Sunday, February 18, 2024

Chelsea Wolfe's "She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She" & North American Tour: Feb 27 - Mar 30


A true genre hybrid for the times, the music of Chelsea Wolfe has absorbed, distorted and recontextualized post-goth, electro-industrial, doom metal, modern neo-folk and indie singer songwriter forms into her own maximal sound. Her contemporaries more closely reside within the doom and hardcore scenes of the last two decades chronicled in The Quietus' Columnus Metalicus. This cultural association was further affirmed by contributions to her recent string of albums from members of the post-shoegaze outfit True Widow, labelmates Russian Circles, and the collaborative album,"Bloodmoon: I" with Converge. As The Guardian review suggests, "Converge & Chelsea Wolfe: An Explosive Combination", it is an album in which Converge's rampaging post-hardcore has been brought to a deadening crawl, sacrificing speed for a slower, more melodic, and often weightier battering of sound and song. It is in this dynamic between this lumbering crawl, and the brief blistering explosions of hardcore bombast that the album defines itself as something singular. As a foretaste of this album, her most recent quartet of releases run a gamut that suggests the hybrid of the sounds and genres touched upon throughout the releases that precede them. Beginning with the most coherent fusion of all of her previous work with the new addition of electro-industrial sounds heard on 2013's "Pain is Beauty", the string of following albums for the Sargent House label would disassemble this hybrid into their particular genre components. Beginning with 2015's "Abyss", which again focused on the electro-industrial, post-punk and gothic rock aesthetics, the following "Hiss Spun" shifted its weight toward a doom metal sound, enlisting members of Converge and the post-metal band Isis to lend additional weight. With 2019's "Birth of Violence", the sound had again found a new genre focus in neo-pagan and dark folk bands shared by the likes of Heilung, Lankum, and Wardruna. On the new label home of Loma Vista, this year's "She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She" again looks to reassemble all of the constituent genre forms into a cohesive whole. Where the last decade of releases for Sargent House stressed individual genres, shifting their focus from album to album. This new work, heard on tour this month with a date at Seattle's Neptune Theatre, aims to be an amalgamation of all of these forms into a singular style. It's also an album of exploring a familial heritage of touching on "different realms", as The New Yorker suggests in their "Chelsea Wolfe’s Eclectic Hauntings", through Wolfe's time spent with her elders, as a journey in which "Chelsea Wolfe Embraces Her Inner Wisdom". This lengthy peregrination has brought her to a point wherein, "Chelsea Wolfe says Witchcraft and Sobriety Informed Her Latest Album". With the fruitful harbor she has found in a new state of being populated by the subjects of her Favorite Sh*t, for Revolver, "On Archery, Oracle Cards, Cape Dresses and More".

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Kristin Michael Hayter's "SAVED!" & North American Tour: Jan 25 - Mar 2



Over the course of its five year span, power electronics composer, pianist, and classically trained singer Kristin Hayter's devotional music inspired Lingua Ignota remained an outlier within the post-black metal and industrial noise music cultures with which she shared much musical geography. In The Quietus' "Fire, Prayer & Curses: Lingua Ignota Interviewed", she plumbs its 12th Century sources of ecstatic inspiration where they meet in an urgent and ferocious record on the subject of the unsayable, the unspeakable, and the traumatic repression of abuse. Yet more than just a "Extreme Music Reckoning with Misogyny", on her third album "Caligula" for Profound Lore, Hayter adds that Lingua Ignota is not just about catharsis, but also transformation and retribution. Last year the transformative journey of Lingua Ignota's particular vein of cathartic ritual concluded, as Hayter announced that her "Lingua Ignota Project is Coming to an End". This was owing to the considerations the artist describes in her statement to Pitchfork; "I have been making a lot of changes in my life, and my music needs to change in tandem. I will be retiring all music I’ve made up till now after my upcoming tour and a few unannounced special performances in spring of 2023. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far and I look forward to what the future holds, I am in no way leaving music behind and will continue to build this world, but this world will look different." After a  span of personal and creative tumult, heightened by the complexities of the pandemic, Rolling Stone maps how, "Canceled Gigs, Postponed Surgery: How COVID-19 Upended Kristin Hayter's Year". Hayter’s final album as Lingua Ignota, "Sinner Get Ready" for the Sargent House label, featured Appalachian instruments and televangelist sermons, and a shift into more explicit tackling of religious fundamentalism and revelation. The following series of tours and distinct performances concluded in 2023, and coincided with the founding of the Perpetual Flame Ministries label, along with KW Campol of the band Vile Creature. Continuing along the spiritualist thematic trajectory of the final Lingua Ignota album, the label released "SAVED!" under Hayter’s own name. The review for The Quietus establishes that this is an album of death-like release and majestic rebirth, "Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter: Would You Be Free from the Burden of Sin?". Driven by a sense of leaving everything behind, "SAVED!" thematically burns the fuel of the grand secessionist spirit, aspiring towards a state of revelation, passing through death into a state of being refashioned and remade in grace. Through a mix of gospel standards and new original music, this month Hayter invites us to join in her baptism of purifying devastation, with a date at Seattle's The Neptune Theatre.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

André 3000, Carlos Niño and Nate Mercereau's "New Blue Sun" released Mar: 22 | Cord Jefferson's "American Fiction" at SIFF Cinema: Jan 4 - Feb 22


Approaching the subject of the new album by André 3000, Carlos Niño and Nate Mercereau, actor Jeffrey Wright spoke on the related themes explored in his and Cord Jefferson's film, "American Fiction", the adaptation of "Erasure" by Percival Everett currently playing at SIFF Cinema. Wright talks on the subject of audience expectation and suppositions about black artists in popular culture, particularly when working within genre and artistic subcultures, "Jeffrey Wright Speaks on Finally Being up for the Best Actor Oscar: ‘I was Frustrated, but I’m Not Frustrated Now’". Considering the example set with André 3000's "New Blue Sun", the collaborative album with Carlos Niño, Nate Mercereau, Surya Botofasina, and Matthewdavid, the album itself expressing a sense of being, "A Conversation Between Carlos Niño, André 3000, and Nate Mercereau". Wright highlights this work as a prime representation of the freedom of an artist to work outside of preconceived alignments with genre and form; “What I’m suggesting is there’s a level of toxicity that exists now that I don’t think existed then … just the nature of the tone: there’s violence, there’s misogyny, there’s self-orientation, there’s a materialism that is so intense now. Maybe that’s reflective of the times but there’s also an absence of originality. It seems so conformist to me. There was a lot of weird backlash when André 3000 put out that flute record. Weird commentary, like, ‘What is he doing?’ But God, you know, how beautiful for him. He got to play and put out what he felt within. That’s what it’s all about". In this bold turn down a new stylistic avenue, André 3000 adorned his exploration of a new music and instrument with his jazz contemporaries gathered from the 21st century body of musicians who are currently "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz". This specific set of contributors for "New Blue Sun" were sourced largely from the International Anthem label, and the sound heard on a series of collaborations by Carlos Niño & Friends. Most recently represented by his albums "More Energy Fields, Current", and last year's "(I’m Just) Chillin’, On Fire" to which The Guardian responded, "What is this? A full orchestra? A small string ensemble? An Indo-jazz fusion band?". Expressed on a variety of drums and cymbals, triggering real-time effects and electronic tones and textures, Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist and producer Carlos Niño has created a chameleonic electro-fusion voyage with jazz rigor. On the eve of their current US tour, "André 3000 Brings His Solo Album 'New Blue Sun' to the Stage, and There Are No Words", the artist speaks with NPR on the liberating effect of the music and the sources of its inspiration, "André 3000 Opens Up About 'New Blue Sun,' his Daring New Solo Album". The trajectory to this destination further mapped in conversation with The Guardian, "André 3000 on His Surprise Flute Album: ‘It’s Pure Excitement’".

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Noir City Festival: Darkness Has No Borders at SIFF Cinema: Feb 16 - 22


This year's edition of the annual festival titled, Noir City: Darkness Has No Borders, finds Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation returning once again to Seattle's historic Egyptian Theatre. This marks the third installment since returning from a pandemic hiatus with the Noir City: 15th Anniversary Edition, and Noir City: Dark City in 2022, the latter inspired by Muller's bestselling book "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir". At the time of the newly expanded publishing of the book, Muller spoke with NPR's Terry Gross, plumbing the genre's "Celebration of Cinema's Double Crosses and Doomed Characters" that populate "The Lost World of Film Noir". Previous to the hiatus, the festival presented Noir City: International Edition II, which continued the programming last seen in the first of the Noir City: International Editions, with geographically framed sets and quartets of films originating from far flung corners of the world. Earlier editions such as the Noir City: Film Noir in The 1950s program which tracked the beginning of the decline of the American studio system, and into a fresh cinematic landscape where the genre was to be refashioned, both subtly and radically, for a new generation. Other iterations have been formatted in a Film Noir from A to B presentation involving "A" and "B" film double bills, in both low budget and high production value features. On other occasions, the program has been focused thematically, such as the year that featured Noir City: The Big Knockover - Heists, Holdups and Schemes Gone Awry. Outside of the annual festival, in 2017 Muller took up permanent residence on TCM with the launch of his Saturday night Noir Alley showcase. Now in its fifth year, his show has become a central component of how "Turner Classic Movies Is Changing. And Trying to Stay the Same", yet the venerable platform has been under fire from its larger corporate umbrella. Last year, Warner Brothers Discovery gutted the leadership team of Turner Classic Movies, following which, a group of famed directors then came together to "Fight to Save Turner Classic Movies". This resulted in a surprising reversal, in which, "TCM to Include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson Taking Active Role". Muller's weekly selections and introductions on Noir Alley act as more than just a showcase for the Film Noir Foundation and their partners at The UCLA Film & Television Archive, but instead a global overview of the social concerns, look, sound, aesthetic, and feel that define the Dark Passages of film noir. This year's touring festival presents a lineup of 18 films in Seattle, thematically framed in a statement from the Film Noir Foundation; "In a move taken in opposition to the nation's current wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, the venerable Noir City film festival has declared "Darkness Has No Borders". The weeklong festival will feature a dozen thematically linked double bills, pairing foreign language films with movies made in the United States and United Kingdom".

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Jonathan Glazer's "The Zone of Interest" at SIFF Cinema: Jan 19 - Feb 15



After receiving a six-minute standing ovation at its premiere at Cannes, wherein the film won the Grand Prix, and garnering numerous five-star reviews, Jonathan Glazer's newest vision arrives at SIFF Cinema. Based on Martin Amis' novel of the same title, "The Zone Of Interest" is in a sense a chronicle of the family life of Rudolf Höss, the commandant at Auschwitz, and one of the engineers of Hitler's attempt to exterminate all Jews in Europe. The Höss family live in close proximity to the ongoing genocide and the workmanlike efficiency of the industrial machine which Rudolph oversees. The sounds of this machinery of mass extermination are ever-present, with only occasional intrusions of morbid clouds of smoke, and material from this industrial eradication factory washing downstream through idyllic rivers of the Polish countryside. As a product, there is a profound lack of sentimentality to the setting and the film's representation of its larger historical context. The film's two stars have spoken on the dichotomy of its experience, "‘This is a Film to Make us Unsafe in the Cinema. As We Should Be’: Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel on The Zone of Interest". The depiction of the close correlation of domestic life and mass-murder speaks to the intimate relationship the Höss family have with the destruction of a people and European culture. They profit off of the eradication in chilling and unspeakable ways, as stated by Robert Daniels for RogerEbert.com, "It is the sanitation the film performs, which speaks to the now, in a way few Holocaust films have done before". There have been many films on this most horrifying of chapters in human history. From "The Son of Saul", to "The Painted Bird", to "Night and Fog", all asking to some extent for the viewer to bear witness to unfathomable humiliation and suffering of the National Socialist's regime of dehumanizing brutality. Where Jonathan Glazer, and to a similar extent Amis' novel differs from these, is that it does more than simply ask viewers to witness. As addressed in The Guardian's interview, "Jonathan Glazer on his Holocaust Film The Zone of Interest: ‘This is Not About the Past, it’s About Now’". This discomfiting work, expressed through an immaculate sense of visual aesthetics delivers the viewer into an antiseptic, even pastoral at times, visual environment which stands in stark contrast to the debasement and horrors happening off-screen. It is between these two points which the film's cast found the space, and frame of mind necessary to depict, "The Family Life of the Nazi Commander at Auschwitz", and specifically, in the pages of The New Yorker, the plumbing of "How Sandra Hüller Approached Playing a Nazi". Peter Bradshaw's review from Cannes places the film in a tradition of representing the horror of these events indirectly, like Claude Lanzmann and Michael Haneke before him, and in a striking coda sequence presents a vision from our present-day future, delivering the most powerful blow in, "Jonathan Glazer's Chilling Holocaust Drama".

Saturday, January 13, 2024

"The Music of Twin Peaks and Angelo Badalamenti'' at Seattle Symphony: Jan 17 | "How the Twin Peaks Soundtrack Came to Haunt Music for 30 Years" | The Guardian


This month Seattle Symphony and host Kyle MacLachlan invite listeners to join them in entering into what James Poniewozik posited for the New York Times as being more than a musical experience, "The ‘Twin Peaks’ Theme Isn’t Just a Song. It’s a Portal". The music for one of the most notable television and film series of all time, is explored by The Atlantic in "Twin Peaks and the Remarkeable Influence of David Lynch". This convergence of director and composer came about during the production of one of Lynch's films, and was born of the inability to secure a licensing deal to 4AD label maven Ivo Watts-Russell's cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren". Outside of auteurs like John Carpenter, the films of Michael Mann, and the meeting of David Cronenberg and Howard Shore, the 1980s seemed to yearn for new confluence of the big screen's coalescence of moving picture and soundtrack. The meeting of David Lynch and composer and musician Angelo Badalamenti can be seen as a consequence of the director's first entry into into commercial studio distributed film with Universal and Paramount, thanks largely to the production funding of one Mel Brooks. Based on the Victorian era documents of Sir Frederick Treves and his patient Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man" met with both box office and critical success, including eight Academy Award nominations and multiple BAFTA awards. As a product, what followed was one of the stranger turns in the whole of the director's fortunes. The then most popular film franchise in the world, helmed by George Lucus, turned the spotlight on Lynch for him to direct the third installment in the Star Wars trilogy. He declined, citing Lucas' comprehensive vision of the fictional universe would allow for very little in the way of space to express his own. Following this, and the distribution deal with Dino De Laurentiis that came directly from Lynch's own science fiction epic. By the time of his fourth feature, the dominant facets of sound, and its influential role in the prevailing character of Lynch's film work had been established. It was with "Blue Velvet'', that the disparate components of massed strings inspired by the minor symphonies of Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Mahler, met with the, pulsing, churning drone of the underlying industrial sound design and the director's other great musical love. This third component was to be found in the dreamy, melancholic lament to be heard on the fringes of the popular radio-play of Lynch's childhood. A slow swinging rock n' roll defined by the plaintive, longing sound of Roy Orbison's crooning pop, the spacious productions of Phil Spector, and twang of Duane Eddy's guitar. These share a unifying element in their immersion of instrument and voice in echo and reverb, with its capacity to create the impression of vast horizons and spacious chambers of sound resonant with a lush, textured romanticism.

The meeting of Lynch and Badalamenti would happen overcoming the challenge of having the film's lead sing her own parts in a series of central scenes. One of the primary producers on "Blue Velvet", Fred Caruso brought in stage and theater composer Angelo Badalamenti to coach the lead actress on the performance of the film's titular song. Nearing the end of central filming, the club scene being the last of a series of shoots for the film, Rossellini's performance came together notably under the guidance of the Sicilian composer and pianist. Lynch then made efforts to secure rights to pieces of music he had in mind for the soundtrack. Foremost among them was the 4AD label in-house band, This Mortal Coil and their cover of Tim Buckly's "Song for the Siren". Badalamenti reports that while complete creative control and the important "final cut" were conditions of the contract with De Laurentiis, the film was on a strict budget, and the $50,000 rights to securing the Ivo Watts-Russell cover was unattainable. With the success had with Rossellini, Lynch approached Badalamenti about writing an original song to replace it. Supplied with a title, and a few short lines, Badalamenti recounts how their collaboration began for Film Score Monthly, "Isabella handed me a piece of yellow paper that had David's lyrics on it. On the top of it was the title "Mysteries of Love" I read it through. There was no rhyme scheme or hook to latch on to like songs were supposed to have." Approaching the director for insight into this minimalist coda, Lynch is quoted as offering; "Oh, just make it like the wind, Angelo. It should be a song that floats on the sea of time. Make it cosmic!". Julee Cruise, who had performed in a musical that Badalamenti had written in New York, was brought in to provide the vocals for the resulting track which replicated much of the atmospheric dreamscapes of the then "4AD sound". This Mortal Coil was an in-house collective of artists around Blackwing Studios, its producer John Fryer and Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder at London-based record label. By the time of "Blue Velvet"'s production 4AD had cultivated a roster of artists who specialized in angular indie introspection, atmospheric dreamscapes, downtrodden post-punk, and gothically tinged chamber music. The collective's first release "It'll End in Tears" included Howard Devoto of Breathless, Cindytalk's spectral vocalist, Gordon Sharp, members of neoclassical ensemble, Dead Can Dance, and singing on the influential "Song to the Siren", Elizabeth Fraser from the Scottish band, Cocteau Twins. Progenitors of what would later be called dream pop, Cocteau Twins' sound was a swirling canopy of Robin Guthrie’s reverb-enveloped guitar, sharp drum machine and bass geometries, and Fraser's vocal gymnastics and interpretation-resistant lyrical glossolalia navigating the instrumental tide.

With the successes had in Rossellini's singing part and the "love at first sound" as Lynch described their first collaboration with Cruise, Badalamenti was recruited to try his hand at the score. As for Lynch’s working methods, in interview Badalamenti recalled how the director would further test working relationships of sound and sequence while shooting. “He would have me on set,” he recalled of the Blue Velvet scoring sessions. “I would actually play music live while they were filming so the actors could feel the mood". Badalamenti relates, "On the plane to Los Angeles I wrote the music and Lynch flipped; “It’s Russian, dark, a little dissonant - beautiful but strange at the same time”, the director is quoted as saying. Badalamenti's creative trajectory after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music had already taken the Brooklyn born Sicilian-American into the world of composing minor film scores and musicals for Broadway. He wrote songs for Nina Simone, and even a brief stint working alongside electronic pioneer Jean-Jacques Perry. Yet it would be this mid-career meeting with Lynch on the set of "Blue Velvet" that would be the defining junction. Even with the successes had in the production of that film, and it's global reception, could not have prepared the director and composer team for the chapter that was to come next. Their collaboration in sound and image was soon to be broadcast into nearly every home in America. In 1989, Badalamenti and Lynch assembled a band of veteran sessions and film musicians, including jazz drummer Grady Tate, and guiatrist Vinnie Bell, in small studio off of Times Square in New York to work on three simultaneous projects. These would be the avant-garde stage musical "Industrial Symphony No.1", Cruise's album "Floating into the Night'', and the Twin Peaks soundtrack, in which Cruise appears as the in-series Roadhouse band's chanteuse. From these sessions, Badalamenti's pieces born of chord suspensions and evocative of dissonance, loss and longing, singer and composer express, "‘We Felt Like We Could Do Anything’: Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise on the Music of Twin Peaks". This process recounted in detail for The Guardian, "'Make it Like the Wind, Angelo': How the Twin Peaks Soundtrack Came to Haunt Music for Nearly 30 Years". Lynch would sit with the composer at the side of his Fender Rhodes piano, quietly verbalising what he envisioned. “I haven’t shot anything, but it’s like you are in a dark woods with an owl in the background and a cloud over the moon and sycamore trees are blowing very gently…” I started to press the keys for the opening chord to “Twin Peaks Love Theme,” because it was the sound of that darkness, recounts Badalamenti. Lynch said; “A beautiful troubled girl is coming out of the woods, walking towards the camera… and she comes closer and it reaches a climax and…” I continued with the music as he continued the story. “And from this, we let her go back into the dark woods”. Lynch was ecstatic with the outcome. “Don’t change a single note, Angelo. I see Twin Peaks".

Sunday, January 7, 2024

:::: Films of 2023 ::::


TOP FILMS OF 2023 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-----------------------------------------------------------
Jonathan Glazer  "The Zone of Interest"  (United Kingdom)
Mstyslav Chernov  "20 Days in Mariupol"  (Ukraine)
Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel  "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" (France)
Victor Erice  "Close Your Eyes"  (Spain)
Cyril Schäublin  "Unrest"  (Switzerland)
Ira Sachs  "Passages"  (France)
Jafar Panahi  "No Bears"  (Iran)
Alice Rohrwacher  "La Chimera"  (Italy)
Bertrand Bonello  "The Beast"  (France)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan  "About Dry Grasses"  (Turkey)
Lisandro Alonso  "Eureka"  (Argentina)
Lukas Moodysson  "Together 99"  (Sweden)
Hirokazu Kore-eda  "Monster"  (Japan)
Pedro Costa  "Daughters of the Fire"  Short (Portugal)
Laura Citarella  "Trenque Lauquen"  (Argentina)
György Fehér  "Twilight"  Restored Rereleased (Hungary)
Budd Boetticher  "The Ranown Westerns"  Restored Rereleased (United States)
Juliet Berto & Jean-Henri Roger  "Snow"  Restored Rereleased (France)
David Lynch  "Inland Empire"  Restored Rereleased (United States)
Jean Eustache  "The Mother and the Whore"  Restored Rereleased (France)
Radu Jude  "Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World"  (Romania)
Wim Wenders  "Anselm"  (Germany)
Kôji Fukada  "Love Life"  (Japan)
Yorgos Lanthimos  "Poor Things"  (Greece)
Wang Bing  "Youth (Spring)"  (France)
Catherine Breillat  "Last Summer"  (France)
Ulrich Seidl  "Wicked Games: Rimini Sparta"  (Austria)
Pham Thien An  "Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell"  (Vietnam)
Pablo Larraín  “El Conde”  (Chile)
Takashi Yamazaki  "Godzilla Minus One"  (Japan)
Hayao Miyazaki  "How Do You Live?"  (Japan)
Makoto Shinkai  "Suzume"  (Japan)

For decades now, this annual overview has acted as a summation of the music, film, dance, theatre, visual art exhibitions and festivals attended and covered. Both domestic and international. As we enter into the post-phase after the global pandemic one would assume that the continuance of such opportunities would be returning in an assertive manner. Yet here in the urban northwest, the effects of the pandemic on cultural and social life are still manifesting themselves in a dynamic manner. Businesses and cultural venues continue to have limited hours, close early on weekday and weekend nights, and program with a reduced scale and truncated durations over what we saw in the years preceding the pandemic. Some of which regionally even reducing hours more than when they had initially after reopening two years ago. The once essential component of urban social life in the Northwest, the espresso cafe, has been particularly hard hit. With many of them no longer offering evening hours of any variety. Regionally, arts venues and cultural institutions returned to in-person programming in the fall of 2021, cautiously opening the doors to music stages, galleries and movie houses. After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returned in August and September to the majority of these Northwest culture spaces. It is important to consider that the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act, alongside the Shuttered Venues Grant are a significant component as to the continuance of arts beyond the pandemic. The benefits of the various relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington, all came in the 11th hour for many of our regional cultural institutions and art venues. Most of which would not have doors open to their cultural community now two years later, without these resources.

Unlike last year's convergence of the Venice Biennale and Document in Germany, the art seen and traveled to this year was all of a domestic nature. The Seattle Art Fair returned at the height of summer, offering works from over 80 galleries from around the globe, and the satellite event Forest for the Trees, concurrently presented a volume of regional work in Pioneer Square. In cinema, after the discontinuation of the Seattle Art Museum's film program, and the termination of its programmer, Greg Olson found a new home for his long-running film noir and italian cinema series at SIFF Cinema. The most significant filmgoing news of the year came with the unexpected convergence of cultural and civic rehabilitation funds, the legacy of Paul Allen, and the Seattle International Film Festival organization with their acquisition of the Seattle Cinerama Theater. Other notable annual events returned with the array of horror and genre film returned in the fall, significant jazz performances were seen, both within the Earshot Jazz Festival and outside its programming, and SIFF Cinema presneted a near-complete retrospective of the films of David Lynch. In music events, Seattle's recently launched Tremolo had a second successful festival of shoegaze, noise-rock and dream pop sounds at the Central Saloon, and the goliath of metal, noise and hardcore that is Northwest Terror Fest, returned to Neumos and Barboza with a sprawling and qualitative fifth iteration. Over the course of the summer, a set of legendary gothic rock and early electro-industrial bands had tours, presenting The Cure's "Songs of a Lost World", and after nearly 40 years of darkly theatrical music, the final tour from Skinny Puppy. The year also saw a series of closures and conclusions within the arts community. Two hard-hitting losses came at the end of the summer, the first of which was the newly launched visual art and community space, Museum of Museums, and the second not soon after its opening and inception for, XO Seattle in the space of the historic Coliseum Theater. Even Seattle's longstanding and prestigious literary arts mecca finds itself in uncharted water, due to a recent turn of events, "Seattle's Hugo House Faces an Uncertain Future". The year also saw the announcement of the, "Closing of both Linda Hodges and James Harris Galleries". In a lengthy discussion with NPR's Libby Denkmann and Mike Davis, Museum of Museums founder Greg Lundgren addresses the reality of, "Is Seattle's Arts Infrastructure Crumbling?"

While there are now opportunities again to engage with film, music and visual art, domestically as a culture we are still relying on online resources more than was necessary pre-pandemic. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of in-person cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged online. Two major events in the year revealed the fragility and impermanence of our quality online arts platforms. The first of them came with a series of corporate buyouts of the online direct-to-artist platform and community that was Bandcamp. First by Epic Games, who quickly dispensed with the platform, "Epic Games’ Sale of Bandcamp Has Left the Artist-Friendly Music Platform in Limbo", and then by Songtradr, as artists and professionals working in music had a unified response which was shared by The Guardian, "The Music site Bandcamp is Beloved and Unique. I Shudder at its Corporate Takeover". The second came with what Wired called, "HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, and the Day Streaming Died", after Warner Brothers Discovery gutted the leadership team of Turner Classic Movies, a group of famed directors then came together to "Fight to Save Turner Classic Movies". Which concluded in a positive outcome and a rare reversal for the network, "TCM to Include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson Taking Active Role". So, now at year's end, for those who have not found compelling new sounds, digital retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and magazines like The Wire, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find brought together online outside the framework of their curatorial legacy. A particular advantage, The Wire offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2023. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year in and year out again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

:::: Albums of 2023 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2023 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-------------------------------------------------------------
Violent Magic Orchestra “Supergaze / Martello Mosh Pit” EPs (Never Sleep)
Full of Hell & Nothing  “When No Birds Sang”  (Closed Casket Activities)
Bell Witch  “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate”  (Profound Lore)
Boris & Merzbow  “Klatter”  Reissue (Relapse)
Pharoah Sanders  "Karma"  Reissue (Impulse!)
Natural Information Society & Ari Brown  “Since Time Is Gravity”  (Eremite)
Alabaster DePlume  “Come With Fierce Grace”  (International Anthem)
Tord Gustavsen Trio  “Opening”  (ECM)
Kjetil Mulelid Trio  “Who Do You Love The Most”  (Rune Grammofon)
Ryuichi Sakamoto  “12” & "Opus"  (Commmons)
Philip Jeck & Chris Watson  “Oxmardyke”  (Touch)
Demdike Stare & Jon Collin  “Minerals”  (DDR)
Regis & Ann Margaret Hogan  “Hospital For Beasts”  (Downwards)
Vivid Oblivion  “The Graphic Cabinet”  (Downwards)
Godflesh  “Purge”  (Avalanche)
Swans  “The Beggar”  (Young God)
Ragana  “Desolation's Flower”  (The Flenser)
Khanate  “To Be Cruel”  (Sacred Bones)
Lankum  “False Lankum”  (Rough Trade)
Kristin Michael Hayter  "Saved!"  (Perpetual Flame Ministries)
Tim Hecker  "No Highs" & "The Infinity Pool - Soundtrack"  (Kranky)  (Milan)
Teeth Of The Sea  “Hive”  (Rocket Recordings)
La Baracande  “La Baracande”  (La Nòvia)
The Inward Circles  “Before We Lie Down In Darknesse”  (Corbel Stone Press)
Sarah Davachi  “Long Gradus : Arrangements”  (Late Music)
Various Artists  “Vanity Records: Vanity Sample”  Book + CD (Remodel)
Various Artists  "Spectra Ex Machina: A Sound Anthology Of Occult Phenomena 1920 - 2017" (Sub Rosa)
Various Artists  "Ecuatoriana: El Universo Paralelo De Polibio Mayorga 1969 - 1981" (Analog Africa)
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou  "Jerusalem"  Reissue (Mississippi Records)
György Ligeti / Quatuor Diotima  "Metamorphosis"  (PentaTone)
Various Artists  “Compositrices: New Light on French Romantic Women Composers”  Box Set (Palazzetto Bru Zane)

For decades now, this annual overview has acted as a summation of the music, film, dance, theatre, visual art exhibitions and festivals attended and covered. Both domestic and international. As we enter into the post-phase of the global pandemic one would assume that the continuance of such opportunities would be returning in an assertive manner. Yet here in the urban northwest, the effects of the pandemic on cultural and social life are still manifesting themselves in a dynamic manner. Businesses and cultural venues continue to have limited hours, close early on weekday and weekend nights, and program with a reduced scale and truncated durations over what we saw in the years preceding the pandemic. Some of which regionally even reducing hours more than when they had initially after reopening two years ago. The once essential component of urban social life in the Northwest, the espresso cafe, has been particularly hard hit. With many of them no longer offering evening hours of any variety. Regionally, arts venues and cultural institutions returned to in-person programming in the fall of 2021, cautiously opening the doors to music stages, galleries and movie houses. After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returned in August and September to the majority of these Northwest culture spaces. It is important to consider that the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act, alongside the Shuttered Venues Grant are a significant component as to the continuance of arts beyond the pandemic. The benefits of the various relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington, all came in the 11th hour for many of our regional cultural institutions and art venues. Most of which would not have doors open to their cultural community now two years later, without these resources.

Unlike last year's convergence of the Venice Biennale and Document in Kassel, Germany, the art seen and traveled to this year was all of a domestic nature. The Seattle Art Fair returned at the height of summer, offering works from over 80 galleries from around the globe, and the satellite event Forest for the Trees, concurrently presented a volume of regional work in Pioneer Square. In cinema, after the discontinuation of the Seattle Art Museum's film program, and the termination of its programmer, Greg Olson found a new home for his long-running film noir and italian cinema series at SIFF Cinema. The most significant filmgoing news of the year came with the unexpected convergence of cultural and civic rehabilitation funds, the legacy of Paul Allen, and the Seattle International Film Festival organization with their acquisition of the Seattle Cinerama Theater. Other notable annual events returned with the array of horror and genre film returned in the fall, significant jazz performances were seen, both within the Earshot Jazz Festival and outside its programming, and SIFF Cinema presneted a near-complete retrospective of the films of David Lynch. In music events, Seattle's recently launched Tremolo had a second successful festival of shoegaze, noise-rock and dream pop sounds at the Central Saloon, and the goliath of metal, noise and hardcore that is Northwest Terror Fest, returned to Neumos and Barboza with a sprawling and qualitative fifth iteration. Over the course of the summer, a set of legendary gothic rock and early electro-industrial bands had tours, presenting The Cure's "Songs of a Lost World", and after nearly 40 years of darkly theatrical music, the final tour from Skinny Puppy. The year also saw a series of closures and conclusions within the arts community. Two hard-hitting losses came at the end of the summer, the first of which was the newly launched visual art and community space, Museum of Museums, and the second not soon after its opening and inception for, XO Seattle in the space of the historic Coliseum Theater. Even Seattle's longstanding and prestigious literary arts mecca finds itself in uncharted water, due to a recent turn of events, "Seattle's Hugo House Faces an Uncertain Future". The year also saw the announcement of the, "Closing of both Linda Hodges and James Harris Galleries". In a lengthy discussion with NPR's Libby Denkmann and Mike Davis, Museum of Museums founder Greg Lundgren addresses the reality of, "Is Seattle's Arts Infrastructure Crumbling?"

While there are now opportunities again to engage with film, music and visual art, domestically as a culture we are still relying on online resources more than was necessary pre-pandemic. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of in-person cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged online. Two major events in the year revealed the fragility and impermanence of our quality online arts platforms. The first of them came with a series of corporate buyouts of the online direct-to-artist platform and community that was Bandcamp. First by Epic Games, who quickly dispensed with the platform, "Epic Games’ Sale of Bandcamp Has Left the Artist-Friendly Music Platform in Limbo", and then by Songtradr, as artists and professionals working in music had a unified response which was shared by The Guardian, "The Music site Bandcamp is Beloved and Unique. I Shudder at its Corporate Takeover". The second came with what Wired called, "HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, and the Day Streaming Died", after Warner Brothers Discovery gutted the leadership team of Turner Classic Movies, a group of famed directors then came together to "Fight to Save Turner Classic Movies". Which concluded in a positive outcome and a rare reversal for the network, "TCM to Include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson Taking Active Role". So, now at year's end, for those who have not found compelling new sounds, digital retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and magazines like The Wire, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find brought together online outside the framework of their curatorial legacy. A particular advantage, The Wire offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2023. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year in and year out again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bell Witch “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate” & North American Tour: Oct 17 - Dec 16


The lowest descent into abyssal sound within the burgeoning global post-black metal world can be found in the newest strain of what is being called funeral doom. Foremost among them, Bell Witch in their new lineup with Aerial Ruin's Erik Moggridge, have descended deeper, and for longer, than most. Born of the death of drummer Adrian Guerra, their previous sprawling work, 2017's magisterial "Mirror Reaper" encompassed an auditory journey through the Hermetic axiom "As Above, So Below", as a conceptual traversing of the dichotomy of life and death. Bridging recordings from their previous incarnation, and unused vocal tracks from that period with work of the new lineup, this "Loving Tribute to Former Drummer Adrian Guerra", acts as a looming, Brobdingnagian titan spanning the two. As a pathway of entry into this musical world, Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", compliments the curation from this sphere that can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus. The above resources sound the expanse of releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Neurot, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Dark Descent, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, The Flenser, and Relapse. Since the release of Guerra's final work with the band, Bell Witch have undertaken an even more tectonic series of works for the Profound Lore label. The first of these was a collaborative album with Aerial Ruin in 2020's, "Stygian Bough Volume 1", and earlier this year issuing the first of an epic trilogy, titled, “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate”. Their lengthy trajectory touring North America with the album comes to a terminus in mid-December, with the final of their west coast dates at Neumos in their Northwest hometown. The Quietus spoke with the band on the eve of Clandestine Gate's release, bridging such concepts as about the cyclical nature of existence and taking their time with process and creation, such as the first entry in their new triptych of albums, "Same as it Ever Was: Bell Witch Interviewed". It is this premise, that of the Eternal Return, which informs the themes of Future's Shadow, as stated by bassist and vocalist, Dylan Desmond; "This of course is perhaps the most horrifying aspect to the eternal return - even if you were living a happy, fulfilled and productive life that you’d be proud to experience again, would living it over and over again eternally rob it of any meaning or purpose you may have found in it? There’s a recurring theme of ghosts in Bell Witch’s work, and in this light, it’s easy to see how the eternal return fits into this theme: being stuck in an endless loop with no definitive end in sight would surely make ghosts of us all."