Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thomas Köner's new album "Novaya Zemiya" released Jul 3

A new Thomas Köner album this decade is quite a sight! Even more impressive to hear that he's lost none of his alchemical touch as this is another transmission of the kind of massive, tectonic, impressionistic and deeply saturating sound experience that lodges itself in memory and association - qualities you expect from Köner - even with his releases becoming further and fewer between. What makes this one more the latter and less the former, is it's increased sparsity, even austere use of drone and extended tonal sections... and heightened sense of texture and the crushing sub-charges of Bass detonations, almost percussive in their impact. Unlike many of the other notable sonic works of this year dealing with imagined, philosophical or 'haunted' geography, Köner's new work is conceptually inspired by the real-world history of an isolated archipelago in the extreme Northeast of Europe. An outcrop of the Ural mountain range, Novaya Zemiya who's past is riddled with Atomic and Hydrogen bomb tests and current talk in Russia of making the archipelago the site of a future Nuclear Waste Dump. In this forbidding, severe, ice capped mountain range extending out to sea, bombarded with the splitting of Atoms and made the final resting place of a graveyard of Plutonium-239... Köner's found a new kind of desolation both natural and geographic, as well as man-made and violently isolationist in it's toxicity to life. Submerged half-heard piano melodies almost rise from the grey abyss, static flourished in clouds of hushed noise-snow, radio voices rise up from within the flowing, submersive din, to be drowned out, latitude and longitude lost in the encroaching darkness. It's a bleak affair. Not just monolithic and uninhabited as his sonic spaces usually are, "Novaya Zemiya" bears down on you with its grim warning of slowly saturated dis-ease, it's a forlorn and dismal state where the grand austerity of the landscape has become a hostile and menacing place, not only not meant for man, but life itself. From this comes the album's core emotional tone; a place made incurious and forever uninhabitable. Haunted. Lost. A thing of ruin.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

'Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli'
at SIFF Cinema: Jun 22 - Jul 5

The last time Seattle saw a retrospective of Studio Ghibli was waaay back in 1999 at the Egyptian, hosted by Landmark Theaters. Landmark thoughtfully knew to present a series spanning the decades of their incomparable animated tales with both dubbed (for the tikes) and subtitled (for the adults) prints, screening the former by day, and the latter by night. Seemingly taking their cue from this, SIFF now over a decade later brings their most notable works in both dubbed and subtitled prints, as "Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli" featuring the just about unheard of *15 Films*, by this world renowned animation studio. Including Princess Mononoke Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind My Neighbor Totoro Spirited Away Howl's Moving Castle Laputa: Castle in the Sky Kiki's Delivery Service Whisper of the Heart Pom Poko My Neighbors the Yamadas Only Yesterday Porco Rosso The Cat Returns Ocean Waves and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. The work of Miyazaki, Takahata, Suzuki, Yonebayashi, et al is at the top of just about any and all cinema lists I've ever put together in the course of my life - regardless of the fact that it's animation and these are tales intended for children. I value these films that highly. The incomparable, Studio Ghibli.