Sunday, November 23, 2014

Deafheaven & Lesbian West Coast Tour: Dec 2 - 4 | Pallbearer & Sólstafir West Coast Tour: Dec 2 - 19

The heavy rock end of the post-Black Metal spectrum continues to grow as a genre, encompassing melodicism and atmospheres lifted from Shoegaze and Spacerock punctuated by blistering eruptions of Metal drumming, riffs and noise. A sound reflected in the wallop of Oathbreaker, the fuzzed-out blast of Nothing and their fusion of metal drumming and Spacerock blur as heard on the "Guilty of Everything" album of last year, and in the more Mathrock angularity of their related offshoot, Whirr. On the fringe of the genre, taking the sound down more melancholy paths, there's the crushing Shoegaze blues of True Widow. With labels like Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore and Relapse playing host as purveyors of all things heavy. What may be the epitome of this sound and where it's currently headed can be heard in the dynamic solar magma of guitar riffs and rhythm-play of Deafheaven. Their excellent "Sunbather" album even garnering attention on NPR, where Lars Gotrich spoke of it's blistering sound, "Viking's Choice: Enter Deafheaven's Exhilarating 'Dream House'". Their live shows theatrical in extremis, and made affordable to all as Redbull Sound Select will be hosting Seattle's performance at Chop Suey on the west coast leg or their tour with Gloom-metalers Lesbian. Along with Krallice and Agalloch, Pallbearer represent the darker, heavier school of Blackness issuing from the Profound Lore label, a branch of a growing sound and scene that Brad Sanders detailed in his piece for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". The article acting as an excellent opening unto the dark passageways of this genre's multitude of representations. Pallbearer and their Icelandic tour-mates Sólstafir only a fringe of this global subgenre, theirs a sound as "Blessed By The Sabbath: Pallbearer Interviewed" and inclusive of everything from Neurosis to (as you'd expect) Black Sabbath in their approach to psych-leaning Metal. These two December shows representative of the fertile territory opening in the wake of Scandinavian Metal this past decade.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Winged Victory For The Sullen's new album "Atomos" & West Coast Tour with Hildur Gudnadóttir: Dec 9 - 16

The rarity of Stars of the Lid performing in the United States makes any opportunity to witness them or their associated solo endeavors and side-projects an event. In fact, their last west coast tour took place over 6 years ago with only midwest and east coast dates celebrating last year's massive Kranky Records 20th Anniversary. So when we have Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid on a brief west coast tour of his collaborative project with Dustin O'Halloran, its a uncommon occasion to hear their live representation of these inner landscapes of lamentation, beauty, ascendancy and decay. Like Stars of the Lid, their music as A Winged Victory For The Sullen departs from the majority of Neoclassical orchestral music for it's sheer abstraction. Points of reference can be heard in the massing minor-key broodings of the German Romantic composers, a passage of a Gustav Mahler tone poem from one of the movements of his symphonies, or even the melodic shading of Claude Debussy's "Symphonique".

In interview with The Quietus, "Wings Of Desire: An Interview With Dustin O'Halloran" talks further on their fusion of the electric guitar's swooning melodic drone with O'Halloran's piano playing and these subterranean streams of classicism that flow through the music, giving albums like "Atomos" their stately weight. Their earliest works though more informed by 90's space and noiserock, the suggestion of scale and drama of these classical influences can still be heard in "Ballasted Orchestra" and "Avec Laudenum". Where A Winged Victory For The Sullen departs from these origins is in the more central position the piano plays, and it's here that O'Halloran's contribution is apparent. Together with the abstract melodicism of Icelandic cellist and minimalist composer, Hildur Gudnadóttir's exploration of the cello, as heard on this year's excellent "Saman", the night at The Triple Door is bound to be one of this year's more memorable occasions of contemporary chamber music. Photo Credit:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Bug's new album "Angels & Devils" and US Tour with Wolf Eyes: Oct 8 - Nov 15

Kevin Martin returns to the 'states for a monthlong tour with Wolf Eyes and Actress in tow! It's been many years since the bass-dub-ragga-MC-noise onslaught of The Bug and the weight of his matchless "Political Ragga Stomp" as coined by the Soul Jazz label was heard in Seattle. An equation wherein the bass is low the rhythms mad and the voice of man is chanting to time, energy, passion, hope, justice, retribution and love. A sonic assault comprised of equal parts reverb, delay, echo, noise, voice and bass. At unrelenting volumes. Martin's newest is a further exploration of the extremities previously witnessed on his "Pressure" and "London Zoo" albums, a record of myriad worlds and voices, a response to and escape from a world that "seems to be sliding in all directions". A focal point amidst times of great disunity, where global markets seem to be dividing cities between what Martin describes as "dilapidation and the curse of luxury apartments that has infested everywhere". His is a music of powerful, impassioned, venomous, inspired, soulful unity. This premise of the opposing forces of violent refusal and enveloping embrace are at the hear of Martin's current work, in his "The Bug: Sonic Warfare" interview for Resident Advisor, he links the idea behind the new album to man's unending struggle with positive and negative impulses. It's also an expression of his personal relationship as a listener. On the one hand, he desires for the club experience to be "annihilating" and on the other, he craves the "quiet zone", the psychological headspace in everyday life in which to reflect.

These bipolar extremes of confrontation and community are what give life to "Angels & Devils" who's body and mind are probed by The Quietus in their interview with Martin, "Cerebral Assassination & Physical Hits: The Bug Interviewed". Martin speaking passionately about decades of sounds from the weighty end of the spectrum, from finding inspiration in Brian Eno's production on "Low", to Adrian Sherwood's  legendary remix of Einstürzende Neubauten, to the physicality of what Surgeon does with techno forms. Going deeper, for The Wire's cover feature he mapped the through lines of his many metamorphoses, from GOD's car-crash improv of the 80's to King Midas Sound's dread-infused cosmic dancehall, even getting into the nitty-gritty of technique and hardware in, "The Bug: Portal of Modular Worship" and flavor-tested by Derek Walmsley for his, The Bug: Invisible Jukebox. These interviews spanning the arch of decades, all the way back to Martin's earliest collaborations with Justin Broadrick and their ensuing alchemical fission a product of his experiments as GOD finding a compatriot in Godflesh and their growing fascination with the weighty rhythms and hooks of dub and hip hop, giving genesis to the peerless millennial hip hop of Techno Animal. Album art: Simon Fowler / Cataract

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lav Diaz's "Norte, the End of History" at NWFF: Nov 14 - 20 | Ben Russell & Rivers' "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness" at NWFF: Nov 15 | The Garden of Earthly Delights: Three films by Ben Russell at Grand Illusion Cinema: Nov 17 | Magic Lantern: Time as a Character in Contemporary Film at Frye Art Museum: Nov 16

Much has been made of last year's epic re-imagining of Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" by the vanguard director at the forefront of Filipino cinema. Not least of which it ranking on notable Films of the Year lists, cited as a highlight of Cannes, and since it's distribution this year, as Film of the Week for both Sight & Sound and Film Comment. Unlike some of the director's previous work, his newest diverges from what's come to be called 'Slow Cinema' in that Lav Diaz's "Norte, the End of History" is as much a dynamic personal fiction with the ebb and flow of a narrative drama, set within the duration and structural expanses of Slow Cinema's spacial ambiance. This vantage from the perspective of the interpersonal is the force that moves the viewer through the larger existential and natural landscapes, guided by "Rays of Humanity in a Vile World: ‘Norte, the End of History,’ a Dostoyevskian Fable". Where Dostoevsky's novel comes into play is in the tone, attitude, and sensibility of Diaz’s film; the gravitas, the unrestrained philosophical questioning, the cryptic humor, the sometimes melodramatic tendencies.

Clear lines can be drawn between the characters of Fabian as our academic yet alienated Raskolnikov and Magda the avaricious pawnbroker Mrs. Ivanovna, and while it’s not clear in many of the supporting characters who is which of the novel's equivalents, much of the film’s first half feels like a direct transposition to a Philippine setting. And more than any other work, it can be seen as a culmination of Diaz’s long engagement with the Russian novelist, in this the most fully realized of his "Dostoevsky Variations". Fabian is embittered law student who has dropped out for vague reasons, which hasn’t stopped him from eloquently and endlessly debating with friends and former professors. Like Raskolnikov, Fabian believes in a sentiment-hating, results-oriented, pseudo-Nietzschean philosophy; and like Raskolnikov, he longs to put his philosophy into practice in the most radical way possible. The deed done, the film diverges significantly from the text, Dostoevsky’s relentless manhunt is replaced with an existential and at one point self-destructive quest through massive, unpopulated landscapes and dark city streets of the Filipino island of Luzon.

That same weekend at Northwest Film Forum in the way of Slow-er Cinema of time and space, the ethnographic explorations of Ben Rivers collaborative work with director Ben Russell and their Film of the Year list charting "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness". The film featuring the performance and music of Robert A.A. Lowe of Lichens and OM, as a man on a quiet quest for Utopia: first in an Estonian commune, then alone in the European woods, and finally in the unlikely setting of a Black Metal concert. An expansive experimental work, in Film Comment's Interview: Ben Rivers and Ben Russell we see the process by which the two directors having crafted a sumptuous visual and sonic experience that is several things at once: the primitive, the transcendental, even a metaphor for cinema itself. The nature of the directors shared fusion of technique and form should come as no surprise to those familiar with Rivers' highly regarded documentary-drama fusion "Two Years at Sea" and where it is the case that in much of his work, "Little Happens, Nothing is Explained" this is a personal, reflective, observational, inward and outward looking cinema of time. Coinciding with Russell's attendance at NWFF for his workshop on Psychedelic Ethnography across town The Grand Illusion will be screening a rare evening of his shorts, "The Garden of Earthly Delights: Three films by Ben Russell".

Along with all of the above, the third weekend in November also marks the final of Robert Horton's monthly Magic Lantern screening and discussion series at The Frye Art Museum. After a decade-long tenure at the museum the Film Comment contributor will be closing out his time as host and moderator of the series with their annual Critics Wrap in December. This weekend's program is the final of the regular screenings, and a exceptional theme has been selected; Time as a Character in Contemporary Film. Through excerpts from the work of directors working either in duration-based cinema (Bela Tarr, Andrei Tarkovsky, Tsai Ming-liang), or narrative which utilizes time as a structural element (Aleksander Sokurov, Jia Zhang-ke, Richard Linklater), Horton will present and discuss these representations of time-focused cinema and the significance of their technical and psychological objectives in the age of the post-MTV quick cut.