Thursday, October 13, 2016
Krzysztof Kieslowski's restored "Dekalog" & Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 14 - 23
Coinciding with the Criterion Collection's release of Janus Films restored blu-ray box set of the apogee in all Krzysztof Kieslowski's filmography of lives lived, loss, love and time, "Dekalog" returns to cinemas for the first time in almost two decades. The balance tread in the complexity of ambiguous moral tales from his Three Colors Trilogy is simultaneously expanded in scope and refined in the finesse of it's emotional precision in this ten-part abstract meditation on the Ten Commandments. Revisiting the furry of critical reception to the restoration and rerelease of the Three Colors Trilogy on both Mubi's Notebook and expansive, even daunting, coverage from some years back in the pages of The Guardian, may be the optimal point of entry in reassessing Kieslwoski's contribution to 20th Century cinema. The "Dekalog" is defined by collaborative firsts that would come to be central to Kieslowski's filmography. The cinematography of Piotr Sobocinski, composer Zbigniew Preisner and screenwriting from Krzysztof Piesiewicz, the then legal advisor for the Solidarity Movement and assistant to the successful prosecution of the murderers of Jerzy Popiełuszko. Piesiewicz had approached the director on his planned documentary on political "show trials" in Poland under martial law. Due to difficulties in accurately representing the judicial process, the two conceived to explore the legal system's effects on the lives of the Polish citizenry instead through the vehicle of fiction as seen in their first collaboration, "No End". Some three years later, after having returned to his legal career, it was Piesiewicz who proposed the exploration of their mutual interest in moral and ethical dilemmas in contemporary social and political life through the vehicle of the Ten Commandments.
Centering on the residents of a housing complex in late-Communist Poland, the ten short films charted the moral and philosophical complexities of their intersecting lives and the effects of social, economic and political conditions of then modern-day Warsaw. The sequencing of the episodes did not necessarily correspond to the order of the commandments, nor the commandments' literal interpretations. Each episode watched as essentially self-contained, able to be viewed in any order. Still, the movies are entwined in other ways, often in interrelationship of theme or mood, and the protagonists of one episode are not excluded from turning up as a bystander or supporting character elsewhere. Two of which, episodes five and six, were later adapted to feature length theatrical films, finally giving life to the full body of writing produced by Piesiewicsz as realized in "A Short Film About Killing" and "A Short Film About Love". The former not only winning both the Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, but was influential in bolstering public consensus around the the abolition of the death penalty. The film most recently honored in 2014 by Martin Scorsese for its inclusion among 21 digitally restored classics in his touring exhibition of "Masterpieces of Polish Cinema".
Roger Ebert's extensive interviews with Kieslowski upon the series' North American Premier at the Toronto International Film Festival, "The Force of Chance: An Interview with Krzysztof Kieslowski", shows the director reflecting on the tense sociopolitical climate of late Communist era Poland. Kieslowski calling his homeland; “a country of suffering people whose lives are very difficult. That in turn is very inspiring. The extremity of our daily life makes everyone so incredibly nervous. We are aching so much, like a person who fell from a set of stairs and everything hurts him.” It is in such a socio-political climate that Kieslowski and Piesiewicz have constructed their ten part exploration of what the Village Voice's Bilge Ebiri calls the irreducible, unresolvable messiness of life, "Thou Shalt Behold Kieslowski’s 'Dekalog,' Returning with its Full Mystery and Power". In Stanley Kubrick's 1991 forward to Faber & Faber's "Dekalog: The Ten Commandments", the director asserts that; "By making their points through the dramatic action of the story [Kieslowski and Piesiewicz] gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what's really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart." These technical and thematic premise explored further in Paul Coates' "And So On: Kieslowski’s Dekalog and the Metaphysics of the Everyday" for Criterion and NPR's "The Dekalog: A Haunting, Ruminative 10-Film Tour through the Ten Commandments".
Concurrently, SIFF Cinema will again be hosting the annual Seattle Polish Film Festival, this year's programming coupe the exceedingly rare screening of "On the Silver Globe", a "Thwarted Sci-Fi Masterwork" by "Polish Cinema Rebel, Andrzej Zulawski Who Died this Year at Age 75". In addition, SPFF's program features not only the aforementioned, "A Short Film About Killing", but another piece from Kieslowski's later filmography and first film outside of Poland, "The Double Life of Veronique". Marking the beginning of his series of explorations of identity, love, social conscience and intuition set in mainland Europe, the film continues the director's work with cinematographer Sławomir Idziak. A collaboration begun on "A Short Film About Killing", their fruitful meeting would continue through Kieslowski's final Three Colors Trilogy. Idziak's luminous camerawork heightening the director's dialogue with metaphysics and science, with free will and fate, with the many ways in which indifference or cruelty rub up against empathy and compassion. Idziak will be present to host a Cinematographer's Workshop and offer perspective on his year's working with the director in SPFF's Discussion on Kieslowski. The musical scores are the second element comprising the dramatic axis of Kieslowski's later work. Recently in the pages of the Village Voice the composer, "Zbigniew Preisner Discusses His Longtime Collaboration with Krzysztof Kieslowski", and the music's role being central to expressing both reverie and conflict found in inexplicable life events and circumstance that define, "The Sonic World of Zbigniew Preisner and Krzysztof Kieslowski".
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Fabio Frizzi "Frizzi 2 Fulci" West Coast Tour: Sept 27 - Oct 6 | Beyond Fest at Egyptian Theatre Los Angeles: Sept 30 - Oct 11 | MondoCon at AFS Cinema Austin: Oct 22 - 23
Much in the way of Alan Howarth performing a selection of his film works backed by the Emeralds as audio-visual exhibit of a "Sound Mind and Body" during Unsound New York, there was also John Carpenter's own recent re-ascent into the spotlight with his "Lost Themes" for Sacred Bones and tour of this past year. Wherein Carpenter applied his signature synth and electric orchestrations to imagined films and lost concepts never realized for the big screen which was discussed in The Wire's Invisible Jukebox with the composer in last year's February issue. On the subject of his unexpected higher profile in the music world, and continued following in horror and cult cinema a cultures, Carpenter spoke with The Quietus, on how "The Horror In Music Comes From The Silence" and again in advance of the recent string of performances, "No Longer Lost: John Carpenter on Playing Live". What could be seen as Italian cinema's (albeit lower budget and correspondingly spaldash) analog to Carpenter, Lucio Fulci particularly when considered in the setting of the frequent collaborations with Fabio Frizzi on many of Fulci's central films, from "Manhattan Baby" to "Zombi 2", "The Beyond" and "City of the Living Dead" together the director/composer team produced an abundance of core Giallo spanning the 1970s and 1980s of varying genres from supernatural sci-fi to undead horror. With recent pieces in Dangerous Minds, "Nightmare Concert: An Interview with Horror Soundtrack Maestro Fabio Frizzi" and Vice "Bloody, Disgusting, and Just Perfect: An Interview with Italian Horror Composer Fabio Frizzi" and Fangoria Magazine as well as FACT Mag's "A Beginner’s Guide to Horror Soundtrack Legend Fabio Frizzi"introducing a whole new audience to the audio-visual eccentricities, absurdities, gore and shock of the duo's decades-spanning shared filmography.
The Frizzi 2 Fulci tour was initiated last year with the second annual MondoCon in Austin Texas. The festival's success at "MondoCon Keeping the Fans Happy" involved among numerous screenings, film and soundtrack releases, exhibits of exclusive poster art and graphics, as well as a night of "Frizzi 2 Fulci Haunts Austin: Fabio Frizzi on Melody and Mayhem with Lucio Fulci". With this year's event hosting a second Frizzi 2 Fulci night around the expanded and unreleased music for "The Beyond: Composer's Cut Live" and a following North American tour hitting select cities, including Beyond Fest in Los Angeles and Seattle's date at Neumos. The landscape these artists have re-emerged into has been unquestionably shaped by the burgeoning reissue revival mining decades of subterranean soundtracks, musique concrete, neofolk, jazz and experimental work that have adorned much of the 20th Century's cult cinema. These rich veins continue to be mined by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo and WaxWork in new editions often corresponding with restorations and re-release of quality archival imprints for genre film like Arrow Films and Scream Factory. There are seeming whole new genres being born of the thematic beds of atmosphere and constructed worlds of Italian Giallo, French Fantastique and British Psychedelic, Pagan and Folk Horror of the late 1960s and 70s. As well as the following American horror explosion of the late 1970s and 80s and the lines of kinship shared with the composers of early electronic music and concrete psychedelia who produced many of the soundtracks of the time. No better resource covers the source material that inspired this strange little burgeoning corner of the music world than the veritable home of horror studies, The Miskatonic Institute. In last year's interview with The Quietus founding member Virginie Sélavy with Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press and Coil's Stephen Thrower author of "Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents" and the recent plumbing of the depths of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" spoke on the cross pollination of the postmodern situation. Where the genre definitions break down, and in their fertile collision producing contemporary works inspired by, and expounding upon the fringe cult film and music of decades past.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
All Monsters Attack at Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 7 - Oct 31 | Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi's "Shin Godzilla" at Landmark Guild 45th & Regal Meridian 16: Oct 11 - 18
There isn't enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme and/or revival series in the local cinema, which is a shame as this is truly the season for genre film and it's frights, disconcerting surrealism and crepuscular atmospheres. Yet last year's cinematic offering featured a small abundance on the theme of the Haunted House, and 2013 saw no small number of Invaders From Beyond. One of the longest running of the local series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's annual monthlong All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, thrillers sci-fi and fantasy. This year's installment features a set of the core shock, horror, sci-fi and cult genre gems that audiences have come to expect and a equal offering of foreign and arthouse works from the fringe. Representative of 1980s horror, Don Coscarelli's quintessential "Phantasm" series began with the 1979 titular installment centered around the prototypical group of small town friends who become ensnared in the inter-dimensional schemes (and Sentinel Spheres) of it's cosmic undertaker, The Tall Man. Thirty-seven years later, the film has been restored by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot productions in a new 4K restoration supervised by the director. The Grand Illusion has paired the rerelease of the first of the franchise with David Hartman's "Phantasm: Ravager"bas the last chapter in the dimension-hopping machinations of The TallbMan (featuring Angus Scrimm in his final performance). The week beforebthere will be the rare opportunity to witness the poetic desolation andbchanged planetary identity of Geoff Murphy's 1985 New Zealand cautionary ecological sc-fi oddity, "The Quiet Earth". The film's minimalist setting based on the contemporary Craig Harrison novel of the same name, as much as the landscapes of Richard Matheson's 1954, "I Am Legend" and the psychological terrain of Ranald MacDougall's 1959, "The World, the Flesh and the Devil".
Equally uncommon, The Grand Illusion will be presenting a double bill of Japanese supernatural classics on 35mm, with screenings of Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" and Kaneto Shindo's "Kuroneko". The former much like the traditional European tales of feline curse and retribution, such as those featured in the works of Edgar Allan Poe or later Giallo interpretations, have their own long line of Japanese equivocals. This one by the infinitely varied talent of Kaneto Shindo, as detailed in Maitland McDonagh's "Kuroneko: The Mark of the Cat" for Criterion. An anthology of folklore depicting the travails of mortals becoming ensnared in supernatural realms or peril and consequence, Geoffrey O’Brien 's "Kwaidan: No Way Out" documents Kobayashi's interpretation of stories from international explorer, writer and cultural documentarist, Lafcadio Hearn. Namely his same-titled collection of Japanese folktales and accounts of the floating world, "Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things". As a late 19th Century cultural emissary, and professor at Tokyo Imperial University, his work chronicling folk traditions and tales throughout rural Japan, earned Lafcadio the rare honorary Japanese name of Koizumi Yakumo. On the 110th anniversary of the writer's death, The Japan Times examined the legacy of a man widely admired as the true interpreter to the west of all things Nippon, "Lafcadio Hearn: Japanese Thru and Tru". John Carpenter's loosely interpreted premise' stemming from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" and "At the Mountains of Madness" woven into elements central to his Cthulhu Mythos, as well as Lovecraftian settings and details including the premise of a cursed text as reference to The Necronomicon. "In the Mouth of Madness" structurally resembles a few key works from Lovecraft by employing the device that the bulk of the narrative is recounted in flashback by it's protagonist, from the confines of an asylum for the mentally ill. While not one of Carpenter's greatest, it is nonetheless one of his stronger late-career offerings as explored in Birth Movies Death's Everybody’s Into Weirdness feature, framing some of the brilliant (though brief) set pieces and its overall success at assembling a contemporary pastiche of Lovecraft.
Where would a cinematic celebration of All Hallows Eve be without the Vampyric? All Monstes Attack offers a contemporary, urban and decidedly bohemian take on John William Polidori and Bram Stoker's favorite immortal entity, from both the 1980s and present. The first, Tony Scott's 1983 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber, starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon, "The Hunger" though poorly received at the time, garnered a cult following for it's conclusion of significant players within the nascent Goth and Glam rock cultures. Though dressed in similar cultural garb, Jim Jarmusch's offering in the genre is a beast of a very different nature, "Only Lovers Left Alive" watches instead as "A Tale of Passions Spanning the Centuries". The uninhabited buildings and empty lots of nocturnal Detroit and the music and light filled streets and alleyways of Tangier, places expressive of it's protagonist's Adam and Eve. Languid and sensual, there's definitely something to be said for Jarmusch's depiction of life as an eternal Vampire in which one has all that time to travel the globe, while reading every book ever written, listen to every great record ever made, see all the films we can never hope to squeeze into a human lifetime. His richest film since 1995's "Deadman", it stands as a love poem to the great visionaries, authors, artists, musicians, inventors, thinkers and tinkerers throughout history who have made the world greater by their defiance of the status-quo. Capping it all off, in collaboration with Scarecrow Video and their offering of obscure, unreleased, out-of-print, super-rarities in depths of their genre film archives, this year's multi-title feature centers around the confluence of Horror and that particular late 1970s and 1980s strain of heavy rock and hair, with the "Heavy Metal Horror 35mm Triple Feature Pizza Party"! While we're here, lets talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in this city and are a fan of cinema (regardless of genre, era or style) it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. With nearly 125,000 films in their catalog, many out of print, foreign releases or ultra-rare editions, there is no singular online resource that will ever compare.
After the passably successful, yet noncommittal nature of Gareth Edwards' entry in the franchise, Toho Studios announced that they would be reviving their own cinematic line of Gojira films helmed by the "Emotional Deconstructionist" behind the landmark anime series of the 1990's Neon Genesis Evangelion and its big-budget Theatrical Rebuild of the 2000's. In a protracted series of public deliberations, Hideaki Anno announced that while psychologically and creatively exhausted from the process of Evangelion's Rebuild, he felt it essential to make the most of the opportunity to offer a new perspective on Japan's greatest movie monster, with his co-director Shinji Higuchi establishing, "Japan's 'Godzilla' Director Wants to Surprise". Higuchi and Anno having previously collaborated on the 2013 retrospective "Tokusatsu: The Art of Making Monsters" with aid from Studio Ghibli and Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs for MoMA Tokyo. The exhibit, Tokusatsu: Special Effects Museum featuring among other things, decades of painstakingly elaborate sets, costumes, aircraft models, sci-fi devices and technology, designs, schematics, storyboards and monsters of course... no shortage of monsters. The stunningly executed trailer for the exhibit, a collaboration with the work of Shūsuke Kaneko drawns from Hayao Miyazaki's post-Ecological Collapse manga "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" and features a sequence of a "Giant God Warrior Appearing in Tokyo". As to be expected in the digital era, the art of this industry is shrinking, with few young directors coming in to advance it's arts, and only two major studios making regular Tokusatsu features, which is the focus of The New York Times' "Rubber-Suit Monsters Fade. Tiny Tokyos Relax". Seemingly there could be no more qualified directors to bring a 21st Century Japanese vision of "Shin Gojira" to the screen than the duo of Higuchi and Anno, and this past July "The Metaphorical Monster Returned" to great theatrical success as once again, "Our Favorite Monster Terrorizes Japan". Retitled "Shin Godzilla" for the western market, the film will have a brief monthlong theatrical distribution throughout major cities in the US starting in October, with Seattle's one week run at Regal's Meridian 16 and single screening at Landmark's Guild 45th.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
For most, Andy Stott established his audience outside rarefied deep techno listeners with the breakthrough "We Stay Together" of 2011 on the UK's Modern Love imprint. In rapid succession the following years saw appearances in Decibel Festival alongside label-mates Demdike Stare's own manifestation of all things Italian Giallo and French Fantastique for their live score to Jean Rollin's surrealist erotic-horror classic "La Vampire Neu". Returning again, some 16 months later in a second label showcase with the duo, this visit to North America showcasing Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker's brobdingnagian body of work, what The Quietus called "An Unholy Matrimony: In Interview with Demdike Stare", that comprised the collected "Elemental" series. On both occasions their collaborative performances delivering some of the most assured, abstract, darkly rich post-techno currently being made on the planet. Absorbing influences equally from mid-Century Modernism, Concrete and late 1970s and 80s Industrial, alongside two decades of British underground Techno, Bass and Garage music, the following "Test Pressing" 12" series showcased some of the densest subterranean atmospheres being generated in contemporary dance music. These contrasting poles are explored more explicitly, with their dance music signifiers more boldly displayed in their collaborative Millie & Andrea project via distended takes on UK Bass music and Jungle.
As a date in their current US tour this week's night at The Crocodile likely won't compare with such genre-bending collaborative showcases as those of years previous. Nonetheless, we can anticipate another dual-pronged warping of dance music into a corporeal/cerebral body-impacting experience of noise and rhythm unlike most anything else heard in the genre. A process Stott detailed at-length in his interviews for FACT Mag, "Tearing Up the Rulebook: Making Mistakes is the Most Exciting Thing You Can Do" and "Andy Stott: Lost and Found" for Resident Advisor. Stott's previous full length, "Luxury Problems" making The Wire's 2012 Rewind and the essential British magazine hosting a significant interview with him that same year. His newest, "Too Many Voices" continues the work heard first on 2014's "Faith in Strangers" in it's merging of dissonant and atonal slabs of sound jostling against fragmented song music and female voice, with nods equally to the ethereal female pop of early 4AD, as the austerity of German Kosmische and the characteristic negative space that defines much Detroit Techno of the 1980s. This set of albums making a marked stylistic turn for the producer, one that has been well received in the pages of, Boomkat, FACT Mag, The Quietus and Resident Advisor, all enthusiastic in their significant praise.
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, Blues, Folk and Americana.
The Guardian's John Doran postulates how its come to pass that SWANS have produce the best work of their career so far. Where so many other bands of a similar vintage have retread familiar ground, revisiting the formula of past successes, Gira and company chose to instead stake everything on a fresh roll of the dice. They took a genuine gamble on creating new art rather than trying to recapture past glories and in doing so, they have conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever". 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 them the 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.