Sunday, November 20, 2016

Denis Villeneuve's new film "Arrival" at SIFF Cinema: Nov 11 - Dec 15

Early reviews from the Venice Film Festival, Toronto, and a strong showing in this year's Telluride programming, covered by the New York Times' "Cinema is Dead? Telluride Says Not Yet", establish there's a lot more to Denis Villeneuve's tendency in his recent films to "Lean In to Strong Heroines". As is displayed in his adaptation of Nebula award winner, Ted Chaing's "Story of Your Life". The intergalactic sentiment of "Arrival" is somewhat akin to that of a more soundly constructed "Interstellar", populated by characters who's inner lives speak to the film's conceptual, philosophical core. Their shared endeavor set against a global backdrop of post-Cold War geopolitics and events not unlike those depicted in the now-classic, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Yet "Arrival" stands as more than derivation-done-well. Those films only acting as functional touch-points of reference to which Villeneuve, cinematographer Bradford Young, and screen adaptation by Eric Heisserer, have assembled their intricately woven, often remarkable science fiction thriller. Villeneuve clearly knows his genre film of decades past, accruing a weighty suspense, he takes his time before revealing his leviathan and the visitors who inhabit it's monolithic edifice. The unfolding of the narrative is stately and elegant, its pace, sober and deliberate. Even once established in one of the more credible "fist contact" sequences in recent cinema history, as events unspool, we can sense that like Adams' linguist protagonist, we do not entirely comprehend them, or the literally alien motivations that underpin the extraterrestrial visitation. As the film progresses, the anxiety over the visitor's intentions and the anticipation of the unknown are balanced more towards the first of the two impulses. On the surface, as The New York Times review suggests, "Aliens Drop Anchor in ‘Arrival,’ but What Are Their Intentions?", Villeneuve stages a dilemma where the desire for knowledge clashes with instincts of fear and hostility.

Incrementally the substructure of the exchange between worlds is revealed to be time and our linear experience of it. This premise, as explored in the film, is constructed around the Theory of Linguistic Relativity, referring to the hypothesis that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ cognition or worldview. Considered praise from Jonathan Romney in his Film of the Week review for Film Comment, concerning these questions of time, memory, and human choice, which are central not only to the film’s narrative but focus and give credibility to its moral architecture. This is precisely the kind of speculative fiction, as put forward in reviews like The Telegraph's "Dazzling Science-Fiction from Denis Villeneuve" and The Atlantic's "The Epic Intimacy of 'Arrival'", that successfully bridges the cosmic and personal, a conceptual expanse that Christopher Nolan's outer space epic largely failed to traverse. Special commendation in it's lending of sensory tangibility to the film's fantastical premise, and dynamic tension as it progresses from a pervasive state of the unknown, also needs to be given to the the elements of the soundtrack, audio design and score by neoclassical composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Collider's interview on the film and his forthcoming collaboration with the director while "Preparing to Score ‘Blade Runner 2049'" detail his work utilizing the exquisite intonations of Theater of Voices, conducted by Paul Hillier. Beyond the soundtrack, the commodious auditory environment of it's two hour duration also featuring excerpts from Max Richter's 2004 electro-acoustic album, "The Blue Notebooks", alongside the exceptional audio design work of film's sound department under Claude La Haye and Bernard Gariépy Strobl. The Quietus discusses "A Kind Of Visceral Quality: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Favourite Records", which like the score, epitomize a philosophy of minimal gestures with maximum impact, illustrated further in interview for FACT Mag's, "Jóhann Jóhannsson on 'Orphée' and His Biggest Challenge Yet".

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Musica Elettronica Viva with Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski and Richard Teitelbaum at Chapel Performance Space: Nov 5 & RedCat Theater Los Angeles: Nov 9

Legendary improvisation ensemble, Musica Elettronica Viva have contributed as much to the opening of form as the very lexicon of mid-20th Century free music. Few could call themselves contemporaries of this collective begun in Rome in the spring of 1966, among them London's Spontaneous Music Ensemble and fellow explorers of free music and the academic vanguard, AMM. In the 50 years since MEV initially confounded European audiences, inspired lengthy debate and discourse and pushed at the very threshold of the premise of music the group has gone through intermittent periods of activity and dormancy. All the while its three central members continued their provocative and engaged exploration of the furthest fringes of sound, improv and composition. Alvin Curran, mixing life, art and performance in a single ongoing venture, with an extensive body of recordings among his artistic documents. Frederic Rzewski piano virtuoso and composer of the 1977, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated!", written while Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liège, Belgium, then directed by Musique Concrete and electro-acoustic pioneer, Henri Pousseur. The three having met while Bard College professor, Richard Tietelbaum, was studying composition under the tutelage of avant-garde titan, Luigi Nono and Goffredo Petrassi in Italy. Focusing on politically engaged live events and improvisational happenings, professional studio recordings can be seen as anathema to their autochthonous explorations generated at the time. Instead the larger body of the releases on vanguard jazz and impov label's like BYG Actuel represent the young ensemble "Live in Roma", on expressive recordings like 1970's "Leave the City" and 1969's "The Sound Pool". With the larger body of their recorded explorations documented on small edition CDRs and limited press LPs. Yet Milan-based label Alga Marghen, specializing in experimental historical obscurities, outsider music, and 20th Century composition have included in their catalog handsome reissues of the central "Friday" and "Spacecraft / Unified Patchwork Theory".

Curran, Tietelbaum and Rzewski continue to perform live in rare settings like this month's night at RedCat contemporary arts center Los Angeles, and Chapel Performance Space, Seattle. As well as release  21st Century performances in dialog with contemporaries as heard on 2004's "Apogee" with AMM and unearth further archival works like that of the extraordinary, (long overdue) and near-comprehensive New World Records retrospective, "MEV 40". For which, Alvin Curran supplied the spirited introduction; "Musica Elettronica Viva was begun one evening in the spring of 1966 by Allan Bryant, Alvin Curran, Jon Phetteplace, Carol Plantamura, Frederic Rzweski, Richard Teitelbaum and Ivan Vandor in a room in Rome overlooking the Pantheon. MEV's music right from the start was also totally open, allowing all and everything to come in and seeking in every way to get out beyond the heartless conventions of contemporary music. Taking its cue from Tudor and Cage, MEV began sticking contact mics to anything that sounded and amplified their raw sounds: bed springs, sheets of glass, tin cans, rubber bands, toy pianos, sex vibrators, and assorted metal junk; a crushed old trumpet, cello and tenor sax kept us within musical credibility, while a home-made synthesizer of some 48 oscillators along with the first Moog synthesizer in Europe gave our otherwise neo-primitive sound an inimitable edge. In the name of the collectivity, the group abandoned both written scores and leadership and replaced them with improvisation and critical listening. Rehearsals and concerts were begun at the appropriate time by a kind of spontaneous combustion and continued until total exhaustion set in. It mattered little who played what when or how, but the fragile bond of human trust that linked us all in every moment remained unbroken. The music could go anywhere, gliding into self-regenerating unity or lurching into irrevocable chaos-both were valuable goals. In the general euphoria of the times, MEV thought it had re-invented music; in any case it had certainly rediscovered it."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Park Chan-Wook's new film "The Handmaiden" & Keiichi Hara's "Miss Hokusai" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 28 - Nov 10

The rather spare big screen offerings seen here in the Northwest in the last half-decade would lead one to suspect the abundance and diversity of the late 1990s and early 2000s Asian Cinema is a thing of the past. Particularly so, when the Seattle International Film Festival has programmed an increasingly atrophied body of films from Japan, mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea for as many years in succession as they have. Yet Asian cinema is alive and well elsewhere in the west, featuring in major showcases like those covered by the Village Voice in their, "Still Crazy at 15: NYAFF is Back to Blow Minds Again" on the lineup offered by this year's New York Asian Film Festival. The annual event was voted Best Film Festival by the Voice, with coverage in the New York Times framing, "New York Asian Film Festival is Having a Southeast Asian Moment" and the program looking further afield to genre cinema, embracing "A Bit of Japanese Horror". As further evidence of the diversity and body of cinema continuing to originate from the east, Japan Cuts hosted by the Japan Society offers an annual "Tragic, Thrilling Survey of New Films". For those looking for engagement beyond the status-quo, "The Challenging Pleasures of Japan Cuts Film Fest" can be found New York every summer as "Japan Cuts Programming Emphasizes the Eccentric". Online institutions like Mubi have aligned themselves with the festival to present selections from the lineup, this year's focus offering "Films by Sion Sono That Don’t Fit His Bad-Boy Label" as well as observations on the impact of the Tohoku Earthquake and it's ongoing fallout, as seen in "Life in the No Go Zone: Two Views of Husbandry and Decline at Japan Cuts".

Outside of their shared period setting, there are probably no more antithetical representations of the diversity on offer from current Asian cinema than Park Chan-Wook's "The Handmaiden" and Keiichi Hara's "Miss Hokusai", both opening this weekend at SIFF Cinema. Early reviews from this past summer's Cannes Film Festival like that of The Guardian's "Lurid Lesbian Potboiler Simmers", Village Voice's "From Cannes: Reasons to Rejoice" and Roger have spoken of the director's return to form in his resetting of "Fingersmith" by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. As to be expected, Park Chan-Wook makes the text of "The Handmaiden" his own through numerous perspectival shifts, abundant voyeurism, and academic eroticism. Often told in the form of theatrical readings of Shunga illustrated erotica, "Park Chan-wook Returns with an Erotic Romance, Con-artist Story and Period Piece". The film's further assimilation from the vocabulary of the thriller and it's suspense built from an atmosphere of rich and erotic textures, finds the director even more firmly in Hitchcock territory than usual, as discussed at length in interview with FilmStage, "Park Chan-wook Talks ‘The Handmaiden,’ Male Gaze and Queer Influence". Other than the period setting, and the significance in each of traditional Ukiyo-e art and Shunga, Keiichi Hara and Production I.G's adaptation of "Miss Hokusai" is a world apart from Park Chan-Wook's psychodrama set during Japan's Victorian-era colonial rule.

Based on the manga of the same name by Hinako Sugiura focusing on Ukiyo-e master Katsushika Hokusai’s daughter by his second wife, Oi Katsushika. A fellow painter about whom the abundant gaps in knowledge and recognition allow for fertile ground for Sugiura's historic fiction. Hokusai himself has no small abundance of art history, period literature, fiction and cinema dedicated to the life and times of the master printmaker and painter of the Edo Period. Conversely, both the work and life of his apprentice and fellow artist Oi, remains little documented both in fiction and otherwise. So it's not only unusual for it's period restrain and reduced reliance on the fantastical that Hara's adaptation delivers this "Impressive Anime Tribute to Ukiyo-e Artform in Early Japan". Much in the way of the Ukiyo-e's making then-popular entertainment of traditional forms, "'Miss Hokusai' is a Sumptuous, Sensuous Animated Work of Art" that transcends the often brash stylization of anime to tell a largely restrained period depiction of "The Daughter of a Master Artist Coming into Her Own". But the fantastical also features in the film as it ventures into the twilight realms of the imagination through a selection of Hokusai’s more unusual work as a touchstone. Which, as Keiichi Hara notes in interview with Japan Times, were not so imaginary to the people of the Edo era, as belief in the influence of uncanny and ghostly Yokai and nonhuman Kami, were part of the folkloric and everyday.

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

Andy Stott & Demdike Stare US Tour: Aug 27 - Sept 4

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

Autechre's new release "elseq 1-5" & Europe Tour: Oct 29 - Nov 26

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."