at MoCA Los Angeles. Together with Juxtapoz editor Evan Pricco, the two conceived the exhibition as a survey of emerging artists, originating from both east and west, who operate outside of the central hubs of the global art world. A continuity of vision can be seen in the decades-spanning work featured in 2005's "Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subculture” exhibit and and more recently the Brooklyn Art Museum's “©Murakami” retrospective. The latter's coverage in the New York Times "Watch Out, Warhol, Here’s Japanese Shock Pop", speaks to Murakami's role in bringing an awareness of Japan's Otaku-generation anime, design, sculpture, video and urban art scene to the larger art world. But it was the proceeding SuperFlat touring exhibit that introduced the west to the blissfully macabre transposition of dream and waking world seen in the vibrant surrealistic work of the loose collective of artists, and their reflexive dialog with Japanese popular culture.
Also in it's second installment, Out of Sight returns to the King Street Station exhibition space for its annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. With a new curatorial and production team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore of Lawrimore Project and current Director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery alongside the new curatorial team of Sierra Stinson, Greg Lundgren, Minh Nguyen, Beth Sellars, Julia Fryett and Molly Sides. Credited as "The Real Seattle Art Fair is Out of Sight" in local press, last year's exceptional program was a collaboration between Kirsten Anderson and Sharon Arnold of Roq La Rue and Bridge Productions along with Seattle artist Greg Lundgren and Sierra Stinson, founder of Vignettes for Vital 5 Productions. Offering a counterpoint to the global vision of the Seattle Art fair, this 22,000 square-foot survey of contemporary art read like a who's-who of the best work seen about the Pacific Northwest in the past decade. While no longer shepherding Out of Sight, Anderson's gallery space will be active this month with Roq La Rue's group exhibition, “Death and the Maiden 2", held concurrently with a Femke Hiemstra solo show in the loft gallery. This will be the final show at the long-running contemporary art space, its focus the pop surrealism of New Contemporary art scene, as detailed in their 2004 collection "Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art" edited by Anderson and Published by San Francisco's Last Gasp. In her interview form Hi-Fructose, "Gallery Spotlight: Exclusive Interview with Kirsten Anderson of Roq La Rue", Anderson maps the genesis of this new generation inspired as much by the urban and street art of the 1980s, as the kitschy, provocative work of Robert Williams, Anthony Ausgang, Isabelle Samaras, Lisa Petrucci and The Pizz. Particularly that these players in Southern California's Low Brow scene embodied a post-Punk ethos that made divestment in gallery culture and art academia central to their position.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Noir City Festival: Film Noir from A to B at SIFF Cinema: July 22 - 28 | UCLA Film Archive & Festival of Preservation: Jan 16 - Jul 19
Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation return to Seattle after a two year hiatus following their International Edition in 2014 with bold new 35mm prints courtesy of their collaborative efforts with The UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Preservation Society and it's annual touring festival, offering one of the country's most, "Fascinating Windows into Our Cinematic Past". The work of the restorationists at the archive feature prominently in the LA Weekly's discussion of the expansive shift to digital distribution and projection nationwide, "Movie Studios are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital are Vast, and Troubling". Their work will again be on display after the selections from the UCLA Festival of Preservation featured at Northwest Film Forum this past May. Next week's Noir City 2016: Film Noir from A to B screens exclusively on 35mm, comprising nine double bills that present a chronological excursion through the classic Noir era, with themed pairs of "A"-list and "B" titles playing together. Highlights from this year's program include a new restoration of Norman Foster's once thought lost, "Woman on the Run", a breakneck thriller about a search for a husband in hiding, set in mid-20th Century blue collar San Francisco. We also see the characteristic atmospheric nature of the genre highlighted in the haunting chiaroscuro of cinematographer Nick Musuraca. Accentuating another notable Val Lewton production for RKO, his camerawork highlights the Greenwich Village missing person (and secret society) mystery of Mark Robson's "The 7th Victim". Hitchcock protege, screenwriter and producer Joan Harrison's stamp is all over Robert Siodmak's tense thriller, "Phantom Lady". The film pivoting around Ella Raines' enchanting lead role as savvy urbanite and amateur investigator, as she gets in deep in an attempt to exonerate an innocent man of the murder of his wife.
In addition to Siodmak, other great German expat directors of the era also put in entries, like Fritz Lang in the classic Edward G. Robinson vehicle, "Scarlet Street" in which Robinson gets rolled by Joan Bennett's streetwise lady of the night. And Max Ophüls adaptation of Elizabeth Saxnay Holding’s novel "The Blank Wall" about the lengths one woman will go to protect her daughter from a scheming blackmailer. Star power also features with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in John Cromwell's post-War twisted tale of fake identities and murder set in Florida, "Dead Reckoning". And a second serving of Lizabeth Scott's smokey charm, staring again in Lewis Allen's Technicolor love triangle melodrama, "Desert Fury" set against lowlife gamblers, duplicitous deputies, and rebellious kin. The weeklong program also features Frank Tuttle's seminal revenge film, "This Gun for Hire" based on the Graham Greene novel of the same name, and Bruce Humberstone's unjustly overlooked harbinger of the film noir movement, "I Wake Up Screaming" starring a young Betty Grable in one of her first dramatic roles. Cornell Woolrich might be Noir's most prolific screenwriter, and when you can consistently deliver works like the unreliable narrator featured in John Reinhardt's "The Guilty" practically by rote, there's little wonder why. The festival also hosts rare pulp entries like Henry Levin's clandestine release of one of the most sexually suggestive and psychologically lurid B-movies of the 1940s onto the American screen with "Night Editor". Intended as the first in a trilogy of thrillers about about graveyard-shift police beat reporters, and the crimes in which they become entangled, the film stands as the single entry due to the Motion Picture Production Code crackdown of the Breen era.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
This month SIFF Cinema brings some of the finest in genre cinema to the big screen with restorations of legendary Chinese director King Hu's expressively mystical, atmospheric, physical martial arts masterpieces. More referenced and revered than seen, these seminal works have influence countless Wuxia films in the ensuing decades since their release, most notably Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers". In the west there are of course the works of Quentin Tarantino, who has copped from them (and Toshiya Fujita's "Lady Snowblood" also playing this month at Grand Illusion Cinema) generously, lifting sequences and setting wholesale. The arthouse isn't immune to his spell, with a new generation of filmmakers from Hong Kong and mainland China offering reflections on Hu's legacy, as literally seen in Taiwanese Second Wave director Tsai Ming-Liang's elegiac ode to moviegoing and the city of Taipei, "Goodbye, Dragon Inn". Befitting a body of work of this influence and stature, and in a rare move for genre works Senses of Cinema have dedicated a Great Directors feature on Hu's warping and reformatting of the three tenets of 20th Century Wuxia cinema: the political world of the Jianghu, bewildering martial arts action, and thirdly, and most artfully in Hu's case, abstraction in representing Buddhist concepts. Janus Films and Criterion have produced new 4k restorations in a domestic theatrical run that will be the first opportunity to see these films in the west for most filmgoers, particularly in the case of "A Touch of Zen". Celebrated upon it's release as the first non-mainland Chinese film to receive the Technical Grand Prize and nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Hu's epic emerged as an exemplary representation of the genre-form much in the same way that Sergio Leone’s stylized reimagining of pioneer America once brought critical attention to the Italian Western. While we can now see his work against a very necessary and relevant context, via the wider distribution and availability of mid-Century Wuxia film, there can be no denial of Hu’s preeminence as a "Martial-arts Pioneer Who Brought Dynamic Grace to the Genre", and "A Touch of Zen"'s broader achievement and status as a masterpiece of world cinema.
As well as containing references to the totality of Hu Jinquan's past and future films, Tony Williams details for Senses of Cinema, how it is that this work operates as a singular compilation of Eastern and Western stylistic features familiar to contemporary audiences. In Hu's more sparing use of the obligatory Shaw Brothers Studio gestures, reigning in choker close-ups and zoom lenses, he instead accentuated slow motion shots of nature and landscape. These were often set against tightly framed indoor scenes of persona drama, tension and comedy from Hu's own repertory company of familiar faces such as his onscreen avatar Shih Chun, the captivating Hsu Feng, Bai Ying, Han Hsieh, and Tsao Chien. The action playing out in whirlwind set pieces on isolated mountaintop roads and bamboo forest swordfights, delivered with visually beautiful compositions reminiscent of the director's passion for the theatre arts. The Beijing Opera-style musical introductions to Eastern Group representatives in "Dragon Inn" that punctuate each appearance of Bai Ying’s villainous albino eunuch are an obvious point of reference in this technical bridging of the stage and the screen. The more overtly poetic elements in Hu's films are glimpsed in the intermingling of slow-motion depiction of high-flying martial arts choreography, which cut to shots of nature; the movement of reeds, water and trees suggestive of the combat moving into the realm of the supernatural. These gestures would come to characterize the director's later work, becoming more and more explicit as Hu began to emerge as a "Martial-arts Filmmaking Master, Bending Light and Arrows to His Will". As is the case made in Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown column for Film Comment focusing on the late, lost film "The Battle of Ono", the shift to the supernatural plane is what most defines the closing passages of "A Touch of Zen's Masterful Concoction of Cinematic Flavors". In it's climax, where any fixed interpretation proves elusive, we see the mythic destination of the Buddhist monastery vanish, and it's luminescent, golden background remain. Hu seeming to suggest that in continuing one's quest to find refuge, whether from the intrigues and deceptions of the Ming Dynasty, or the turbulent political climate of the China of his time, one is on the path of a life-spanning journey, punctuated by fleeting glimpses of the distant horizons of transcendence.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Motor presents Ancient Methods & Diagonal Records Showcase with Russell Haswell, Powell and Not Waving at Kremwerk: Jul 14 & Aug 11
In lieu of the more expansive festival forums like those previously offered by Decibel and Substrata, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature and MOTOR, have produced a string of memorable one-off events over the course of the past year. Foremost among them, Elevator's expansion this past winter into exhibition curation with their first annual Corridor Festival. Hailed as a unmitigated success, it's day-long meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance may be the city's best new hope in filling the festival void. The apogee of the collective endeavors of these monthlies resulted in the anti-euclidean rhythmic exercises of PAN recording artist M.E.S.H., the dissonant drone and synth onslaught of Room40 label founder Lawrence English, and the elusive minimalist techno of Giegling who Resident Advisor rated label of the month in their detailing of the collective's slippery characteristics. We were also witness to the Spectrum Spools label showcase featuring Container and Sebastian Gainsborough under his Vessel moniker, representing for the Tri-Angle label. Their night at Kremwerk showcasing another of the label's roster of colliding melodicism, smeared noise and folded rhythm structures, a sound inspired as much by hip-hop as by the distorted abstractions of shoegaze. For Resident Advisor's Label of the Month feature on MOTOR, Samuel Melancon details the imprint's focus on hardware produced music that is as much "semi-danceable, while remaining deep-listening, with a focus on psychedelic tones and textures". Timm Mason who releases on the label under the Mood Organ moniker, could be considered the quintessential representative of this sound. His own volume for the label's Mix Series makes for an ideal primer to the MOTOR's aesthetic vein. In it minimalist techno rubs shoulders with vintage noise and industrial, and the progressive rock of Sand and Goblin shares company with the likes of Tod Dockstader's magnetic tape constructions and Pan Sonic's brutalist experiments in rhythm.
This same scope is representative of the programming offered by Decibel's Rachel Glasgow, Melancon and Debacle Records Nathaniel Young every month, as "MOTOR Invites Seattle into the Wormhole with an Ambitious Summer Series" hosted by the done-right underground venue that is Kremwerk. Both this season's July and August installments bring the global vanguard of experimental sound design and warped dancefloor exercises in broken techno. Arriving in the mid-2000s as the duo of Michael Wollenhaupt and Conrad Protzmann, out of the gate their "Method" trilogy resonated in a post-Chain Reaction dub-space of thunderous, yet subtly layered full-frontal electronic music. The dou's influences worn clearly on their sleeve for all to hear in their multiple installments for the MNML SSGS mix series. Now solo, Wollenhaupt's live PA hardware set for MOTOR will be one of only four Ancient Methods dates on his first ever US tour. Of a shared ethos with the bleeding edge in dancefloor experimentation heard in the recent forays by Pete Swanson, the unhinged mathematics of SND's Mark Fell, and Kouhei Matsunaga's fragmented techno exercises as NHK, over the course of some scant 25 releases, Diagonal Records' pedigree is incontestable. Their stated objective a repurposing of the most challenging voices in contemporary abstract electronic music to the codified gestures of dance music. One need only hear the buoyant sea of dissonant miasma obscuring the depths of disorienting rhythmic melee in Russell Haswell's "37 Minute Workout" and "As Sure As Night Follows Day", the new wave meets rueful machine abstractions of Not Waving's "Animals" and the warped "Club Music" of label founder Oscar Powell to judge Diagonal's success. What else would one anticipate from a label who christened their first release, "The Ongoing Significance of Steel & Flesh"? Photo credit: Scott Simpson
Sunday, July 3, 2016
The films of Paul Clipson with live score by Grouper's Liz Harris at Northwest Film Forum & Washington Hall: July 29 - 30
Later this month the Northwest Film Forum and Elevator host two nights, in different arrangements, of experimental filmwork by Paul Clipson with sonic accompaniment from Portland's Liz Harris. Her most recent sequence of albums spanning the last decade as Grouper embrace early folk traditions as much as contemporary electronic and sound sculpting sequences involving controlled feedback, reverb and delay. One can see a line of progression and intermingling of themes and process through, "The Man Who Died in His Boat" a mirroring companion album to 2008's "Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill" and 2015's more explicitly folkish "Ruins", the latter assembled over a more protracted span of time during a residency in Portugal. The album's extended recording process, an attempt to escape the hectic rush of contemporary life and enter a slower slipstream, was realized during a stay at Lisbon’s Galeria Zé dos Bois. Which Harris details for FACT Mag, “Liz Harris: I Felt Incapable of Finding Love”; "Starting to process a relationship that had ended a couple years prior. Being alone and near the water started drawing some of it out. Emotions built up over years emerged. I felt incapable of being in a relationship, of finding love. Bad at taking care of people, no one taking care of me. Governments not taking care of their own people, world economy taking a nose-dive cause of shortcuts and greed.” In a more personal look, The Quietus enlisted Harris as our guide through her musical life, "Listening & Playing Alone: The Strange World Of Grouper", from the (literal) ghosts of her early years, being a party vagrant in Los Angeles, to years of relative isolation in the rural coastal expanses of the Pacific Northwest, finding music via the echoing of former industrial spaces, to risk-taking and sleep deprivation.
Their "Through The Looking Glass: An Interview With Grouper" also explores the concurrent underground pop project, Helen released on Harris' longtime home, Kranky Records who themselves recently relocated to Portland in the year following their 20th Anniversary festival in Chicago. Redirecting the energy of garage rock's distorted vein, Helen's "The Original Faces" with percussionist Jed Bindeman and Scott Simmons on bass and guitar, channels a decidedly more upbeat groove reminiscent of the classic New Zealand weirdo pop sound from the late 1980's/90's centered around Flying Run Records and the early more raw, fuzz-infused emanations from the Creation label roster. For her evening at Northwest Film Forum, Harris will be supplying accompaniment to the Super 8 and 16mm projection assemblies of film-art, experimental filmmaker, Paul Clipson. Clipson's previous performance in Seattle as counterpoint to Dan Abrams enveloping synthesis was one of the highlights of Substrata Festival's final Northwest installment. Clipson's real-time improvisational dialog with Abram's sound saw densely layered, in-camera edited studies of figurative and abstract environments woven into a richly entrancing chiaroscuro of image, pattern, color and light. Not the first of Clipson and Harris' collaborative works, the two previously produced a "Mesmerizing feature-length Work Exploring Themes of the American Landscape", by the title of Hypnosis Display, which they discuss for NPR. Along with the music of Grouper, the evening's program also features prerecorded soundtracks by an extended global cavalcade of abstract electronic music and sonic experimentation from Gregg Kowalsky, Tarantel's Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Tashi Wada, Room40 label maven Lawrence English, and Kevin Martin's King Midas Sound collaboration with Christian Fennesz.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
In dedicating one of their Great Directors features to mainland China’s most prominent arthouse director, "A Guy From Fenyang" by the name of Jia Zhang-ke, Senses of Cinema predicated the recognition that would later come for the quietly controversial, deeply humanistic vision alive in his body of work. Zhang-ke's earliest acclaim originating from his string of first features, "The Pickpocket", "Platform" and "Unknown Pleasures" spanning the years 1998-2002. It was his examination of Globalization and China's absorption of western market and consumer values in 2004's "The World" that he gained attention outside the European cinema festivals. Becoming in a short succession of years a internationally recognized filmmaking voice that strode a very precarious balance with China's censorship and state-run cinema funding. So that much more startling then, that when his next film set within the otherworldly landscape of the Three Gorges Damn Project. A film of lives changed, homes lost and cultural legacy literally washed away, 2006's masterwork "Still Life" not only winning him top prize at the Berlin and Venice Film Festivals, but paradoxically earning praise from China's then vice-President, Xi Jinping. With Jia's own perspective on the current state of his country offered in the pages of The Guardian, "China Must End Silence on Injustice, Warns Film Director Jia Zhang-ke" on the growing wealth inequality, worker exploitation and eroding social cohesion. That year saw him blending of his usual documentary aptitude with a newfound flare for bloodletting. His "A Touch of Sin" can be seen as the director's response to the growing backlash of mass protest, worker suicides, public violence, labor riots, upheaval against for-profit land seizures and the growing extremity of corruption of state and local officials. Jia's depiction of the rising occurrence of mainland China's explosive public response to social injustice explored in Tony Rayns' "A Touch of Sin: New China’s Loss of Social Cohesion Leads to Violence" and the New York Times, "Filmmaker Giving Voice to Acts of Rage in Today’s China".