Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sounds on Rotation - Aug / Sept - Books in Circulation

Been a while again since I've done one of these! So here's whats been playing at my place on the hi-fi/on my pod these past couple months or so. Have been particularly enthused again with the current summer batch of new albums I've acquired. These being (as per usual) mostly dissonant, minimal, abstract, avant and atmospheric type sounds. Consisting of random modern composer titles, the notable soundtrack to Terrance Malick's newest, few choice electronic releases, a couple new avant-jazz/improv recordings, noise, post-rock, garage, psych stuffs and a couple of metal records on the more doom/space end of the spectrum. Indeed! New sounds make such an excellent compliment to the encroaching end of the Summer. Looking forward to the changes, both seasonal and otherwise that Fall will bring!

Alva Noto & Sakamoto, Ryuichi "Summvs" (Raster-Noton)
V/A "The Tree of Life - Soundtrack" (Lakeshore)
Deepchord "Hash-Bar Loops" (Soma)
Okland, Nils & Apeland, Sigbjorn "Lysoen - Hommage a Ole Bull" (ECM)
Eternal Tapestry & Sun Araw "Night Gallery" (Thrill Jockey)
Baker, Aidan "Still Life" (Primary Numbers)
Fennesz "Seven Stars" (Touch)
V/A "Invasion Of The Mysteron Killer Sounds" (SoulJazz)
Jasper TX "The Black Sun Transmissions" (Fang Bomb)
Biosphere "N-Plants" (Touch)
Hertta Lussu Ässä "Hertta Lussu Ässä" (Destijl)
HTRK "Work (Work, Work) (Ghostly Intl.)
Cindytalk "Hold Everything Dear" (Mego)
Sun Araw "Ancient Romans" (Drag City)
Jóhannsson, Jóhann "The Miners' Hymns" (Fat Cat)
Bardo Pond "Bardo Pond" (Fire)
Kangding Ray "OR" (Raster-Noton)
Barn Owl "Ancestral Star" (Thrill Jockey)
Lippok, Robert "RedSuperStructure" (Raster-Noton)
Boris "Attention Please (US & Japanese Editions)" (Sargent House/Daymare)
Boris "Heavy Rocks" (Sargent House)
Mathieu, Stephan "To Describe George Washington Bridge" (Dekorder)
Cantu-Ledesma, Jefre "Conversations with Myself" (Shining Skull)
The Men "Leave Home" (Sacred Bones)
Hell, Rene "Terminal Symphony" (Type)
Jesu "Ascension" (Caldo Verde)
Liturgy "Aesthethica" (Thrill Jockey)
Moon Duo "Mazes" (Sacred Bones)
Pale Sketcher "Seventh Heaven" (Ghostly Intl.)
Carousell "Black Swallow & Other Songs" (Digitalis)
NHK "YX aka 1CH aka SOLO" (Raster-Noton)
Chaton, Anne-James "Evenements 09" (Raster-Noton)
Grails "Deep Politics" (Temporary Residence)
Hecker, Tim "Ravedeath 1972" (Kranky)
The Thing & Yoshihide, Otomo "Shinjuku Crawl" (Smalltown Supersound)
The Thing & O'Rourke, Jim "Shinjuku Growl" (Smalltown Supersound)
Vainio, Mika "Life (... It Eats You Up)" (Touch)
Sanso-Xtro "Fountain Fountain Joyous Mountain" (Digitalis)
Six Organs of Admittance "Asleep On The Floodplain" (Drag City)
Tiago Sousa "Walden Pond's Monk" (Immune)
Vladislav Delay Quartet "Vladislav Delay Quartet" (Honest Jon's)

Books in question being split between a couple authors, the David Foster Wallace was a second-read recently completed with the aid of a group of friends convening for our Pale King Book Club semi-weekly. As a unfinished work by Wallace, and his final novel, it stands as a powerful, sad, commentary on our 'society of diversions' and the seemingly incessant state of being entertained that western society has been seeking out since the time of the book's setting in the early 1980's. Bolano I feel like I am finally ready for again, almost a year after the massive, intimidating, overwhelming experience that was "2666". Harbach's "Art of Fielding" has been recommended by many friends and authors in the know, as a amazing first-time novel, the additional stamp of approval from the fact that David Foster Wallace's editor, Michael Pietsch did the editing on this one. The Ballard is a ongoing on/off again dipping in/out of in the midst of other books as it's his short fiction collection, and has a vast abundance of ideas, best taken one at a time. How I do wish Murakami's "IQ84" was released stateside by now! I've been ready for this one for nearly a year, at this point it's near at least; we're looking at a early October date for the English translation. The others being pop/pulp adventures to satisfy that appetite, comics supplying a important counterpoint to the headier lit:

David Foster Wallace "The Pale King" (Little, Brown)
Chad Harbach "The Art of Fielding" (Little, Brown)
Roberto Bolano "Savage Detectives" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
J.G. Ballard "The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard" (W.W.Norton)
Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" (DC comics/Vertigo)
Grant Morrison "Supergods..." (Spiegel & Grau)
Grant Morrison "Action Comics" (DC Comics)
Jonathan Hickman "FF" (Marvel Comics)

...And the new July/Aug issue of Film Comment, Sept issues of The Wire, Sight & Sound, Artforum, N+1, Frieze and McSweeney's 36 have all made for good reads.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yes, We Know You Hate the City: Cryogenic Culture Shock, Gonzo Journalism
& A Election of Greater Evils in Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan

This is going to be a unusual post for me, as I'm making it before having finished the reading. After having spent since 2004? 2006? searching for a complete set of the issues that make up this story, and neither wanting them trashed as many of the beret wearing post-post Mod's tend to leave them second-hand, or even the damn difficulty of finding all the issues in one place, much less not wanting/being able to afford 60+ issues at three dollar cover price... my patience, perseverance and pissed-off-ed-ness paid off! Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" in it's entirety for about 1/4 of cover price an issue. And the previous owner even took care of the books! Alright, enough on me and my find, here's the 101, or in this book's case, the 100001: Created by Warren Ellis back in 1997 and inspired by the 1969 science fiction novel by Norman Spinrad titled "Bug Jack Barron", the series covers the work of Gonzo Journalist, Vulgar Misanthrope, and all-around Total Bastard of the Hunter S. Thompson mold, Spider Jerusalem in a sprawling futuristic/Dystopic vision of New York, so chaotically, over- reachingingly advanced that outsider subcultures splice genes with alien refugees, previous era's cryogenic deep-freezers are hit hard by culture shock, matter re-compilers are as common as microwaves (and get hooked on mechanical 'dope') and new media-religions are invented every few hours. Spider's story begins with him returning The City after a lengthy self-imposed state of exile from the madness, as a Nixonian thug nicknamed The Beast prepares for his re-election to the presidency (the reason Jerusalem went into exile in the first place), and a primary battle is heating up between a virulent racist and a charismatic senator whose rictus grin masks some seriously warped realities. And of course, claiming to 'Hate The City' all the while, Jerusalem delves into the machinations of the race, and in doing so, breaks into a web of conspiracies that threaten the future of the country. Ha. And that's just within about the first 13? 17? issues of what I have read.

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.1

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.2

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.3

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.4

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.5

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.6

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.7

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.8

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.9

Link to Vertigo Comics Warren Ellis "Transmetropolitan" - Vol.10

It's curious, as Ellis' work, especially outside the mainstream superhero realms, from around this period, ie; late 90's to mid 00's has been all of his strongest writing. At the time of it being initially published, for a confluence of reasons, "Transmetropolitan" struck me as a pretender to the throne in a cool-Postmod, Anarcho Journalism, Political Satirical, hyperactively Dystopian, sprawling Meta-City, kind of way. The 'Hunter S. Thompson-ness' of it just too much. But having begun some years ago to delve into the meat of the book, I've found it significantly more rich, original and compelling than my initial assumption that Ellis was just flaunting those concepts while doing a bit of Grant Morrison coattail riding, in themes and style. I since recognize that I was totally amiss on that assumption. So here it is. A decade later I finally get to read/own the thing. What those-in-the-know have described as Ellis' greatest or second-greatest work only to "Planetary".

Link to DC Comics Warren Ellis "Planetary" - Vol.1

Link to DC Comics Warren Ellis "Planetary" - Vol.2

Link to DC Comics Warren Ellis "Planetary" - Vol.3

Link to DC Comics Warren Ellis "Planetary" - Vol.4

Which is, to me, easily one of the pinnacles of comic book storytelling this decade. "Planetary" being tales of the historic legacy of the 'Archeologists of the Impossible' through the centuries, but more precisely what it is, is the greatest of meta-literary explorations of the history of 'Pulp' ever written. In comic book form. Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Godzilla, James Bond, Land that Time Forgot, Journey to the Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hong Kong action films... you name it... as the 'shadow history' of the human race. If Transmet even begins to deliver qualitatively on par with Ellis' other higher-ranking works, finally finishing the reading of this book is going to be a wild, great ride.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Raúl Ruiz's new film "Mysteries of Lisbon" at IFC: Aug 5 - 11
Opening at Landmark Theatres: Aug 18 & SIFF Cinema Sept 30 - Oct 13

Highlight of the Seattle International Film Fest, to the extent that I expect it will be a serious contender for the best new film seen this year! Spanning three generations, dozens of characters, seven narrative voices, a whole century of intrigue, mountains of sacrifice, scandal, war, loss, mystery, misery, revelation, piracy, conquest, the high seas, early colonialism, the age of science, 19th century decadence, class struggle, and lasting nearly 5 Hours this is one that defiantly disproves that literature can't be translated to film... it just involves the massive undertaking of all of the above qualities, a director who's deeply immersed in the tale, has decades of directorial skills established and has assembled a almost-impossible perfect cast of actors capable of portraying an ensemble-cast of characters, many of them over the course of decades of change, metamorphosis, epiphany, revelation into the persons they become through the trials and tribulations of life... and what a almost 'mystical' life it is! Adapted from the novel of the same name by Camilo Castelo Branco, who's work is often compared to a hybrid of Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Tolstoy, and I'd say in this cinematic adaptation, expansive enough to also include such far-flung literary styles and content as Conrad, Melville and the decadent surrealism of characters like those that populate Thomas De Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater". This is exactly a piece of literature that would be deemed 'unfilmable' by most. What Ruiz delivers is instead labyrinthine, complex to a you're-screwed-if-you're-not-paying-attention degree, mesmerizing in it's multifaceted structure, this is a true life-like puzzle as multiple identities are stripped away to uncover startling revelations in the best traditions of both literary and cinema melodrama and mystery.

That it's a period piece exploring the mad world of the 19th Century takes away not at all from richness of the material, and certainly the more 'stuffy' social conventions of the time(s) are explored at length to reveal their mirror-opposite and other face, usually over time in the lives of the very same character. The characters of this century in all their mysticism meets colonialism, meets revolt, meets the age of science, meets the age of high adventure, meets the end of the era of piracy - meets all-together in the mind of a young boy caught within the convolutions of the adult world. It's intrigues, it's family and class struggles, the monstrosity of the aristocratic system, the bourgeoisie, and his own life having been denied a family due to being born a 'bastard' son, as this delirious, dream-like fugue of a film/tale. Ending with, what is one of the greatest sleight of hand I've probably ever seen in cinema (and inverting what is probably the worst of narrative gimmicks that exists), which on the surface appears to be a cliche', but in exploring it's dualism/multiplicity there's a epiphany that comes as almost a revelation... especially after the 4 1/2 hours that proceed it. A Massive achievement. Almost faultlessly executed and paced, to the extent that at almost twice the duration of your average film, it's propulsive layers-upon-layers of story-within-story, elapse in what seems like half it's time. For lovers of great tales, and especially those who know their history (both established, eccentric, literary and factual) this is probably the current definition of 'Cinema Magic' right here, in that way where you come away feeling that fiction has just 're-written' history itself.

From Tony Pipolo's review in Film Comment: "To recount the plot of the film is to engage with its reflexivity, as each story stumbles into another and points of view shift in a continual spiral that is less a matter of digressions than the irresistible lure of storytelling. Were the film to continue for 50 or 100 hours, one imagines it might subsume all possible stories from the period of its setting—late 18th- to mid-19th-century Portugal and France—into a tapestry threatening to extend geographically with Borgesian design, a human comedy to surpass Balzac’s."

Link to official "Mysteries of Lisbon" site

Link to IFC distribution "Mysteries of Lisbon" site

Link to Landmark Theatres "Mysteries of Lisbon" site

Link to SIFF Cinema "Mysteries of Lisbon" site

Link to Tony Pipolo's "Mysteries of Lisbon" article in Film Comment