Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bell Witch's "Mirror Reaper" & West Coast Tour | Unsane at The Highline: Dec 1 & 5

The holiday season arrives, and with it, the most culturally desolate stretch of the year. Thankfully, Seattle's paramount metal, hardcore and punk venue, The Highline have kept their calendar vital through the next month. Even with the eminent consequence of their host building's purchase by a Seattle "wine and lifestyle brand", the venue continues their strong programming into the next year. December sees a night of Philadelphia hardcore band, Plague Marks, open for Unsane, who have bolstered the duo of Chris Spencer and Dave Curran of The Cutthroats, with the addition of Vincent Signorelli of the 1990s incarnation of SWANS, into a powerful nose rock goliath. The winter tour rides on the heels of their first Southern Lord release "Sterilized", following a five year gap after 2012's Alternative Tentacles issued "Wreck". Also on the bill for December, The Highline presents a night of the darkest sounds heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. Foremost among them, Bell Witch in their new lineup with Aerial Ruin's Erik Moggridge, perform the monstrous and epic "Mirror Reaper". Born of the death of drummer Adrian Guerra, the album encompasses a passage through the Hermetic axiom "As Above, So Below", as a conceptual traversing of the dichotomy of life and death. Bridging recordings from their previous incarnation, and unused vocal tracks from that period with work of the new lineup, the album acts as a looming, Brobdingnagian titan spanning the two.

Joining Monarch on their North American tour, both Bell Witch and their opening act for the night, Usnea, were featured in this past summer's notable assembly of progressive black metal, doom and hardcore the week of Northwest Terror Fest. The festival showcasing the multitudinous offshoots of black metal's ongoing development as it has encompassed atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, blistering eruptions of industrial percussion, electronic textures and pure noise experimentation. What may be the epitome of this cross-genre hybridization can be heard in the dynamic solar magma of guitar riffs and rhythm-play of bands like Deafheaven. With other compatriots in the sound to be found in Oathbreaker, as well as the turbulent rock of Nothing and their fusion of metal drumming and spacerock blur as heard on 2014's "Guilty of Everything". From the fringe of the genre, taking the sound down more melancholy paths, there's the crushing shoegaze blues of outfits like True Widow. Representing the more traditional signifiers of what can be defined as metal, yet taking a darker, more distended approach to atmospheric construction, bands like Krallice, Agalloch, and Pallbearer exemplify the heavier school of blackness pouring forth from the Profound Lore label. A branch of a sound and scene Brad Sanders detailed in his piece for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", his article acting as an excellent opening unto the dark passageways of this genre's multitude of representations. These sounds further showcased in the past half-decade of The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus excellent curation, dominantly issued on the all-things-metal-and-beyond labels Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" & Ruben Östlund's "The Square" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 27 - Nov 23

A couplet of the jewels from this year's Cannes, as unearthed by Criterion, The Guardian, The New York Times, Sight & Sound, and the extensive coverage for Film Comment seen in Dennis Lim's "Keeping at It", Kent Jones' "A Six-Letter Word", Nicolas Rapold's "Catastrophes on Parade", and Amy Taubin's "The Speed of Light in a Vacuum", are finally seeing time on domestic screens with a monthlong run at SIFF Cinema. Foremost among them, there's been much ado both in cinema and visual art circles concerning the Palme d'Or winning, "The Square" in which director, "Ruben Östlund Turns Art World Satire into Performance-Art Cinema". Following on his observation on fear, masculinity and European middle-class woes, Östlund now "Takes Aim at Art, Sex, Money and More", in his "Lofty, Laboured Cinematic Lecture on Inequality". Set in a related class milieu, Yorgos Lanthimos' "Replays the Greek Tragedy of Iphigenia as Modernist Guignol", through "‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ Depicts Familiar Torment" as a thriller in which the movie’s subject becomes the bankrupt sterility of upper middle-class mores. Having built a solid filmography on outrageous premises, a self-conscious deadpan style, and actors skilled in a explicitly cryptic form of straight-faced absurdity, Lanthimos directs the proceedings through a vantage on the hermetic, comfortable privilege of one suburban American family, as it incrementally spins into bourgeois nightmare. But where Lanthimos' "The Lobster" adopted an ostentatiously eccentric, almost farcical mode of political satirism, with "Colin Farrell Playing a Divorced Man in a Loner-Hating Future Society", his newest foregrounds its seriousness in the form of a methodical, starkly ritualistic severity.

As is the tradition with Cannes, opinions diverge among the press. In the pages of The Guardian's coverage, "Cannes 2017 Awards: Visceral Power Overlooked in Favour of Bourgeois Vanity", Peter Bradshaw saw the festival bestow the fruits of this year's awards on a set of elegant dissections of bourgeois absurdity and vanity. In the process overlooking the more visceral power of entries seen in, "An Eerie Thriller of Hypnotic, Mysterious Intensity" from Andrei Zvyagintsev, "Joaquin Phoenix Turning Travis Bickle in Brutal Thriller" as directed by Lynne Ramsay, and Sergei Loznitsa's "Brutally Realist Drama Offering Up a Pilgrimage of Suffering". Similar observations can be found from Nick James in Sight & Sound, in which there was little consensus among critics on, "What Should have Won the 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or?". Arguing the divided nature of the awards are the product of the competition being the weakest of recent times, producing a wide open field expressed in the random enthusiasms of Pedro Almodovar’s jury. Yet there was consistency found in the consensus among critics that Lynn Ramsay's kidnap thriller, "You Were Never Really Here", Andrey Zvyagintsev’s disintegrating family drama "Loveless", and the Safdie brothers’ frenetically chaotic urban misadventure "Good Time", should have all walked away with more notice in the form of awards.