Thursday, October 10, 2019

Max Richter with The ACME Ensemble US Tour: Oct 12 - 20

Returning to Seattle's The Moore Theatre after just having toured the west coast last fall, German neoclassical and soundtrack composer, Max Richter will be performing selections from his newly released anthology, backed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. Running the gamut of his studio albums, works for dance and theater, and an array of soundtracks "Voyager: The Essential Max Richter", is a near-comprehensive overview of the composer's two decades of output. Over the course of over 50 recordings, spanning soundtracks for dance, theater, installation and film, alongside his personal output beginning with 2002's "Memoryhouse", Richter has marked out a body of work in a field shared with such 21st Century contemporaries as Jóhann Jóhannsson and Ólafur Arnalds. Many of these entries in Richter's prolific catalog are commissioned works, such is the case with "Infra", a score for the modern dance choreographer, Wayne McGregor. Not limited to dance work with Company Wayne McGregor, their collaborations have also embraced cutting edge transmedia installations like those of Random International. Their "Future Self" for MADE, was one of the first in a series of successful collaborations with a score supplied by Richter. The installation's premier at The Barbican was met with enthusiasm in the pages of the BBC and a glowing review from The Guardian. It's London run featuring a succession of live performances taking place within the installation space over the course of the 2012 Frieze Art Fair. Following in rapid succession, the trio's "Rain Room" made it's premier at The Barbican London the following year, to then come stateside at MoMA's PS1 as part of "EXPO 1: New York", and eventually the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. At the former, as part of a group exhibition of environmental works on ecological challenges in the context of the economic and sociopolitical instability. Generating more than a bit of a sensation, favorable press and public response, the installation's time at PS1 was covered in The New York Times' "Steamy Wait Before a Walk in a Museum’s Rain". With it's following run in Los Angeles featured by the LA Times, "Inside LACMA's Rain Room: An indoor Storm Where You Won't Get Wet".

Yet these are not the most audacious of Richter's meetings of composition, setting and performance. 2015 saw the composer realize his long developing 8 hour piece for the facilitation of "Sleep". The full night-long composition is available as a recording for home consumption both digitally, as a ultra high fidelity Blu-Ray audio release, as well as a separate edition of excerpt highlights conceived to represent the more engaged listening aspects, titled "From Sleep". But it is in performance that "Sleep" most explicitly realizes it's intent. Premiering in atypical venues across Europe, such as the Welcome Collection Reading Room, wherein the attendees nestled their campbeds between the reading room’s bookshelves and displays of alchemist flasks in anticipation of the clock striking midnight and the performance of Richter's "Eight-hour Lullaby for a Frenetic World". Last summer, and a first of its kind in North America, Los Angeles' Music Center, hosted two nights of outdoor performance of "Sleep" in Grand Park under the late night July skies. This bold venture was met with anticipation for its experiment in duration and setting, in both Rolling Stone's "Composer Max Richter to Perform Overnight L.A. Concerts with 560 Beds", and the Los Angeles Times' "Composer Max Richter Wants Fans to Spend the Night in Grand Park". Through its successful realization, August Brown's "The All-Night, Outdoor Concert 'Sleep' Creates a Calming Reprieve with a Sense of Loss", accounts that “Sleep” was not just a beautiful, time-bending piece, but in this performance, contributed notably to re-imagining our public spaces. Recognizing the New Music and American Minimalist connections Richter in an interview for Bomb, spoke of his longstanding; "interest in extended-duration things. With music, this goes back to the ’60s, those all-night happenings, like Terry Riley and John Cage, all that. It’s certainly an idea that’s been around a long time." There have been no shortage of coverage in the pages of The Los Angeles Times, Time and NPR connecting "Sleep" with it's benefits in relation to the media-abundant and time-scarce lives that many people feel they lead. More than just a layman's low key artistic response to these concerns, Richter consulted with Baylor College neuroscientist David Eagleman in developing his composition. Assembled over the course of two years, the project's genesis was born of Richter's desire to make a “very deliberate political statement” on how daily time is spent and nature of how the public engages with their larger sonic environment.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Guy Maddin’s "Séances" at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 25 - Nov 3

The Silent Era is in the midst a rise into greater cinema culture consciousness, along the way inspiring some genuinely inquisitive forays into documentation, restoration and preservation. With some 85% of all of silent film believed to be lost, Canada's own artist-of-artifice extraordinaire, Guy Maddin has taken it upon himself to create a series of Silent Cinema revivals of quite a different sort. His proposed "Making 100 Short Films in 100 Days in Four Countries with Current Project 'Spiritismes'" led the way to the series of "Séances". Which had the first of their invocations and performance at Spiritismes at the Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2012 with a second set of performances "Guy Maddin’s Performance Installation 'Séances' Begins Filming" at Montreal's Phi Centre a year later. The completed project to be hosted online by the National Film Board wherein the interactive format will allow for viewers to experience the films together, arranged recombinant forms by software designed by Halifax-based Nickel Media. Generating their own unique structures, these algorithmically arranged assemblies have the potential to form hundreds of millions of unique narrative permutations in, "Guy Maddin’s Endless Cinematic Experience". Speaking with Jonathan Ball, the director details the differences involved in these concurrent projects, "Guy Maddin on The Forbidden Room and Writing Melodrama"; "While The Forbidden Room was a feature film with its own separate story and stars", says Maddin, "Séances" on the other hand is a place — a dark place! — where anyone online can hold séances with the spirits of cinema, lost and forgotten cinema. The "Séances" project has really evolved in recent months. It was going to be title-for-title remakes of specific lost films, but we found as we went that the spirits of many other lost movies, and the spirit of loss in general, haunted our sets and demanded to be represented in front of our cameras."

In an set of interviews with The Guardian's Jonathan Romney, "Guy Maddin on His Surreal Séances and Sexploitation Remakes", the director talks his recent run of collaborative work with the Johnson brothers. In films like their cannibalistic meta-construction "The Green Fog", the trio have produced a singular body utilizing both chemical and digital degradation processes, with a twinned auditory effect in Galen Johnson's deeply Hauntological soundtrack constructed from repurposed classical music and incidental film scores. Together the sound and image making for a headily over-brimming, absurd concoction of hallucinogenic digressions and narrative tips of the hat, all rendered in wildly divergent film stock, color coding, media artifacts and states of decrepitude. Their approach to both form and technique in their paradoxically original pastiche detailed in Cinema-Scope's "Lost in the Funhouse: A Conversation with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson". Further quantified in the pages of Film Comment as "too much is just right", Romney delves deep into the movie-mad filmmaker’s collaborative feats of phantasmagorical cinema, "The Infernal, Ecstatic Desire Machine of Guy Maddin". In 2015 I encountered a previous work in this style by the trio. Their "Kino Ektoplasma" multi-screen installation was created as a resurrection of lost films of the German Expressionist era in a preternaturally gorgeous, transmutive sequence, specifically commissioned as part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s. Years later, these works finally arrive in town in a seasonally appropriate stretch of days at the end of October and earliest November. Northwest Film Forum will be presenting their mini-retrospective of the director's work, the trio of theatrical films, "Archangel", "Careful", and "My Winnipeg", screening concurrently with the weeklong Seattle premier of the long anticipated "Séances" installation.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

All Monsters Attack at Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 4 - 31 | The October Country and Folklore Phantasmagoria at The Beacon Cinema: Oct 1 - 31

There seemingly can't be enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme programming and repertory series in the local cinema. To my mind, the months of October and November could always do with more in the way of the season's genre film and its disorienting frights, crepuscular surrealism, and discomfiting atmospheres. Thankfully, Scarecrow Video steps up with their October screening room calendar and curated Halloween section of domestic and international horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and psychotronic selections. Their Psychotronic Challenge also returns in its fourth installment, challenging viewers to select a new theme category for every day in October from the deep trivia of the cues on offer. While we're here, lets talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema (regardless of genre, era or style), it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. For horror and genre aficionados, there is no other resource in North America like that offered by Scarecrow Video and their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions in the depths of their archive. With nearly 130,000 films on offer, there is no singular online streaming resource that can compare. In previous years, the annual citywide cinematic offerings for the months of October and November have seen a great set of films exploring desolate worlds, classic Japanese horror, a vampiric romaticism double feature and a night of music from a maestro of Italian horror. Also in the way of recent Halloween seasons of note, the local arthouse cinemas presented a an abundance on the theme of the haunted house in 2015, and 2013 saw no small number of invaders from beyond. 2017 was heavy on 1970s psychedelic and psychological horror from Europe, particularly from the era of abundance seen in the subgenres of French Fantastique and Italian Giallo.

Last year's programming taking a cue from Nick Pinkerton's feature for Sight & Sound, and their "The Other Side of 80s America" focus on the decade of independent and genre cinema issuing from the United States. Concurrent with the pop culture revelry of Reaganite family-oriented dramas, action, teen movies, and sci-fi blockbusters, a more rebellious and independent strain of US movie making explored the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. Anne Billson's supporting article "A Nightmare on Main Street" plumbs the deeper realms of the decade's more assertively subversive low-to-medium budget genre fare, often “unburdened by notions of good taste". These manic explorations of class conflict, Cold War dread, ecological disaster and suburban paranoia also featured in Northwest Film Forum's monthlong assembly of, Shock & Awe: Horror During the Reagan Years. One of the longest running, and most consistently satisfying of the local Halloween series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's monthlong All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, creature features, classic thrillers, sci-fi, and cult cinema. This year's installment features the kind of core genre gems that audiences have come to expect, straight from the horror golden age of the 1970s through late 80s, alongside a selection of 1950's and 60's B-movies, and a set of strong contemporary films from Great Britain and Germany. Thematically, the offerings include Puritan and 17th Century horror in the form of Michael Reeves' assigning a substantial role for Vincent Price as the "Witchfinder General", and equally inspired by Shakespeare as Lovecraft, there's Ben Wheatley's "A Field In England". The new British indie director also put an indelible mark on the scene with his rarely screened 2011 feature, "Kill List", which may stand as his most notable film to date. Another strong contemporary entry can be found in Fatih Akin's beerhaus butcher that prowls, "The Golden Glove".

All-time Folk Horror classics, particularly those originating from Great Britain, like the 1973 "Wicker Man", by Robin Hardy appears in the series in it's new director's edition final cut, and American master of the urban psychodrama, Abel Ferrara, is represented by an early entry in his voluminous filmmography, "The Driller Killer". Returning after it's screening in SIFF, Alexandre O. Philippe's theoretical documentary "Memory: The Origins of Alien", explores Ridley Scott's classic in new ways, and character actor Dick Miller has a Halloween Double Bill, thanks to Roger Corman's mashing of horror and comedy, in both "A Bucket of Blood", and "Little Shop of Horrors". A corpse runs amok in Billy Senese's "The Dead Center", and the plague has a new set of symptoms in the medieval horror of Christopher Smith's "Black Death". Mads Mikkelsen's "one eye" is equally disastrous to everyone he encounters in Nicolas Winding Refn's dark ages barbarian drama, "Valhalla Rising". Jörg Buttgerei's "Nekromantik" is a different kind of grotesquerie, subjectively "erotic", depending on one's sensibilities, and interpersonal and familial psychodramas get their moment in Colin Eggleston's "The Long Weekend", and Peter B. Good's 1989 VHS-only "Fatal Exposure". Atomic horror also receives a set of films from the 1950s to 1980s. The first of which not often seen outside of the UK, Mick Jackson's "Threads" watches like a Cold War Twilight Zone update, and the poster kaiju for nuclear armageddon, Gojira celebrates his 65th anniversary with new restorations and theatrical screenings thanks to Janus Films and the Criterion Collection. The atomic goliath is featured in his original Ishiro Honda 1954 "Godzilla" incarnation, and in Yoshimitsu Banno's 1970's pop-psychedelic ecological monster clash, "Godzilla vs. Hedorah".

Few resources cover the burgeoning world of genre film studies than the veritable home of horror writing and criticism that is The Miskatonic Institute. Through a series of interviews with The Quietus, founding members Virginie Sélavy with Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press, and Coil's Stephen Thrower author of "Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents", spoke on the cross pollination of the postmodern situation. Wherein genre definitions break down, and in their fertile collision producing contemporary works inspired by, and expounding upon the cult film and fringe music of decades past, "At This Film Institute, Where the Course Material Is Killer". It is precisely this territory that the newly established The Beacon Cinema is looking to do some deep cartography of throughout the month, in two concurrent series, The October Country, and Folklore Phantasmagoria. Titled after a Ray Bradbury collection of macabre short stories, the lowering gloam of the season's shift from late summer into fall has evidently inspired The Beacon's Tommy Swenson. To begin with, they've assembled a genre-elusive set of films like Michael Rubbo's oddball "The Peanut Butter Solution", Charles B. Pierce's "The Town That Dreaded Sundown", Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's "Messiah of Evil", and peculiar BBC entries like Lesley Manning's "Ghostwatch". In the way of unexplained phenomena and the supernatural, the cinema will also be hosting its own night of, "The Beacon Guide to Unsolved Mysteries" starring Robert Stack, as well as their "The Beacon Halloween Special", featuring an undisclosed mystery gem of unusual hew. Arthouse masterpieces and studio classics also adorn the series, which includes the unhinged psychosis of Andrzej Żuławski's Cannes award-winning "Possession", a particularly rare opportunity to see Victor Erice's Spanish Civil War fable, "The Spirit of the Beehive", and Peter Weir's equally oneiric Australian period piece, "Picnic at Hanging Rock".

From the studio era we are treated to three of the greatest films of their respective decades, the incontestable brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", Christian Nyby (and Howard Hawks'), "The Thing from Another World", and a Val Lewton production of Jacques Tourneur's "Cat People". No fall season genre series would be complete without American entries from the 1970s and 80s, and certainly not so without John Carpenter. He's represented here with a later film inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti, even spinning a clever variation on one of Lovecraft's titles with "In the Mouth of Madness". The descriptively titled Folklore Phantasmagoria series delivers on the promise of it's title with a set of stylistically vibrant works that put to test the parameters of the psychotronic. Both Kim Ki-Young and Kuei Chih-Hung's entries are deserving of a veritable mountain of adjectives, (and expletives), and neither "IO Island" nor "Boxer's Omen", are pure martial arts fables and even by Shaw Brothers Studios' "Black Magic" standards. Overflowing with ideas, psychedelic treatments, and disorienting turns to the point of excess, they share these same qualities in a much different thematic and color palette with their Euopean cousins of sorts found in Juraj Herz, Konstantin Ershov and Georgiy Kropachyov. The latter two functioning as a duo bringing us an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's Ukrainian folk tale, "Viy: Spirit of Evil". While decadent in a sense, Herz' film differs from the above in it's richly baroque production of a Alexander Grin gothic drama about the power struggle between two sisters of an aristocratic family. Where "Morgiana" deviates from the Grin is in its pointedly grotesque decadence, (think Rainer Werner Fassbinder) and the film's narrative vantage being that of the heteroclite and more sinister of the two sisters (and her cat).

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 10 - 14 | Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 10 - 20 | Seattle Kinofest at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 22 - Nov 5 | Into The Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series at Seattle Art Museum: Sept 26 - Dec 5

Like last year's deluge of film festivals over the course of the fall months, 2019 sees a small abundance arrive in town and around the region for the month of October through early November. Among the festivals and series on offer, Seattle Art Museum's cinema curation deserves a notable mention. This past year's calendar has been filled with notable repertory and archival works, including retrospectives on two 20th century auteurs from far-flung corners of the world, Yasujiro Ozu and a twin series of Ingmar Bergman. The museum's annual French and Italian cinema series are also significant, as is their long running winter Film Noir program. Now in it's fourth decade, Into the Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series features such all-time classic noir directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Samuel Fuller, Edward Dmytryk, Edgar G. Ulmer, Michael Curtiz, and more contemporary neonoir from John Boorman, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. This year's array of titles spanning the themes of deadly love, mistaken identities, men done wrong by organized crime, dystopic modernism and haunting nocturnal forays into Los Angeles. As featured in, "Murder, My Sweet", "Detour", "The Breaking Point", "Niagara", "The Wrong Man", "Lolita", "The Naked Kiss", "Point Blank", and "Mulholland Drive". Concurrent with the opening month of the Seattle Art Museum's series, the annual contemporary German cinematic overview of Kinofest opens the week following this year's Seattle Polish Film Festival. Presenting both restored archival work, these two cultural showcases look to span the decades between such landmarks as the work born of the Polish Film School, New German Cinema and contemporary movements like the Berlin School.

North of the city one of the region's most compelling cinephile events will be taking place over the second weekend in October. As an example of programming a festival of diverse yet qualitative content, the current body of the Seattle International Film Festival could take a page or two from the Orcas Island Film Festival. While running only five days, and featuring less than one tenth of the films on offer during the three weeks of SIFF, the regional microfestival is an exemplar representation of contemporary programming. In the unlikely setting of the rural beauty of the San Juan islands, chief programmer Carl Spence, has produced a 40-odd-film program in their 6th year to rival that of its Seattle goliath. As the Seattle Times states, it is the case that "Orcas Island Film Festival: Small Fest, Big Movies" which draws largely from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside a number of the notable films from Venice, Sundance, and Toronto. Among the films on offer in Orcas, there's the hotly anticipated fascist farce of Taika Waititi’s "Jojo Rabbit". Apparently more an exercise in whimsical weird comedy than the opportunity for some biting satire of that the modern era so clearly deserves, it did nonetheless take home the top award at Toronto. Much has been written about French Left Bank director Agnès Varda in recent years, particularly with her passing this March. Fitting then, for an incomparable director and personal essayist to leave us with two of her more intimate and inviting works in the form of 2017's "Visages Villages", and her parting gift to the world, "Varda by Agnès". Bringing in a five star review from Peter Bradshaw at Cannes, Céline Sciamma’s 18th Century story of obsession "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", demonstrates a new mastery of a classical, almost Hitcockian style. Another massive film by all accounts is the return to form, and more solidly reliable thematic content, from South Korea's once challenging satirist, Bong Joon-ho. More than just a off-kilter black comedy of a rich Korean family slowly being subsumed and replaced by an impoverish one, his class revenge tale "Parasite", digs its tendrils in deep to the desperation produced by modern global wealth disparity.

From Toronto, there's Fernando Meirelles' tale of "Two Popes" with Anthony Hopkins’ Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Francis, as well as more antics from Shia LaBeouf in the form of "Honey Boy". By contrast, a film deserving of attention is the portrait of cultural dislocation seen through the eye of the protagonist of Nadav Lapid's Golden Bear-awarded "Synonyms". Another solidly constructed post-Colonial vantage into issues of class, duty and servitude in the developing world takes a more ruminative and poetic view, in Mati Diop's suggestively supernatural "Atlantique". Romanian New Wave director, Corneliu Porumboiu returns to crime and police procedurals with "The Whistlers", in which a bent detective becomes entangled in the crimes that he's investigating. Given the cast, Ira Sachs' "Frankie" should be more compelling than its Cannes' reviews suggests, and one would have to go very far astray from the life and work of Merce Cunningham to produce something less than richly satisfying with "Cunningham". Noah Baumbach returns what he does best in his finely judged divorce retrospective, "Marriage Story", and Trey Edward Shultz' "Waves" depicts a very different mode of family drama. Adam Driver stars again in the incisive indictment of the United States post-9/11 interrogation processes, in "The Report", and Quentin Dupieux is back with another dose of his fetishistic gibberish cinema, with "Deerskin". French cinema of a more substantive manner can be seen in François Ozon's "By the Grace of God", which took home the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. From Sundance, we get Chinonye Chukwo's Jury Prize-winning "Clemency", and a new comedy from Upright Citizens' Brigade and Saturday Night Live alumnis, "Greener Grass". Diao Yinan's follow up to his brilliantly constructed neo-Noir, "Black Coal, Thin Ice", fails to expand on that film's stylistic and thematic content, nonetheless producing a satisfying genre work with, "The Wild Goose Lake". Apparently another return to form for Pedro Almodóvar, "Pain and Glory" delivers a sensuous and potentially autobiographical gem through Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of a ageing filmmaker facing up to his later years in life. Also consistently ranking highly in overviews from Cannes, Marco Bellochio's "The Traitor", looks to deliver a finely styled period drama on the life of Tommaso Buscetta, the first Sicilian Mafia boss turned pentito.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

SUNN O))) new album "Pyroclasts" & West Coast Tour with Papa M: Sept 1 - 15 | Boris new album "LφVE & EVφL" & US Tour with Uniform: Aug 19 - Sept 29

At the forefront of a then new strain of Metal simply coined Doom, bands like Earth, outings by Boris, and the Northwest trio of SUNN O))) were fashioning a gargantuan and glacial sound in the late 90s to early 2000s. These bands themselves inspired by the earliest manifestations of the sound from the late 80s to early 1990s, its developmental phase heard in the music of Pentagram, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Trouble. While bearing cultural associations with the recent Post-Black Metal explosion, as detailed in Brad Sanders' "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", for The Quietus, the offshoot of Doom in the 1990s remains it's own cloistered musical corner of that world. Touching on Doom within the larger context, Sanders' article acts as an opening unto the dark passageways of contemporary Metal's multitude of stylistic representations. These sounds further showcased in the past half-decade of The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus showcase of excellent curation, dominantly issued through all things Metal-and-beyond labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. Seven years have elapsed since Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's SUNN O))) performed here in Seattle, they return to The Showbox this month on a series of west coast dates in support of their most recent tectonic slab of sound, "Life Metal", and forthcoming companion album, "Pryoclasts". While their presence on the west coast as a live, touring band has been scarce in recent years, they have entered into one of the most prolific collaborative phases the band has seen to date. Not only releasing the "Terrestrials" with legendary experimental Norwegian band, Ulver, they produced an album with the late 20th century singularity known as Scott Walker on "Soused". The timing of the latter particularly fortuitous, as just this year, the life of this brilliant maverick came to an end, “Pop's Great Adventurer: How Scott Walker Reached the Heart of Darkness”. In the midst of this all, somehow finding time and resources to contributing to Jóhann Jóhannsson's pounding, sensory-fraying work with Randall Dunn, on "Cosmatos’s Mock-1980s Oddball Nerd Fantasy Yarn", score for "Mandy" in 2018. This seemingly boundless well of musical and thematic inspiration plumbed in their interview with The Quietus, "Inspiration From Above and Below: The Strange World Of... SUNN O)))", and to even greater depths, for The Wire's April 2009 issue. Complete transcripts of the associated interviews with both Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson are further enhanced by SUNN O)))'s regular contributing members; Mayhem's vocal leviathan Attila Csihar, Seattle electric violin virtuoso Eyvind Kang, electronic and experimental vocalist Jessika Kenney, and Australia's all around sonic renaissance man, Oren Ambarchi.

Returning to the Northwest with much greater frequency, Sacred Bones label artist Uniform will be here for the second occasion this year following their winter tour with experimental Metal band, The Body. Hot on the heels of last year's "The Long Walk", a new collaborative album, "Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back" arrives this month. The furious soundscape of their third album (and this newest in a set of collaborations with The Body), runs the gamut of a dissonant molasses crawl, passages of substantial lurching weight, and bludgeoning epileptic hysteria. Fitting then that The Quietus' "Killing It In America: An Interview With Uniform", touches on the American genre author, and that this spastic, guttural album is inspired by a dystopic, authoritarian short story by Stephen King. In the way of their collaborators, there are few acts that fully embody the term Experimental Metal, quite to the extent of The Body. Through a small abundance of solo and collaborative albums both with Uniform, a set of blistering noise-thrash intersections with Full of Hell, and their recent "Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light", The Body have carved out a corpus of sounds at the vanguard of the genre's evolution. The Quietus' "Prepare For The Worst: Facing The Apocalypse With The Body" describes the doom-full trajectory that has led to this year's, "I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer". With Uniform for a night at Neumos, Japanese heavy rockers, Boris make their semi-annual return to the west with a string of Us tour dates. Showing no signs of a sedentary codification of their sound, or a deceleration of their recording or touring schedule, "For Boris, Heavy is a State of Being". Rumored at the time to be their swansong, after almost 25 years of recording and endless activity, 2017's "Dear" for Sargent House instead generated nearly three albums of vital new material. Born from this precipice, they return this fall with a new album, "LφVE & EVφL" as well as a set of domestic LP reissues for Jack White's Third Man Records in October.

Though not likely to ascend to the heights of 2013's world tour wherein they played the totality of their magisterial opus "Flood", alongside a second night of "All-Time Classics", the "LφVE & EVφL" tour still promises an evening of the heart-of-the-sun intensity Boris are known to deliver live. The most recent in a decade of semiannual live events which has seen them manifest an ever-mutating mix of Doom Metal, Heavy Psych, warped J-Pop, willfully dysfunctional Indie Rock, and even their own thrilling take on Dream Pop and Shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series, which was then refined on "Attention Please", from which they then pivoted to the guttural Psyche assault of "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with it's pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". This summer's tour in anticipation of the new album for Third Man Records, marks a return to the territory the band carved out with 2005's "Pink", and the brand of lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara heard on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the recent domestic reissue of "Pink" features a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March 2016 issue of The Wire recaps the trio's decades-long recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with legendary noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Its depths sounded by Masami Akita in his interview for The Quietus, "Razor Blades In The Dark: An Interview With Merzbow".

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Test Dept & Severed Heads at El Corazon: Sept 11 & 15 | “Desolation Center” at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 4, 9 - 10 | The Stentorian Era of Industrial Music Culture

Following in the wake of Punk and early New Wave, Industrial Music culture bore many correspondences to its Postpunk 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 it's 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 Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, F.S.K., Mania D, Palais Schaumburg, Sprung Aus Den Wolken, Abwärts, and Malaria!. British labels like Some Bizarre, Mute and Throbbing Gristle's own Industrial Records, were concurrently at the epicenter the UK's own cross-pollination of performance, sound, visual art, theater and cultural action. These institutions were born of the contextual cultural moment of Thatcher's England, alongside protests from the labor class and the rise of underground Queer politics. In this environment, a corpus of varied interpretations of the industrial aesthetic and sound could be heard in the music of Test Dept., Coil, Psychic TV, Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse and Nurse With Wound. No better map to this decade's cultural continuum of (often) overtly occult, queer, outsider industrial music in the United Kingdom exists than David Keenan's "England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground".

The American continent saw it's own variation on the form later harnessed by label's like Chicago's Wax Trax! Records. Their legacy, beyond just releasing a body of music that bred or came to influence more commercially successful acts of the 1990s, like Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy, Wax Trax! were defined by a then-radical business model. The revival of the label, by the daughter of its co-founder Julia Nash and her partner Mark Skillicorn, came in the heels of their 2017 documentary, "Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records". Again, acting as more than just the setting of a retail record store, and label with an atypical contract process, the environment it's founders created a cultural locus of related aesthetics, sounds, values and lifestyles. This setting giving birth to the mid-to-late 1980s Electro-Industrial sound of Ministry, Meat Beat Manifesto, KMFDM, Front 242, and Controlled Bleeding. Further north, there was an affinity to be had with the concurrent Canadian scene largely released by Nettwerk Records, which issued albums from the influential Vancouver trio, Skinny Puppy, Australia's SPK, and Severed Heads, and Toronto's Front Line Assembly. Los Angeles and San Francisco also had their own eruptions of industrial sound and performance. In some ways achieving less popular notoriety than their midwest counterparts, the major coastal cities of California generated a wholly other variety of "notorious". Sharing more in common with their Berlin and London contemporaries, the cultural and economic conditions of late 1970s San Francisco Bay Area gave rise to the spectacular performative events of destruction staged by Mark Pauline and his cohorts in Survival Research Laboratories. Still active now decades on, much of the contemporary SRL press focuses on the changed cultural and political landscape, and the difficulty of staging Pauline's elaborate, destructive spectacles. Indicative in the cultural climate shift seen between The Wire's "Is Phoenix Burning?", and The Verge's "Terrorism as Art: Mark Pauline's Dangerous Machines" of a decade later. Gone is the era in which the Bay Area is a counter-cultural hub, and institutions like SRL and RE/Search could easily secure inner city public space for performance. A central component of the Bay Area's contribution to global industrial culture at the time were some of the very first compendiums published on its artists, concepts, politics and finery, under the banner of RE/Search publications. These were curated and released by its founder V. Vale, under such evocative titles as, "Industrial Culture Handbook", "Modern Primitives", and a volume drawing parallels between the work of "William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Throbbing Gristle".

Around these performance, happenings and publishing institutions, a small core of west coast industrial music endeavors came into being. Among their numbers, the wreckage-meets-hi-hop sound of The Beatnigs, the meeting of New York and San Francisco sonic chaos of Rythm & Noise, and Los Angeles-based Savage Republic were of the highest profile. SRL and RE/Search would bolster their influence by occasionally operating in tandem. Such as was the case in the early-to-mid 1980s performances with the launch of various RE/Search editions, and their March 6th 1984 event alongside the aforementioned Rhythm & Noise, NON from the UK, and Einstürzende Neubauten. The German band themselves having just returned days before from a performance in the Mojave Desert as part of an event that was the first of it's kind, wherein “Hundreds of Punks Hit the Desert and The Modern Music Festival Was Born”. Over the course of three annual events, spanning 1983 to 1985, and including in its first installment The Minutemen and Savage Republic, the second with SRL's Mark Pauline alongside Monte Cazazza and Boyd Rice of NON, and for its third iteration, Sonic Youth and Meat Puppets, this series of DIY meetings in the inhospitable desert setting were known as Desolation Center. Having finally completed the crowdfunding process and postproduction of the documentary of these extraordinary events, Stuart Swezey spoke with Red Bull Music Academy on, "The Music and Madness of the Desolation Center". September brings a small convergence of these still active Industrial players in the form of two dates at El Corazon featuring Australia's Severed Heads, and a revived Test Dept. from the UK. This is followed a month later by a three night screening of the self-titled Desolation Center documentary at Northwest Film Forum. In the case of the British wrecking crew, their newly reinvigorated sound follows on the release of "Disturbance", and an extensive world tour. Now a duo, their sound has undergone a series of transformations from the earliest industrial theater and direct political activism of their formative years. As detailed in The Quietus' "The Strange World Of... Test Dept." while retaining a visceral percussive force, their time of collaborations with Welsh experimental theater group Brith Gof, and rallying resources for largescale spectacles realized in the site-specific settings of abandoned car factories in Cardiff and railway works in Glasgow, belong to the era of Industrial Music culture's now legendary past.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Nicolas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Transgressive Legacy, The Fearless Cinema of Claire Denis & “Cut! Is This the Death of Sex in Cinema?”

With the passing this last year of both Nicolas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci film circles mourned the cultural loss and contemplated the possible end of a era of widely viewed, transgressive, politically, and sexually liberated cinema. In the case of the senior Italian director behind such films as “Last Tango in Paris”, “The Spider’s Stratagem” and “The Conformist”, he was hailed in the pages of The Guardian as, “Bernardo Bertolucci: The Brilliant Last Emperor of Highbrow Cinema”. While the British director, known for “Walkabout”, “Don’t Look Now”, “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, produced a body of work defined by the casting of music celebrity, sharp editing and disjunct, non-linear narratives. He was considered by many, “Nicolas Roeg: A Daring Film-maker of Passionate and Visceral Brilliance”. Much in the way of Bertolucci, Roeg's thematic content was often challenging, yet both directors were revered for their willingness to depict and explore the rough-hewn aspects of life and interpersonal relationships, such as in Suzanne Moore’s opinion piece for The Guardian, “Nicolas Roeg Created a Filmic World of Sex and Shock. He Messed Me up – and I Loved Him”. What the two shared in was their painstaking observed depictions of interpersonal relations. Not shying away from the messier corners of adult consensuality, they showed sex more directly, but also more honestly and obsessively than other directors of their time. Particularly in their most notable and groundbreaking work, in this case Roeg’s “Bad Timing” and Bertolucci’s aforementioned, “Last Tango in Paris”. Consequently for each there is no shortage of material to consider in the, “Sex Factor: Nicolas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Transgressive Legacy”.

In her observation on the diminishing of content in the modern era that might traverse such complex and charged territory, Catherine Shoard selects “The Fearless Cinema of Claire Denis” as the antithesis to these trends. Expressly the depiction of sex, sexual power and psychology in the director’s newest, "Claire Denis on High Life, Robert Pattinson, and Putting Juliette Binoche in a “F*ckbox”. The film’s sexual and corporeal focus on a unflinching exploration of "The Fleshy Frontier", and past traditions in related is cinema are considered in John Semley's piece for The Baffler. These multifaceted bodily, sexual, and psychological tensions also succinctly delineated in Charles Bramesco’s review, “High Life: Orgasmic Brilliance in Deepest Space with Robert Pattinson”. Plumbing further, Shoard’s piece for The Guardian delves into the current trend away from depictions of nuanced interpersonal content, which has made anything but values-defined expressions of sexual relations (and their biological and psychological underpinnings), anathema. Such is the cultural moment that a prohibitive MPAA rating, "trigger warning" supplied by the exhibitor, or outright retraction and editing of material in response to poor audience reception, is not unheard of. As Shoard illustrates over numerous observations and citations in, “Cut! Is this the Death of Sex in Cinema?", the reasons 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 defining no small part of their enjoyment, or even acceptance, of thematic and psychological content in fiction. Or, as award-winning Man Booker shortlister, and recipient of Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, author Zadie Smith succinctly stated in a recent interview; "Identity is a Pain in the Arse".

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Digable Planets and the Brief Rise of Backpack Rap | Live at The Neptune Theatre: Aug 9

For the briefest of times, there existed a set of artists at the cultural crossroads of concurrent movements in Sampledelia, Turntablism, Breaks Music, Acid Jazz, Jazz Rap, Classic Hip Hop, and it's more sophisticated cousin, the Alternative Hip Hop of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Theirs was a sound that, rather than drawing from the then burgeoning styles of Miami and East Coast Bass, Hardcore, Pop, and Party Rap, instead assembled new correlations with a genre blurring assimilation of electric Funk and Jazz, Soul, Dub and Reggae. Even occasionally touching on the downtempo moods of Folk and Psychedelic Pop of the 1960s and 70s. In the latter a lineage of lyricism can be seen connecting their sound with the Civil Rights era writing of the Beat poets, African American cultural figure, Gil Scott-Heron, and the work of present day lyricists like Saul Williams. The couplet of Soul Jazz Records compilations navigating the abundance of groundbreaking styles on their ongoing Soul of a Nation and Boombox series, "Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro & Disco Rap 1979 - 83" and "Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power: Underground Jazz, Street Funk & The Roots of Rap 1964 - 79", lay down the complexities of the cultural moment that proceeded this epoch. Concurrent with the popularization of what was being called the "alternative music" movement in American rock of the early 1990s, this body of Alternative Hip Hop came into being. Originating primarily from East Coast groups such as De La Soul, Black Sheep, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, The Roots, and Digable Planets. In conjunction there existed a West Coast strain epitomized by acts such as The Pharcyde, Digital Underground, Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, The Coup, Del the Funky Homosapien and his outfit the Hieroglyphics, as well as a lower profile set of Southern acts, among which Goodie Mob and the pop-meets-Afrocentric sounds of Arrested Development made their presence known.

At this era's inception, a trio of now-classic debut albums; De La Soul's "3 Feet High and Rising", A Tribe Called Quest's "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm", The Pharcyde's "Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde", all achieved commercial success, defined in no small part by MTV and College Radio airplay alongside their "indie" and Alternative Rock contemporaries. Elevated further by the acclaim they were met with from the widely influential alternative music press of the time. Critics for such magazines as Spin, Alternative Press, Q, Ray Gun, Wired and Mojo as the cultural signposts and tastemakers of the 1990s, were quick to hail these works as innovative, intellectual, soulful masterpieces. Often conceiving the artists working within this new field as representative of the future of hip hop as a whole. This would all peak by the mid-to-late 1990s, culminating in the genre's ascent into popular culture, and wider mainstream press embracing of its characteristic sound. This short span of years and the musical era it represents for hip hop is often seen as concluding with the release of Fugee's "The Score", and The Roots' "Do You Want More?!!!??!". At its apogee, this growing body of poetically sophisticated, technologically astute, politically conscious, genre-assimilating hip hop described a developing cultural and economic demographic of college-mobile, working and middle class African American urbanites. The intersection of their cultural moment with the economic abundance of the 1990s, and a accelerated liberalization of American coastal cities, manifest as a confluence of independent non-commercial scenes that ran parallel with the equally middle class college-bound "alternative" lifestyles of the independent rock audiences of the time.

The lyrical and thematic concerns of this new tangent in the course of hip hop differed significantly from the existing commercial rap, instead reflecting the daily concerns of the lettered, urban, liberally-inclined, politically conscious body that were the larger part of the listenership. The supposition of a certain bookishness was inherent in the perception of these shared styles and concerns, thus "Backpack Rap" and "Indie Hip Hop" became the coinage when terminology emerged. No other outfit quite represented for Backpack Rap, like the trio of Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler, Craig "Doodlebug" Irving, and Mariana "Ladybug Mecca" Vieira as Digable Planets. Musically, they incorporated elements of Funk, Samba, Downtempo beats and the brand of suggestive psychedelia common then to Turntablism, into their poetic hip hop. With Jazz, in-particular, playing a pivotal role. Not reserved about their debt to Jazz, the group gave shout-outs to icons Charles Mingus and Charlie Parker, and sampled others artists who figured in their collective DNA, including Sonny Rollins and The Last Poets. Originally from Seattle, in his youth Butler was interning at the Arthur Russell-founded Sleeping Bag Records in New York, with sojourns to Philadelphia, where Irving was living and rapping with Dread Poets Society. Fitting then that their initial encounter would be Irving and Vieira meeting while attending Howard University, to then intersect with Bulter who was already recording under the outfit's name, and migrate as a trio to New York. From their demos, Pendulum Records (operated by the senior VP of urban music at Elektra Records) signed them in 1992, inspiring the move to big city where Butler and Irving became flatmates. It was in this setting they were to refine and develop the album which became, "Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)".

Aided in no small part by Elektra's distribution into every college radio format and conceivable retail setting, the album was massively received. It would go on in the next year to not only be certified gold by the RIAA, but it's lead single, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" would become a even more widely heard Billboard charting hit, winning the "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group" at the 1994 Grammy Awards. Within the same year of their Grammy accolades, Digable Planets were to release their second album, "Blowout Comb". A departure in that it was less hook-oriented, with a more overtly contemplative, socially conscious, and political bent. Their sophomore album retained the characteristic production of influences spanning Jazz, World Music rhythms, urban ambience, while also branching out to touch on Afrofuturism. Their debt owed to previous Spiritual Jazz and Afrofuturist explorers, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, George Clinton & Bootsie Collins, Rammellzee, Jean-Michel Basquiat, was expressly woven throughout the fabric of "Blowout Comb". Inherent to their modern-day contribution to this continuity, the album touched on the Black Panther Party, Marxist thought, and observations on Capitalism in relation to urban life, wealth stratification and class divisions. These all rode alongside a consciousness that embraced Third Wave Feminism, Pro-Choice activism, and Black Power poet Nikki Giovanni. This rich weave of Afrocentric cultural history would also be the territory that Bulter would dedicate his life to in the wake of Digable Planets disillusion, which following a year later in 1995. As a solo artist working parallel with and within the 21st Century Afrofuturism movement, The Black Constellation collective and the Los Angeles-based Brainfeeder label, Bulter's following two decades would see a new body of work as Shabazz Palaces bringing his "Sci-Fi Beats With a Pacific Flavor", to a newly minted audience. "Ishmael Butler’s Heavy Afro-celestial Experience" would also lead him back into dialogs with Craig Irving, and Mariana Vieira, with suggestions of new collaborative material and a second performance at Seattle's Neptune Theatre in the wake of the Light in the Attic label's much celebrated reissues.