Sunday, January 10, 2021

:::: ALBUMS OF 2020 ::::

Jim O'Rourke  "To Magnetize Money And Catch A Roving Eye"  (Sonoris)
Lustmord & Nicolas Horvath  "Dennis Johnson's November Deconstructed"  (Sub Rosa)
Portraits GRM Series:
Lucy Railton & Max Eilbacher  "Forma / Metabolist Meter"  (GRM)
Jim O'Rourke, Eiko Ishibashi, Atsuko Hatano & Eivind Lonning "Shutting Down Here" (GRM)
Okkyung Lee  "Teum (The Silvery Slit)"  (GRM)
Hecker  "Statistique Synthétique"  (GRM)
Christina Vantzou Soundtrack to Ben Rivers  "Look Then Below"  (Edições CN)
Hiroshi Yoshimura  "Green"  Reissue  (Japan Archive)
Coil  "Musick to Play in the Dark"  Reissue  (Dais)
Alva Noto  "Xerrox Vol.4"  (Noton)
Beatrice Dillon  "Workaround"  (PAN)
Duma  "Duma"  (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Regis  "Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss"  (Downwards)
Demdike Stare & Jon Collin  "Sketches Of Everything"  (DDS)
Various Artists  "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown"  (Soul Jazz)
African Head Charge "Songs Of Praise / In Pursuit Of Shashamane Land" Reissues (On-U Sound)
Jeff Parker & The New Breed  "Suite For Max Brown"  (International Anthem)
Various Artists  "Mogadisco: Dancing Mogadishu - Somalia 1972-1991"  (Analog Africa)
Various Artists  "The Harry Smith B-Sides"  (Dust-to-Digital)
John Luther Adams  "The Become Trilogy"  (Canatloupe)
Golem Mecanique  "Nona, Decima et Morta"  (Ideologic Organ)
Boris  "NO"  (Blood Sucker)
Ben Frost & Marc Streitenfeld  "Raised By Wolves"  Soundtrack (HBO)
Richard Skelton  "These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound"  (Phantom Limb)
Lucrecia Dalt  "No Era Sólida"  (RVNG)

For decades this annual entry has acted as an overview of music, dance, theatre and performance art attended, films seen in the cinema, visual art exhibitions and fairs, festivals covered, and international and domestic destinations traveled. Due to the necessary and elementary considerations of the global coronavirus pandemic, and its effect amplified by the federal mismanaging of the response, none of which transpired this year. As a product, the overview for 2020 will have a brevity not seen in almost twenty years of adventures in sight and sound. By late March it was evident that the regional and international film festivals that are traditionally attended would be cancelled. As would the forthcoming music tours and festivals. And lastly, the late summer and fall art fairs and major exhibitions. Born of necessity, and almost instantly, the web became the surrogate for these experiences. Offering as it does a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of cultural experience. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged. Aided not in the least of course, by the cultural, social, and economic after-effects of the pandemic. What followed were twelve months of taking even more circuitous and unexpected paths to the year's memorable sights and sounds, devoid of the richness found in experience, social engagement, and cultural context. It is now incontestable that streaming and digital distribution have 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 potential 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. But if their almost singular foray of independent labels and artists in the market is representative, much was revealed in, "Drip.FM's Closing and The Challenging Future of Sustainable Creative Technologies". While self-releasing platforms like the growing audience direct community of Bandcamp have made the record label less central, it still acts as an important locus in the digital age. Particularly with their focus on Bandcamp Friday as a weekly incentive for listeners to Support Artists Impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Taking up the baton almost instantly, the classical music world pivoted to the online streaming model this past spring, surprisingly ahead of much of the rest of the music world, which followed soon after on its heels. The New York Times' “The Coronavirus Hasn’t Slowed Classical Music”, detailing the calendar hardly less busy than before the conditions of the pandemic, yet prevented the scale and volumes that classical music commonly demands for its successful live realization. Two exceptional resources for navigating these opportunities online were to be found in The Guardian's “Quarantine Soirées: Classical Music and Opera to Stream at Home”, and Alex Ross’ ongoing and regularly updated Music During A Pandemic listings. Acting as a manifesto, Ross' New Yorker piece, “Coronavirus Concerts: The Music World Contends with the Pandemic”, proclaimed the arrival of these almost essential forums.

Though it’s role may be reduced in the age of streaming, the magazine, both print and digital can still be a defining tastemaker amid the multitude of channels in which to discover new music. For those not finding compelling sounds via their internet trawls, streaming platforms and online retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and programming and print entities like Blank Forms, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find coherently brought together online outside the framework of such vision and publishing legacy. Evolving right along with the times from a free improv, modern classical and jazz magazine in the 1970s, by the 1980s The Wire  expanded its scope to include post-rock and electronic music. Coming to the 1990s to evolve into the all-inclusive hip hop, dub and reggae, noise, punk, post-everything, jazz, black and doom metal, bass music, dance, techno and house, free folk, psych, kraut and nipponese rock, minimalism, sound-art, and out-sounds publication it became by the conclusion of the 20th century. A particular advantage at year's end, is that the magazine offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2020. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a global scope, compiling the life’s work of people who make watching their enterprise. In most years, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage, would have new issues on the newsstand and online digitally featuring their annual moving picture highlights from around the world. That not being the case in 2020. Nor have the settings of the international festival circuit championed work of interest in their selection and awards process.

So attention and vetting of films seen on screens in festival settings in New York, Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Hong Kong, Seoul, Cannes, Los Angeles, Paris, London, and Toronto, never truly manifest this year in a manner like we are accustomed. Before the pandemic, even in a city like Seattle with it's diminishing independent cinema venues, there remained a relatively robust network of theaters and opportunities to see such films. Resources like Scarecrow Video, The Grand Illusion, Northwest Film Forum, SIFF Cinema, the last remaining Landmark Theatres, and bold new addition The Beacon Cinema cumulatively made this a viable cinema city. These institutions are all struggling now in the face of necessary pandemic closures. A small relief was offered by Criterion's Arthouse America Campaign early in the closure, and more recently the Federal arts funding included in the Save Our Stages Act. So festivals and independent theaters taking up the baton early in their scheduling to move their programming online, allowed the savvy viewer to attend (in quotes) these virtual theatrical settings. This later salvaged the cancelled 2020 edition of Cannes, which was then redistributed to festivals in New York, Toronto, and elsewhere as the global festival community collaborated in restructuring their curation. More specifically, many of the "Asia-themed Film Festivals Migrate Online Amid Coronavirus Pandemic", like Hamburg's Nippon Connection and New York's Japan Cuts, as well as classic, repertory, and genre film showcases accommodated the necessity of shifting to online presentations, which made for a year of greater access for many.