Sunday, August 21, 2016

Autechre's new release "elseq 1-5" & Europe Tour: Oct 29 - Nov 26

Nearly 25 years into Sean Booth and Rob Brown's singular sonic quest to bridge the modernist traditions of Musique Concrete and pure computer music of INA-GRM and IRCAM, with the wave of music issuing from New York City and Detroit's urban beat explosion of the 1980s, Autechre arrive at a new plateau with "elseq 1-5". This hybridization detailed in the audio engineering and music production journal Sound on Sound in 2004, "In Producing their Complex, Abstract Electronic Music, Autechre have Taken the Idea of the Studio as an Instrument to New Extremes" following on the heels of their 21st Century mission statement, "Confield" and it's divisive mid-decade siblings, "Draft 7.0" and "Untilted". This era producing what appeared to be two schools of thought on their musical output. Drew Daniel of Matmos makes this schisming of the listenership the focus of his interview, as those converted on the first decade of output struggled to adapt to the new developments and abandonment of dance music signifiers within Autechre's work. For many, 2008's "Quaristice" and the companion album of "(Versions)" not only acted as Pitchfork suggests, a return to form, but a balancing of old and new. Along with this, there was a newfound abundance on offer as well; all told, "Quaristice", it's companion "(Versions)" album, and "Quaristice.Quadrange" produced a sonic corpus totaling in at over 5 hours. This move toward works that cycled between assimilation of past gestures and sounds, couched within explorative forays into new territory culminated in 2013's "Exai", which saw "Autechre Looking as Forward as They did Back". At over two hours, the album reinforced the abundant modus of the current phase, which would culminate in what FACT Mag called, "Autechre Bury the post-Club Poseurs in the Digital Dirt", with this year's release of the sprawling, "elseq 1-5". 

The duo are to appear throughout Central Europe this fall, after touring the UK and North America extensively in 2015. The west coast leg of "Autechre's Maneuvers in the Dark" found Booth and Brown central to the final installment of Seattle's Decibel Festival. Their performance delivering a chimerical three-dimensional sound object suspended in a hyper-delineated stereo field. Less a performance of music broadcast to a receiving body, the listener was instead located within the framework of a exertive, dynamic, ever changing aural-kinetic sculpture. Their current process has abandoned a degree of the hardware-centric focus of the previous decade's modus operandi in favor of what Joe Mugg's extensive interview for Resident Advisor, "Autechre: elseq et al" reveals to be a complex programming of modules and patches generated within Cycling 74's MaxMSP. Booth and Brown's role is then one of actuating the engineering of the sounds to emerge from these processes into structures, as sculptors of the finely crafted, yet oblique architectural spaces that describe the music. Their longstanding use of fragmented language allows insight into the titling of "elseq", which clearly implies it's source as a methodical assembly of "edited-live-sequences". Acquiescing the inscrutable nature of this voluminous and titanic work, Derek Walmsley's review in the July issue of The Wire comes closer than any other in it's cartography of "elseq"'s Gordian terrain:

"As you move through "elseq", sonic parameters widen, structures become more open-ended, and the constraints imposed by the album format are left behind. The dimensions of an album can lend a sense of place, balance, narrative, even closure to music. What Autechre do however, rarely offers listeners this kind of shared experience with the artist. Their music is not expressive, representative or story-telling in any of those early 20th Century definitions of aesthetics. Instead, Autechre's music is more like a wide open field of possibilities. The ideas they deal with - process, textures rather than notes, mathematics rather than time signatures, control versus chance - are the big ideas of late 20th Century music, as well as the central ideas of club music from the 2000s onwards. So the beauty of "elseq" is that of Iannis Xenakis and Alvin Lucier; or for that matter, of Ricardo Villalobos and Errorsmith. If it doesn't seem beautiful, perhaps you are living in the past. Given the multidimensional rinse of their music, attempting to provide a single account of what an Autechre album is 'like' is a critic's folly. "elseq" is not the sound of Autechre in any kind of particular mood, mellow, brooding or otherwise; it has its moments that make the heart sing and other that crush the head like a vice, and both carry their own thrill. "elseq" can be as dense as 2013's "Exai", as gently reflective as 2010's "Oversteps", and as obsessively detailed as 2001's "Confield". "elseq" is as radical as Autechre have ever been, but this time it's their choice of format that is particularly bold. The extended duration opens up further horizons for new experiments, forms and structures, with dancefloor impact and innovative composition working hand in hand."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

SWANS new album "The Glowing Man" & West Coast Tour: Sept 1 - 16

Next month The Showbox will host SWANS on the final tour of their current iteration. How the timing of this development relates to as-yet substantiated accusations, and turmoil in band member's personal lives disclosed on social media is unknown. One thing is certain, having led the towering rock outfit through numerous manifestations over the decades since it's inception, including a brief phase as the orchestral folk ensemble Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. After the physical endurance-testing rock olympics of 2011 in which Michael Gira's SWANS reformed after a 15 year hiatus, we are blessed with a fourth and final album in this current half-decade of reinvention and metempsychosis. At the end of their previous incarnation with the grandiose heights scaled in "Soundtracks for the Blind" and "Swans are Dead", they took celestial bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic intensity. The post-reform "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the rapturous "To Be Kind" and this year's "The Glowing Man" scale similar heights of those of decades past. "Michael Gira on ‘Dangling Off the Edge of a Cliff’ for SWANS Epic Final Album" for The Observer maps the musical trajectory's Oroborous-like path back to itself, as SWANS of the 21st Century has birthed a supreme amalgam from it's own DNA. One that encapsulates the totality of their 35 year trajectory from brutalist No Wave minimalism to Musique Concrete and extended tonal and Drone compositions to electric Rock, Psychedelia, Blues, Folk and Americana.

The Guardian's John Doran postulates how its come to pass that SWANS have produce the best work of their career so far. Where so many other bands of a similar vintage have retread familiar ground, revisiting the formula of past successes, Gira and company chose to instead stake everything on a fresh roll of the dice. They took a genuine gamble on creating new art rather than trying to recapture past glories and in doing so, they have conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever". The albums of this decade are the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recordings process, "A Little Drop of Blood: Michael Gira of SWANS Interviewed" for The Quietus describes the often arduous writing, rehearsal, touring and recording in a dynamic creative systole and diastole. The undertaking of then translating these recorded works to a marathon live experience documented in an interview with Pitchfork of 2014, "Michael Gira Talks about How SWANS Returned without Losing Any Potency". Even more personal and confessional, The Quietus have produced a lengthy interview on the explicitly spiritual, transcendental nature of their live incarnation, "This is My Sermon: Michael Gira of SWANS Speaks". From which Gira is quoted; "I hope there's a spiritual quality, but it's not a denominational kind of thing, it's an aspiration towards some kind of realization, or breathing the air that the spirits breathe, or going somewhere that is bigger than myself when I conceive these songs. It's a great feeling. I think The Stooges had a kind of abandon and release, if you listen to Fun House. But electric guitar music has the ability to do that to people, and it's also like the Master Musicians Of Jajouka, where they just keep going and you lose your mind but find it simultaneously. That's sort of the idea. My personal spiritual beliefs are irrelevant. Music is the practice." And like the albums of their previous iterations in the 1980's and 90s, the live realization of this practice has far exceeded their corresponding recorded works. Gira and company's live performances this decade have watched as almost a ritual of invocation. Bringing with them the visceral and transcendental effect of mind-frying, body-numbing volumes to elevate all.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Boris reissue "Pink" with "Forbidden Songs" & US Tour: Jul 22 - Aug 26

Throughout July and August, Japanese heavy rockers, Boris make their semi-annual return to the west with a string of Us tour dates. Seattle's night in the tour with Earth, though likely to not compare with 2013's performance wherein they played the totality of their magisterial opus "Flood", alongside a second night of "All-Time Classics" will still promise an evening of the from the-heart-of-the-sun intensity Boris are known to deliver live. The past decade of semiannual tours have seen them manifest their ever mutating mix of Doom Metal, Heavy Psych, warped J-Pop, willfully dysfunctional Indie Rock and more recently, their own thrilling take on Dream Pop and Shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series and more recently refined on the near-perfect "Attention Please" and the more guttural Psyche assault of "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with it's pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". This summer's tour is a return to the territory they carved out with 2005's "Pink" and the heights they were propelled to by the lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the new edition of "Pink" will feature a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March issue of The Wire recaps the trio's 25 year recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Japanese noise legend Masami Akita himself entering into a succession of recent collaborations, which The Quietus explore in their "Razor Blades in the Dark: An Interview with Merzbow".