Thursday, September 2, 2021

Seattle Independent Music Venue & Cinema Reopenings: Aug 13 - Sept 30


After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returns in late August and September to many of the regional independent arts venues. First and foremost, these venues (with the exception of the national theater chains like AMC), are requiring proof of vaccination before being admitted. Prioritizing the safety of their patrons, mask facial coverings and capacity limits have also been established as prerequisites by the below venues. Last month, as stated under the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery guidelines; "Washington state will no longer evaluate counties based on these Key Indicators of Covid-19 Activity, and the state will fully reopen to Phase 4 on June 30, which could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 get their first vaccine dose." This was the first major step towards reopening after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, their future remained uncertain until as recently as the February federal stimulus bill and the approval of funding for arts and cultural venues that came with it. Over a year later relief funding became available for many of these same institutions with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions.
 
Opening in late August, Scarecrow Video's sister cinema, The Grand Illusion is leading the charge, both with new in-theater programming open to the public, and an overt policy statement. In their first weeks of programming they will feature Neill Blomkamp's "Demonic", Pablo Larraine's “Ema”, and Quentin Dupieux's “Mandibles”. Up north, Seattle's last remaining Landmark Theatres venue will host Leos Carax's “Annette” and the anthology film “Year of the Everlasting Storm” featuring segments by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jafar Panahi, Dominga Sotomayor, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, and Laura Poitras. The national AMC theaters chain also has a few films of note on offer, with David Lowery's Arthurian fable, "The Green Knight”, the newest film from Paul ShraderThe Card Counter”, after his excellent "First Reformed" of 2018, and this year's Cannes breakout stunner “Titane" from Julia Ducournau. Columbia City's cinephile paradise The Beacon also returns with a mixed calendar of private rentals and public screenings on select dates. For September these include Mario Bava's “Danger Diabolique”, Alex Cox's "Repo Man", Robert Downey Sr.'s "Putney Swope", and Johnnie To's “Moment of Romance”. SIFF Cinema have announced their opening next month with a full October calendar. Northwest Film Forum initiates their return with the Local Sightings Festival and later in the month Arie & Chuko Esiri's “Eyimofe” and Spike Lee's David Byrne concert film, “American Utopia”. Select music offerings of note in September include James Blake and Herbie Hancock a day apart both at The Paramount. The latter returning to Seattle after his stunning 2019 tour with Kamasi Washington and band supporting. Saharan guitar virtuoso Mdou Moctar and band will be at the newly opened The Crocodile which, a week later will also host Xiu Xiu's tour for their most recent album, "Oh No". That same weekend, Seattle Symphony will be presenting works by Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky in their opening night gala. Kelly Lee Owens will be performing her enveloping, rhythmic electronic albums on Scandinavian label Smalltown Supersound at Neumos and experimental, ambient, and magnetic tape composer William Basinski will be presenting the 20th anniversary of his "Disintegration Loops" at Fremont Abbey. Photo credit: Jessica Bartolini
 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Coil's "Love's Secret Domain" 30th Anniversary reissue on WaxTrax! Records: Sept 10 | "Further Back and Faster: A Return to Coil's Love's Secret Domain" | The Quietus


The last decade has seen a number of significant unearthings from the technocryptic discography of Coil. Most notably among these, the lost 1996 album "Backwards", finally exhumed and released in 2015 by Cold Spring Records. This week sees a sanctioned reissue of it's 1991 predecessor, "Love's Secret Domain", bridging the chronological gap between the previous reissue of it's surrealist sister album, "Stolen & Contaminated Songs". Born of the countercultural hotbed and its response to the constrictions 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. 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 club culture colliding head-on with their morose, cinematic, and surrealist themes 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". Now, 30 years since it's release on Chicago's legendary industrial and electronic label, WaxTrax!, the album enjoys a gentle remaster polishing by Josh Bonati from original source materials, and new liner notes from Drew Daniel of Matmos. Containing all 13 tracks as featured on the original compact disc edition, this quality reissue is the essential primer to Coil's later phase, as heard on the ill-fated "Backwards" album for the Nothing label, briefed in the "Trent Reznor On Coil & Nine Inch Nails" interview, and 1996's "Black Light District", 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 electronic music is revealed through the inner workings of their "Obscure Mechanics" in philosophical and musing interviews published in the pages of The Wire. 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".

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Julius Eastman's "Three Extended Pieces for Four Pianos" released: Jul 16 | Alex Ross on "Julius Eastman’s Florid Minimalism" | The New Yorker


Not unlike some of his African American contemporaries such as Olly Woodrow Wilson Jr. and George E. Lewis, Julius Eastman remained in the margins of his respective facet of the contemporary classical world for the majority of his lifetime. A member of The Creative Associates, a prestigious body of classical music academics at SUNY Buffalo's Center for the Performing Arts, Eastman was also a founding member of the S.E.M. Ensemble in the mid-1970s, alongside composer Petr Kotik. Often overlooked in the histories of modern composers and the avant-garde, features spanning the last few years, like The New Yorker's "The Genius and the Tragedy of Julius Eastman", and "Minimalist Composer Julius Eastman, Dead for 26 Years, Crashes the Canon", for the New York Times, go some way to offer corrective consideration of Eastman's contribution to 20th century classical music. The Guardian details how it was that when the composer and pianist died homeless in 1990, and it appeared that his music would die with him, it was listeners and one tireless researcher who refused to let that happen, “Julius Eastman: The Groundbreaking Composer America Almost Forgot”. Which brings us to 2018 and the release of a small abundance of Eastman's work on labels such as Blume and the compositions that comprise what Eastman called "The Nigger Series". Released in short succession after Frozen Reeds edition of "Femenine", this revival of sorts has led to an overdue scenario in which, 28 Years After His Death, a Composer Gets a Publishing Deal”. The summer of 2021 sees two releases on Belgium's longrunning experimental label, Sub Rosa, including "Three Extended Pieces For Four Pianos", and of "Femenine", in new performances by ensemble 0 and Aum Grand Ensemble.

Alex Ross writes in the New Yorker on the ongoing canonization of what many consider to be Eastman's masterpiece, Julius Eastman’s Florid Minimalism: The Composer’s Thunderous, Propulsive 'Femenine' is Becoming a Modern Classic", and in the pages of the New York Times, the meditative, sprawling composition is being explored in performances around the world, 31 years after his death, “From a Composer’s Resurgence, a Masterpiece Rises. Alongside the preservationist work of Rocco Di Pietro, American minimalist composer Mary Jane Leach has proven herself to be Eastman's most tireless advocate. In interview with The Guardian, Leach traces this back to 1998, when Leach began teaching composition at Cal Arts. Attempting to track down an Eastman piece for 10 cellos she’d seen him conduct in 1981, Leach encountered a series of dead ends: “It gradually dawned on me. All his music was missing.” As a consequence, Leach became “an accidental musicologist”, hunting for Eastman’s lost works. “My analogy is like coming across an accident,” she says. “I couldn’t walk away and hope someone else would show up.” This would begin a decades-long endeavor of discovery, revival and preservation “In Search of Julius Eastman", which she maps for New Music. Leach herself becoming a point of discussion around the shepherding of Eastman's legacy, writing an editorial for Art News on Julius Eastman, she inquires, "How to Talk About History? A Composer Wonders How to Handle Incendiary Titles by Composer Julius Eastman". Equally complex in its nuance, and touching on correlative questions related to the avant-garde, Bradly Bailey's "In the Shadow of Ideals", for Sound American acts as an insightful companion read.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Japan Cuts 2021 Edition: Aug 20 - Sept 2 & New York Asian Film Festival: Aug 6 - 22 | Nippon Connection, Japan Film Festival Plus | Virtual Festival Exhibitions



Now in the second year of the global coronavirus pandemic, many festivals continue to pivot to online virtual settings for their programming. Last year saw a number of the "Asia-themed Film Festivals Migrate Online Amid Coronavirus Pandemic", and more specifically, Japan Foundation's global Japan Film Festival Plus, Japan Society New York's Japan Cuts, Hawaii International Film Festival's J-Fest, and the Chicago Japan Film Collective, continuing their role as standard-bearers for the issuance of quality film from Japan. All of which presented their array of new cinema in the unusual festival setting of online platforms in 2021. This was also mirrored in Europe by examples like Frankfurt's excellent Nippon Connection, which also had its second year of virtual exhibitions. This year the programmers chose to make it a hybrid bridging of in-person screenings and virtual festival setting, "Nippon Connection Film Festival Goes Hybrid". For further reading, The Japan Times feature highlights the unexpected convergence of quality and volume on offer from the latter, "Frankfurt's Nippon Connection Brings Together an Extensive Collection of Japanese Films". There's also no shortage of excellence presented annually by Japan Society's North American setting of, "Japan Cuts Film Festival at Japan Society Emphasizes the Eccentric". Year in and year out, the festival offers "Asian Cinema That Pauses for Reflection", "Life in the No-Go Zone of Fukushima and Two Views on Husbandry", "The Hard Road of the Japanese Documentary Maker", and generally an expansive representation of, "The Best of Contemporary Japanese Cinema". This year's installment is also a hybrid event, with both in-person screenings and a virtual cinema platform, each with distinct offerings. Not to be overlooked, "The 2021 New York Asian Film Festival Brings the Goods", in both in-person and virtual settings. The latter hosted this year by Lincoln Center's Virtual Cinema, with some 33 films on offer.

These various festivals continue to represent a bounty of Japanese-specific cinema over the course of the two decades since the Japanese cinema explosion of the 1990s. The directors who led that wave; Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Takeshi Kitano, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike,are still among the industry's most high profile faces on the international festival circuit. Contemporaneously, a new generation of filmmakers are also making themselves heard. Though one is hard-pressed to see the abundance offered by these voices in domestic theaters. Particularly regionally here in the northwest as we have seen a significant dropoff of such titles in the programming offered in the once-abundant Seattle International Film Festival. Make no mistake, while there has been a dearth of opportunities to see these films on domestic screens, this is not representative of the volume and quality still issuing from Japan. Taste of Cinema's 2017 overview goes some way to assert this, with their substantial serving offered in the "The 25 Best Japanese Movies of The 2010s (So Far)". 2015 was a standout year for this set of rising new directors, it saw the domestic release of Shunji Iwai's disorienting urban drama, "A Bride for Rip Van Winkle", Ryusuke Hamaguchi's 5-hour domestic tranquility stunner, "Happy Hour", and Koji Fukada taking home the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes for “Harmonium”. Fukada utilizing the global platform of his Cannes win to state that, "Japanese Cinema Must Adapt to Survive". Of this new batch of directors, it could be said that "Fukada’s Filmmaking is a Breath of Fresh Air" that can be seen to follow explicitly in the footsteps of Kiyoshi Kurosawa in his darkly pessimistic take on the concerns that comprise modern Japanese life. It is not long before it becomes clear that, "In ‘Harmonium,’ a Family has Let the Wrong One In". In many regards, this "New Wave of Japanese Filmmakers Matches the Old", with new films by both Fukada and Hamaguchi premiering at Cannes to outstanding reviews in 2020 and 2021. A string of films in the last half decade that have been rich in character nuance, and high in drama have distinguished Kazuya Shiraishi, particularly that of his most recent, "'Last of the Wolves': A Sequal With as Much Bite as the First". There have also been strong returns offered by "Sion Sono's Set of Films That Don’t Fit His Bad-Boy Label", and Takahisa Zeze's miraculous transformation seen in "The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine", offering up a whole new array of concerns around, "Takahisa Zeze's Crime, Punishment, and Transcendence".

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Hideaki Anno's "Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time" Streaming Premiere: Aug 13



After a many year wait, and innumerable delays, this week the final installment of Hideaki Anno's Evangelion Rebuild tetralogy has its streaming premiere in the west. Unlike the previous films in this theatrical retelling of the influential 1990s anime, the fourth chapter will not be receiving a theatrical exhibition. While those films were distributed by Funimation and given short theatrical runs at select independent theaters, such as Seattle's Grand Illusion Cinema and the SIFF festival, this final film is instead another prize feather in the hat of "How Amazon Came to Dominate Everything". This comes during a year in which much of the world struggled, and "Amazon Won without Really Trying". Outside of Amazon's ongoing amassing of cultural influence, the film's streaming premiere in relatively close proximity to the smashing theatrical run in Japan is something to celebrate. The particulars of its online release are unfortunate though, as is the byproduct of there being no theatrical screening run here in North America. The extended path to this moment for Hideaki Anno, his Studio Khara, and the quartet of films that comprise this Rebuild hit its largest stumbling block between the third and fourth installment. The almost nine year year delay between films was compounded by exhaustion, uncertainty, other production obligations for the studio, and the opportunity to direct an installment in the classic kaiju franchise, Gojira. Anno found that this stopgap reinvigorated the production, and in an uncharacteristic statement announced his return; “The only way for me to describe Evangelion is to say that it is my soul. I make it by scraping off pieces of myself, and I made three movies in a row like that, putting everything I could into them and not thinking about what would come next. After finishing "Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo", I thought I’d never create anything again. At that time, I went into talks with Toho for "Shin Gojira", and it saved me. I think this is how I’m able to keep making Evangelion. However, since it is a fact that I’m making everyone wait, I deeply apologize for that.”

The British Film Institute's feature issue on Japan's legacy of animation, centering on the works of Studio Ghibli and its founders, posited where the future of new non-commercial animation in Japan may arise. With Ghibli's Toshio Suzuki himself offering outspoken support for the Evangelion director and Khara maven, "Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Points to Hideaki Anno". Anno might be considered an untraditional choice to hold such a mantle, he is known to be foremost as a storyteller focused on the existential, or as The Japan Times called him, "Hideaki Anno: Emotional Deconstructionist". Nowhere is this more evident than the closing chapters of his hit television series "Neon Genesis Evangelion", and its 1997 theatrical conclusion "The End of Evangelion". Yet in returning to the material over a decade later, the shortened duration of the theatrical retelling allowed for less developmental space, and fewer occasions of inward-looking existentialism. Only in the third installment "Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo", would a shift in focus begin to become more apparent. A tour-de-force of technical brilliance, the third Rebuild film expresses itself with visual flair in a manner the previous two installments only hinted at. Not only the action sequences, but the sense of scale, desolation and expansiveness seen in "You Can (Not) Redo" are immense, often thrilling, and upon reaching its conclusion, assertively morbid and surreal. Where the first two installments felt like an assured, but safe, retreading of the series' themes and settings, the third installment goes some ways to establish an identity for Rebuild of its own. Desolation is the core of this installment, shifting between moments of rest and conflict, its cumulative weight is measured against a world that is equally gorgeous, touching in its fragility, and at times celestial in it's reverie. These last components are what bring us to the final film, beguilingly titled, "Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time". This delicate, beautiful, humanistic world is what hangs in the balance at the tale's conclusion, The Japan Times finding it a, "‘Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time’: Anime Epic Gets a Fitting Finale". Now in its closing chapter, much of the inner lives and the interconnectivity of the protagonist's shared decades of life, hardship and loss are more substantially explored, and in this way, “‘Evangelion’ Director, Hideaki Anno, Explains How He Finally Found His Ending”.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Washington State Phase 4 Reopening: Jun 30 | Seattle Independent Cinema Culture


Much in the way of the regional independent music venues, last year saw all of the greater Seattle area's cinemas close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Their future remained uncertain until as recently as the February federal stimulus bill and the approval of funding for arts and cultural venues that came with it. Over a year after the pandemic shuttered venues in March 2020, relief funding became available with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally arriving alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The resources offered by the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness, crowdfunding and philanthropy efforts like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have arrived in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions. Significantly, a coalition founded by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection, alongside such notable names in American cinema as Alexander Payne, Ari Aster, Atom Egoyan, Barry Jenkins, Christopher Nolan, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, John Waters, Noah Baumbach, Richard Linklater, Sofia Coppola, and Wes Anderson have donated a lump sum to launch the Arthouse America Campaign. Petitioning the public for support, Christopher Nolan's statement in The Washington Post "Movie Theaters are a Vital Part of American Social Life. They Will Need Our Help", was also a clarion call for the rallying of these essential resources. No discussion of independent film and Seattle would be complete without placing Scarecrow Video at its locus. Recently discontinuing the scheduled appointment format, Scarecrow is now fully open to the public. And while not a theater technically, they do have a screening room and offer more films on hand than any other physical space in North America. Consider the one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema, it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. There is no other resource like that of their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions in the depths of Scarecrow's archive. With nearly 140,000 films on offer, no online streaming platform can begin to compare. To keep this singular resource alive and thriving, consider donating. They are currently in the midst of a fundraising Support Scarecrow 2.1: The Campaign for Scarecrow's Future, to ensure their longevity beyond the years of the pandemic. 

As stated under the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery guidelines; "Washington state will no longer evaluate counties based on these Key Indicators of Covid-19 Activity, and the state will fully reopen to Phase 4 on June 30, which could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 get their first vaccine dose." In response, some of the smaller neighborhood independents like Ark Lodge Cinema, Central Cinema, and Far Away Entertainment, are leading the charge by opening in the course of July. Even in advance of the Phase 4 removal of pandemic restrictions, the final remaining regional cinema of the once vast Landmark Theatres chain, The Crest was open and offering screenings with limited capacities. SIFF Cinema have just announced their reopening plans, with renovations postponing one of their three locations; “Similar to other nonprofit arts and culture organizations, our ability to reopen sustainably has depended largely on being awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant we applied for in early May. Fortunately, we learned last week that we have received the grant funds and thus are able to move forward confidently with reopening. Our plan is to first open the Egyptian and Film Center in October, followed shortly by the Uptown once that work is complete.” The Grand Illusion Cinema have announced their opening on August 20th with a number of notable screenings rumored to be in the works, and Northwest Film Forum will open their doors to the public mid-September for the Local Sightings Festival. Lastly, Columbia City's cinephile paradise, The Beacon Cinema have just recently cleared their private rental calendar for the month of August and will be reopening the first week of September with late summer and fall programming. No doubt there will be numerous more cinema announcements, programs and films of note scheduled on the horizon. These only represent the beginnings of a return to something resembling pre-pandemic regularity for our regional film venues this next season.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Washington State Phase 4 Reopening: Jun 30 | Seattle Independent Music Culture


This time last year saw the rise of the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic shutter all cultural and arts venues. Numerous concerts, film, theatre and live events were cancelled and the future of many of the regional cultural institutions looked to be in question. Over a year later relief funding became available for many of these same institutions with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions. Some have not fared as well. Seattle's premier home to all things metal, heavy rock, industrial, hardcore and punk, The Highline, was one such casualty of the last year. We can hope that venues with like-minded programming such as El Corazon and Substation rise to fill the void left in their wake. As stated under the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery guidelines; "Washington state will no longer evaluate counties based on these Key Indicators of Covid-19 Activity, and the state will fully reopen to Phase 4 on June 30, which could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 get their first vaccine dose." In anticipation, numerous of Seattle's live music venues have made the first week of July their starting line. The queer and LGBTQ-centric stage of Kremwerk, known for their cutting edge electronic, experimental and underground music programming are leading the charge with a progressive policy statement, and a calendar month beginning on Pride Week.

Fast on their heels are the trio of venues under one roof at Neumos, Barboza, and The Runaway, Seattle's longtime indie rock mainstay, The Crocodile, and the larger historical stage of The Showbox which was spared from a development bid this past year. The city's larger concert stages consisting of The Neptune, The Moore and The Paramount under the Seattle Theater Group banner have also begun filling their calendars, with the anticipated and rescheduled tours of 2020 on their stages this coming fall. Seattle's smaller and community venues like Lo-Fi Lounge, Chop Suey, Fremont Abbey, The Tractor Tavern and The Sunset will also begin their programming this summer and fall, respectively. No news yet from the city's fringes out at the Columbia City Theater, or Wayne Horzitz' ground zero for jazz in the Northwest, The Royal Room, but expect news soon. As we should from the Wayward Music Series at Wallingford's Chapel Performance Space, as their compatriot organization Earshot Jazz have begun scheduling live events, and Seattle Symphony have announced their return to live performances with an opening concert in September. Correspondingly, the fall looks to be the highest concentration of new and rescheduled tours. In rapid succession, expect to see Kelly Lee Owens, Xiu Xiu, William Basinski, Dead Can Dance, Mdou Moctar, Gary Numan, The Residents, New Order with Pet Shop Boys, Wardruna, Ministry with Front Line Assembly, Herbie Hancock, and Ólafur Arnalds, all coming through Seattle in the months of September through November. Early spring 2022 continues the abundance with shows slated from Igorrr with Melt-Banana, the Rough Trade label's Black Midi, the Shabaka Hutchings-led Sons of Kemet, Canadian noise rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and an anniversary tour from 1980s synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. No doubt there will be numerous more openings and concerts scheduled on the horizon. These only represent the beginnings of a return to a kind of pre-pandemic programming for regional venues this summer and fall.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sons of Kemet release "Black to the Future": May 21 | Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders with The London Symphony Orchestra release "Promises": Apr 16 | "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook" | The Guardian


Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings' mining of jazz's cultural memory is informed by his numerous concurrent projects; the ensemble Sons of Kemet, its splinter trio The Comet Is ComingMelt Yourself Down, Afrofuturist outfit The Ancestors, and as a guest player with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra. So there is possibly no better player in contemporary jazz more equipped to lead a quartet exploring the fringes of the territory once mapped out by post-bebop, Afrofuturist and spiritual jazz luminaries, Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, and the aforementioned Sun Ra. Nowhere in Hutching's numerous settings is this more evident than in Sons of Kemet's "Your Queen is a Reptile" of 2018. The central quartet of Hutchings, Oren Marshall on tuba, and both Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums, is aided by a rotating cast of contemporary jazz players including Pete Wareham, Eddie Hick, Moses Boyd, Maxwell Hallett, and Nubya Garcia in their ranks. The album was a first for Impulse!, the legendary and influential American jazz label that was home to Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Evans at the peak of their 1960's output. So these are the largest of shoes to fill. This adds another weighty dimension to Hutchings’ relationship with American jazz, placing him among the players whose legacy he’s endeavoring to subvert, deconstruct, and expound upon. Covered in The Guardian's primer to this contemporary body of musicians, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook", Hutchings acts as a pivot around which numerous players move through the scene. Which he enthusiastically explores in greater depth in his interview for The Guardian, "History Needs to Be Set Alight: Shabaka Hutchings on the Radical Power of Jazz".

Further evidence can be heard on his contribution to the excellent Gilles Peterson-curated "We Out Here" compilation for the Brownswood Recordings label, and Sons of Kemet's newest album for Impulse! As he takes a striking path away from the central core of jazz tradition via "Black to the Future". This fourth album for the outfit further delivering on the promise of the territory initially mapped out in their "The Space Between One & Two: Sons Of Kemet Interviewed" for The Quietus back in 2013. These contemporary scenes coalescing around a handful of cities spanning the globe, and the labels located therein, most notably Chicago's International Anthem label, New York's Eremite, and the aforementioned Brownswood Recordings. London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. The former most recently generating the lush expanse of Floating Points collaboration with Pharoah Sanders on "Promises", and from the latter we've seen Joshua Abrams' Natural Information Society in collaboration with Evan Parker. Also this past year, from another pivotal member of the Chicago scene, Jazz drummer Makaya McCraven beautifully reworked Scott-Heron’s decade-old album "I’m New Here". The album effectively resituating the legendary poet in the improvisatory tradition. While hyperbolic, Pitchfork's claim is that the label and its roster is "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", that assertion carries over here to a richly complex and fully fleshed-out new set of garments that Scott-Heron wears with stylish aplomb. One would never conceive that "Gil Scott-Heron’s Legacy Is a Work in Progress", but as the New York Times stipulates, "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History", channeling that vision into his new framing for Scott-Heron on, "We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven".
 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

My Bloody Valentine reissue "Loveless", "Isn't Anything" & "MBV" on Domino Records UK: May 21 | "Kevin Shields on My Bloody Valentine's Return: Time Is ‘More Precious’" | The New York Times


The consensus is that shoegaze and the concurrent sounds of dreampop were born of two bands. These are considered to be Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser's Cocteau Twins in the early 1980s, and A.R. Kane, the British duo whom The Guardian credits as having "Invented Shoegaze without Really Trying". Representative of their influence, decades later both can be seen ranking highly on Pitchfork's "The 30 Best Dreampop Albums of All Time". Not limited to the post-punk and indie rock era of it's genesis, both shoegaze, and it's dreampop offshoot, are going through a renaissance this decade with new bands stepping into the forum. The telltale distortion-soaked melodies, and submerged vocals can be heard in the music of 21st century bands originating from destinations as far flung as Russia and New Zealand. On the other side of the globe from the sound's UK origins, a new generation of shoegaze is currently exploding across the south pacific, detailed in The Guardian's "'A Language We Use to Say Sentimental Things': How Shoegaze Took Over Asia". At the head of this renaissance, many of the genre's most influential and formative acts have returned from extended hiatus, not only touring, but with new and relevant material. To begin with, it was improbable that Slowdive would not only reform to tour, but produced one of the greatest albums of their career. Other unlikely returns have been seen in Robert Hampson touring with LOOP, the one-time-only North American visit from Lush's brand of 4AD dreampop, and live shows and some of the first new material heard in decades from The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ride. The Guardian's "Shoegaze: The Genre that Could Not be Killed", and New York Times' "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns", best encapsulating this contemporary resurgence. Second only to the decade of the genre's origin, it's a great time for listeners avid for more of shoegaze melancholic melodicism and blissed-out fuzz. For those just now entering the neon torrent for the first time, you'd not go far wrong beginning with The Guardian's "Shoegaze: A Beginner's Guide", and the near-comprehensive book and compilation the Cherry Red label have assembled, "Still in a Dream: The Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995".


The most unprecedented of these returns was seen in the four US domestic tours since the 2007 reformation of the definitive shoegaze band, My Bloody Valentine. The band's guitarist and composer Kevin Shields has since promised forthcoming material, following on the heels of their first new album in 22 years in 2013. All of this was initiated with a series of interviews beginning with Shields' admission to The Quietus that, "Not Doing Things Is Soul Destroying", in which he shares the details of the protracted process and decades of delays involved in My Bloody Valentine's recent remasters. Speaking further with The Guardian on how the period after the 1991 album was a series of derailing setbacks involving, among other things according to Shields, the dangers of chinchilla ownership. And yet, those trials and tribulations only hint at the complexity behind the development of 2013's "m b v" album. Its creation through a relocation, rebuilding the studio, and a meticulously obsessive, perfectionist work ethic as detailed in Mike McGonigal's 33 1/3 book on "Loveless". A new chapter in this near-epic of persistence and refinement began this week with the independent label Domino securing the rights to reissue their back catalog in the United Kingdom. These will be in newly remastered editions, with the details as supplied by Domino; “Isn’t Anything" and "Loveless" have been mastered fully from analog for the deluxe LP editions, and also mastered from new high definition uncompressed digital sources for standard LPs, with each being made available widely for the first time ever. Fully analog cuts of "m b v" will also be available on deluxe and standard LPs globally for the first time. As well as a deluxe CD edition of the  "EPs and Rare Tracks 1988-1991", anthology." Shields himself offering details to the New York Times on the long and circuitous road taken to this destination, creative work throughout the pandemic, and the promise of new recordings on the horizon, "Kevin Shields on My Bloody Valentine’s Return: Time Is ‘More Precious’".

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Seattle International Film Festival: Apr 8 - 18 | Virtual Festival Exhibitions



As with many of the arts and cultural institutions throughout America's urban centers, Seattle cinema culture finds itself on a doubly precarious precipice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Even with the extraordinary measures that individuals have taken to assure the inclusion and passing of the pandemic relief package in early 2021, which included in it's allocation of federal funds, the Save Our Stages Act, "For Movie Theaters, The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill is a Tale of Two Industries". More explicitly, there is also the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, through which there are the beginnings of "Movie Houses Seeing Hope in New Covid Relief Package". It's clear that this, "Historic $15 Billion Rescue of Struggling Arts and Entertainment Industry" will act as a temporary, but essential measure, "Senator Amy Klobuchar Explains Save Our Stages Act". Yet even with Federal and private funding initiatives, like the resources allocated to Seattle independent theaters through The Criterion Collection's Arthouse America Campaign, the future beyond such stabilizing influences looks uncertain. Particularly, and most notably, with this past month's termination of Greg Olson from the position he held for a half-century, as film programmer at Seattle Art Museum. With the loss of the programmer of the longest-running film noir series in the United States, and author of definitive books on the subject of David Lynch, Seattle now finds that the "Fate of SAM Film Series Unclear as Museum’s Longtime Film Curator Laid Off". All the while, since this past fall, Seattle Art Museum has seen a boon of federal relief funding, grants and private donations, totalling in the tens of millions.

A full year has elapsed since the region declared a public health emergency and cultural venues shut their doors. Globally it has also been a year wherein festival programmers have either indefinitely postponed their programs, or shifted to online virtual settings. What would annually be the spring season's most notable festivals, taking place in Rotterdam, Berlin, and Hong Kong, have selected to have hybrid events or optimistically postponed the physical festival until summer. In the case of Rotterdam and Berlin, they have presented a strong program of films exclusively to members of the press. Hong Kong, finding themselves in a different context of largely containing the spread of the pandemic, have opted to present the most significant new works in the cinema, with a virtual sidebar of offerings. Jonathan Romney's assessment for The Guardian is particularly promising, "Berlin Film Festival 2021 Roundup: The Most Impressive Selection In Years", suggesting great things on the horizon for new cinema in the year. This includes films by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Radu Jude, Hong Sang-soo, with more superb entries from both Anocha Suwichakornpong, and Céline Sciamma. Rotterdam also had a set of noteworthy films, included in Barbara Scharres' "2021 Rotterdam International Film Festival Highlights" writeup for Roger Ebert, were new offerings from Anders Thomas Jensen, Yoshita Koda, Ana Katz, and Itonje Soimer Guttormsen.

Hong Kong seemingly not content to operate on par with the other international festivals of the season, have instead opted to to exceed their European counterparts by a good distance. While their virtual program borrows from the above highlights, the main slate and competition has no peer. They have programmed a festival featuring a number of the festival standouts from Venice, Toronto, Berlin and Rotterdam, alongside numerous premiers and recent films by, Ilya Khrzhanovskiy & Jekaterina Oertel, Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento, Kazuo Hara, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Roy Andersson, Lee Isaac Chung, Pablo Larraín, Agnieszka Holland, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Pietro Marcello, Roman Polanski, Christian Petzold, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Sakahara Atsushi, Frederick Wiseman, Andrei Konchalovsky, Fabio & Damiano D’Innocenzo, Lav Diaz, Cristi Puiu, Rithy Panh, Sergei Loznitsa, Václav Marhoul, Benoît Jacquot, Ahmad Bahram, Valentyn Vasyanovych, Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro, Christos Nikou, Oliver Laxe, Heinz Emigholz, Masaharu Take, Andrey Khrzhanovsky, a set of Restored Classics from the silent era to present day, a Shochiku Cinema 100th Anniversary showcase, and both a Stanley Kwan and Wong Kar-Wai series. By contrast, the offerings in next month's Seattle International Film Festival appear slight. Returning from their hiatus of last year, Seattle have nonetheless programmed a set of the significant films seen in New York and Toronto, like those from François OzonMohammad Rasoulof, and Miwa Nishikawa. There's also a selection of Venice, Berlin, and Rotterdam favorites like the newest from Damiano & Fabio D'Innocenzo, Anders Thomas Jensen, Ana Katz, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, and Srdan Golubović. As well as a set of Sundance notables from Alexis Gambis, and Prano Bailey-Bond, alongside award-winning films by Yu-Hsun Chen, and Tomas Vengris, and a premiere from Robert Connelly.