Wednesday, January 9, 2019

:::: ALBUMS OF 2018 ::::


TOP ALBUMS OF 2018 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
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Coil  "Black Light District: A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room"  Reissue (Dais)
Haroumi Hosono  "Paraiso / Philharmony / Cochin Moon / Omni Sight Seeing"  Reissues (Light in the Attic)
Mkwaju Ensemble   "Mkwaju"  Reissue (WRWTFWW)
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Randall Dunn & Stephen O'Malley  "Mandy - Soundtrack"  (Invada / Lakeshore)
Various Artists  "Still In A Dream: A Story Of Shoegaze 1988-1995"  LP Edition (Cherry Red)
Vessel  "Queen of Golden Dogs"  (Tri-Angle)
Jim O’Rourke  “Sleep Like It’s Winter”   (Newwhere)
JLIN   "Autobiography"  for Studio Wayne McGregor (Planet Mu)
Laurel Halo  "Raw Silk Uncut Wood"  (Latency)
Objekt  "Cocoon Crush"  (PAN)
Lucrecia Dalt  "Anticlines"  (RVNG)
Demdike Stare  "Passion"  (Modern Love)
Author & Punisher  "Beastland"  (Relapse)
Uniform  "The Long Walk"  (Sacred Bones)
Daughters  "You Won't Get What You Want"  (Ipecac)
Sons Of Kemet  "Your Queen Is A Reptile"  (Impulse!)
John Coltrane  "Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album"  (Impulse!)
Thelonious Monk  "Monk."  Reissue (Legacy)
Alice Coltrane  "Lord Of Lords"  Reissue (Superior Viaduct) ‎
Pharoah Sanders  "Tauhid / Jewels Of Thought / Summun Bukmun Umyun"  Reissues (Anthology)
Various Artists  "Spiritual Jazz Vol.8: Esoteric, Modal and Progressive Jazz From Japan: 1961-1983" (Jazzman)
Eliane Radigue   ‎”Œuvres Électroniques”  Box Set (INA-GRM)
Bernard Parmegiani "‎Les Soleils De L'Île De Pâques | La Brûlure De Mille Soleils" (WRWTFWW)


Two years have now passed since favorable ratings, and public appetite for spectacle, motivated both liberal and conservative media to marginalize more viable options and instead elevate a reality TV celebrity, media mogul and real estate magnate to one of the most influential positions of power in the world. We now live in the wake of those events. America may never be the same. 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 the erosion of institutions of true investigative journalism, social media has found itself in the role of the most influential editor in the world. Subsequently, America not only receives different information, as a divided nation, we've come to perceive different realities. Less travel this year, both domestic and international translated as being essentially grounded here in the United States, with the noise, misdirection, confusion, and division of this toxic social fallout of the 2016 election. All the while wealth becomes further stratified, with fewer and fewer institutions owning a larger slice of the domestic economy, and their influence increasingly felt in government.

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 this year. Hitting the mark of 400 films seen, it was another record setting twelve months in catching cinema in the theater. A worrisome trend seen in recent years continued though, as no small number of significant films were only available for viewing online or at home. The most notable visual art event witnessed this year was the fourth-annual Paul Allen funded Seattle Art Fair. Initial speculation on it's inaugural launch as to the fair being another tech money vanity project has long since been dispelled. Again proving to be significantly more than a elaborate philanthropy endeavor, this year's fair saw an expanded body of galleries, over 100 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events. The programming coup of this year was found in Survival Research Laboratories, founder Mark Pauline presenting a demonstration of his various machines and devices. While insurance costs prevented a full-scale exhibition like that witness at Marlborough Contemporary this past year, wherein "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery", Pauline was on hand for presentation and discussion on his long running kinetic theater of destruction. Initiated as an early industrial culture project in the late 1970s, the machine shop and performance of its creations spans decades. As part of this year's lecture series, Pauline was joined by influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, memorably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?".

As is the case with many of the cultural and economic epicenters in the United States, in the last decade Seattle has gone through a series of notable changes to its urban, communal, and arts identity. Reflecting the still stratifying economic and cultural landscape of the city, two of the most influential regional festivals had closing years in 2015. These two institutions previously brought an underground, international scope to the city's music programming, and cumulatively tens of thousands of attendees. That year saw the final installments of the Seattle's two dominant festivals of electronic, neoclassical and experimental music in the final editions of Rafael Anton Irisarri's Substrata Festival, 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, while a proposed Seattle satellite festival remains unrealized. In the three years since the closing of these international forums, Seattle's monthly showcases of electronic and experimental sounds, Elevator, Secondnature, MOTOR, Patchwerks, False Prophet and Wayward Music Series have stepped up to filled the void. Elevator and MOTOR have since ceased monthly programming in 2018, yet the former continues with performance and exhibition curation following the 2016 inauguration of their annual Corridor Festival. 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 the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, is now less certain with his passing this October.

In music it was another year of taking circuitous and unexpected paths to the year's more memorable sounds. Streaming and digital distribution has incontestably freed channels of access and stages of separation between producer and audience. It has also brought to the fore the issue of accepting poor royalties for the benefit of expansive exposure. In the midst of this digital era of over abundance, there are whole forms and centuries of music that are not being served by the dominant 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 those that rely on Apple Music and iTunes, 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. 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. The well curated label is still the best bet at finding more of related sounds when you're attuned to their programming trajectory. In the way of cutting edge electronic and experimental sounds, Raster-Noton, Tri-Angle, Blackest Ever Black, PAN, Editions Mego, and RVNG 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, Sargent House, 20 Buck Spin, Flenser, Season of Mist, Relapse, and Profound Lore. Neoclassical and modern 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, Captured Tracks, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Dead Oceans, 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. The influence of labels like Rune Grammofon and ECM and their 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. Vanguard forays into form and style were heard on Eremite and Chicago's International Anthem. The standard-bearers of American jazz, Impulse! and Verve, also proving that they make the cut with one of the great new jazz albums of the year, and the unearthing of a legendary, instant classic.

In the way of other notable reissues, 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. 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'". Domestically, Light in the Attic released their document of "The Hidden History of Japan’s Folk-Rock Boom", as the first volume of the Japan Archive. Proceeding the next anthology volumes, "Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music", and "Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie", dedicated to ambient and city pop respectively. Correspondingly, the long unavailable work of Yellow Magic Orchestra founder Haroumi Hosono was reissued in gorgeous limited editions. In a discography embracing Caribbean reggae and disco, Pacific island exotica, American R&B, jazz and boogie, and the paradox of traditional folk and pop jostling alongside technological futurism, Hosono's body of elusive fusion listens as a set of musical postcards to imagined destinations. Digging deep into unreleased genre classics, the Anthology label unearthed some of the late 20th century's most notable jazz with a series of Pharaoh Sanders reissues, lush experimental folk from Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, and the definitive document mapping "Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music", as both a printed and music edition.

Like the stretch of the last half decade, this year saw an endless stream of shock, horror and genre cinema soundtrack reissues. The landscape bands and composers like Goblin, John Carpenter, and Fabio Frizzi, have reemerged into has been unquestionably shaped by the burgeoning reissue revival mining decades of subterranean soundtracks. Particularly in the way of 1970s and 80s genre films, where early synthesizer music, neofolk, jazz, progressive rock, musique concrete, and experimental soundtracks adorned much of the 20th Century's most notable cult cinema. Listening to much of this work now, the shared conceptual fascinations, and technical fixations of the composers of early electronic music and psychedelia who produced many of the soundtracks of the time, and the genre directors who sculpted some of the most notable cinema of this era, are graphically apparent in retrospect. These rich veins continue to be unearthed by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo, and WaxWork, in new editions often corresponding with restorations of their source films issued on quality archival imprints like Arrow Films, Scream Factory, and Powerhouse Films Indicator series. There are seeming whole new genres being born (look no further than this year's "Mandy"), 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, which we saw programmed in two excellent series this past season at The Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum.

In live music this year offered up massive servings from the particular lowlit territory branching out from the global offshoots of black and doom metal. After a successful inaugural year, Northwest Terror Fest returned this past May with a lineup exploring these metal hinterlands. The festival's three days and nights at Seattle's Neumos, Barboza and The Highline, were initially assembled under the compelling opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers". Rodger's wider curatorial vision, detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True", encompasses everything from the gloaming atmospheric ambiance of doom metal, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. A cross-genre spectrum of these sonic territories and weighty atmospheres were heard in sets from, Celeste, Thou, Full of Hell, Necrot, Gatecreeper, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Panopticon, Subrosa, The Atlas Moth, White Hills, Great Falls, and Emma Ruth Rundle. Jazz also had a notable year in the northwest. Seattle's answer to the international jazz festival, Earshot Jazz continued to excerpt their influence and expand curatorial vision into the genre's furthest fringes. Culling from the adjacent Vancouver and Portland International Jazz Festivals, Earshot assembled a series of vanguard nights showcasing American talent Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark. The following week presenting Norway's finest in a chamber jazz quintet, featuring Thomas Strønen, Mats Eilertsen, Ayumi Tanaka, Håkon Aase and Leo Svensson Sander. Outside of Earshot, where Kamasi Washington and the Miles Davis Electric Band proposed compelling intersections of electric jazz, fusion and Afrofuturism, the Sun Ra Arkestra delivered in the setting of Columbia City Theater's brilliantly programmed Space Is The Place Festival.

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. Indeed, the span of 2014 to 2018 has been been the time in which, "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns". The Guardian going one further with "Shoegaze: The Genre that Could Not Be Killed", and their beginner's listening guide, which acts as a digestible introduction to the multifaceted and variegated styles found across the genre's most comprehensive representation, Cherry Red Records' "Still in a Dream: The Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995". 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 on the global tour, they reassemble for the first new recordings in over two decades on the self titled "Slowdive" for Bloomington Indiana independent label, Dead Oceans. This summer, we were also witness to the fourth domestic tour since the 2007 reformation of the definitive shoegaze band, along with Kevin Shields' promise of forthcoming material. This all following on the heels of their first new album in 22 years. My Bloody Valentine's prolific return 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 there were involved in the long road to My Bloody Valentine's recent remasters.

Heavy rock, postpunk and industrial had good showings in combined label showcases from Sacred Bones, Ipecac and Relapse. Uniform returned on tour with the furious soundscape of their third album, "The Long Walk" in a collaborative set with the experimental metal of The Body. Evocative of the earliest industrial music of the postpunk era, Tristan Shone's project under the name Author & Punisher moniker drew heavily from aspects of industrial automation, robotics, mechanical tools and human interface, to deliver a Ballardian dystopic vision. The differently strange mechanics of Coil's musical legacy was extended one final occasion with the last of Drew McDowall's "Time Machines" realizations. As a late period work by the then quintet, McDowall is the sole remaining active member of the queerest of the Thatcher era original industrialists. Reissued this past winter, "Time Machines" is an austere ritual music, engineered to effect the psyche through invocation of a liminal state, a process explored in "Time Machines: Drew McDowall On Coil's Drone Legacy". Influential figures from the 1990's decade of post-dancefloor electronic music also graced Seattle. Kremwerk's insight in programming a rare and extended night of propulsive minimalism from Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, and Rhythm & Sound founder, Moritz Von Oswald, was a of a caliber the city had been denied in decades past.

Classical and it's 21st century neoclassical offspring also had notable nights thanks to the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Theater Group's programming this past summer. While 2019 will mark the final year of his tenure as conductor and programmer at Seattle Symphony, since his arrival in 2011, Ludovic Morlot has launched a number of significant modern music initiatives. Alex Ross positing that from the week of his debut, the conductor not only stepping out with a strong start musically, but a reshaping of the orchestra's image, effectively in many ways, the "Symphony’s New Leader Took Seattle by Storm". Not least among his accomplishments, the late-night [untitled] chamber music series which brought contemporary works back into symphony's lexicon. Morlot's prestige was further amassed with his commissioning of "John Luther Adams Pulitzer Prize Winning 'Become Ocean'" which was recorded with the Seattle Symphony in 2013, and this year's continuation of the cycle, with the premier of "Become Desert". German neoclassical and soundtrack composer Max Richter delivered another of his all night "Sleep" performances as a first in the United States, "Composer Max Richter to Perform Overnight L.A. Concerts with 560 Beds", with the invitation for, "Fans to Spend the Night in Grand Park". While Seattle wasn't graced with this "Eight-hour Lullaby for a Frenetic World", Richter and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble performed selections from his albums, "Infra" and "The Blue Notebooks" as a full evening of somnambulistic chamber music at The Moore Theatre.