Sunday, January 7, 2024

:::: Albums of 2023 ::::

Violent Magic Orchestra “Supergaze / Martello Mosh Pit” EPs (Never Sleep)
Full of Hell & Nothing  “When No Birds Sang”  (Closed Casket Activities)
Bell Witch  “Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate”  (Profound Lore)
Boris & Merzbow  “Klatter”  Reissue (Relapse)
Pharoah Sanders  "Karma"  Reissue (Impulse!)
Natural Information Society & Ari Brown  “Since Time Is Gravity”  (Eremite)
Alabaster DePlume  “Come With Fierce Grace”  (International Anthem)
Tord Gustavsen Trio  “Opening”  (ECM)
Kjetil Mulelid Trio  “Who Do You Love The Most”  (Rune Grammofon)
Ryuichi Sakamoto  “12” & "Opus"  (Commmons)
Philip Jeck & Chris Watson  “Oxmardyke”  (Touch)
Demdike Stare & Jon Collin  “Minerals”  (DDR)
Regis & Ann Margaret Hogan  “Hospital For Beasts”  (Downwards)
Vivid Oblivion  “The Graphic Cabinet”  (Downwards)
Godflesh  “Purge”  (Avalanche)
Swans  “The Beggar”  (Young God)
Ragana  “Desolation's Flower”  (The Flenser)
Khanate  “To Be Cruel”  (Sacred Bones)
Lankum  “False Lankum”  (Rough Trade)
Kristin Michael Hayter  "Saved!"  (Perpetual Flame Ministries)
Tim Hecker  "No Highs" & "The Infinity Pool - Soundtrack"  (Kranky)  (Milan)
Teeth Of The Sea  “Hive”  (Rocket Recordings)
La Baracande  “La Baracande”  (La Nòvia)
The Inward Circles  “Before We Lie Down In Darknesse”  (Corbel Stone Press)
Sarah Davachi  “Long Gradus : Arrangements”  (Late Music)
Various Artists  “Vanity Records: Vanity Sample”  Book + CD (Remodel)
Various Artists  "Spectra Ex Machina: A Sound Anthology Of Occult Phenomena 1920 - 2017" (Sub Rosa)
Various Artists  "Ecuatoriana: El Universo Paralelo De Polibio Mayorga 1969 - 1981" (Analog Africa)
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou  "Jerusalem"  Reissue (Mississippi Records)
György Ligeti / Quatuor Diotima  "Metamorphosis"  (PentaTone)
Various Artists  “Compositrices: New Light on French Romantic Women Composers”  Box Set (Palazzetto Bru Zane)

For decades now, this annual overview has acted as a summation of the music, film, dance, theatre, visual art exhibitions and festivals attended and covered. Both domestic and international. As we enter into the post-phase of the global pandemic one would assume that the continuance of such opportunities would be returning in an assertive manner. Yet here in the urban northwest, the effects of the pandemic on cultural and social life are still manifesting themselves in a dynamic manner. Businesses and cultural venues continue to have limited hours, close early on weekday and weekend nights, and program with a reduced scale and truncated durations over what we saw in the years preceding the pandemic. Some of which regionally even reducing hours more than when they had initially after reopening two years ago. The once essential component of urban social life in the Northwest, the espresso cafe, has been particularly hard hit. With many of them no longer offering evening hours of any variety. Regionally, arts venues and cultural institutions returned to in-person programming in the fall of 2021, cautiously opening the doors to music stages, galleries and movie houses. After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returned in August and September to the majority of these Northwest culture spaces. It is important to consider that the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act, alongside the Shuttered Venues Grant are a significant component as to the continuance of arts beyond the pandemic. The benefits of the various relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington, all came in the 11th hour for many of our regional cultural institutions and art venues. Most of which would not have doors open to their cultural community now two years later, without these resources.

Unlike last year's convergence of the Venice Biennale and Document in Kassel, Germany, the art seen and traveled to this year was all of a domestic nature. The Seattle Art Fair returned at the height of summer, offering works from over 80 galleries from around the globe, and the satellite event Forest for the Trees, concurrently presented a volume of regional work in Pioneer Square. In cinema, after the discontinuation of the Seattle Art Museum's film program, and the termination of its programmer, Greg Olson found a new home for his long-running film noir and italian cinema series at SIFF Cinema. The most significant filmgoing news of the year came with the unexpected convergence of cultural and civic rehabilitation funds, the legacy of Paul Allen, and the Seattle International Film Festival organization with their acquisition of the Seattle Cinerama Theater. Other notable annual events returned with the array of horror and genre film returned in the fall, significant jazz performances were seen, both within the Earshot Jazz Festival and outside its programming, and SIFF Cinema presneted a near-complete retrospective of the films of David Lynch. In music events, Seattle's recently launched Tremolo had a second successful festival of shoegaze, noise-rock and dream pop sounds at the Central Saloon, and the goliath of metal, noise and hardcore that is Northwest Terror Fest, returned to Neumos and Barboza with a sprawling and qualitative fifth iteration. Over the course of the summer, a set of legendary gothic rock and early electro-industrial bands had tours, presenting The Cure's "Songs of a Lost World", and after nearly 40 years of darkly theatrical music, the final tour from Skinny Puppy. The year also saw a series of closures and conclusions within the arts community. Two hard-hitting losses came at the end of the summer, the first of which was the newly launched visual art and community space, Museum of Museums, and the second not soon after its opening and inception for, XO Seattle in the space of the historic Coliseum Theater. Even Seattle's longstanding and prestigious literary arts mecca finds itself in uncharted water, due to a recent turn of events, "Seattle's Hugo House Faces an Uncertain Future". The year also saw the announcement of the, "Closing of both Linda Hodges and James Harris Galleries". In a lengthy discussion with NPR's Libby Denkmann and Mike Davis, Museum of Museums founder Greg Lundgren addresses the reality of, "Is Seattle's Arts Infrastructure Crumbling?"

While there are now opportunities again to engage with film, music and visual art, domestically as a culture we are still relying on online resources more than was necessary pre-pandemic. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of in-person cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged online. Two major events in the year revealed the fragility and impermanence of our quality online arts platforms. The first of them came with a series of corporate buyouts of the online direct-to-artist platform and community that was Bandcamp. First by Epic Games, who quickly dispensed with the platform, "Epic Games’ Sale of Bandcamp Has Left the Artist-Friendly Music Platform in Limbo", and then by Songtradr, as artists and professionals working in music had a unified response which was shared by The Guardian, "The Music site Bandcamp is Beloved and Unique. I Shudder at its Corporate Takeover". The second came with what Wired called, "HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, and the Day Streaming Died", after Warner Brothers Discovery gutted the leadership team of Turner Classic Movies, a group of famed directors then came together to "Fight to Save Turner Classic Movies". Which concluded in a positive outcome and a rare reversal for the network, "TCM to Include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson Taking Active Role". So, now at year's end, for those who have not found compelling new sounds, digital retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and magazines like The Wire, represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find brought together online outside the framework of their curatorial legacy. A particular advantage, The Wire offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2023. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year in and year out again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.