Sunday, September 30, 2012

Graduating from the Invisible College: Dark Cabals, Metanarrative Subversion & The Clash of Polycultural Modernism with Imperial Legacy in Grant Morrison's The Invisibles

One of the many panels in this month's MorrisonCon celebrating all things Grant Morrison, "Revisiting The Invisibles & The End of the World as We Know It" coincides with Vertigo's publishing of an Omnibus edition of the opus of 1990's comics if ever there was one. The breadth of it's philosophical scope, the degree to which it was kinetically attuned to the zeitgeist, it's expansive metaphysical reach and it's ability to explore real-world concerns both as the literal and parable. A work in true synergy with it's times. While it's conspirational spin on late 20th Century reality imparts the book with more than a tinge of that decade's counter-cultural eccentricity, it's underlying concerns are more universal. Robert Anton Wilson, Philip K. Dick, post-Punk and Industrial Music, Dystopic Modernism, Cyberpunk, Pagan, Modern Primitive, late-Psychedelic Beat cultures, and a defiant opposition to the psychology, materialism, Imperial agendas, power dynamics and society sculpting engineered in the shadow of the Military Industrial Complex. It all came together in "The Invisibles" like nothing else in comics.

Link to Vertigo Comics: "The Invisibles" - Deluxe Edition Vol.1

Link to Vertigo Comics: "The Invisibles" - Deluxe Edition Vol.2

Link to Vertigo Comics: "The Invisibles" - Deluxe Edition Vol.3

Link to Vertigo Comics: "The Invisibles" - Deluxe Edition Vol.4

And let's not forget, for all the bloated expansion of the speculators market and wayward industry attempts to cater to it with crossover 'event' books, lenticular covers, etc, the adolescent growth spasms of comics culture during that time also produced great independent works. Alan Moore, Charles Burns, Warren Ellis, Dave McKean, Daniel Clowes, Neil Gaiman and Alejandro Jodorowsky all delivered what are regarded as some of their finest work to date over the course of the decade. In the midst of this era, the genesis of Morrison's opus was in no small part inspired by his immersing himself in world travel, mind-altering states and a international lifestyle bankrolled by the success of "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth". Good thing for us he chose to channel that into both inner and outer travels of self/world discovery in India, Nepal and Morocco. Discovery which he focused back into the conduit of his work and produced a book that many in the decades since have claimed a 'life changing' read. Myself, I was already living that life (in a humble sense) and "The Invisibles" was simply a chronicle of the world in which we lived (anyone who's read the book is laughing at this preposterous claim I'm sure). For those that haven't, a good place to begin is the Barbelith boards' extensive annotations, SequentialArt's publishing of Patrick Meaney's companion "Our Sentence is Up" and as an introduction to it's pleasures, peculiarities and perils, Timothy Callahan's "Drafted into the Invisible Army" for Comic Book Resources.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Decibel Festival of Electronic Music: Sept 26 - 30

The end of Summer rolls around again with what is the best lineup we've possibly seen to-date as Seattle plays host to the second-largest electronic music festival in the United States, the Decibel Festival of Electronic Music and Visual Media. Decibel's whole raison d'etre is about being the global showcase for all things electronic, in the most progressive, all-inclusive sense, regardless of genre or style, whether on the dance floor or in the seated auditorium. This year, not only bigger names, and larger venues hosting sold out dancefloor spectacles, but a return of the fringe, adventurous and unclassifiable in the form of five Optical Showcases featuring two DB Film showcases of live film & soundtrack screenings. WEDNESDAY Starting off with quite a bang this year's opening night immediately bringing the dense ambiance of Monolake's Robert Henke and the Echospace label's Brock Van Wey in the first Optical 1. Simultaneously Demdike Stare present their live soundtrack score to French post-New Wave genre filmmaker Jean Rollin's surrealist erotic-horror classic "La Vampire Neu" at Broadway Performance Hall. A second performance by Robert Henke follows in the Decibel in Dub showcase this time as the duo, Monolake along with Brock Van Wey turning in a second set of his own under the bvdub moniker. The founding stalwarts of the UK electronic music explosion of the 90's Warp Records represents with a collision of forms both dancefloor and experimental by Chris Clark and Jimmy Edgar. Closing out the night, Global Selektors showcases the angular rhythmic fusions of FaltyDL and the UK's Appleblim bringing his bass heavy hybrid of deep Techno and Dubstep.  

THURSDAY Decibel's second night opens with Optical 2 hosting the avant-pop collaborations of Julianna Barwick and Dead Texan's neo-classicist Christina Vantzou and the abstracted songwriting of Maria Minerva. The second DB Films presentation featuring the return engagement of Jon Wozencroft and Christian Fennesz' "Liquid Music" of cascading abstract guitar and sublime hydro-landscape photography by the Touch label founder. In what will likely be one of the festival's highlights, the UK's Modern Love showcase brings the night back to the dancefloor with the brutalist Techno diffusions of Andy Stott, the madness of William Bennett's (yes, Whitehouse's William Bennett) Cut Hands African rhythm inspired noise-fusion and Demdike Stare's own mutation of Early Electronic Music and contemporary rhythmic propulsion.  Closing out the evening, one of the defining innovators of 90's electronic sounds, Orbital, presents Halcyonic a night of motoric rhythms inspired by the Aoutobahn, Krautrock and the UK's own M25. FRIDAY The weekend begins with Jon Wozencroft's return, Optical 3 being a celebration of his UK label's three decades of avant-garde adventures in sound, photography and aesthetics, playing host to tonal heavyness in the form of Eleh, ambient electronic depths in Scandinavia's Biosphere and Seattle's own The Sight Below and visuals by Wovencroft and the Touch artists themselves. The Grandfather of Techno, Carl Craig returns to Decibel along with Octave One in the Motor City Masters. Another likely pinnacle of the festival, Germany's house of visionary aesthetics Raster-Noton make their Seattle return with sets of glorious audio-visual hypermodernism by founding member Byetone, Bristol's Emptyset and the analog meets digital interplay of Kangding Ray.  

SATURDAY The likely highlight of all the Optical showcases volume 4 features a wider genre diversity spanning of Classical, neo-Classical and Ambient Pop, if you've only got the finances /inclination to check out of of the five, this will likely be the wisest investment. Berlin pianist and producer Nils Frahm turned in a stunning solo piano performance in last year's Substrata festival, expect nothing less here. Playing alongside Belgian neoclassicist Sylvain Chauveau and ambient-pop wondergroup Orcas (a collaboration of Kranky's Benoît Pioulard and Miasmah artist Rafael Anton Irisarri) it's likely to ad up to more than the sum of it's parts. Ghostly International have continue their label evolution over the past decade with mutational advancements made by acts like HTRK and Justin Broadrick's Pale Sketcher. For their label showcase we get Matthew Dear's pop/techno swagger and a rare (these days) set of ultra-streamlined techno from Seattle's Lusine. Pioneers of Rhythm delivers some classic Ninja Tune beats in DJ sets from Shadow and Bonobo and closing the night Resident Advisor hosts a afterhours of propulsive Techno/Microhouse fusions by Bruno Pronsato. SUNDAY Closing day performances begin with Optical 5 focused on acoustic, electric and classical sounds by longtime Kranky label duo Windy & Carl, Christina Vantzou in a solo set of her own sublime compositions and Canada's Loscil returning after last month's Substrata for another evening of hushed electronics and piano. By this point, I'm sure myself and company will be needing a good lay-down in the park, getting some sun and enjoying a trek out around the city, having seen the inside of performance halls and nightclubs over the previous five glorious nights. Hopefully having found some surprises, shocks, jolts to the viscera and intellect along the way, Decibel will by then seem like a endless stream of cultural ideal, made real. And as with every year, I'm sure it will seem premature by the time it's conclusion comes. Ushering in the end of Summer here in the Northwest as it does every year since 2004.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "The Master" at Seattle Cinerama: Sept 21 - 27

Opens in 11 days at the Seattle Cinerama and showing in 70mm for that week alone! Anyone who knows me and cinema, knows I'm no real fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. Especially his critically lauded "There Will Be Blood" and the borderline work of stylistic plagiarism I found the film. Still though, all signs point to a perfect confluence of material, actors, subject, form and genre in his newest; the (possibly thinly?) veiled period-drama based on L. Ron Hubbard's founding of Scientology. "The Master". Obviously the theater is bringing it as a labor of love and/or fascination, making it one of the shorter runs they've ever had, but I'm grateful we're getting it in 70mm on that screen at all. Independent funding allowed the film to happen, due to those close to Hollywood making things difficult for Mr. Anderson: after it was curiously dropped by Universal, it was then backed by Annapurna Pictures founder Megan Ellison and distributed by the controversy loving Weinsteins. Circuitous path for sure, but maybe this is how you get art made about a very wealthy Cult with some of america's highest profile celebrities and Studio execs at it's core. I find myself unusually compelled by what I know about this one, and anticipating, hoping for, a about-turn in what I think of Anderson and his work. The trailers alone bode very, very well.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Otomo Yoshihide, Akio Suzuki & Gozo Yoshimasu 'Voices & Echoes'
tour and Issue Project Room series: Sept 16 - 28

It's been quite the year for Japanese sound artist, curator, historian and activist Otomo Yoshihide. He published "Chronicle Fukushima" a collection of lectures and first person accounts on the nuclear disaster, appeared in last year's documentary on the Tokyo Onkyo, or 'pure sound' scene "We Don't Care About Music Anyway" and completed a yearlong residency at Art Tower Mito amidst all the activity of touring and playing throughout Japan and New York. This month we find Otomo the closest he's been to Seattle in nearly a decade! We get two Northwest performances, in Vancouver as part of New Music (just a week after New Forms Festival) as well as the Time Based Art festival in Portland as extended tour branching off the Voices & Echoes series curated by field recording artist and improv-collagist Aki Onda during his residency at Issue Project Room, New York. Anyone who caught Otomo in either 2003's New Forms festival in Vancouver or the following week at Polestar Gallery as part of Earshot Jazz that year no doubt has lasting impressions of his physical, sonic, virtuosity. 'Voices & Echoes' brings together Yoshihide with Sound Art pioneer Akio Suzuki experimental poet/filmmaker Gozo Yoshimasu (which those lucky dogs in New York also get a retrospective of at Anthology Film Archives) along with contributions from from a spectrum of other artists including Fushitsusha's Tamio Shiraishi. From Issue Project Room: "Voices and Echoes brings together pioneering Japanese artists Akio Suzuki, Gozo Yoshimasu, and Otomo Yoshihide. Sound artist Akio Suzuki will perform on a range of unique instruments including an Iwabue, the ancient stone flute passed down through his family for many generations and the Analapos, an instrument he invented in the 1970s that creates echoes through the acoustic transmissions of a spiral cord stretched between two metal cylinders. Experimental poet Gozo Yoshimasu will perform works utilizing his unique vocalization style of recitation, which relies upon a highly rhythmic delivery and intense vocal modulations. Yoshimasu will perform in collaboration with Otomo Yoshihide, an experimental guitarist/turntablist and leading international figure in the fields of contemporary noise and improv."