Thursday, January 4, 2018

:::: ALBUMS OF 2017 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2017 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
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V/A  "Lessons"  (Front & Follow)
Porter Ricks  "Anguilla Electrica"  (Tresor)
V/A  "Mono No Aware"  (PAN)
Bell Witch  "Mirror Reaper"  (Profound Lore)
Ryuichi Sakamoto  "async"  (Commmons)
Pye Corner Audio  "Stasis"  (Ghost Box)
Otto A. Totland  "The Lost"  (Sonic Pieces)
Pan Daijing  "Lack"  (PAN)
Coil  "Time Machines"  Reissue  (Dais)
Phurpa  "Rituals Of Bön I & II"  (Zoharum)
The Body & Full of Hell  "Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light"  (Thrill Jockey)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma  "On The Echoing Green"  (Mexican Summer)
Ben Frost  "The Centre Cannot Hold" & "Super Dark Times - Soundtrack"  (Mute/Orchard)
Angelo Badalamenti & Dean Hurley  "Twin Peaks: The Return" & "Anthology Resource Vol.1  (Rhino/Sacred Bones)
Brian Eno  "Warm Jets...", "Taking Tiger Mountain...", "Another Green World", "Before & After Science" LP Reissues  (EMI)
Mary Jane Leach & Jocy De Oliveira  "Pipe Dreams" & "Estorias for Voice and Electronic Instruments" Reissues  (Blume)
Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza  "Azioni / Reazioni "1967-1969"  (Die Schachtel)
Alice Coltrane  "The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda"  (Luaka Bop)
Jamie Branch & Irreversible Entanglements  "Fly or Die" & "S/T"  (International Anthem)
V/A  "Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984"  (Analog Africa)
Terry Riley  "Persian Surgery Dervishes" LP Reissue  (Aguirre)
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe  "Levitation Praxis Pt. 4"  (Distort Decay Sustain)
Yasuaki Shimizu  "Kakashi"  (Palto Flats)
Midori Takada  "Through the Looking Glass"  Reissue  (WRWTFWW)
Arne Nordheim  "Electric"  LP Reissue  (Rune Grammofon)
Bernard Parmegiani  "Rock"  (Transversales)

A year has now passes since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle motivated both liberal and conservative media to elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. All the while, the other aspect of the dominant two party system marginalized their more viable candidate. Consequently we find ourselves in in an environment in which high and low-level attacks have been leveled at the remaining journalistic press and even the First Amendment itself. These effects amplified by the net overabundance of the 21st Century, in which media sources are decentralized, but not necessarily diversified, presenting a new set of dangers to the less digitally savvy. Between the polarization of the commercial news sources, and self constructed corridors of social media posts by like-minded individuals, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we perceive different realities. Yet it remains, without true journalism, there can be no Democracy. All of this will no doubt be accelerated in the changed information environment, as the end of decades of hard-fought battles conclude with the repeal of Net Neutrality. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise and confusion spinning out from the fallout of the election cycle. In the midst of it all, it was a great relief to find memorable performances, festivals and exhibitions domestically. Gallery-going and the cinema played an even more prominent role, hitting near the mark of 300 films seen, it was another record setting year in catching films in the theater. A highlight in performance was the occasion of a rare Northwest visit from the world-class dancers of Company Wayne McGregor and their performance of A Winged Victory for the Sullen's "Atomos". The most notable arts event witnessed this year was the third-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair, initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another philanthropist vanity project have been dispelled. This year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, some 84 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The latter under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city. Taken with the concurrently running "Out of Sight" exhibition, returning for its third-annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest, the new curatorial team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore, produced a national caliber event.

Reflecting the further changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle two regional festivals which had previously brought an international scope to the city had closing and transitional years in 2015. That year saw the final installments of the region's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music. The final Northwest edition of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival came and went, and in an open letter Decibel Festival's 13th year closed with programming director Sean Horton's farewell to the city. Horton has since announced the revival of the Decibel in 2018 in a Los Angeles iteration, with proposed Seattle satellite mini-festival to follow. In the two years since the closing of these expansive international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have filled the void, produced a string of memorable one-off events. Elevator's maturation in 2016 into exhibition curation with the inauguration of Corridor Festival was hailed as a unmitigated success in local press. It's daylong meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance has evolved into the city's best new festival for cutting edge sounds. Certainly moreso than Paul Allen's less successful migration into music and media with the launch of Upstream. Though there were gems buried even here, with showcases curated by Kremwerk and False Prophet, offering up sets by Boy Harsher, Not Waving, Pye Corner Audio and JLIN. The end of the summer season saw the shuttering of the Elevator monthly, yet it's programmers will continue the festival into 2018, promising an equally forward thinking festival of light, sound, and movement from the media and performance underground this coming February.

In music it was another year of circuitous paths to the year's more memorable sounds. Streaming and digital distribution has certainly freed channels of access and stages of separation between producer and audience. It has also bbrought to the fore the issue of accepting poor royalties for the benefit of expansive exposure. In the midst of this age of over-abundance, there are whole forms and centuries of music that are not being served by the predominant streaming platforms. Much like the marginalization of global cinema on Netflix and Amazon, jazz and classical music are finding themselves particularly under-served on the platforms that define the digital market. For the those that rely on Apple Music and the iTunes player and library system, Robinson Meyer's "The Tragedy of iTunes and Classical Music", details the woes of the player and archiving particulars for the The Atlantic. With the architecture of streaming services like Pandora and Spotify even less attuned to the duration, composer and fidelity concerns that are significant for genres outside of pop music, jazz guitarist Mark Ribot writes, "If Streaming is the Future, You Can Kiss Jazz and Other Genres Goodbye". Like in the case of the 12 decades of cinema not being represented on the dominant commercial platforms, independent music has begun their own enterprises to better serve their own interests, "Independent Music Labels and Young Artists Offer Streaming, on Their Terms". But if this almost singular foray of independent labels and artists in the streaming environment is representative of the market, it reveals much in, "Drip.FM's Closing and The Challenging Future of Sustainable Creative Technologies".

Conversely streaming and direct digital distribution has also made what was in the past the locus of curatorial vision; the record label, less of a less singular go-to. No question, the well curated label is still the best bet at finding more of related sounds when you're attuned to their frequency. Self releasing platforms like the growing audience direct community of Bandcamp, have made the record label less central. Yet it remains the case that the record label can often be a superior path toward discovering new cultures and artists amid the over-abundance of the online world. In the way of cutting edge electronic and experimental sounds, Raster-Noton, Tri-Angle, Blackest Ever Black, PAN, Editions Mego, and Touch, have all delivered catalogs of quality, often groundbreaking work this year. Experimental, black and doom metal continued it's influential hybridization on labels like Southern Lord, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, and Relapse. Neoclassical and chamber music were served by labels like Erased Tapes, and Denovali, as well as centuries-spanning institutions like Deutsche Grammophon expanding into the territory of young contemporary composers like Max Richter, and Jóhann Jóhannsson. American indies like Sacred Bones and Temporary Residence continued to step up their game, with ever expanding diversification and discovery of new talent. In the world of modern jazz, Scandinavia continues to dominate the field of innovation, Johannes Rød's recent, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985" published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon traced independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels are covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, there are few better single introductions to this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and it's embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation and experimentation, can't be overstated. The year also saw existing and new American imprints releasing work pushing at the boundaries of the very definition of jazz, bold forays into form and style were heard on Eremite and Chicago's International Anthem

Reissue imprints expanded their catalogs with titles spanning decades of overlooked, rare and seminal work. RVNG continues to release lost wonders from the fringes of psychedelia and early electronic music, as well as adventurous contemporary work, with a willful obliviousness to genre. Black Editions have begun their massive undertaking of reissuing the back catalog of legendary Japanese label P.S.F. with the passing of the label's maven, Hideo Ikeezumi. As an introduction, you'd not go wrong in making your point of entry into this world Alan Cummings piece for Forced Exposure on the origins of Keiji Haino, and his influential role in the deep Japanese underground of the 1970s, "Pitch-Black Convulsions: Watashi Dake? in the Context of Underground Japan". The San Francisco Bay Area label, Superior Viaduct have continued their strong launch by reaching further into he discographies of post-punk, modern composition, out-rock and free jazz. And UK-based labels Soul Jazz and WRWTFWW have unearthed some rare and much sought-after gems this past year in the form of Yasuaki Shimizu's "Kakashi" and Midori Takada's "Through the Looking Glass" from her incomparable soundworld explored by The Guardian in their, "Ambient Pioneer Midori Takada: 'Everything on this Earth has a Sound'". Concurrently, on the other side of the planet American's own brief bloom of synth psychedelia, and Germany's Kosmische electronics were both documented on Soul Jazz' "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Music 1971-81" and "Space, Energy and Light: Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961 - 88". The year saw an endless stream of shock, horror and genre cinema soundtrack reissues . The landscape these bands and composers 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 soundtracks of the time.

In pursuit of related atmospheres of the corrupted, disused and abandoned landscapes, both real and imagined, the essential reading from Frieze, "Decline and Fall: Tracing the History of Ruins in Art, from 18th-Century Painting to 21st-century Film", maps an emergent art of ruins that can be found in the world of the Hauntological. The Wire offering the greatest tutorial of the musical branch with their "Revenant Forms: The Meaning Of Hauntology", describing the collective headspace of "Alternative Nostalgia" as coined by Phil Harrison in the pages of The Quietus. Pye Corner Audio are perhaps the most purist in their recreation and reclamation of our proto-electronic heritage. While their music fits in nicely with the techno-mystic cult built up by other early practitioners around the likes of J.G. Ballard, M.R. James, Nigel Kneale, and the a reverie for all things BBC Radiophonic Workshop, it's conceptually less abstruse and sonically more authentic. With the great majority of Pye Corner's output sounding like it could have been recorded pre-1984. What his work shares with Ballard, and some of his 1980s offspring like David Cronenberg and John Carpenter is the fascination for desolate spaces of leaded, weighty tension and a pre-computer era mix of future-fantasy and weary trepidation for our imminent 21st Century technoscape. The now-retro aspect of Dystopian Modernity that The Oxford Dictionary attributes to Ballard's work as being occupied with "eros, thanatos, mass media and emergent technologies", is more explicitly realized in the loose collective of artists around London's The Outer Church, Front & Follow, and the themes of Julian House's Ghost Box label. House himself being the preeminent Hauntological practitioner of "Magical Unrealism" in the world of graphic design and aesthetics. Work that should be considered alongside his compatriot, Richard Littler's Scarfolk Council, in it's sculpting of their own "Alternative Nostalgia" as a darkly mystic parallel perception of the era. Littler's ongoing project stands as a fully realized plumbing of the paranoid, propagandistic, discomfiting spaces depicting, "Why the 1970s was the Most Terrifying Decade".

In live music this year offered up massive servings from the particular low lit territory branching out from the global offshoots of black and doom metal. No small percentage of the lineup of the inaugural Northwest Terror Fest comprised these explorers of the metal hinterlands. With a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days and nights at Seattle's Neumos, Barboza and The Highline, were 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 was 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, Bell Witch, and the dark neofolk of Marissa Nadler. The unexpected reforming of many of the most notable of the 1990s shoegaze and dreampop bands, some "25 Years After its Imperial Phase", has been surprising in its diversity and success. The most improbable return of them all came when it was announced that Slowdive would be performing a one-off at the Primavera Sound Festival in 2014. Following in the wake of the massively received event, the band recognizing the ongoing dedication of their fanbase in interview with The Quietus, "There Seems To Be A Lot Of Love Out There: A Slowdive Interview", suggesting the very real possibility of a reformation as the, "Slowdive Reunion Expands with More Shows, Possibility of New Music". This past summer they reassemble for the first new recordings in 22 years on the self titled "Slowdive" for Bloomington Indiana independent label, Dead Oceans. Home to Ryley Walker's folk-concrete tapestries and the the spectral vocal transmissions of Juliana Barwick. The label is a perfect framing for the album, which concurrently offers a poppier expansion of their sound while retaining all the abstract charm of their greatest work.

Modernism, experimentation and the avant-garde were served up by performances from the last living member of one the vanguard German synth outfits of the 1970s, and the Ukrainian progenitor of Continuous Music. Kosmische would very well not exist without the trio of explorers, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, and Conrad Schnitzler, and their ventures together as Cluster. The elder and final member of this defining outfit, Roedelius chronicled their genesis within the Krautrock and Kosmnische scenes for Perfect Sound Forever as an outcome of Schnitzler's love of Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement. On the night of his extended performance in Seattle one could hear the confluence of Elektronische and Krautrock, alongside the reciprocal inspiration the trio had on the then-developing solo career of Brian Eno. The legendary producer's now canonical "Music for Films" and first volume in the ambient series, "Music for Airports" followed directly on the heels of the collaborations spawned by this meeting of "Cluster & Eno", and their second album, "After the Heat". Cluster's legacy extending far beyond 1970s and early 80s European synthesizer music, their hand can be seen in "The Discreet Music of Brian Eno", and the very formation of modern ambient music. This year also saw the return of Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk after his appearance at the final Northwest edition of Substrata Festival. His self-coined Continuous Music bears some relation to the longform Indian Ragas of LaMonte Young or Terry Riley, while embracing the density of Charlemagne Palestine, wedded to the 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 sees 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 presented 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".

Contemporary electronics were seen and heard in two deeply explorative sets from The Head Technician himself, Martin Jenkins, and the return of Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker's refashioning of dance music into a cerebral body-impacting experience of noise and rhythm. Jenkins appearing in the unlikeliest of settings within Upstream Festival under his Pye Corner Audio moniker, working a set from his masterful "Stasis" album for Julian House's Ghost Box label. And on the following night, a enveloping evening of music from The House in the Woods, transported a private living room concert setting into a one-off extra-spacial dimension. Canty and Whittaker's work as Demdike Stare has expressed influences equally from mid-Century Modernism, concrete and late 1970s and 80s industrial, alongside two decades of British underground techno, bass and garage music. A sound The Quietus called, "An Unholy Matrimony: In Interview with Demdike Stare", probably best epitomized by their collected "Elemental" series of 2012. The Wire's cover feature on the duo dug deep into their circumnavigation of the pigeonholing that Canty and Whittaker began to find themselves in following the collection's release. The dance music signifiers more boldly displayed in the distended takes on UK bass music and jungle, as heard on the "Test Pressing" series successfully led to the recalibrating of their listenership for the next move in, "How Demdike Stare Traded Darkness for Dancefloor Naivety on Wonderland". Both the duo's night at Kremwerk this past summer, and "Wonderland" are of two minds; a frisson-charged electronic dance music album with peripheral vantages into an inner, brooding persona. The resulting hours of darkly propulsive, rhythmic dancefloor moves, listened as a precision-honed assembly of fractured and angular concrete sounds bent and refashioned to workmanlike utility.