Sunday, July 14, 2024

Einstürzende Neubauten's "Rampen" & European Tour: Sept 5 - Oct 30 | "Feurio!: The Strange World of Einstürzende Neubauten" | The Quietus


After two unsuccessful attempts at arranging North American tours in the span of the last decade, germinal industrial music band Einstürzende Neubauten will not be returning to the United States in the foreseeable future. The first of these two failed tours was caused by the delayed processing of their visas, and the second with a date in Seattle, by the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead this fall they will be embarking on an extensive tour of continental Europe and the United Kingdom, with major dates in Berlin, London, Paris, and multiple performances in Antwerp. Theirs is a four decade history, which began in West Berlin in 1980 amidst the wreckage of the 20th century's vision of Europe. In the dilapidated warehouses, urban ruins, and null-zone of Potsdamer Platz in proximity to the Berlin Wall, Einstürzende Neubauten were there at the very inception of industrial music. Following in the wake of punk and early new wave, industrial music culture bore many correspondences to its post-punk and gothic rock siblings, yet defined itself apart for the literal mechanics of its production and aesthetics. Globally a number of epicenters for the sound's earliest formation could be found in Berlin, Chicago, New York, London, and the major coastal cities of California. Most notably and formative for the sound and its culture, the German scene was the initial defining locus. Gathering around the Geniale Dilletanten Festival, and its burgeoning music and performance subculture through efforts largely spearheaded by Wolfgang Müller, the genre's origin immediately expanded outwards to encompass multimedia, performance art, print and literary works. In a span of half a decade, this thriving scene in the margins of the divided city, gave birth to such artists as Die Tödliche Doris, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, F.S.K., Mania D, Palais Schaumburg, Sprung Aus Den Wolken, Abwärts, Malaria!, and Einstürzende Neubauten along with their various side projects and solo iterations.

Their legendary, sometimes infamous, and often literally incendiary presence spans decades, and has been documented in numerous and expansive articles and interviews. A cross-section of these include The Wire's cover feature, "Einstürzende Neubauten: Annihilating Angels", the recounting of a 1984 London performance, "How to Destroy the ICA with Drills", Wired magazine in their "Einstürzende Neubauten has Cooked Mud, Transformed Meat", and more recently in the pages of The Guardian, “'They'd Greet Us with Fire Extinguishers!': The Wild Times of Blixa Bargeld”. For the band's 30th anniversary, Mute Records released a fourth anthology of studio improvisations, commercially released recordings, live excerpts, and previously unreleased compositions. This futurist anthology, titled "Strategies Against Architecture IV", runs the gamut of grinding industrial ruin, theatrical poetic digressions, atmospheric meanderings, and propulsive motoric groove. In his review for The Quietus, Tim Burrows states; "Approaching a world tour followed by imminent hiatus, they leave behind this varied yet cohesive record of the last eight years, a period of creativity that belies the band’s three decades. It’s a virile, nuanced alternative to a lot of the flat pop around at the moment, and suggests that there could be a lot more to come." This a-lot-more-to-come has since taken the form of the nuanced bohemian landscapes explored on 2020's "Alles in Allem", and this year's double album, "Rampen". While these new works express a kind of refined accessibility, they however remain playfully experimental in that they still adhere to the fundamental tenets of Neubauten's ethos. These were detailed in The Quietus' "Feurio!: The Strange World of Einstürzende Neubauten", as a characteristic dissonance, an abstractly poetic lyrical sense, a raw molding of sound, and a genre-adverse bastardization of styles which remains singularly their own.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Seattle Art Fair at Lumen Field Event Center: Jul 25 - 28


Following a two year pandemic hiatus, Seattle Art Fair returned with a new artistic director under the aegis of Art Market Productions who announced that they would continue as sole owner and producer. This was due to the passing of Paul Allen in 2018, wherein the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, were made uncertain. By 2020, it was established that Allen's Vulcan corporation would no longer be investing in their cultural branch, with the explicit message sent by the shuttering of their arts and entertainment division, and the layoff of all related staff. This would of course translate as "Vulcan Closes its Arts + Entertainment Division, which Includes Cinerama and Seattle Art Fair". Producing a cascade of concerns related to arts funding and the venues under Vulcan's purview. Most significantly, the question of the  Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films, project 70mm celluloid, and present digital ultra-high resolution films in Dolby Atmos Sound. The future of this almost singular venue was resolved last year with the announcement in the Seattle Times that, “SIFF Buys Cinerama, Plans Reopening", and through a deal with the Paul G. Allen estate the cinema reopened this past fall. In the case of Seattle Art Fair, it is now wholly owned and run by Art Market Productions, after the inaugural success of its four year run under Vulcan Arts + Entertainment. On the eve of the fair's 2015 launch, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers with an emphasis on the Pacific Rim.

The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and ArtNews "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry. All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture. As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" on the occasion of the fair's second year. Continuing the trend of atypical and non-traditional gallery works, the fourth annual Seattle Art Fair presented Mark Pauline the founder of Survival Research Laboratories, joining influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation.

The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, notably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?". The cultural and economic landscape that Pauline operates in now is quite different than that of the early 1980s, presenting a new set of challenges to his performative art. So there's logic at work in that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of its presentation. As Wired said, "artistic respectability doesn’t so much beckon as envelop", in response to The New York Times' "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery". The 2018 installment also saw artistic director, Laura Fried, succeeded by Nato Thompson. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, for the 2019 edition which featured works and talks by the Center for PostNatural History, largescale video artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, architecture and installation creators, Bigert & Bergström, and choreographer Morgan Thorson. For 2023, the year's big coup was the challenge as "Seattle Art Fair Pushes the Boundaries of Artistic Expression", by hosting artist provocateur, Dinos Chapman. Who as a member of the Young British Artists movement with his brother Jake Chapman, have been characterized as, "What if Satan and Hitler Opened a MacDonald's in Hell?". With Seattle Art Fair's eighth installment this year, artistic director Nato Thompson returns, programming a series of specific works by, Michael Leavitt, João Artur da Silva, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Julie Alpert, a mixed-media installation by Ruy Cézar Campos, Epiphany Couch, Maria Gaspar, Tori Karpenko, Sam Stubblefield, an open gallery event with Emily Counts, and installations by Michael Rakowitz and Ralph Ziman. With a voluminous body of galleries, more than 80 in total, along with on-and-off site discussions, projects and open studio events. New Artists/New Collectors also presents the work of 10 select artists, Corning Museum of Glass will host "New Glass Review 43", and Seattle Art Museum will be represented by a Pop-Up Gallery. There are also the annual panel discussions, this year including New Artists/New Collectors once again, and observations on Art Appropriation in Today’s Environment. There are also five major satellite events around the city on the weekend of Art Fair, and The Seattle Times have selected their "Top 10 Picks from Art’s Big Weekend" from one of the "Most Anticipated Seattle Exhibits of 2024".
Photo credit: The Rendon Gallery

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Drew McDowall's "A Thread, Silvered and Trembling" & US Tour: May 31 - Jun 19


Born of the countercultural hotbed and its response to the restrictions of Margaret Thatcher's England, Jhon Balance and Peter Christohperson's music as Coil may be the most explicitly occult, and outwardly queer, of all of the British post-punk and industrial sounds of the 1980s. The origins of Coil can be found in Christopherson's contribution to the very outfit that coined the term industrial music, and the transgressive sound, art, and theater they deployed as Throbbing Gristle. Splitting from TG with the meeting of Zos Kia's Jhon Balance in 1983, Christopherson's fruitful collaborations with Balance would carve out a body of psychedelic and "sidereal" music on the fringe of post-punk and experimental culture for the next three decades. There remains no better guide to the mystic, psychedelic, rapturously unique and deeply beguiling music Jhon and Peter created over the decades of Coil's existence, and the wider British countercultural continuum, than David Keenan's "England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground". More concise compendiums tend to be on the exiguous side, but few resources bridge Coil's deep plumbing of the esoteric and the cultural milieu of the time better than Russell Cuzner's feature for The Quietus, "Serious Listeners: The Strange and Frightening World of Coil". In the following decade, by the early-1990s the duo had brought on supporting members Stephen Thrower, Drew McDowall, Ossian Brown, Danny Hyde, and William Breeze and an assimilation of UK club music and American minimalist composers into their sound. This all began with the unlikely meeting of British rave, ecstasy, and queer club culture colliding head-on with their morose, cinematic, and surrealist themes that were heard on 1991's "Love's Secret Domain".

This wildly energetic and transitional era for Coil is explored by their friend and collaborator, Stephen Thrower, in a recent and revealing interview for The Quietus, "Further Back and Faster: A Return to Coil's Love's Secret Domain". In many ways, the album acted as a primer to Coil's next step, the ill-fated "Backwards" album for the Nothing label, briefed in the "Trent Reznor on Coil and Nine Inch Nails" interview, and the following phase of 1996's "Black Light District: A Thousand Lights in a Darkened Room", where they began their venture into an expressly ambient and nocturnal passage. Insight into this mercurial era of their music and assimilation and perversion of then-developing sounds in British electronic music is revealed through the inner workings of their "Obscure Mechanics" in philosophical and musing interviews published in the pages of The Wire. It was through this pivotal transition of their music that the contributions of Drew McDowall and Thighpaulsandra came to the fore, on increasingly minimalist works that explored altered states of mind, ritualistic access to other realms, and ambient Moon Musick. The opening salvo of which was their "Time Machines" collaboration, which its co-author spoke on with The Quietus, "Time Machines: Drew McDowall on Coil's Drone Legacy". Journeying further with FACT on his legacy with Coil, and brief tenure with Psychic TV, McDowall has also developed a body of current recordings, reflective of the sharp edge of these tenuous times, "Industrial legend Drew McDowall on Coil and confronting Global Crisis". It is these recordings for the Dias label, in which McDowall has refined and expanded the vocabulary of the Coil collaborations heard two decades before, further enriching the pool of tonal minimalism with deeper sonic musings, and a more variegated vocabulary of haunted sonics. Most notable among these, this month he is on tour with his newest, "A Thread, Silvered and Trembling", sounding the depths of what The Wire called, "Musick, Magick and Sacred Materiality".

Saturday, June 8, 2024

SUMAC's "The Healer" & West Coast Tour: Jun 22 - Jul 1


Few bands or artists can claim to have collaborated with the icon of experimental guitar music from Japan. Keiji Haino's influence and scope of styles and genres are matched by few artists in the late 20th century, all of which pivot around the haunting spaciousness of his vocal style and singular approach to the instrument. Hydrahead label maven Aaron Turner, and frontman to the post-metal supergroup SUMAC, can make such a claim. On titles taken from the Keiji Haino conceptual stylebook, like "American Dollar Bill: Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous to Look at Face On", "Even for Just the Briefest Moment / Keep Charging this "Expiation" / Plug in to Making it Slightly Better", and "Into this Juvenile Apocalypse Our Golden Blood to Pour Let Us Never", for the labels Trost and Thrill Jockey, the music of SUMAC have intersected with the vertiginous blistering heights and spacial emptiness of Haino's guitar. Astronomical metaphors are abundant in The Quietus' review of their most recent collaboration, suggesting the impossible physics of celestial bodies kept in elliptical orbits around larger masses, "In Space No-One Can Hear You: Keiji Haino & SUMAC". The resulting album in one drenched in a kind of temperamental energies, one that resonates from its monumental collision of styles that is neither conclusive and doom-ful, nor is it ecstatic in its energies, but one of flotsam and shrapnel of crashing currents of energy resonating outwards from the frisson and gnash of its two colliding forms. More than just a framing device and architectural foundation for the Japanese guitarist's freeform explorations, the monolithic structures of SUMAC are a force of their own. On solo albums for the two above mentioned labels, they have explored their own brand of metal hybridization, encompassing the influences of their originating projects, namely Russian Circles and Baptists, along with Aaron Turner, delivered the first of their works for Profound Lore with 2015's "The Deal". Few artists have been in this game longer, or produced more variations to its corpus, than Aaron Turner. Following on Hydrahead, his SIGE label has become a home for all things weighty, from experimental noise, to neo-folk, and pure metal, and genreless explorations of sound. These are all touchpoints in his interview with The Quietus, when discussing another of the metal variations which he leads, "Elemental Absolution: Old Man Gloom’s Aaron Turner". They have also toured almost unceasingly since the pandemic, returning to Seattle at Substation, the Bar House, and now at Clockout Lounge, there have been three opportunities to witness the weight of their sound live, in as many years. The most recent is on the eve of the release of this month's "The Healer" for Thrill Jockey, in which Treble magazine states; "they come closest to that emotionally pure, sacred quality they’ve been reaching toward, feeling gravity’s pull as they graze the heavens".

Sunday, June 2, 2024

"Prestige Sleaze" at SIFF Cinema: Jun 9 - 26 | "The Wet Dreams and Twisted Politics of Erotic Thrillers" | The Criterion Collection


Such is the cultural moment that films are susceptible to receiving a prohibitive MPAA rating, trigger warning supplied by the exhibitor, editing of material by the director, or outright retraction of a film by its distributor in response to poor reception at festivals and preview screenings due to depictions of sex and the interpreted politics of on-screen gender relations. For deeper reading on these trends, Catherine Shoard's editorial for The Guardian, "Cut! Is This the Death of Sex in Cinema?", and Christina Newland's "The Pleasure Principle" for Sight & Sound tackle these issues, and their origins, in all of its complexity. Newland speaks further on the subject in the pages of Sight & Sound; "It’s possible that a combination of factors, both culture-wide and industry-specific, have contributed to this odd moment of both the avoidance of and a fixation on sex acts on screen. Initial hesitation around on-set safety post-MeToo, and a sense of discomfort around sensitive topics, has perhaps been fueled by social media pearl-clutching and a Gen Z backlash against the idea of ‘sex-positive’ feminism". The latter is supported by recent statistics, like those highlighted in NPR's coverage "Gen Z Wants Less Sex in Their TV and Movies" of the UCLA study, which featured such descriptors as the content being found, "Icky, Pointless, and Invasive", wherein half of those polled were, "Turned Off by Onscreen Sex". Shoard's piece for The Guardian illustrates over numerous observations and citations, the reasons for this being concurrently made complicated and narrow-minded by the two sides of a polarized political landscape. Wherein sex has become that much more weaponized in its entanglement with identity and representation, and the discomfort experienced by audiences who feel their identity politics not complimentarily represented defines no small part of their enjoyment, or even acceptance, of thematic and psychological content in fiction. In the eyes of a currently influential constituency, for whom artistic merit must be allied to a certain branch of moral and political virtue, there are vast realms of the erotic, suggestive, and sexual material on screen that will not pass such demands. Regardless of said material's honesty in representing the complexity of these matters in relation to life.

This month, SIFF Cinema is putting this to the test. Assembling an array of films which are forcibly sex-forward, drawn together largely from the 1980s and 1990s abundance of erotic thrillers and provocatively flirtatious crime dramas, "Prestige Sleaze" runs the month of June at The Egyptian Theatre. Plumbing the heights and depths of kink, subversion, and thrillingly uncertain socio-sexual outcomes between men, women and otherwise, the stakes are high in these boundary pushing films which are largely culled from the decade of the Erotic Thriller micro-genre. The pleasures, and flirtatious unease of the genre was given due consideration on The Criterion Channel last year, with their Erotic Thrillers showcase, and analysis of the cultural moment which produced these films in, "The Wet Dreams and Twisted Politics of Erotic Thrillers" for The Current. Framed by their Erotic Thriller Week, The Vulture hosts Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This series, in which she inquires; “Why did genres like the erotic thriller, body horror, neo noir, and the sex comedy flourish in the 1980s and 90s, what was happening culturally that made these movies possible and popular, and why did Hollywood stop taking sex seriously?" Writing on "Why I Love Erotic Thrillers", Abbey Bender notes in the New York Times, that they were initially a product and response to the Reagan era, a time; “Which was politically conservative, yet culturally trashy. These films fruitfully explored this contradiction, and by the 1990s, they were certified box-office gold. They distilled the excesses and anxieties of yuppie culture into psycho-sexually messy yet stylized commercial products, before fizzling out in the aughts. Building on the moody, femme-fatale-filled world of classic 1940s and 50s film noir, the erotic thriller was always gloriously excessive, with a laser-sharp focus on beautiful women doing bad things. In films like "Basic Instinct", "Fatal Attraction", and "Body Heat", the calculated performance of self-assured femininity inspires fear, arousal, and awe in equal measure."

Part of the thrill of watching these erotically charged films from the Reagan and post-era, is that the sexual politics are the most perverse thing about them. Though the films delight in their explicit sex scenes, and raunchy suggestion, they often express a paranoid and conservative perspective in their values. This paradox itself is what lends them their edge. And though they centralize the femme fatale as the motivator and focus of the narrative frisson, the movies are more often than not, about male anxieties. Every twist sinks the plots into deeper levels of their protagonist’s masculine unease, paranoia and doubt, as they navigate inceasingly unstable psycho-sexual territory. These themes are literally explored in Brian De Palma's "Body Double", as a meta-thriller vehicle to challenge audiences, as well as the conservative attitudes of the MPAA. Pushing the boundaries further, and accentuating the paranoia and unmooring of the male psyche, provocateur William Friedkin masterfully captured popular culture's uncertainty surrounding queer subcultures in "Cruising". Conversely, Alain Guiraudie offers a very modern perspective on homosexual psychological tensions in "Stranger by the Lake", and an example of charged modern heterosexuality can be seen in Jane Campion's "In the Cut". By turns elegant, tragic and erotic, Tony Scott's "The Hunger" looked to make the vampire genre one worthy of 1980s arthouse consideration, and from the late 1990s, the greatest height of unsease offered in the series can be found in the chilling void-space, where empathy has been inverted by J.G. Ballard's novel of the same name. David Cronenber's exploration of the novel's themes of society's inhibitions erupting in the deviant behavior and fatalism of an underground society of obsessed sybarites, where machinery, appendages and injured psyches, all collide together in “Crash”. So singular is it, that Criterion Collection's Jessica Kiang sees the novel and its adaptation as a head-on, smash-up, "Crash: The Wreck of the Century".

Saturday, June 1, 2024

GoGo Penguin's "From the North" & West Coast Tour: Jun 13 - 23


Following on GoGo Penguin's newest, an encapsulation of their performances "From the North: Live in Manchester", this month they embark on a US tour with dates on the west coast. Along the course of which stopping in at Seattle's Jazz Alley to present a sound which owes as much to the repetitive minimalism of John Adams and Philip Glass, as it does to techno, drum and bass, and big rock-oriented crescendos sourced from bands such as Japan's Mono and American indies like Explosions in the Sky. Chris Illingworth, Jon Scott, and Nick Blacka have been on an upward trajectory since their auspicious beginnings as Mercury Prize nominees and Gondwana Records artists. At the time sharing a label with such contemporaries as bandleader and label maven Matthew Halsall, and modern neo-jazz chamber ensembles like Portico Quartet. As GoGo Penguin they have since released a string of albums on the luminary Blue Note Records label and most recently for Sony's XXIM Records. The review of their fourth album in The Guardian gets to the core of their equation; "With drum kit, double bass and grand piano, Manchester trio GoGo Penguin look like an orthodox jazz trio, they’re even signed to the world’s most iconic jazz label. On their third album for Blue Note "A Humdrum Star", pianist Chris Illingworth lurches between spiky fugues, and Philip Glass-style minimalism, all the time powered by fluttering, junglist drums, slithering bass lines, and an increasing bank of Brian Eno-esque digital manipulations." Theirs is a sound that has cannily adapted this rush of electronic and indie rock music to a traditional acoustic lineup of piano, double bass and drums and produced a fusion that leans heavily into the quadrant of jazz. Other references can be heard in the ECM Records sound of Jon Scott's spare yet dynamic approach to the drums, and specifically in Chris Illingworth’s Esbjörn Svensson Trio influenced piano sound. The rhythm thrum of Nick Blacka's bass may be the most central jazz-focused of their characteristic sounds, but even he varies widely between laidback flow and breakneck pacing. As many of GoGo Penguin’s tracks shift between an inclination to speed up tempos, allow them to cool off, and then only return at even higher speeds. Yet their albums often shine the brightest as their least hurried, and it's these passages that define their strongest works like "V2.0", released on Gondwana. When they move into the rhapsodic territory that they share with the late Svensson’s trio, they are at their most compelling, building slow ascents back toward percussion and bass grooves that underpin the lightning flashes and small accents of Illingworth's piano. Photo credit: TJ Krebs

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Gary Hustwit and Brendan Dawes' "Eno" at SIFF Cinema Downtown: May 5



As an artist who bridged modernist and postmodern modes of composition with the then-concurrent forays into "musical furnishings", Brian Eno is an almost singular fixture of the late 20th century. His methodology remained both constant and changing, introducing John Cage-like opportunities for chance, and unexpected variables, as well as being an early advocate of generative content. From light sculptures, to video art, to music both popular and experimental in its nature, his was sound and texture that was both elusive and instantly recognizable. The latter running the gamut of densely constructed ventures into the furthermost fringes of glam rock, to the ultra-minimal and contemplative spaces of "Discreet Music'', to the geography of "Fourth World Music", to his most recent exploration of spatial works, such as those documented by the New York Times in, "Brian Eno Wants to Take You ‘Inside the Music’". Among his collaborative inventions was the variables-introducing card process that he created with visual artist, Peter Schmidt. Their "Oblique Strategies" circumnavigating linear rational approaches to material, by introducing lateral thinking, triggered by the card's instructed phrases and their offering of outside themes and perspectives. It comes as no surprise then that the composer and artist was resistant to the formula of the chronological array of interviews and footage that comprise the common music documentary. As presented in Rolling Stone's, "‘Eno’ Remixes the Music Documentary - and Brian Eno’s Entire Career", the idea of a movie depicting his 50-year career behind keyboards, and mixing boards, much less one involving his participation, felt counterintuitive to him. “You’re becoming a filmmaker’s story,” Eno has said when asked about the subject. “And I don’t want to be anyone’s story.”

So, enters director Gary Hustwit and digital artist Brendan Dawes, as chronicled by Rolling Stone; "The filmmaker asked him to compose music for "Rams", a 2018 look at industrialist designer Dieter Rams. After that collaboration, Hustwit proposed something different. He’d been talking to a programmer about software that would be able to remix film footage in real time. The feature would be fully edited and completed, mind you. But if you ran the work through this program, it would rejigger the order of the sequences at random. Certain scenes would be “pinned” at the beginning and the end, per the director. Everything else, from the chronology to what was or was not included within a two-hour timeframe, could be left to chance. It was not unlike how Eno made what he dubbed “generative music.” So what if this legacy - all that music, all of those albums, all of his experimental video work, all of the five decades of insanely fertile artistry - was not so much rehashed but reshuffled? What if a music documentary on someone’s life was less an LP and more of a fate-curated mix tape." Hustwit and Dawes' generative software system became this tool to develop and combine contemporary interviews with Brian Eno’s rich archive of more than five hundred hours of studio, live, vintage home video, and television appearances into "Eno". The resulting variable screening experience, presented here at SIFF Cinema Downtown, bears some resemblance to Brian Eno's creative practices with technology in making art and music, and resonates with the artist's take on the introduction of exterior pathways towards chance and variables. It's release also acts as a timely vehicle for Eno's expression of his personal philosophy on ecological consideration, and materialism, as presented in recent interviews like, "‘Capitalism Didn’t Understand Community’: Brian Eno Steps Up the Climate Crisis Battle", and, "Brian Eno: ‘I Don’t Get Much of a Thrill Out of Spending Money’", for The Guardian.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Bertrand Bonello's "The Beast" at The Grand Illusion Cinema: May 4 - 16



In Antoine Barraud's self-reflexive drama "Le Dos Rouge", Bertand Bonello plays himself as a director researching a planned future project on the theme of the monstrous. His quest spans centuries of history, art, music and philosophy, producing an implacably French blend of intellectualism, carnality and oblique storytelling. In "The Beast", it's as though Bonello has discovered the incarnation of what he finds most monstrous in the 21st century. Which he subsequently names in his interview with Variety, "I was curious about the America that produces these kinds of figures, those who take refuge behind atrocity". And as Glenn Kenny's review for RogerEbert.com suggests, the beast in question is none other than fear itself. The film's opening passage reveals that the fear belongs to a popular Parisian concert pianist played by Léa Seydoux, who around the time of the 1910 flood of Paris, confesses this fear to George MacKay's Louis, a young Englishman with whom she soon begins an intense, yet unstable liaison. Beginning in this, the first of three time periods, Bonello delivers not just his most densely packed narrative architecture, but one of the most potent science fiction horror films of the decade so far. "The Beast" is a vision of three imminently doomed nightmare times, all of them visions of a vexed world, as it moves towards and reveals its inevitability. Through the exploration of this triplicate world, Bertrand Bonello has produced an unnerving, sensually disturbing disquisition which draws inspiration as much from J.G. Ballard, as it does Aldous Huxley, as it explores the past, present and future of humanity. The latter is possibly the most troubling of the three, as it exists on the precipice of being effectively deconstructed and re-formed by machine intelligences.

In Peter Bradshaw's five-star review, "Bertrand Bonello’s Audacious Drama Throbs with Fear" from last fall's Venice Film Festival, wherein "After Cannes Rejected Bertrand Bonello’s ‘The Beast’: It’s Now Venice’s Boldest Movie", Bradshaw relates that its concoction is both audacious and, satisfyingly, traumatizingly sexual, with a chilling indifference for comfort in the face of sweeping, expansive potential for disastrous change to the human experience. The film depicts the shock of the inescapable and new, loosely based on the vantage of the protagonist of Henry James 1903 novel, "The Beast in the Jungle", who is neuotically paralysed by the conviction that "the beast" in question is crouched in the jungle of the future. Bonello is thrilled by the fatalism, and the erotic potential of this inscrutable danger. His direction imbues the whole of the three time periods with a sense of being equally unknowable, and tantalizingly alluring, each holding the promise of coming face to face with discovering the doom of its era. In the New York Times, Bonello is the "Master of Puppets" of this tale of civilizational collapse and existential retribution, yet the review argues for all of its audacity, and immensity of scope, it is held together by something more delicate. As IndieWire puts it, Bonello’s films are typically “more interested in negotiating the semiotics of emotion than provoking it,” but “The Beast” turns out to also be a rather tangible, and tragic, love story, "Léa Seydoux and George MacKay are Star-Crossed Lovers in Bertrand Bonello’s Magnificent Sci-Fi Epic".

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

John Adams’ "El Niño" at The Metropolitan Opera and Philip Glass' "Glass Pieces" at The New York City Ballet: Apr 23 - May 18


This year, in a rare deviation from the recurring patterns of the month of May, rather than attending the Seattle International Film Festival, I will be in New York City. The trip to the metropolitan hub of the arts and culture on the east coast is to attend new and major canonical works by John Adams, Philip Glass, theatre, dance, film, museums, galleries, and music performances. Among the most singular of these, Japan Society is in the midst of presenting a two-part major retrospective of the films of Hiroshi Shimizu. The second installment in the series, following "Hiroshi Shimizu: The Shochiku Years" at the Museum of the Moving Image, which was covered by RogerEbert.com, "Tomorrow There will be Fine Weather: A Hiroshi Shimizu Retrospective", is to feature his rarely screened, "Hiroshi Shimizu: The Postwar and Independent Years". Also on offer in the way of cinema, Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan, founding members of the band, SQÜRL, will be introducing the films of Man Ray at IFC. Across the way, to mark the publication of the first English-language edition of Chris Marker's "Le Dépays", The Metrograph is featuring a  series on "Chris Marker in Japan". Again back in Manhattan at Lincoln Center, the film society is presenting "Ryûsuke Hamaguchi I & II", featuring both "Evil Does Not Exist", and its silent film alternate twin, "Gift", with a live score by composer Eiko Ishibashi and ensemble. In the way of live music, Dirty Three percussionist, Jim White, alongside indie-folk songwriters Marisa Anderson, and Myriam Gendron are performing at Le Poisson Rouge. On the other side of the Brooklyn bridge, noiserock titans Swans perform two nights of majestic and unrelenting music at the Music Hall in Williamsburg. More mellow fare will be found with every day being closed out by rotating trios in late-night sets at Midtown's Tomi Jazz.

There will be very little time alloted for theatre, but I will be seeing “A Starry Cast Navigates ‘Uncle Vanya'”, in a new translation of the Anton Chekhov at Lincoln Center Theatre, followed by two nights at the opera and ballet at Lincoln Center. These two evenings will feature New York City Ballet's presentation of a showcase of "Contemporary Choreography I", highlighting "Glass Pieces' and 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Draw Us into their World". The major work of the week will be the final performance of a premiere the proceeding night, in the form of “John Adams’s ‘El Niño’ Arriving in Lush Glory”, at The Metropolitan Opera. Being in the big city, galleries are a must, and Chelsea offers both Delcy Morelos' "El abrazo" at Dia: Chelsea, and Lucas Arruda's "Assum Preto", at David Zwirner. And no week in New York would be complete without a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a visit to the current exhibitions on, "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion", and "Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room". The unmissable array of 12th to 17th century paintings on display, and the classic 19th and early 20th century paintings, on offer in the Robert Lehman Collection. Similarly, The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection on view on the fourth and fifth floors, spanning 1880s-1940s, and 1950s-1970s respectively, are the historic gems of the museum. While there, I will also be taking in the Joan Jonas' "Out Takes". Across the bridge at the Brooklyn Museum, Takashi Murakami presents his take on Hiroshige’s 100 Famous Views of Edo”, and back in Manhattan, the Guggenheim's grande rotunda is adorned with Jenny Holzer's "Light Line", showing concurrently with an array of work from, "By Way Of: Material and Motion in the Guggenheim Collection".

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Northwest Terror Fest at Neumos & Barboza: May 9 - 11


The regional landscape of venues and artists related to the burgeoning genres and scenes spiraling out of metal, doom, hardcore, and noiserock have both in tumult and a thriving state of expansiveness in recent years. With the closing of Seattle's locus of this culture, The Highline, and the selling of their host building, other venues such as Black Lodge and Substation have stepped up their programming to fill the void. In 2017, the joint stages of Neumos and Barboza became the host to this sound's most significant event of the year with the arrival of Northwest Terror Fest. For metal and its fans, it was such a pivotal paradigm shift in which, "Northwest Terror Fest Flipped Seattle on its Head". An all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days hosted a lineup featuring no small quantity of metal issuing from the variegated low-lit landscape of black and doom metal mutations. Initially launched under the 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", and in a 2019 interview, the festival's co-organizer Joseph Schafer describing how "The Third Time (Is Still) the Charm". As with many festivals and arts events, the 2020 edition was postponed with the intent of being rescheduled when the global pandemic abated. Returning after successful 2022 and 2023 editions, Northwest Terror Fest arrives this year with some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st century. Over the course of three nights, and six showcases, this year's lineup encompasses everything from gloaming atmospheric ambiance and doom riffs, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psychedelic and stoner rock explorations. As depicted in No Clean Singing's coverage, attending Northwest Terror Fest is to witness an annual summation of the global scene's ongoing and expanding development. These sounds have now come to encompass melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, synth exploration and electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of which is detailed in Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", with complimentary curation from this sphere found in the excellent selections of 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, Century Media, The Flenser, and Relapse.