Sunday, September 16, 2018

Max Richter with The ACME Ensemble Performing "Infra" & "The Blue Notebooks" US Tour: Sept 28 - Oct 14

In a rare west coast series of performances this fall, including a night at Seattle's Moore Theatre, German neoclassical and soundtrack compose, Max Richter will be performing selections from his albums, "Infra" and "The Blue Notebooks", backed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. Over the course of over 50 recordings, spanning soundtracks for dance, theater, installation and film, alongside his own personal output beginning with 2002's "Memoryhouse", Richter has marked out a body of distinguished work in a field with such contemporaries as Jóhann Jóhannsson and Ólafur Arnalds. Many of these entries in Richter's recent and prolific catalog are commissioned works, such is the case with "Infra", a score for one of the composer's regular collaborators, Studio Wayne McGregor. Not limited simply to modern dance work with McGregor, their collaborations have also embraced cutting edge installation and transmedia works like those of Random International. Their "Future Self" for MADE, was one of the first in a series of successful installation and dance collaborations with McGregor and a score supplied by Richter. Following in rapid succession within the same year, the installation's premier at The Barbican was met with enthusiasm in the pages of the BBC and a glowing review from The Guardian. It's London run featuring a succession of live performances taking place within the installation over the course of the 2012 Frieze Art Fair. Following immediately on the success of "Future Self" the trio's "Rain Room" made it's premier at The Barbican London the following year, to then come stateside at MoMA's PS1 as part of "EXPO 1: New York", and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for an extended run. At the former, as part of a group exhibition of environmental works on ecological challenges in the context of the economic and sociopolitical instability. Generating more than a bit of a sensation, favorable press and public response, the installation's time at PS1 was covered in The New York Times' "Steamy Wait Before a Walk in a Museum’s Rain". With it's following run in Los Angeles featured by the LA Times, "Inside LACMA's Rain Room: An indoor Storm Where You Won't Get Wet".

Yet these are not the most audacious of Richter's meetings of composition, setting and performance. 2015 saw the composer realize his long developing 8 hour piece for the facilitation of "Sleep". The full night-long composition is available as a recording for home consumption both digitally, as a ultra high fidelity Blu-Ray audio release, as well as a separate edition of excerpt highlights conceived to represent the more engaged listening aspects, "From Sleep". But it is in performance that "Sleep" most explicitly realizes it's intent. Premiering in atypical venues across Europe, such as the Welcome Collection Reading Room in London this past fall, wherein the attendees nestled their campbeds between the reading room’s bookshelves and displays of alchemist flasks in anticipation of the clock striking midnight and the performance of Richter's "Eight-hour Lullaby for a Frenetic World". Most recently, and a first of its kind in North America, Los Angeles' Music Center, which also programs and manages Grand Park, hosted two nights of outdoor performance of "Sleep" under the summer skies this past July. The daring venture was met with more than a little anticipation for its experiment in duration and setting, represented by Rolling Stone's "Composer Max Richter to Perform Overnight L.A. Concerts with 560 Beds", and the Los Angeles Times' "Composer Max Richter Wants Fans to Spend the Night in Grand Park". Through its successful realization, not least of which the political undertones of sleeping out of doors, August Brown's "The All-Night, Outdoor Concert 'Sleep' Creates a Calming Reprieve with a Sense of Loss", accounts that “Sleep” was not just a beautiful, time-bending piece, but in this performance, contributed notably to re-imagining our public spaces. Recognizing the New Music and American Minimalist connections Richter in an interview for Bomb, spoke of his longstanding; "interest in extended-duration things. With music, this goes back to the ’60s, those all-night happenings, like Terry Riley and John Cage, all that. It’s certainly an idea that’s been around a long time." There have been no shortage of coverage in the pages of The Los Angeles Times, Time and NPR connecting "Sleep" and it's benefits in relation to the media abundant and time-scarce lives that many people feel they lead. More than just a layman's low-key artistic response to these concerns, Richter consulted with Baylor College neuroscientist David Eagleman in developing his composition. Assembled over the course of two years, the project's genesis was born of Richter's desire to make a “very deliberate political statement” on how daily time is spent, and nature of how the public engages with their larger sonic environment.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Michael Gira with Norman Westberg US Solo Acoustic Tour: Sept 27 - Oct 25

Having led the towering rock outfit SWANS through numerous manifestations over the decades since it's inception, including a brief phase as the folk ensemble The Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. The cartography of this almost four decades-spanning terrain mapped for Exclaim in Dimitri Nasrallah's "Michael Gira: from SWANS Uncompromising Sound to Ethereal Angels of Light", and in greater detail and intimacy by friends, fellow musicians and peers in Nick Soulsby's recently published oral history of the band, "SWANS: Sacrifice and Transcendence". 2018 sees another of these metamorphosis, as Gira has taken a second brief hiatus to reconfigure SWANS. Unlike the decade departure of The Angels of Light, Gira has established that a future as-yet conceived arrangement of the band is to return in coming years. Issuing a statement through his Young God Records site, the author and musician has established this period as a interstice between iterations of his dominant musical project. Filling the interlude to play, develop, and perform new works, Gira will be spanning the west coast on a monthlong solo acoustic tour this fall, with a date at Seattle's Columbia City Theater. In light of SWANS last return and reformation after a 15 year hiatus, in which they were manifest in the most powerful and expansive iteration to date, there is little cause to doubt they will return in a next state of renewal, reinvention, and creative 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 ascension and physical bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic magnitide. The post-reform precision and (relative) brevity of 2010's "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the extended forays heard on "To Be Kind", and rapturous hypnoticism of 2016's "The Glowing Man" ascend to, and even expand upon similarly Homeric heights. "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 almost 40 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 it came to pass that SWANS produced 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 conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever". The albums and live performances of this past decade, spanning 2010-2018, were the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recording 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". Photo credit: Cyrille Choupas

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Panos Cosmatos' "Mandy" and Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani's "Let the Corpses Tan" at The Grand Illusion & SIFF Cinema: Sept 14 - 20

The Grand Illusion Cinema hosts a one week run of the most recent offering “Let the Corpses Tan”, from genre cinema duo Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani. The husband and wife directors appeared on the international scene with their 2009 debut feature "Amer", seemingly fully-formed with their fusion of Eastern Bloc experimental film of the 60s, British psychedelic and occult film of the 70s, and a strong underpinning of the mechanisms of Italian Giallo. Returning four years later with “The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears”, their second feature establishing a even more assertive neo-Giallo style. More than simply an exercise in genre pastiche, they overwhelming the narrative with vibrant cinematography, taught editing, memorable locations and a finely sculpted aural environment. The duo took the influences of the classic films they loved and shaped them into a heightened, erotic, tension-filled form of their own. Critics have weighed in on the film's insistence of style over content, and almost excruciating complexity in it's editing and construct, but for fans of the genre there's a lot to advocate it's maceration of the senses, "The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears Will Break Your Brain". Premiering last year in the lineup of Locarno, and cited as a highlight of the festival, the duo returned with another deep genre exercise “Let the Corpses Tan”. Inspired by “Corpses in the Sun”, a 1971 novel by the French writers Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, the director duo have wrestled the Spaghetti Western into their all-inclusive Giallo recipe. Concurrently making their first foray into crime movies, the film is a visually rich abstract of Eurocrime, sun-baked Mediterranean landscapes that invoke the western, and stylistic hooks including extreme close-ups and juxtapositions lifted from Sergio Leon, and the French New Wave. A lurid bloodbath custom made for the cinephile, their work operates on more levels than just homage. As explored in their interview with Cinema-Scope, "Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani: Giving Credibility to the Universe", these genre deconstructions make apparent their influences, and rather than burying the source of their wellspring, the warping and stretching of technique and material watches as a celebration of its influence and lineage.

Cattet & Forzani are not alone in this work inspired by genre film and 20th Century cult cinema of decades past. A new tide of contemporary work has risen concurrently with the rich veins bring mined both in genre film soundtracks, and restorations and reissues of the films themselves. Reissue imprints like, Death Waltz, Mondo and WaxWork, have unearthed rare and esoteric soundtracks, bringing them new life often in correspondence with restorations and theatrical re-release thanks to institutions like the American Genre Film Archive, Arrow Films and Scream Factory. With these, there are 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. It is the latter that North American recreations like the work of Panos Cosmatos has drawn most directly from. His 2010 directorial debut, "Beyond the Black Rainbow", much in the way of Cattet & Forzani, received high praise for it's re-creationist style and vision. The movie's painstaking pre-digital universe is given form by being shot on 35mm, with effects work entirely in-camera via airtight use of sets, makeup, lighting, matte work and other practical effects of the era in which it is both set, and evokes. In these, "Analogue Dreams: Beyond the Black Rainbow" willfully supplies evidence of Cosmatos' influences and inspiration. The film pilfers equally from the stylebooks of Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Michael Anderson's "Logan's Run", early Douglas Trumbull, and Kenneth Anger in it's assemble of a late-70s, early 1980s analog vision. So meticulously assembled and executed, "Beyond the Black Rainbow", exists outside the parameters of the fetishization seen in lesser contemporary emulator films. By taking his pages this time from contemporaries, most notably those of Gaspar Noe and Nicolas Winding Refn, as much as past genre work, Cosmatos has upped the ante with his sophomore effort, "Mandy". Concocting a wedding of these forms with a unhinged genre vehicle overflowing with gloriously lurid cinematography, and a lead actor's penchant for bombast, "'Mandy' has Nicolas Cage Wreak Revenge at the Fiery Gates of Hell". Ratcheting up the visceral engagement to such heights, and Jóhann Jóhannsson's pounding, sensory-fraying collaborative score with Stephen O'Malley and Randall Dunn, "Cosmatos’s Mock-1980s Oddball Nerd Fantasy Yarn" deftly circumnavigates the trappings of similar postmodern genre territory.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Seattle Cinerama’s Sound & Vision, Summer Rewind and 70mm Film Festivals: Aug 17 - Sept 20

Stepping up to fill the void left in the wake of Cinerama's now extinct Science Fiction Film Festival, Paul Allen's state of the art theater with its Cinerama-Scope screen, Dolby Atmos sound and laser projection system, will host a trio of festivals over the course of August and September. A standard for the cinema, one of the only remaining Cinerama screens in North America, the third of the festival series will be presented on 70mm. Notably, the format showcase will feature the most recent de-restoration work on Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, in a new print cut from an exacting analog reconstruction. Seattle Cinerama's three mini festivals begin with a second run series, Summer Rewind, consisting of a week of blockbusters and genre films that premiered over the course of this past year. In stoke of brilliant curatorial work, the second of the series will feature conceptual double bills of works significant for their synergy of image and music. Taking it's theme literally and conceptually, Sound & Vision draws from both heightened audiovisual works of sensorial fiction like Ridley Scott's dystopic neonoir franchise, as it does from Jonathan Demme and Nicolas Roeg's placement of musical stars at the film's locus. The thrill of classic soundtracks meeting with genre films can be seen in Tim Burton's work with Prince, and Steven Spielberg's earliest megahits with John Williams. Contemporary audiovisual spectacles represented in the series by the dreamworlds of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, and the galactic exploration of Christopher Nolan, Hans Zimmer, Denis Villeneuve and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Blade Runner / Blade Runner 2049 • Logan / Mad Max: Fury Road • Wall-E / Interstellar • Blue Velvet / Mulholland Drive • Batman / Purple Rain • Pina 3D / Samsara • Total Recall / Terminator 2 • There Will Be Blood / No Country For Old Men • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind 4K / Jaws 4K • The Matrix 4K / The Fifth Element 4K • Gravity 3D / Arrival • Stop Making Sense / The Man Who Fell To Earth •

The third of the series being a format specific 70mm Film Festival showcasing the benefits inherent in the resolution, scale and luminosity of the 70mm celluloid format and three-strip films. Any effort to present these works is limited globally to the handful of theaters with the hardware to properly screen them, and a sparsity of films shot, cut or released on the format. Crowning the 70mm series is the newest in a line of Stanley Kubrick restorations, a project heralded by the celluloid champion and director of contemporary action and science fiction films, Christopher Nolan. The project initiated decades before through a meeting with Ned Price, the vice president of restoration at Warner Brothers during the 1999 project of Price and his team creating a preservation interpositive from the 20 reels of the original negative. Price offered to Nolan to see the copies made of the original prints, and intrigued by what he saw, Nolan approached the studio about continuing the work to the end of recreating the 1968 celluloid theatrical release. As detailed in Variety's "Going the Analog Route to Preserve Celluloid Beauty of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey'", the team at the FotoKem laboratory in Burbank then delivered the fruits to Nolan and Price of a six month process of cleaning the negative, checking and repairing splices, and removing previous imperfect work. Then they made an answer print, color-timed it by closely adhering to the original timing notes and documentation, and finally made an interpositive and an internegative for striking 70mm prints.

The team also approached the audio content with a similarly strict adherence, restoring the original six track soundtrack and adjusting levels to their original particulars, this was then exactingly transferred to the new prints. “The film is mixed in a very extreme way,” says Nolan, “There are incredible sonic peaks that are beyond anything anyone would do today.” More insight into the complexities of this process offered in New York Times' interview with the director, "Christopher Nolan’s Version of Vinyl: Unrestoring ‘2001’". As Stanley Kubrick’s monolithic adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's novel has been born (yet again) for the big screen, The Guardian assembled a set of directors, special effects moguls and those who worked on the film to discuss it's legacy, "50 Years of 2001: A Space Odyssey – How Kubrick's Sci-Fi Changed the Very Form of Cinema". Consider the film's far-reaching exploration of human possibilities and the precariousness of life in a seemingly infinite and indifferent universe, all realized through its singular and groundbreaking production, "2001: A Space Odyssey is Still the ‘Ultimate Trip’". From the sparsity of films available on the 70mm format, Cinerama has assembled a broad genre inclusive array of everything from documentaries to cinema classics by Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, and Alfred Hitchcock, to pop culture, action and special effects hits in their two week series.  Tron • 2001: A Space Odyssey • Back to the Future Part II  • Vertigo • The Sound of Music • Lawrence of Arabia • Baraka • Phantom Thread • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial • Howard the Duck • Top Gun • Ghostbusters • Dunkirk • Days of Thunder • Wonder Woman • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World •