Tuesday, February 26, 2008

YokoMono : Touring Installation by Staalplaat Soundsystem

You want loops? You want noise? You want little battery-operated cars?
You want to kill your vinyl records, send a radio broadcast and have a great
time in the process? Well, those folks at Staalplaat already beat you to it:

Link to YokoMono Installation site

"Yokomono consists of 10 small car-shaped record players, a corresponding
set of FM radios and two mixing desks. The cars, known as "vinyl killers,"
have been customised with wireless FM transmitters. As they spin around
the vinyl, they transmit their signal to the FM radios tuned to a special
Yokomono frequency. This transmission is then mixed, edited and
manipulated in real-time by members of the Staalplaat Soundsystem"

Link to Staalplaat Soundsystem site

Alexander Kluge : 50 Film Collection on Edition Filmmuseum

Where to begin with this massive archival rerelease? All 50 Films for Cinema
from Alexander Kluge: Spanning decades of work for film (excluding of
course his later material for television) the work of this German postwar author,
compatriot of Theodore Adorno, instructor at the Institute for Social Research
and later from the 60's onward one of the most prolific of the 27 signatories to
the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962, which marked the launch of the New German
Cinema. Almost totally unseen in the US, these films have finally been made
available through the archival/restoration facilities of Edition-Filmmuseum. As
a 8-DVD, 50 Film(!!) collected edition no less. This includes what are considered
his classics; "Yesterday Girl", "Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed", "The Power
of Emotion" and the fantastically titled "The Assault of the Present on the Rest
of Time". Rare, exceptional works of cinema that have taken many, many
years to finally appear here in these meticulously assembled editions.

Link to Edition Filmmuseum "Alexander Kluge: Films for Cinema" site

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Michael Haneke's not-so-new film "Funny Games" opens at
Landmark Theatres : Mar 14

Austrian filmmaker and Cannes Jury Prize/Palme d'Or winner, Michael Haneke's newest is set to open
here in the states in the coming month. Of all the strange and unexpected turns for this challengingly
intellectual (stressing the challenging) director to take - "Funny Games" is not only a film of his own from
a decade ago, but this domestic remake is a shot-for-shot recreation of the original. Almost as if to say;
'Ok, you want a remake of my film, well here it is - exactly as I intended it. Exactly'. Haneke himself has
been generous in giving some background to the decision to do the American remake, no doubt inspired
by the question posed by much of his audience as to why. Why? In-particular when we could instead have
a totally new work by him, is he choosing to exactly duplicate an existing film? This article and excerpts
of an interview with him in the New York Times sheds some light on this curious and possibly subversive
act of creative reproduction, from one of modern cinema's greatest provocateurs:

Link to New York Times - Michael Haneke "Minister of Fear"

Link to Official "Funny Games" site

Link to Landmark Theatres screening calendar

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cristian Mungiu's film "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days" at Landmark Theatres :
Feb 1 - Mar 13

This Cannes Palme d'Or winning 'Unforgettable Cinematic Odyssey' is another extraordinary entry from
the Romanian New Wave Cinema and likely its most significant to date. Like some of its companions in
this burgeoning new movement, namely Cristi Puiu "Death of Mr. Lazarescu" - Cristian Mungiu's newest;
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" deals in stark realist drama with an unflinching eye and cinematography
set on depicting the most microscopic, discomfiting aspects of a harrowing circumstance and its effects
on a life. That it also frames the daily and the mundane in a equally harsh light, makes the contrast of the
high- drama even more difficult a watch. I won't say more here, as the film just needs to be seen rather
than spoken-of in advance. But, what I feel should be stressed is the social (and political) ramifications
of the situations explored here; being the subject of one's existential and individual freedom and rights
in society - and the injustice that this film depicts as a consequence of a political agenda that diminishes
the value of those rights. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" proposes an intense exploration of these concepts,
through a rare combination of riveting acting, disciplined directing and a cinematic experience delivered with
weighty psychological impact. All craftfully masked as (yet another) current film dealing with the subject of
teen/20-something pregnancy - unlike those cinema-sitcoms, this one though, is altogether something else.

Link to "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" Official site

Link to Landmark Theatres screening calendar

Link to US Theatrical Trailer

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Seattle Improvised Music Festival / Portland Jazz Festival :
Feb 8- 17 / Feb 15 - 24


Highlights of this years Portland Jazz Festival include improv-giants Cecil Taylor and Ornette
Coleman along with other contemporary notables as Tord Gustavsen and The Bad Plus - over
a two week period. That's a lot of time to spend hanging out in Portland, but the fest is packed
with other events, performances and lectures - if modern jazz is your thing, this is truly an opportunity:

Link to Portland Jazz Festival site

From the Portland Jazz Fest: The Shape of Jazz to Come

"The Shape of Jazz to Come will be this year's Portland Jazz Festival Signature Series of events.
Including performances, panel discussions, lectures, workshops, and Jazz Conversations with
performances featuring Ornette Coleman on opening night and revolutionary pianist Cecil Taylor
in a rare solo performance closing the first festival weekend on Sunday afternoon. Since first
emerging in the mid-50's as a kindred spirit to Coleman, Cecil Taylor has become the most
advanced improviser in jazz, and five decades later he remains the most radical. Other highlights
will include a Jazz Conversation between Coleman and Howard Mandel, author of a new, highly
acclaimed biography on both Coleman and Taylor, and a panel discussion on the impact of
Coleman's 50 years of music with journalists Mandel, Peterson, Paul DeBarros from DownBeat
magazine, and Canadian jazz writer James Hale, plus artist/educators Myra Melford, Tim Berne,
The Bad Plus, and Koung Vu."

Simultaneously, also here in the Northwest - the Seattle Improvised Music Festival begins this
week. The compelling factors for me being Jason Kahn's solo performance and the return of
Japanese guitar-improv master Tetuzi Akiyama in a number of incarnations/collaborations:

Link to Seattle Improvised Music Festival site

Monday, February 4, 2008

Autechre's new album "Quaristice" + April US Tour

15+ years now into their sonic quest to bridge the avant-electronic traditions of INA-GRM
/IRCAM style Musique Concrete with the New York City 80's urban beat of early Electro and
Hip-Hop - this 9th album from the Autechre duo of Sean Booth/Rob Brown listens as *both*
nearly as much a step forward into the unknown as their last three *and* simultaneously more
traditionally musical than anything they've dedicated to recording since 1999's "EP7". In fact,
it could be that "Quaristice" is the release that many people were expecting some 7 years ago,
when instead, we got that extraordinary forward-thinking transmission that was "Confield".
There's melodicism here and ambiance and rhythm and more traditional musical qualities
than we've heard from them in awhile, rubbing right up alongside some unquantifiable
AE-style sonic mentalism. Where the previous album "Untilted" was a rhythmic hyperfrenetic
barrage, this one is more fluid and less angular... and more diverse. Across the aural landscape
of the album there's a sense of all the tools in the Autechre toolkit having been taken out to
produce their whole spectrum of varying results. Some of which we've encountered from them
before, others surprisingly new. On occasion, this desire for all-inclusiveness creates a sense
that the album is fractured, unfinished, trying to say it all - prototypes, rather than the usual
handful of elaborately detailed finished pieces. This is especially apparent in the the smaller
beatless, textural interludes that are spread throughout the album. But that perception is
often shattered by the following track when the formlessness of the moment before collides
with the hyperstructural shapes of that which follows. As a consequence, in the course of the
70+minute listen, "Quaristice" is by degrees sonically architectural, chaotic, dynamic, textural,
spacially ambiant, suggestively melodic and of course that Autechre constant; rhythmic.

While not as forward-thinking and consistently progressive as their previous two significant
post-millennial efforts, namely; "Confield" or "Untilted" - this new album makes its own
progress in reinventing Autechre's sound as one of reassessing their past and selectively
applying aspects of their previous achievements to the current M.O. This is in-part brought
about by a shift back to more real-time hardware-based composition creating their raw material
from which they work. A process Rob Brown has described in interview as; "A lot of the album is
material cut down from these huge jam sessions that we'd done, then put all the best work
together, condensed if you like into a tangible passage of music – then boiled down into discreet
sections and those constructed into material that would make a good track". With this comes the
fluidity and squelch of analog technology and its curious variables, eruptions and 'looseness' of
form. And a good part of the album highlights the kind of high-wire balance between chaos and
precise repetitive order that is expressed by the collisions of computer-based written tech and
hardware improvisation defining the actions of that software.

Considering Booth/Brown's longstanding, adventurous, near-auteur status in the contemporary
popular electronic music landscape, this is a curious and unexpected step forward. It listens
like a mix of the kind of pure ever-advancing mutation of their past decade of works, but also
as a summation of their previous incarnations. A reinvention of the sort where an artist revisits
their previous efforts and molds similar ideas into some totally new shapes using their more
progressive skills and more articulate, developed vocabulary. As ever, "Quaristice" finds
Autechre moving forward, this time through, bringing more of their sonic past along in tow.

Link to Autechre's "Quaristice" site
Link to Warp Records site

"We are proud to announce that Autechre will release their new album 'Quaristice'
on 3rd March 2008. The record is Rob Brown and Sean Booth's 9th album, and
follows 2005's Untilted. Autechre also embark on European and American tours
when the album is released - see the dates below."

April US Dates:

04-04 Los Angeles, CA - Echoplex *
04-05 San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine *
04-06 Portland, OR - Doug Fir *
04-07 Seattle, WA - Neumos *
04-08 Vancouver, British Columbia - Richards on Richards *
04-11 Chicago, IL - The Abbey *
04-12 Toronto, Ontario - Lees Palace *
04-13 Montreal, Quebec - Club Soda *
04-14 Cambridge, MA - Middle East Downstairs *
04-15 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg *
04-16 Philadelphia, PA - Transit *
04-17 Washington, DC - Black Cat *

* with Massonix, Rob Hall

addendum: "Quaristice (Special Edition)"

The "limited to 1000 worldwide brushed steel laser-etched slipcase edition containing
a gatefold double-CD with a second disc of 'versions'" not only offers to those who were
on top of the game (this edition sold out from warpmart in under 12 hours) a crazy-precise
work of engineering in the form of the edition artwork, but rare insight into AE's methodology
as well a more expansive elaboration on the album's sonic palette and structural themes:

Link to Warp's "Quaristice (Special Edition)" site

Where many of the original tracks listen like concise, edited sentences - the 'versions' seem to
be the complete paragraph - in that way where AE indulge more of that 'repetitive structures
pushing through to new synchronicities' and introduce shifts in tempo and sound design along the
way. Some of the pieces do verge on maddening redundancy, but then progress to reveal the method
in the madness, in a way that's more striking for the listener persevering and gaining greater rewards.
A couple of the tracks are even radically different. "Fol4" being a good example; on "Quaristice" this
short piece was a jaunt of crashing musique-concrete barrage filled with dynamic waves of textural
detritus and froth. The 'version' supplied here employs many of the same elements, but expands on
their arrangement into an 11 minute rhythmic industrialized odyssey through the same landscape.
As much as its a revelation to get to hear these pieces in this context, the knowledge that so little of
AE's audience will have the privilege of hearing this perspective into Booth/Brown's sonic world is a
bit of a collective disappointment. For my own future listening, I think its going to be these 'versions'
of the tracks that I return to over what now listens like the 'edits' on the album-proper.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Alex Rutterford & Autechre's "Gantz_Graf" video

Precisely one month from the release of the new album, two months from Autechre's live tour and and
exactly five years (five years?!... this is five years old now?) since its release - the digital video animation
for Autechre's "Gantz_Graf" by Alex Rutterford is as fresh, confounding, dynamic and beautiful a piece
of AV experience as the day it dropped on the unsuspecting AE audience.

Possibly the most literal, yet totally abstract 'music video' made so far this century. ... And yes,
I recognize watching this as a embedded video on a computer screen is akin to listening to Autechre
on some kind of sh*tty excuse for a home stereo, but for those who already know this work the
generalities are conveyed. Some interesting insight into the methodology and inspiration from
Rutterford on this piece of digital psychedelic techerie here on the Warp site:

Link to Warp Records "Gantz_Graf" / Alex Rutterford interview site

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Second Life is now an Unpopulated Wasteland of Corporate Advertising
...and hilarious works of Surrealist Hacker-Art

Virtual Social and Commercial Network Environment 'SecondLife' is proving now after its initial hype to be just as
fabricated, intangible and vapid of a experience for its participants as the premise suggests. Some years later, its
become a predominantly desolate, unpopulated virtual-environment defined by omnipresent corporate advertising,
empty streets and vacant storefronts. Wired did this pretty great article on the desolate 'uninhabited' wasteland its
become since its inception. Check those images on the second page for reference:


Remember not-so-long-ago when corporations and private investors were buying 'real estate' in Second Life
for thousands of dollars to promote their consumer products and agendas? Look what's become of all those
investments just a scant few years later. This may redefine the word 'Dystopia' entirely on its own... or at least
a prototype for Dystopia: Corporate entities scrambling to fill every last visible 'surface' with advertising in a
world predominantly devoid of participants... and a absence of any culture outside those that commerce produces.
But! there is hope. Hope in this little nightmare of a virtual anti-society comes in the form of those participants
who are discontent, and some of these 'discontents' have chosen to 'act' in the digital virtual-sense by remaking
their world around them. In the shape of totally hilarious works of Surrealist Hacker-Art:



Wired article on the artists/'Griefers'/perpetrators. Read at least the first page for descriptions of some
of their other finest 'works' to date:


Well, if this says anything about the social values of the world we live in today; seems the consensus is that
people would still prefer to live out their lives in the 3rd Dimension over the 2nd. Even if on the internet you
can make a avatar for yourself thats significantly sexier, more commercial-cool, has tighter fitting jeans and
a better haircut that you do in 'reality'. Or is a fire-breathing fairy-princess with a sword ...that flies around
on a oversized magic mushroom. Either way, the enticement, by this example at least, suggests its not
significant enough for the general tech-informed populace of the modern world to perceive a need for a
'SecondLife' outside the one they live in the tangible shared space of the 3rd dimension.

And as a response within that digital social environ I'm awesomely glad to see hacker crews putting
those skills toward reclaiming some our virtual-psychological landscape! They're refered to as 'Griefers'
for the miserablism they inspire in regular online participants, but this seems a pretty optimistic / joyously
antagonistic / playful / highly inventive way of expressing their malaise/discontent to me - in the best
possible sense. Some of it political, some of it just for the insane fun of it all. Either way, it fills me with
happiness and hope. ...And a good laugh. I usually wouldn't write on 'virtual' art but these are such
inventive, playful, sometimes political, often hilarious and *insane* works of surrealist narrative
virtual-situationalism - that they may very well be creating a new form of 21st Century political
post-surrealism here all on their own. And more power to em!