Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Tokyo Flashback: P.S.F. Psychedelic Speed Freaks" & The Legacy of Hideo Ikeezumi | Keiji Haino's "Watashi Dake?" & Fushitsusha North American Tour: Jul 19 - 22


With the passing of Hideo Ikeezumi and the conclusion of his legendary P.S.F. label there have been many remembrances of "Psychedelic Speed Freak: The Blistering Experimentalism of Hideo Ikeezumi". In the wake of the loss of this notable cultural figure and his institution, a series of corresponding events have been seen around the globe. Most notably a memorial concert in Japan and the collaborative release between Disk Union and DIW "Tokyo Flashback: P.S.F. ~Psychedelic Speed Freaks~". Next month will also see an exceedingly rare North American tour from the stalwart and defining band of the label, Fushitsusha, with a limited set of dates in New York and Los Angeles. Before his death, Ikeezumi entrusted the legacy of P.S.F. to Peter Kolovos and Steve Lowenthal, who will be reissuing selections from the vast and influential catalog on their Los Angeles based, Black Editions label. The first of which will be Fushitsusha frontman and plumber of the depths of musical and aesthetic darkness, Keiji Haino's first solo recording, "Watashi Dake?". In a rare translated-to-english interview, the guitarist spoke this year with Takeshi Goda on his formative years and first forays with the band Lost Aaraaff into early psychedelia, “Like an Antithetical Keiji Haino: A Conversation with Haino on His Early Years and 'Watashi Dake?'". Essential reading can also be found in Alan Cummings piece for Forced Exposure on the origins of Haino, and his influential role in the deep Japanese underground of the 1970s, "Pitch-Black Convulsions: Watashi Dake? in the Context of Underground Japan".

Cummings details the context from which Keiji Haino's first band of note arose, a scene born of dissolution with the 1970's Jazz Kissa, central to which was a venue called Minor in the western Tokyo suburb of Kichijoji. The venue's owner Takafumi Sato slowly transformed the space from a conventional jazz coffeehouse of the time, to a stark, bare-walled live venue where anything went. Minor situated itself in the interzone between the late-hippy 70's underground rock scene populated by groups like Les Rallizes Denudes, Takehisa Kosugi's Taj Mahal Travellers, and Zuno Keisatsu, with the newly generated punk sound heard in the Tokyo prefectures of Shinjuku and Roppongi. A sound practiced by the fledgling body of bands that included Friction, Mirrors, and Lizard, in their numbers. It would be at Minor that Haino would hone his darker-than-dark style of guitar and vocal performances, often in extended late night sessions lasting until the AM hours. This venue, depicted as ground zero in Cummings' "The Origins of the Tokyo Underground Sound" for The Wire, would also be the cultural coalescing space from which Haino's best known and longest lasting group, Fushitsusha would first emerge. In a quickly modernizing and densely populated city like Tokyo, with few opportunities outside of the Jazz Kissa and coffeehouse scenes, rare venues of this kind provided a foothold for the deep rock underground and outsider creativity. Named after his heavy rock band at the time, "Gaseneta Wasteland" is Toshiharu Osato's memoir of Tokyo's late seventies rock underground. In which Osato describes the history of Minor as a "mad, destructive race to total ruin," a space inhabited by "troublesome howling boors... goblins, monsters and ghosts." It is no wonder then that the blackest, black-clad specter in all of modern of Japanese rock would find such a space his creative incubator.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Amazon Effect: How the Dot-Com Juggernaut Dominated Nearly Everything This Year


Essential reading for all consumers this past December in the pages of The New Republic to be found in Alex Shepard's "Amazon Dominated Nearly Everything This Year". Particularly notable when one considers the contributing effect this will have on the cultural characterretail landscape, competitive housing environment, and wealth stratification in their host cities, when Amazon chooses it's second corporate headquarters. Not to mention the conditions of the workplace environment and it's corporate ethos, as detailed in the New York Times extensive expose of last year, "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace". Further plans to expand into physical retail were also revealed in recent months, "Why Amazon Just Opened a Physical Bookstore", with upwards of 300 of their bookstores speculated to open nationwide. Or, as Gizmodo puts it, "Amazon Will Open Physical Bookstores Because Life is a Practical Joke Played on Us All". Of less levity, the documentation of the "Amazon Effect" continues on NPR this morning in their feature "Big Behemoth?: How Amazon Could Upend the U.S. Economy", with Stacy Mitchell co-director of the Institute for Self-Reliance, and author of "Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities". She is joined by James Marcus, editor at Harper's Magazine, and author of "Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot-Com Juggernaut". As they discuss the nature of the Amazon's grip on the economy, as well as the question whether with the company's latest series of acquisitions, it has opened itself up to the grounds of an extensive anti-trust suit.

Concurrently, a limited but informed subset of book consumers are beginning to question their default to Amazon as the go-to for all things print and beyond. This was brought on by 2015's flexing of power in the publishing and distribution world, when Amazon delayed deliveries and prevented pre-orders on titles in relation against the publishers Hatchette Book Group and Bonnier. This heightened awareness would only have caused minor ripples (at best) in consumer response and awareness, if it wasn't for Hachette having an ally in Stephen Colbert and his campaign, "I Didn't Buy It On Amazon". See his dialog on the subject with social activist and writer, Sherman Alexie, for reference. Rallying awareness and solidarity among book retailers, Colbert paired with one of the nation's largest independents, Portland's Powell's Books to drive pre-orders on many titles, as "Indie Booksellers Join Hachette's Battle with Amazon". A few higher profile news and entertainment vehicles have been getting in on the game, positing that in the midst of this all, we take advantage of the existing book retail options we have in our urban centers. Editorial pieces like Stephen Marche's "How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore (and Why You Damn Well Should)" giving renewed relevance to Steve Wasserman's essential reading in the pages of The Nation, "The Amazon Effect". Among other consequences of Amazon's dominance, Wasserman discusses what many unwitting consumers are relinquishing, and may not be able to replace, in making the shift to online buying from a single marketplace holding a dominating percentage of the field. All the while many of us live in cities where the (few remaining) independent retail choices still exist. These both read as excellent companion pieces to Tony Sanfilippo on the future of place and community-oriented books retail, "Book Places in the Digital Age".

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Typonexus presents Lubomyr Melnyk at Chapel Performance Space: Jul 1


Lubomyr Melnyk's appearance at the final Northwest edition of Substrata was a rapturous cascade of dynamic tonalities, timbres and performance physicality. Producing some of the most bewilderingly gorgeous emanations I've heard originate from an acoustic instrument, of any kind. His is a music similar to the long-form Indian Ragas of LaMonte Young or Terry Riley, while embracing the density of Charlemagne Palestine and wedded with a repetitive patterned dichotomy of minimalism vs maximalism heard in Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Through marathon performances bending those forms to the service of tonal, harmonious, beauty, the composer's perspective from the piano bench seen him, "Lightning-fast Pianist Lubomyr Melnyk: 'When I Play I Turn into an Eagle Flying'". Returning for his fourth occasion in Seattle, Typonexus Globalist Series presents two nights hosted at their Nuclear Recital series and Chapel Performance Space, featuring music from this "Enigmatic Ukrainian-born Pianist, Who Looks like Rasputin's Doppelgänger". Melnyk has recently come to find company with a set of contemporary, younger composers on the British Erased Tapes label. While the 70 year old Ukrainian pianist is an outlier demographically, his aggressively modern chamber music has found shared company with the neoclassical experimentation of his label mates, Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick, and Ólafur Arnalds. As presented live for the BBC, Melnyk's self-pioneered Continuous Music approach makes for a fascinating read and lends some insight into the performance and it's technique, first represented on his 1978 release "KMH: Piano Music in a Continuous Mode". From the Wayward Music Series: "Ukrainian composer and pianist Lubomyr Melnyk is the pioneer of Continuous Music - a piano technique he has developed since the 1970s that use extremely rapid notes to create a rich, pulsating tapestry of sound. The technique of mastering his complex patterns and speeds makes for the kinetic athleticism seen in Melnyk's unparalleled performances. Inspired by the minimal, phase and pattern musics of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley, yet frustrated by the ecstatic detachment from reality they can encourage, Melnyk created Continuous Music. A form based in the innovations of the minimalist composers but with its roots more deeply planted in harmony; overtones blend or clash according to the dominant harmonic directives."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Northwest Terror Fest at Neumos, Barboza & The Highline: Jun 15 - 17


Some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st Century have issued from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The sound's ongoing and burgeoning development encompassing melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, punctuated by blistering eruptions of heavy rock and industrial drumming, electronic atmospheres, distorted guitar and noise. What may be the epitome of this cross-genre hybridization can be heard in the dynamic solar magma of guitar riffs and rhythm-play of Deafheaven. With other compatriots in the sound to be found in Oathbreaker, as well as the turbulent rock of Nothing and their fusion of metal drumming and spacerock blur as heard on 2014's "Guilty of Everything". From the fringe of the genre, taking the sound down more melancholy paths, there's the crushing shoegaze blues of True Widow. Krallice, Agalloch, and Pallbearer represent the darker, heavier school of blackness pouring forth from the Profound Lore label. A branch of a sound and scene Brad Sanders detailed in his piece for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". The article acting as an excellent opening unto the dark passageways of this genre's multitude of representations, dominantly issued from Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore and Relapse. This particular low lit territory branching out from the landscape of black and doom metal has no small place in the lineup of this month's inaugural Northwest Terror Fest. A all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days and nights at Seattle's Neumos, Barboza and The Highline, have been assembled under the compelling opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers". Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival, detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True". His programming for the Northwest edition encompassing everything from the gloaming atmosphere and doom riffs of Wolves in the Throne Room, to Samothrace, Graves at Sea, Cephalic Carnage, Cult Leader, Yob, Heiress, and the dark neofolk of Marissa Nadler.