Thursday, September 26, 2019

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 10 - 14 | Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 10 - 20 | Seattle Kinofest at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 22 - Nov 5 | Into The Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series at Seattle Art Museum: Sept 26 - Dec 5

Like last year's deluge of film festivals over the course of the fall months, 2019 sees a small abundance arrive in town and around the region for the month of October through early November. Among the festivals and series on offer, Seattle Art Museum's cinema curation deserves a notable mention. This past year's calendar has been filled with notable repertory and archival works, including retrospectives on two 20th century auteurs from far-flung corners of the world, Yasujiro Ozu and a twin series of Ingmar Bergman. The museum's annual French and Italian cinema series are also significant, as is their long running winter Film Noir program. Now in it's fourth decade, Into the Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series features such all-time classic noir directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Samuel Fuller, Edward Dmytryk, Edgar G. Ulmer, Michael Curtiz, and more contemporary neonoir from John Boorman, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. This year's array of titles spanning the themes of deadly love, mistaken identities, men done wrong by organized crime, dystopic modernism and haunting nocturnal forays into Los Angeles. As featured in, "Murder, My Sweet", "Detour", "The Breaking Point", "Niagara", "The Wrong Man", "Lolita", "The Naked Kiss", "Point Blank", and "Mulholland Drive". Concurrent with the opening month of the Seattle Art Museum's series, the annual contemporary German cinematic overview of Kinofest opens the week following this year's Seattle Polish Film Festival. Presenting both restored archival work, these two cultural showcases look to span the decades between such landmarks as the work born of the Polish Film School, New German Cinema and contemporary movements like the Berlin School.

North of the city one of the region's most compelling cinephile events will be taking place over the second weekend in October. As an example of programming a festival of diverse yet qualitative content, the current body of the Seattle International Film Festival could take a page or two from the Orcas Island Film Festival. While running only five days, and featuring less than one tenth of the films on offer during the three weeks of SIFF, the regional microfestival is an exemplar representation of contemporary programming. In the unlikely setting of the rural beauty of the San Juan islands, chief programmer Carl Spence, has produced a 40-odd-film program in their 6th year to rival that of its Seattle goliath. As the Seattle Times states, it is the case that "Orcas Island Film Festival: Small Fest, Big Movies" which draws largely from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside a number of the notable films from Venice, Sundance, and Toronto. Among the films on offer in Orcas, there's the hotly anticipated fascist farce of Taika Waititi’s "Jojo Rabbit". Apparently more an exercise in whimsical weird comedy than the opportunity for some biting satire of that the modern era so clearly deserves, it did nonetheless take home the top award at Toronto. Much has been written about French Left Bank director Agnès Varda in recent years, particularly with her passing this March. Fitting then, for an incomparable director and personal essayist to leave us with two of her more intimate and inviting works in the form of 2017's "Visages Villages", and her parting gift to the world, "Varda by Agnès". Bringing in a five star review from Peter Bradshaw at Cannes, Céline Sciamma’s 18th Century story of obsession "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", demonstrates a new mastery of a classical, almost Hitcockian style. Another massive film by all accounts is the return to form, and more solidly reliable thematic content, from South Korea's once challenging satirist, Bong Joon-ho. More than just a off-kilter black comedy of a rich Korean family slowly being subsumed and replaced by an impoverish one, his class revenge tale "Parasite", digs its tendrils in deep to the desperation produced by modern global wealth disparity.

From Toronto, there's Fernando Meirelles' tale of "Two Popes" with Anthony Hopkins’ Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Francis, as well as more antics from Shia LaBeouf in the form of "Honey Boy". By contrast, a film deserving of attention is the portrait of cultural dislocation seen through the eye of the protagonist of Nadav Lapid's Golden Bear-awarded "Synonyms". Another solidly constructed post-Colonial vantage into issues of class, duty and servitude in the developing world takes a more ruminative and poetic view, in Mati Diop's suggestively supernatural "Atlantique". Romanian New Wave director, Corneliu Porumboiu returns to crime and police procedurals with "The Whistlers", in which a bent detective becomes entangled in the crimes that he's investigating. Given the cast, Ira Sachs' "Frankie" should be more compelling than its Cannes' reviews suggests, and one would have to go very far astray from the life and work of Merce Cunningham to produce something less than richly satisfying with "Cunningham". Noah Baumbach returns what he does best in his finely judged divorce retrospective, "Marriage Story", and Trey Edward Shultz' "Waves" depicts a very different mode of family drama. Adam Driver stars again in the incisive indictment of the United States post-9/11 interrogation processes, in "The Report", and Quentin Dupieux is back with another dose of his fetishistic gibberish cinema, with "Deerskin". French cinema of a more substantive manner can be seen in François Ozon's "By the Grace of God", which took home the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. From Sundance, we get Chinonye Chukwo's Jury Prize-winning "Clemency", and a new comedy from Upright Citizens' Brigade and Saturday Night Live alumnis, "Greener Grass". Diao Yinan's follow up to his brilliantly constructed neo-Noir, "Black Coal, Thin Ice", fails to expand on that film's stylistic and thematic content, nonetheless producing a satisfying genre work with, "The Wild Goose Lake". Apparently another return to form for Pedro Almodóvar, "Pain and Glory" delivers a sensuous and potentially autobiographical gem through Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of a ageing filmmaker facing up to his later years in life. Also consistently ranking highly in overviews from Cannes, Marco Bellochio's "The Traitor", looks to deliver a finely styled period drama on the life of Tommaso Buscetta, the first Sicilian Mafia boss turned pentito.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

SUNN O))) new album "Pyroclasts" & West Coast Tour with Papa M: Sept 1 - 15 | Boris new album "LφVE & EVφL" & US Tour with Uniform: Aug 19 - Sept 29

At the forefront of a then new strain of Metal simply coined Doom, bands like Earth, outings by Boris, and the Northwest trio of SUNN O))) were fashioning a gargantuan and glacial sound in the late 90s to early 2000s. These bands themselves inspired by the earliest manifestations of the sound from the late 80s to early 1990s, its developmental phase heard in the music of Pentagram, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Trouble. While bearing cultural associations with the recent Post-Black Metal explosion, as detailed in Brad Sanders' "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World", for The Quietus, the offshoot of Doom in the 1990s remains it's own cloistered musical corner of that world. Touching on Doom within the larger context, Sanders' article acts as an opening unto the dark passageways of contemporary Metal's multitude of stylistic representations. These sounds further showcased in the past half-decade of The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus showcase of excellent curation, dominantly issued through all things Metal-and-beyond labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. Seven years have elapsed since Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's SUNN O))) performed here in Seattle, they return to The Showbox this month on a series of west coast dates in support of their most recent tectonic slab of sound, "Life Metal", and forthcoming companion album, "Pryoclasts". While their presence on the west coast as a live, touring band has been scarce in recent years, they have entered into one of the most prolific collaborative phases the band has seen to date. Not only releasing the "Terrestrials" with legendary experimental Norwegian band, Ulver, they produced an album with the late 20th century singularity known as Scott Walker on "Soused". The timing of the latter particularly fortuitous, as just this year, the life of this brilliant maverick came to an end, “Pop's Great Adventurer: How Scott Walker Reached the Heart of Darkness”. In the midst of this all, somehow finding time and resources to contributing to Jóhann Jóhannsson's pounding, sensory-fraying work with Randall Dunn, on "Cosmatos’s Mock-1980s Oddball Nerd Fantasy Yarn", score for "Mandy" in 2018. This seemingly boundless well of musical and thematic inspiration plumbed in their interview with The Quietus, "Inspiration From Above and Below: The Strange World Of... SUNN O)))", and to even greater depths, for The Wire's April 2009 issue. Complete transcripts of the associated interviews with both Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson are further enhanced by SUNN O)))'s regular contributing members; Mayhem's vocal leviathan Attila Csihar, Seattle electric violin virtuoso Eyvind Kang, electronic and experimental vocalist Jessika Kenney, and Australia's all around sonic renaissance man, Oren Ambarchi.

Returning to the Northwest with much greater frequency, Sacred Bones label artist Uniform will be here for the second occasion this year following their winter tour with experimental Metal band, The Body. Hot on the heels of last year's "The Long Walk", a new collaborative album, "Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back" arrives this month. The furious soundscape of their third album (and this newest in a set of collaborations with The Body), runs the gamut of a dissonant molasses crawl, passages of substantial lurching weight, and bludgeoning epileptic hysteria. Fitting then that The Quietus' "Killing It In America: An Interview With Uniform", touches on the American genre author, and that this spastic, guttural album is inspired by a dystopic, authoritarian short story by Stephen King. In the way of their collaborators, there are few acts that fully embody the term Experimental Metal, quite to the extent of The Body. Through a small abundance of solo and collaborative albums both with Uniform, a set of blistering noise-thrash intersections with Full of Hell, and their recent "Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light", The Body have carved out a corpus of sounds at the vanguard of the genre's evolution. The Quietus' "Prepare For The Worst: Facing The Apocalypse With The Body" describes the doom-full trajectory that has led to this year's, "I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer". With Uniform for a night at Neumos, Japanese heavy rockers, Boris make their semi-annual return to the west with a string of Us tour dates. Showing no signs of a sedentary codification of their sound, or a deceleration of their recording or touring schedule, "For Boris, Heavy is a State of Being". Rumored at the time to be their swansong, after almost 25 years of recording and endless activity, 2017's "Dear" for Sargent House instead generated nearly three albums of vital new material. Born from this precipice, they return this fall with a new album, "LφVE & EVφL" as well as a set of domestic LP reissues for Jack White's Third Man Records in October.

Though not likely to ascend to the heights of 2013's world tour wherein they played the totality of their magisterial opus "Flood", alongside a second night of "All-Time Classics", the "LφVE & EVφL" tour still promises an evening of the heart-of-the-sun intensity Boris are known to deliver live. The most recent in a decade of semiannual live events which has seen them manifest an ever-mutating mix of Doom Metal, Heavy Psych, warped J-Pop, willfully dysfunctional Indie Rock, and even their own thrilling take on Dream Pop and Shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series, which was then refined on "Attention Please", from which they then pivoted to the guttural Psyche assault of "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with it's pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". This summer's tour in anticipation of the new album for Third Man Records, marks a return to the territory the band carved out with 2005's "Pink", and the brand of lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara heard on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the recent domestic reissue of "Pink" features a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March 2016 issue of The Wire recaps the trio's decades-long recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with legendary noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Its depths sounded by Masami Akita in his interview for The Quietus, "Razor Blades In The Dark: An Interview With Merzbow".

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Test Dept & Severed Heads at El Corazon: Sept 11 & 15 | “Desolation Center” at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 4, 9 - 10 | The Stentorian Era of Industrial Music Culture

Following in the wake of Punk and early New Wave, Industrial Music culture bore many correspondences to its Postpunk and Gothic Rock siblings, yet defined itself apart for the literal mechanics of its production and aesthetics. Globally a number of epicenters for the sound's earliest formation could be found in Berlin, Chicago, New York, London, and the major coastal cities of California. Most notably and formative for the sound and its culture, the German scene was the initial defining locus. Gathering around the Geniale Dilletanten Festival, and it's burgeoning music and performance subculture through efforts largely spearheaded by Wolfgang Müller, the genre's origin immediately expanded outwards to encompass multimedia, performance art, print and literary works. In a span of half a decade, this thriving scene in the margins of the divided city, gave birth to such artists as Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, F.S.K., Mania D, Palais Schaumburg, Sprung Aus Den Wolken, Abwärts, and Malaria!. British labels like Some Bizarre, Mute and Throbbing Gristle's own Industrial Records, were concurrently at the epicenter the UK's own cross-pollination of performance, sound, visual art, theater and cultural action. These institutions were born of the contextual cultural moment of Thatcher's England, alongside protests from the labor class and the rise of underground Queer politics. In this environment, a corpus of varied interpretations of the industrial aesthetic and sound could be heard in the music of Test Dept., Coil, Psychic TV, Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse and Nurse With Wound. No better map to this decade's cultural continuum of (often) overtly occult, queer, outsider industrial music in the United Kingdom exists than David Keenan's "England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground".

The American continent saw it's own variation on the form later harnessed by label's like Chicago's Wax Trax! Records. Their legacy, beyond just releasing a body of music that bred or came to influence more commercially successful acts of the 1990s, like Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy, Wax Trax! were defined by a then-radical business model. The revival of the label, by the daughter of its co-founder Julia Nash and her partner Mark Skillicorn, came in the heels of their 2017 documentary, "Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records". Again, acting as more than just the setting of a retail record store, and label with an atypical contract process, the environment it's founders created a cultural locus of related aesthetics, sounds, values and lifestyles. This setting giving birth to the mid-to-late 1980s Electro-Industrial sound of Ministry, Meat Beat Manifesto, KMFDM, Front 242, and Controlled Bleeding. Further north, there was an affinity to be had with the concurrent Canadian scene largely released by Nettwerk Records, which issued albums from the influential Vancouver trio, Skinny Puppy, Australia's SPK, and Severed Heads, and Toronto's Front Line Assembly. Los Angeles and San Francisco also had their own eruptions of industrial sound and performance. In some ways achieving less popular notoriety than their midwest counterparts, the major coastal cities of California generated a wholly other variety of "notorious". Sharing more in common with their Berlin and London contemporaries, the cultural and economic conditions of late 1970s San Francisco Bay Area gave rise to the spectacular performative events of destruction staged by Mark Pauline and his cohorts in Survival Research Laboratories. Still active now decades on, much of the contemporary SRL press focuses on the changed cultural and political landscape, and the difficulty of staging Pauline's elaborate, destructive spectacles. Indicative in the cultural climate shift seen between The Wire's "Is Phoenix Burning?", and The Verge's "Terrorism as Art: Mark Pauline's Dangerous Machines" of a decade later. Gone is the era in which the Bay Area is a counter-cultural hub, and institutions like SRL and RE/Search could easily secure inner city public space for performance. A central component of the Bay Area's contribution to global industrial culture at the time were some of the very first compendiums published on its artists, concepts, politics and finery, under the banner of RE/Search publications. These were curated and released by its founder V. Vale, under such evocative titles as, "Industrial Culture Handbook", "Modern Primitives", and a volume drawing parallels between the work of "William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Throbbing Gristle".

Around these performance, happenings and publishing institutions, a small core of west coast industrial music endeavors came into being. Among their numbers, the wreckage-meets-hi-hop sound of The Beatnigs, the meeting of New York and San Francisco sonic chaos of Rythm & Noise, and Los Angeles-based Savage Republic were of the highest profile. SRL and RE/Search would bolster their influence by occasionally operating in tandem. Such as was the case in the early-to-mid 1980s performances with the launch of various RE/Search editions, and their March 6th 1984 event alongside the aforementioned Rhythm & Noise, NON from the UK, and Einstürzende Neubauten. The German band themselves having just returned days before from a performance in the Mojave Desert as part of an event that was the first of it's kind, wherein “Hundreds of Punks Hit the Desert and The Modern Music Festival Was Born”. Over the course of three annual events, spanning 1983 to 1985, and including in its first installment The Minutemen and Savage Republic, the second with SRL's Mark Pauline alongside Monte Cazazza and Boyd Rice of NON, and for its third iteration, Sonic Youth and Meat Puppets, this series of DIY meetings in the inhospitable desert setting were known as Desolation Center. Having finally completed the crowdfunding process and postproduction of the documentary of these extraordinary events, Stuart Swezey spoke with Red Bull Music Academy on, "The Music and Madness of the Desolation Center". September brings a small convergence of these still active Industrial players in the form of two dates at El Corazon featuring Australia's Severed Heads, and a revived Test Dept. from the UK. This is followed a month later by a three night screening of the self-titled Desolation Center documentary at Northwest Film Forum. In the case of the British wrecking crew, their newly reinvigorated sound follows on the release of "Disturbance", and an extensive world tour. Now a duo, their sound has undergone a series of transformations from the earliest industrial theater and direct political activism of their formative years. As detailed in The Quietus' "The Strange World Of... Test Dept." while retaining a visceral percussive force, their time of collaborations with Welsh experimental theater group Brith Gof, and rallying resources for largescale spectacles realized in the site-specific settings of abandoned car factories in Cardiff and railway works in Glasgow, belong to the era of Industrial Music culture's now legendary past.