Thursday, January 4, 2018

:::: FILMS OF 2017 ::::


TOP FILMS OF 2017 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
--------------------------------------------------------------
David Lynch & Mark Frost "Twin Peaks: The Return" (United States)
Denis Villeneuve "Blade Runner 2049" (United States)
Anocha Suwichakornpong "By the Time it Gets Dark" (Thailand)
João Pedro Rodrigues "The Ornithologist" (Portugal)
Aleksei German Jr. "Under Electric Clouds" (Russia)
Bertrand Bonello "Nocturama" (France)
Lucrecia Martel "Zama" (Argentina)
Andrey Zvyagintsev "Loveless" (Russia)
James Gray "The Lost City of Z" (United States)
Sergei Loznitsa "A Gentle Creature" (Russia)
Chu Hsien-Che "White Ant" (Taiwan)
Sunao Katabuchi "In this Corner of the World" (Japan)
Alejandro Jodorowsky "Endless Poetry" (Chile)
Robin Campillo "BPM (Beats Per Minute)" (France)
Edward Yang "Taipei Story" Restored Rereleased (Taiwan)
Hou Hsiao-Hsien "Daughter of the Nile" Restored Rereleased (Taiwan)
Louis Malle "Elevator to the Gallows" Restored Rereleased (France)
Karel Zeman "The Fabulous Baron Munchausen" Restored Rereleased (Czech Republic)
David Fincher, Asif Kapadia & Andrew Douglas  "Mindhunter"  (United States)
Albert Serra "The Death of Louis XIV" (Spain)
Agnès Varda & JR "Visages Villages" (France)
Bertrand Tavernier "My Journey Through French Cinema" (France)
Raoul Peck "I Am Not Your Negro" (United States)
Koji Fukada "Harmonium" (Japan)

A year has now passes since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle motivated both liberal and conservative media to elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. All the while, the other aspect of the dominant two party system marginalized their more viable candidate. Consequently we find ourselves in in an environment in which high and low-level attacks have been leveled at the remaining journalistic press and even the First Amendment itself. These effects amplified by the net overabundance of the 21st Century, in which media sources are decentralized, but not necessarily diversified, presenting a new set of dangers to the less digitally savvy. Between the polarization of the commercial news sources, and self constructed corridors of social media posts by like-minded individuals, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we perceive different realities. Yet it remains, without true journalism, there can be no Democracy. All of this will no doubt be accelerated in the changed information environment, as the end of decades of hard-fought battles conclude with the repeal of Net Neutrality. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise and confusion spinning out from the fallout of the election cycle. In the midst of it all, it was a great relief to find memorable performances, festivals and exhibitions domestically. Gallery-going and the cinema played an even more prominent role, hitting near the mark of 300 films seen, it was another record setting year in catching films in the theater. A highlight in performance was the occasion of a rare Northwest visit from the world-class dancers of Company Wayne McGregor and their presentation of A Winged Victory for the Sullen's "Atomos". The most notable arts event witnessed this year was the third-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair, initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another philanthropist vanity project have been dispelled. This year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, some 84 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The latter under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city. Taken with the concurrently running "Out of Sight" exhibition, returning for its third-annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest, the new curatorial team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore, produced a national caliber event. 

Reflecting the further changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle two regional festivals which had previously brought an international scope to the city had closing and transitional years in 2015. That year saw the final installments of the region's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music. The final Northwest edition of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival came and went, and in an open letter Decibel Festival's 13th year closed with programming director Sean Horton's farewell to the city. Horton has since announced the revival of the Decibel in 2018 in a Los Angeles iteration, with proposed Seattle satellite mini-festival to follow. In the two years since the closing of these expansive international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, Patchwerks, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have filled the void, produced a string of memorable one-off events. Elevator's maturation in 2016 into exhibition curation with the inauguration of Corridor Festival was hailed as a unmitigated success in local press. It's daylong meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance has evolved into the city's best new festival for cutting edge sounds. Certainly moreso than Paul Allen's less successful migration into music and media with the launch of Upstream. Though there were gems buried even here, with showcases curated by Kremwerk and False Prophet, offering up sets by Boy Harsher, Not Waving, Pye Corner Audio and JLIN. The end of the summer season saw the shuttering of the Elevator monthly, yet it's programmers will continue the festival into 2018, promising an equally forward thinking festival of light, sound, and movement from the media and performance underground this coming February.

For the larger part of global cinema, the digital age is still proving to be at a narrow impasse rather than the promised plateau of abundance, which many are learning to navigate. Particularly evident in the world of film distribution, though footing has been found on some of the growing independent streaming platforms. Award winning films from festivals in New York, Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Hong Kong, Seoul, Cannes, Paris, London, Toronto and Cannes topping both Film Comment, Cinema-Scope and the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound annual overviews, have yet to screen in the United States. Or even show up streaming online. So count yourself fortunate that you live in a international city if you do, as more and more of the world's greatest film aren't to be found for purchase, rent, streaming or even download (legal or otherwise). Both this year's Seattle International Film Festival and 2016 showed stronger programming than the less than memorable selection of years before, which was disheartening after the exceptional year had in 2014 for their 40th Anniversary. Their year-round programming at SIFF Cinema compensating for the oversights of the festival, bringing advance screenings, rare prints and numerous exclusive screenings to their three cinemas including the Film Center and recently restored Egyptian. The second-run Recent Raves series being the best thing SIFF had going until it's suspension at the end of last year. Here's hoping for it's return in 2018. With indie cinemas closing around the nation, it was that much more important to support the local theater opportunities. Particularly with the subsuming of Sundance Theaters into the corporate AMC chain and the fast-shrinking and now single remaining regional theater of the independent Landmark Theatres. Our own Northwest Film Forum had a strong calendar year, in stiff competition with the programming seen on the longest running independent screen in this town, The Grand Illusion Cinema. In a succession of years, this micro-sized theater in Seattle stepped up to fill the growing theater void after strengthening their nonprofit partnership with Scarecrow Video. Many of the best films seen this year, when they did come to the cinema, had runs that lasted no more than a week. Others were never to appear again outside of an initial festival screening. One can't imagine that in the age of digital piracy that this process has aided films in finding their audience. Again proving the wisdom of getting out there, seeing the city and prioritizing the remaining opportunities that we're fortunate to have in our urban crossroads. Even so, no small percentage of these films even avid theater-goers living in urban centers didn't get to see. Making the almost singular resource that is Scarecrow Video, recipient of the 2016 Stranger Genius Award, that much more irreplaceable.

More worrying is the dearth of global cinema and critically lauded works available to view on the dominant streaming resources. In a span of a half decade, it's become graphically apparent that, "For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option". Which stands in stark contrast to the abundance offered in the annual overviews seen above. The diminishing of both quantity and diversity on the platform has been further accelerated by the phasing out their physical media catalog. For a microcosm, look to the fact that less than 1/15th of "Spike Lee's list of 86 Essential Films" are available to view on Netflix. The per-capita is even more poor when one examines any of the selections made in the global poll of 900 critics, programmers and academics for the British Film Institute's, "The 50 Greatest Films of All Time". And don't think to go to Hulu or Amazon as an alternative, despite their claims. As a product, resources like Fandor, Mubi, and FilmStruck have risen as the online destination of choice for film lovers. The trio of platforms becoming the foremost streaming resources through which online viewers have access to the true scope of the past twelve decades of moving pictures. In the case of FilmStruck, Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection launched an endeavor wherein the vast libraries under the purview of the two institutions, containing thousands of classic, foreign, and arthouse films invested in a "Streaming Service that Places a Big Bet on Cinephiles". Facilitating particularly valuable programming and distribution, all three platforms have stepped into the international festival arena. The fruits of their curation and criticism offered throughout the year in their respective digital magazines, Notebook, Streamline and (the now shuttered) Keyframe. In many ways "Mubi: A Streaming Service with a Ticking Clock" coming out on top.

Unlike the "Streaming Rabbit Hole Worth Falling Down" represented by Fandor and FilmStruck, each offering a vast catalog of thousands of titles, Mubi watches as a online cinema of sorts, with a new film featured every day. In addition to the monthlong selection of titles on offer, Mubi has engaged in special programming with festival series, director highlights and movement and genre overviews. In just the past year showcasing such luminaries as Jean-Luc Godard, Seijun Suzuki, Raul Ruiz, Andrei Tarkovsky, Anthony Mann, Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman, John Boorman, Mario Bava, and Michelangelo Antonioni. The platform upped the standard further in 2016 with their "It's About Time: The Cinema of Lav Diaz" feature on the Filipino director's rarely screened, extended duration film, which stood for many cinephiles as the streaming event of the year. Forging into new territory, Mubi's Special Discovery series has showcased new films selected from the world's most prestigious festivals, spanning works from established directors alongside some of the boldest new talent emerging on the scene. It's first year encompassing such diverse and original works as, the quotidian urban dream-drama, "Out of Time: Damien Manivel's 'Le Parc'", "Scarred Hearts", a follow-up from Romanian New Wave director Radu Jude's award winning "Aferim!", Léa Mysius' Cannes premiering debut feature, "Ava", and Nikkatsu's relaunch of it's legendary Roman Porno tradition, with new films by Sion Sono and Akihiko Shiota. The most striking of the series' offerings issuing from Russia, including an intimate observation on the fall of the Soviet Union from the first-person vantage of Moscow's streets, "Don’t Let Them Deceive You: Sergei Loznitsa’s 'The Event'", and one of the most notable prize winners from as reported by Olaf Möller for Film Comment on the Berlin International Film Festival. Which came in the form of a work by the son a late Russian auteur. Produced a film of epic ambition that delivers an allegorical full century from the Bolshevik revolution into it's vision of near-future science fiction as a, "Slow Cinema of the Apocalypse: Aleksei German, Jr.'s 'Under Electric Clouds'".

For all the talk in recent years of auteur television in the United States, exemplified by Noah Hawley's adaptation of the Coen Brother's property, "Fargo", Vince Gilligan's "Breaking Bad" and Nic Pizzolatto's "True Detective", three solidly constructed series which characterize the positive examples of this competent, complex and atmospheric television spanning season-long developmental arcs. To date, my vote has gone not to American or British television, but to the French and Australian. Bruno Dumont's by turns morbid and comedic, "Acid Black Comedy Set in Small-Town France" of "Li'l Quinquin", which watched as a elusively beguiling, subconscious, suggestively surreal crime drama set in the isolated farming community near Calais. The other, Jane Campion's notably more stoic approach in "Top of the Lake" to a missing persons drama in rural New Zealand, in which the Australian director constructed a paranoid and deeply cinematic, "Serial Television as Epic Poem". Both exemplary of a developing subgenre of style, the longform format exploiting the structural benefits of, "When TV Takes its Time". That all changed this year with the arrival of the newest set of "Serial Killer Variations" found in David Fincher's "More Chatter than Spatter", FBI period procedural, "Mindhunter", and the revisiting of David Lynch and Mark Frost after 25 years in, "Twin Peaks: The Return". Cause to rejoice, it's been a long and circuitous path from "How ‘Twin Peaks’ Got Lost, and Found Its Way Back", now arriving in the midst of the abundance of cinematic, director-driven television. Rather than a recreation of the concerns, technical form and approach of the original, the new miniseries advances the art beyond the standards of what one would expect even in the current environment of longform streaming content. All the while also joyfully exhibiting Lynch's love of film, in its numerous nods to cinema history.

The whole of the 18 episodes delivering a experience that watches like nothing else, it is truly "Beautiful, Grandiose, Cryptic, and Punishingly Tedious: That's Why Twin Peaks is So Beguiling". For those who were following the new miniseries as it aired, an assembly of critical interpretation, enhancement and viewing aides were thankfully documented by Criterion via their ongoing "Twin Peaks Returns" column. Expert and insightful weekly recaps can also be found on Mubi, The New York Times (concluding with a serving of weekly "donuts") and The Guardian, for those looking to delve deeper during their viewing. The miniseries also offering relevant connective tissue, thematically and technically bridging the spaces between and following on the events of the theatrical, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me". Though Booed at Cannes and the target of frustrated Twin Peaks fans and critics upon its release, the film has since gained a reevaluation with context and distance. Pieces like Calum Marsh's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is David Lynch's Masterpiece" and Alex Pappademas' "Anatomy of a Fascinating Disaster: Fire Walk With Me" have become increasingly more common. The past year also saw the further expansion of the film's narrative with the revealing of the long-rumored footage cut from the film after its Cannes premier. This can finally be seen in the bonus material offered on Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, and the new Criterion Collection 4k restoration. Lynch spoke with The Guardian on the eve of its release, exuberant at the opportunity to return to the content and reassemble a narrative from their fragmented form. Editing the whole of the deleted scenes from the film into a stand-alone viewing experience featuring 90 minutes of previously unseen footage as The Missing Pieces.

What proved to be the greatest science fiction vision seen on the big screen this year, may also very well come to be considered the most notable work of technological speculative fiction this decade. In an unexpected broadening of it's scope, Denis Villeneuve's sequel to the Ridley Scott neo-noir of 1982 finds itself concerned with the larger social implications of the established world borrowed from Philip K Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Rather than just a work that, as some have posited, is misogynist in regard to its depiction of women, it is instead the totality of the world of the film, and the locus of its values which are an examination of pervasive denigration, humiliation and the diminishing of human value as a whole. As Tim Hayes puts forward in, "Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s Hallowed Sci-Fi Classic Burns Bright with Uncomfortable Questions", to lumber the film with the task of fixing society rather than interrogating it first, is small minded. It supposes that art should present answers rather than questions, turning the imperative of supplying a moral vantage into a prerequisite for the audience's fulfillment and satisfaction. These concerns are essential biproducts of the investigation central to the life's work of what Rolling Stone then called, "The Most Brilliant Sci-Fi Mind on Any Planet". Through volume of perception shifting, politically multilayered work, Philip K. Dick pursued his singular inquiry into, "What constitutes the authentic human being?", extrapolating a body of science fiction that would become among the most influential in all of popular media by the turn of the century.

It's very probable that there is no other corpus by a 20th Century science fiction author as indirectly instrumental in Hollywood's transformation of popular storytelling as that of Dick. So it is that the author's regard extended to the variation in setting and theme that Ridley Scott, Hampton Fancher and his production team brought to 1982's "Blade Runner", for it remaining true to his fundamental examination of human authenticity. A line of inquiry further stressed in a setting of even greater complexity, isolation, and dehumanizing stratification found in Villeneuve and Fancher's expansive sequel. "This Gigantic Spectacle of Pure Hallucinatory Craziness" remains at it's core, focused on the dominant question of Philip K. Dick's life work. Whether the qualities of it's stunning visual realization, or the complexity of it's philosophical inquiry, resonate with the times sufficiently to earn the film the status of a "future classic", remains to be seen. Regardless of it's popular reception, this tale of the shattering and reconstruction of one underclass being's worldview while, "Hunting Replicants Amid Strangeness", fluidly traverses states of being visceral, spectacular and profound. All the while remaining sinuous in it's malevolence and disregard for human life. In working through Dick's central, humanist query, along its course, Denis Villeneuve's film comes to find itself a worthy successor to Ridley Scott’s original. In concurrence with Jonathan Romney, in a time in which belated sequels to classics ought never to work, (or even be made for that matter), Blade Runner 2049 feels like a slow, enigmatic, elusive hallucination of a movie, miraculously realized. 

While a strong year for contemporary cinema, some of the greater revelations came from decades past. The highest concentration of which was seen delivered by the work of institutions like Criterion Collection, Eureka / Masters of CinemaCurzon Artificial Eye, and Kino Lorber, who continue to fund the restoration and rerelease of some of the past century's greatest film. The fruits of which have found screens and audiences throughout the world thanks to the work of long-lasting and legendary distributor, Janus Films. This shared vision brought Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation World Cinema Project to both big screens and small, the first volume of which, "In Six Neglected Films, Expressed a Universe of Yearning". The second volume featured among other notable works from around the globe, another rarely seen aspect of the filmography of Edward Yang and his tale of, "One Couple’s Promising ‘Taipei Story,’ Slowly Undermined". The early works of Yang and his collaborator and Taiwanese New Wave contemporary, Hou Hsiao-Hsien can both be described as new form explorations of, "Heartache and Confusion of Adolescence from an Arthouse Master". Something of a renaissance for these director's work in the west, the "Baffling, Beautiful and Newly Restored" films of these two auteurs have been further capped this year by the first-ever theatrical run of Hou's "Daughter of the Nile". Independent distributors like Strand Releasing, Cohen Media Group, Music Box, Cinema Guild, Film Movement, and Grasshopper, brought both groundbreaking new cinema and repertory classics to homes and theaters in the US. Smaller British and American reissue imprints like Shout! / Scream Factory, Twilight Time, Arrow / Arrow Academy, and the newly launched Indicator, specializing in genre pictures and fringe works by directors of note, unearthing multitudes of lost and rare gems.

:::: ALBUMS OF 2017 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2017 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
--------------------------------------------------------------
V/A  "Lessons"  (Front & Follow)
Porter Ricks  "Anguilla Electrica"  (Tresor)
V/A  "Mono No Aware"  (PAN)
Bell Witch  "Mirror Reaper"  (Profound Lore)
Ryuichi Sakamoto  "async"  (Commmons)
Pye Corner Audio  "Stasis"  (Ghost Box)
Otto A. Totland  "The Lost"  (Sonic Pieces)
Pan Daijing  "Lack"  (PAN)
Coil  "Time Machines"  Reissue  (Dais)
Phurpa  "Rituals Of Bön I & II"  (Zoharum)
The Body & Full of Hell  "Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light"  (Thrill Jockey)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma  "On The Echoing Green"  (Mexican Summer)
Ben Frost  "The Centre Cannot Hold" & "Super Dark Times - Soundtrack"  (Mute/Orchard)
Angelo Badalamenti & Dean Hurley  "Twin Peaks: The Return" & "Anthology Resource Vol.1  (Rhino/Sacred Bones)
Brian Eno  "Warm Jets...", "Taking Tiger Mountain...", "Another Green World", "Before & After Science" LP Reissues  (EMI)
Mary Jane Leach & Jocy De Oliveira  "Pipe Dreams" & "Estorias for Voice and Electronic Instruments" Reissues  (Blume)
Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza  "Azioni / Reazioni "1967-1969"  (Die Schachtel)
Alice Coltrane  "The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda"  (Luaka Bop)
Jamie Branch & Irreversible Entanglements  "Fly or Die" & "S/T"  (International Anthem)
V/A  "Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984"  (Analog Africa)
Terry Riley  "Persian Surgery Dervishes" LP Reissue  (Aguirre)
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe  "Levitation Praxis Pt. 4"  (Distort Decay Sustain)
Yasuaki Shimizu  "Kakashi"  (Palto Flats)
Midori Takada  "Through the Looking Glass"  Reissue  (WRWTFWW)
Arne Nordheim  "Electric"  LP Reissue  (Rune Grammofon)
Bernard Parmegiani  "Rock"  (Transversales)

A year has now passes since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle motivated both liberal and conservative media to elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. All the while, the other aspect of the dominant two party system marginalized their more viable candidate. Consequently we find ourselves in in an environment in which high and low-level attacks have been leveled at the remaining journalistic press and even the First Amendment itself. These effects amplified by the net overabundance of the 21st Century, in which media sources are decentralized, but not necessarily diversified, presenting a new set of dangers to the less digitally savvy. Between the polarization of the commercial news sources, and self constructed corridors of social media posts by like-minded individuals, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we perceive different realities. Yet it remains, without true journalism, there can be no Democracy. All of this will no doubt be accelerated in the changed information environment, as the end of decades of hard-fought battles conclude with the repeal of Net Neutrality. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise and confusion spinning out from the fallout of the election cycle. In the midst of it all, it was a great relief to find memorable performances, festivals and exhibitions domestically. Gallery-going and the cinema played an even more prominent role, hitting near the mark of 300 films seen, it was another record setting year in catching films in the theater. A highlight in performance was the occasion of a rare Northwest visit from the world-class dancers of Company Wayne McGregor and their presentation of A Winged Victory for the Sullen's "Atomos". The most notable arts event witnessed this year was the third-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair, initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another philanthropist vanity project have been dispelled. This year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, some 84 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The latter under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation beyond the art fair booth and into adjacent neighborhoods of the city. Taken with the concurrently running "Out of Sight" exhibition, returning for its third-annual survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest, the new curatorial team under the direction of exhibition caretaker, Scott Lawrimore, produced a national caliber event.

Reflecting the further changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle two regional festivals which had previously brought an international scope to the city had closing and transitional years in 2015. That year saw the final installments of the region's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music. The final Northwest edition of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival came and went, and in an open letter Decibel Festival's 13th year closed with programming director Sean Horton's farewell to the city. Horton has since announced the revival of the Decibel in 2018 in a Los Angeles iteration, with proposed Seattle satellite mini-festival to follow. In the two years since the closing of these expansive international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, Patchwerks, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have filled the void, produced a string of memorable one-off events. Elevator's maturation in 2016 into exhibition curation with the inauguration of Corridor Festival was hailed as a unmitigated success in local press. It's daylong meeting of audio-visual media, installation art, music and performance has evolved into the city's best new festival for cutting edge sounds. Certainly moreso than Paul Allen's less successful migration into music and media with the launch of Upstream. Though there were gems buried even here, with showcases curated by Kremwerk and False Prophet, offering up sets by Boy Harsher, Not Waving, Pye Corner Audio and JLIN. The end of the summer season saw the shuttering of the Elevator monthly, yet it's programmers will continue the festival into 2018, promising an equally forward thinking festival of light, sound, and movement from the media and performance underground this coming February.

In music it was another year of circuitous paths to the year's more memorable sounds. Streaming and digital distribution has certainly freed channels of access and stages of separation between producer and audience. It has also bbrought to the fore the issue of accepting poor royalties for the benefit of expansive exposure. In the midst of this age of over-abundance, there are whole forms and centuries of music that are not being served by the predominant streaming platforms. Much like the marginalization of global cinema on Netflix and Amazon, jazz and classical music are finding themselves particularly under-served on the platforms that define the digital market. For the those that rely on Apple Music and the iTunes player and library system, Robinson Meyer's "The Tragedy of iTunes and Classical Music", details the woes of the player and archiving particulars for the The Atlantic. With the architecture of streaming services like Pandora and Spotify even less attuned to the duration, composer and fidelity concerns that are significant for genres outside of pop music, jazz guitarist Mark Ribot writes, "If Streaming is the Future, You Can Kiss Jazz and Other Genres Goodbye". Like in the case of the 12 decades of cinema not being represented on the dominant commercial platforms, independent music has begun their own enterprises to better serve their own interests, "Independent Music Labels and Young Artists Offer Streaming, on Their Terms". But if this almost singular foray of independent labels and artists in the streaming environment is representative of the market, it reveals much in, "Drip.FM's Closing and The Challenging Future of Sustainable Creative Technologies".

Conversely streaming and direct digital distribution has also made what was in the past the locus of curatorial vision; the record label, less of a less singular go-to. No question, the well curated label is still the best bet at finding more of related sounds when you're attuned to their frequency. Self releasing platforms like the growing audience direct community of Bandcamp, have made the record label less central. Yet it remains the case that the record label can often be a superior path toward discovering new cultures and artists amid the over-abundance of the online world. In the way of cutting edge electronic and experimental sounds, Raster-Noton, Tri-Angle, Blackest Ever Black, PAN, Editions Mego, and Touch, have all delivered catalogs of quality, often groundbreaking work this year. Experimental, black and doom metal continued it's influential hybridization on labels like Southern Lord, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, and Relapse. Neoclassical and chamber music were served by labels like Erased Tapes, and Denovali, as well as centuries-spanning institutions like Deutsche Grammophon expanding into the territory of young contemporary composers like Max Richter, and Jóhann Jóhannsson. American indies like Sacred Bones and Temporary Residence continued to step up their game, with ever expanding diversification and discovery of new talent. In the world of modern jazz, Scandinavia continues to dominate the field of innovation, Johannes Rød's recent, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985" published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon traced independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels are covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, there are few better single introductions to this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and it's embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation and experimentation, can't be overstated. The year also saw existing and new American imprints releasing work pushing at the boundaries of the very definition of jazz, bold forays into form and style were heard on Eremite and Chicago's International Anthem

Reissue imprints expanded their catalogs with titles spanning decades of overlooked, rare and seminal work. RVNG continues to release lost wonders from the fringes of psychedelia and early electronic music, as well as adventurous contemporary work, with a willful obliviousness to genre. Black Editions have begun their massive undertaking of reissuing the back catalog of legendary Japanese label P.S.F. with the passing of the label's maven, Hideo Ikeezumi. As an introduction, you'd not go wrong in making your point of entry into this world Alan Cummings piece for Forced Exposure on the origins of Keiji Haino, and his influential role in the deep Japanese underground of the 1970s, "Pitch-Black Convulsions: Watashi Dake? in the Context of Underground Japan". The San Francisco Bay Area label, Superior Viaduct have continued their strong launch by reaching further into he discographies of post-punk, modern composition, out-rock and free jazz. And UK-based labels Soul Jazz and WRWTFWW have unearthed some rare and much sought-after gems this past year in the form of Yasuaki Shimizu's "Kakashi" and Midori Takada's "Through the Looking Glass" from her incomparable soundworld explored by The Guardian in their, "Ambient Pioneer Midori Takada: 'Everything on this Earth has a Sound'". Concurrently, on the other side of the planet American's own brief bloom of synth psychedelia, and Germany's Kosmische electronics were both documented on Soul Jazz' "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Music 1971-81" and "Space, Energy and Light: Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961 - 88". The year saw an endless stream of shock, horror and genre cinema soundtrack reissues . The landscape these bands and composers have re-emerged into has been unquestionably shaped by the burgeoning reissue revival mining decades of subterranean soundtracks, musique concrete, neofolk, jazz and experimental work that have adorned much of the 20th Century's cult cinema. These rich veins continue to be mined by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo, and WaxWork, in new editions often corresponding with restorations and re-release of quality archival imprints for genre film like Arrow Films and Scream Factory. There are seeming whole new genres being born of the thematic beds of atmosphere and constructed worlds of Italian Giallo, French Fantastique and British Psychedelic, Pagan and Folk Horror of the late 1960s and 70s. As well as the following American horror explosion of the late 1970s and 80s, and the lines of kinship shared with the composers of early electronic music and concrete psychedelia who produced many of the soundtracks of the soundtracks of the time.

In pursuit of related atmospheres of the corrupted, disused and abandoned landscapes, both real and imagined, the essential reading from Frieze, "Decline and Fall: Tracing the History of Ruins in Art, from 18th-Century Painting to 21st-century Film", maps an emergent art of ruins that can be found in the world of the Hauntological. The Wire offering the greatest tutorial of the musical branch with their "Revenant Forms: The Meaning Of Hauntology", describing the collective headspace of "Alternative Nostalgia" as coined by Phil Harrison in the pages of The Quietus. Pye Corner Audio are perhaps the most purist in their recreation and reclamation of our proto-electronic heritage. While their music fits in nicely with the techno-mystic cult built up by other early practitioners around the likes of J.G. Ballard, M.R. James, Nigel Kneale, and the a reverie for all things BBC Radiophonic Workshop, it's conceptually less abstruse and sonically more authentic. With the great majority of Pye Corner's output sounding like it could have been recorded pre-1984. What his work shares with Ballard, and some of his 1980s offspring like David Cronenberg and John Carpenter is the fascination for desolate spaces of leaded, weighty tension and a pre-computer era mix of future-fantasy and weary trepidation for our imminent 21st Century technoscape. The now-retro aspect of Dystopian Modernity that The Oxford Dictionary attributes to Ballard's work as being occupied with "eros, thanatos, mass media and emergent technologies", is more explicitly realized in the loose collective of artists around London's The Outer Church, Front & Follow, and the themes of Julian House's Ghost Box label. House himself being the preeminent Hauntological practitioner of "Magical Unrealism" in the world of graphic design and aesthetics. Work that should be considered alongside his compatriot, Richard Littler's Scarfolk Council, in it's sculpting of their own "Alternative Nostalgia" as a darkly mystic parallel perception of the era. Littler's ongoing project stands as a fully realized plumbing of the paranoid, propagandistic, discomfiting spaces depicting, "Why the 1970s was the Most Terrifying Decade".

In live music this year offered up massive servings from the particular low lit territory branching out from the global offshoots of black and doom metal. No small percentage of the lineup of the inaugural Northwest Terror Fest comprised these explorers of the metal hinterlands. With a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days and nights at Seattle's Neumos, Barboza and The Highline, were assembled under the compelling opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers". Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival was detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True". His programming for the Northwest edition encompassing everything from the gloaming atmosphere and doom riffs of Wolves in the Throne Room, to Samothrace, Graves at Sea, Cephalic Carnage, Cult Leader, Yob, Heiress, Bell Witch, and the dark neofolk of Marissa Nadler. The unexpected reforming of many of the most notable of the 1990s shoegaze and dreampop bands, some "25 Years After its Imperial Phase", has been surprising in its diversity and success. The most improbable return of them all came when it was announced that Slowdive would be performing a one-off at the Primavera Sound Festival in 2014. Following in the wake of the massively received event, the band recognizing the ongoing dedication of their fanbase in interview with The Quietus, "There Seems To Be A Lot Of Love Out There: A Slowdive Interview", suggesting the very real possibility of a reformation as the, "Slowdive Reunion Expands with More Shows, Possibility of New Music". This past summer they reassemble for the first new recordings in 22 years on the self titled "Slowdive" for Bloomington Indiana independent label, Dead Oceans. Home to Ryley Walker's folk-concrete tapestries and the the spectral vocal transmissions of Juliana Barwick. The label is a perfect framing for the album, which concurrently offers a poppier expansion of their sound while retaining all the abstract charm of their greatest work.

Modernism, experimentation and the avant-garde were served up by performances from the last living member of one the vanguard German synth outfits of the 1970s, and the Ukrainian progenitor of Continuous Music. Kosmische would very well not exist without the trio of explorers, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Dieter Moebius, and Conrad Schnitzler, and their ventures together as Cluster. The elder and final member of this defining outfit, Roedelius chronicled their genesis within the Krautrock and Kosmnische scenes for Perfect Sound Forever as an outcome of Schnitzler's love of Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement. On the night of his extended performance in Seattle one could hear the confluence of Elektronische and Krautrock, alongside the reciprocal inspiration the trio had on the then-developing solo career of Brian Eno. The legendary producer's now canonical "Music for Films" and first volume in the ambient series, "Music for Airports" followed directly on the heels of the collaborations spawned by this meeting of "Cluster & Eno", and their second album, "After the Heat". Cluster's legacy extending far beyond 1970s and early 80s European synthesizer music, their hand can be seen in "The Discreet Music of Brian Eno", and the very formation of modern ambient music. This year also saw the return of Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk after his appearance at the final Northwest edition of Substrata Festival. His self-coined Continuous Music bears some relation to the longform Indian Ragas of LaMonte Young or Terry Riley, while embracing the density of Charlemagne Palestine, wedded to the repetitive patterned dichotomy of minimalism vs maximalism heard in Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Through marathon performances bending those forms to the service of tonal, harmonious beauty, the composer's perspective from the piano bench sees him, "Lightning-fast Pianist Lubomyr Melnyk: 'When I Play I Turn into an Eagle Flying'". Returning for his fourth occasion in Seattle, Typonexus Globalist Series presented two nights hosted at their Nuclear Recital series and Chapel Performance Space, featuring music from this, "Enigmatic Ukrainian-born Pianist, Who Looks like Rasputin's Doppelgänger".

Contemporary electronics were seen and heard in two deeply explorative sets from The Head Technician himself, Martin Jenkins, and the return of Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker's refashioning of dance music into a cerebral body-impacting experience of noise and rhythm. Jenkins appearing in the unlikeliest of settings within Upstream Festival under his Pye Corner Audio moniker, working a set from his masterful "Stasis" album for Julian House's Ghost Box label. And on the following night, a enveloping evening of music from The House in the Woods, transported a private living room concert setting into a one-off extra-spacial dimension. Canty and Whittaker's work as Demdike Stare has expressed influences equally from mid-Century Modernism, concrete and late 1970s and 80s industrial, alongside two decades of British underground techno, bass and garage music. A sound The Quietus called, "An Unholy Matrimony: In Interview with Demdike Stare", probably best epitomized by their collected "Elemental" series of 2012. The Wire's cover feature on the duo dug deep into their circumnavigation of the pigeonholing that Canty and Whittaker began to find themselves in following the collection's release. The dance music signifiers more boldly displayed in the distended takes on UK bass music and jungle, as heard on the "Test Pressing" series successfully led to the recalibrating of their listenership for the next move in, "How Demdike Stare Traded Darkness for Dancefloor Naivety on Wonderland". Both the duo's night at Kremwerk this past summer, and "Wonderland" are of two minds; a frisson-charged electronic dance music album with peripheral vantages into an inner, brooding persona. The resulting hours of darkly propulsive, rhythmic dancefloor moves, listened as a precision-honed assembly of fractured and angular concrete sounds bent and refashioned to workmanlike utility.