Sunday, June 24, 2018

My Bloody Valentine at The Paramount & US Tour: Jul 17 - Aug 1


Contestably, it can be argued that shoegaze and the concurrent sounds of dreampop began with two bands; Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser's Cocteau Twins in the early 80s, and A.R. Kane, the late-80s British duo, whom The Guardian credits as having "Invented Shoegaze without Really Trying". Representative of their influence, decades later both can be seen to rank highly on Pitchfork's "The 30 Best Dream Pop Albums of All Time". Not limited to the post-punk era of it's genesis, both shoegaze, and it's dreampop offshoot are going though a second renaissance of sorts, with new bands stepping into the forum. The telltale distortion-soaked melodies, and submerged vocals can be heard in the music of 21st century bands originating from destinations as far flung as Russia and New Zealand. On the other side of the globe from it's UK origins, a new generation of shoegaze is currently exploding across the south pacific, detailed in The Guardian's "'A Language We Use to Say Sentimental Things': How Shoegaze Took Over Asia". At the head of this renaissance, many of the genre's most influential and formative acts have returned from extended hiatus, not only touring, but with new, and relevant material. The most improbable of them all, Slowdive not only reformed to tour, but produced one of the greatest albums of their career. Other unlikely returns have been seen in Robert Hampson reforming LOOP, the one-time-only North american visit from Lush's brand of 4AD dreampop, and tours and the first new material of decades from The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ride.


The Guardian's "Shoegaze: The Genre that Could Not be Killed", and New York Times' "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns", best encapsulating this resurgence. Second only to the decade of the sound's origin, it's a great time for listeners avid for more of shoegaze' blissed-out fuzz and melancholic melodicism. For those just entering into the neon torrent, you'd not go far wrong beginning with The Guardian's "Shoegaze: A Beginner's Guide", and the Cherry Red label's anthology of a perfect overview with their, "Still in a Dream: The Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995." This summer, we're not only witness to the fourth domestic tour since the 2007 reformation of the definitive shoegaze band, but Kevin Shields' promise of forthcoming material, following on the heels of the first new album in 22 years. All of this initiated with a series of interviews beginning with Shields' admission to The Quietus that, "Not Doing Things Is Soul Destroying", in which he shares the details of the protracted process and decades of delays involved in My Bloody Valentine's recent remasters. Speaking further with The Guardian on how the period after the 1991 album was a series of derailing setbacks involving, among other things according to Sheilds, the dangers of chinchilla ownership. And yet, those trials and tribulations only hint at the complexity behind the development of 2013's "m b v" album. Its creation though a relocation, rebuilding the studio, and a meticulously obsessive, perfectionist work ethic as detailed in Mike McGonigal's 33 1/3 book on "Loveless".
Photo credits: Adriana Andujar & Greg Dunlap

Sunday, June 17, 2018

David Lynch Movie Night with "Blue Velvet" at Seattle Art Museum: Jun 21


As part of the contractual details of directing the 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's "Dune" for producer Dino De Laurentiis, David Lynch was under obligation to direct two more films, the first of which was to be a planned sequel. In the wake of the film's poor box office and mixed critical reception, the sequel was never developed beyond the stage of its initial script. The Herbert project then aborted, opportunity opened for the  second of the two films to be developed as a more personal work. Expanding on ideas that Lynch had been gestating as far back as 1973, and a screenplay that had been shopped around by the director since the late 1970s, De Laurentiis became both its producer and distributor. Where other studios declined the screenplay due to its tarnished depiction of smalltown American life, foreground presentation of violence, and strong sexual content, the Italian independent gave the director free reign within it's budgetary constrains. And most importantly, power of final cut. Not limited to his early shorts, boldly experimental feature length effort, and Academy Award nominated "Elephant Man", the premise of a subconscious underworld buried beneath the facade of everyday existence remains one of the reoccurring themes throughout the totality of the director's work. Nowhere in David Lynch's filmography is this dichotomy more explicit in it's depiction than in "Blue Velvet". In the decades following it's release, the film would go on to be considered one of the most notable, and influential, independent American works of the 1980s. Not only significant within the independent cinema landscape of the decade, "Blue Velvet" earned David Lynch his first Academy Award nomination, as well as consideration at Cannes. The film gaining further appreciation in the new century, indicative of its inclusion in the BBC's 2015 global critical assessment of the 100 Greatest American Films Ever Made.

While it relaunched Dennis Hopper's career, and made the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini a household name, "Blue Velvet" was powerfully divisive at the time of its release in 1986. Much in the way a decade later Lynch's underappreciated "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me", disturbed and alienated fans who had joined on for the television series' global phenomena. Star critic Gene Siskel included "Blue Velvet" on his list of the best films of 1986, asserting that; "Blue Velvet" crosses the line of good taste, but so does real life. It also contains some of the year`s best filmmaking". Like was often the case, his companion and cineaste sparring partner, Roget Ebert had quite other things to say on the subject. Writing for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael was engrossed with the film's contrarian tides of humor and horror, citing that; "this is possibly the only coming-of-age movie in which sex has the danger and the heightened excitement of a horror picture. The charged erotic atmosphere makes the film something of a hallucination". Searing first encounters with "Blue Velvet" aren't only limited to 1986, to this day the film remains spellbinding and dreamlike in it's hallucinatory representation of the underside of the American smalltown life. Three decades from it's release, David Lynch's American dream continues to garner pieces like Peter Bradshaw's "David Lynch's Blue Velvet: Why I Still Can't Take My Eyes Off It" for The Guardian. Seattle Art Museum's annual summer David Lynch Movie Night pairs the new restoration of the original with Peter Braatz' behind the scenes making-of documentary "Blue Velvet Revisited". Braatz' documentary drawing from an amassed array of period super-8 footage and photographic stills, set to a new soundtrack supplied by post-punk luminaries Tuxedomoon.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Nate Wooley & Ken Vandermark, Broken Shadows Quartet and Thomas Strønen's "Time is a Blind Guide" at Chapel Performance Space, The Royal Room & Cornish Poncho Hall: Jun 13 - 16 & 23


Again, as seen in a recent stretch of summer programming, Seattle's Earshot Jazz organization has insightfully culled from Vancouver International Jazz Festival's expansive global roster of all things orbiting the world of jazz. In a lineup featuring members of the The Bad Plus, the first of the month's offerings from Broken Shadows Quartet bring their reinterpretations of timeless sounds originating from the rural south and heartland to The Royal Room. Channeling American luminaries like Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Albert Ayler, Dewey Redman, and Charlie Haden, their invigorated and often blistering jazz reconfigurations of influences span the avant-garde, folk art, and the deep southern blues. Earlier the same week at Chapel Performance Space, the locus of the American free jazz and improv world, Ken Vandermark, will be performing in a new duo setting with trumpet stalwart Nate Wooley. Vandermark's last two decades have seen him in arrangements with some of the heaviest hitters in global free jazz, including the prolific Scandinavian centerpiece, Paal Nilsen-Lovelegendary drummer Hamid Drake, saxophone colossus Peter Brötzmann, and extended technique and electro-acoustic pioneer, Evan Parker. Vandermark's trajectory has also taken him deep into the influence of the burgeoning late 20th and 21st Century central European and Scandinavian free jazz scene. Including trio and quartet settings with the aforementioned Paal Nilsen-Love, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, Per-Ake Holmlander, Axel Dörner, and Fredrik Ljungkvist.

By way of introduction to this scene, there is probably no better document than Johannes Rød's recent, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985", published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon. Tracing independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the current era of vinyl revival and ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels are covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, the edition perfectly encapsulates 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 chamber music experimentation, can't be overstated. Dana Jennings "ECM: Albums Know that Ears Have Eyes" for the New York Times mines the ensuing four decades following those detailed in Rød's chronicle. Another significant marker of in "The Sound of Young Norway" came in the form of ECM sister label's 150th release, The Quietus hailing the far-seeing benchmark of graphic and sonic synergia that was, "Rune Grammofon: Sailing To Byzantium".

Returning to Cornish Poncho Hall, another central figure of the Scandinavian scene plays bandleader to a different arrangement of his soaring performance in last year's trio with Mats Eilertsen. Known for his dynamic and detailed moodscapes as Food's percussion and electronics wing, Thomas Strønen's chamber jazz five piece is fleshed out by the eloquence and sensitivity of bassist Mats Eilertsen, pianist Ayumi Tanaka, Håkon Aase and Leo Svensson Sander on violin and cello respectively. "Time Is A Blind Guide" is both the title of Strønen’s new ensemble album, and the name of his new Norwegian-British five piece. As depicted in a recent series of recordings for ECM, their all-acoustic chamber music sound is a more timorous, searching affair than many of their contemporaries in the American free jazz scene. Central to it's fabric are piano and bass studies in rhythm and texture that circumnavigate the orthodoxies of piano trio and quartet playing, melodically heightened by the finesse of a duo strings, with Strønen's drumming acting in expressive, detailed counterpoint. For Jazzwise, Stuart Nicholson spoke with Strønen for their "Time Bandits" feature. Mapping the drummer's varying settings of music making, from Food's electro-acoustic tapestries, to his own Time Is A Blind Guide ensemble, and the influence of former bandmate, the late great pianist John Taylor.