Unsound festival 2009
2009-10-19 - 2009-10-25
Unconventional, unruly, innovative – such qualities might encapsulate the Unsound festival, which since 2002 has consistently presented the most interesting artists active in the field of electronic and experimental music.
The performers invited to perform in consecutive editions of Unsound have been musical nonconformists staking out new paths. Their ambitious roaming around the sound terrain often brings astonishing results. The organisers of the festival also like to surprise, for example this year it will be possible to hear Jewish acid house or American doom metal. This bold music, apart from Kraków's clubs, will also be arriving in industrial spaces, museums and even in a church.
And so, in order of appearance... At the inauguration in the Manggha Museum (19 October, 8pm), Jacaszek – Polish creator of experimental electroacoustic music – will be appearing. This resident of Gdańsk has developed unconventional methods of sampling using “old school” recordings and sounds emitted by toys, instruments or the remains of found mechanisms, calling this technique “musictronic”. The next day will belong to other Polish sound explorers. Two Polish duets, Mikrokolektyw and Sza/Za, will be appearing in Re Club (20 October, 8pm) – a place connected with the very beginnings of Unsound, thus emphasising the underground roots of the event.
Wednesday evening (21 October, 8pm) will satisfy listeners liking bold, innovative ideas. Something for admirers of the Cocteau Twins: American Liz Harris, hiding under the pseudonym Grouper is not afraid to experiment. She has released three albums, but her concerts differ markedly from the material found on the discs. Straight after Grouper, on the stage of the Uciecha Cinema and Theatre the Solid State Transmitters project will have its world premiere. German composer Sebastian Meissner (Klimek) together with Polish avant-garde group Kwartludium will be transporting us to the defiant atmosphere at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s with their own interpretations of numbers by American hardcore groups on SST Records such as Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth. The concept behind the project is a tribute to the ideas of record companies and times in which originality and innovation in music counted more than profit.
From Thursday a genuine sound offensive awaits us. The event of the evening will be the performance by Jóhann Jóhannsson in the Kraków Philharmonic Hall (22 October, 8pm). This Icelandic minimalist seeks inspiration in classical, experimental, electroacoustic and electronic music. This diversity of sources he ably arranges into a unique whole “infused with spirituality”. Jóhannsson's compositions, distinctive due to their huge sense of melancholy and subtlety have achieved wide recognition. His accomplishments have had a far from trivial influence on the Icelandic groups currently creating such a furore, Sigur Rós and Múm. In Kraków, Jóhannsson will be performing accompanied by the Sinfonietta Cracovia orchestra. This event in the Philharmonic Hall will be opened by James Blackshaw, playing on a 12-string acoustic guitar compositions inspired by the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich or John Fahey.
For those desiring more energetic sounds, a nocturnal medley of mad artists from different sides of the globe awaits. We can discover an approach to world music that avoids the banal at the Manggha Museum (22 October, 10pm). The Norwegian Next Life is a mixture of aggressive metal riffs and a backdrop created from old computer games. The intense lighting effects and raw visuals combined with their abrasive music as well as the unusual expression of the artists leave a deep impression on one's memory. One of the reviewers summed it up accurately: “Their performance was composed of elements that made it possible to fully experience an attack of sea sickness...”. And what do you say to Jewish acid house? The French trio Moishe Moishe Moishele represent Hassidic music in an innovative setting. The spontaneity, elements of cabaret and the interesting stage set (the artists in their daily lives are better known as creators of graphic art) create an audacious effect. The National Fanfare Of Kadebostany in turn is a collaborative project in which the Geneva-based producer Kadebostan lines up with an avant-garde group of classically trained musicians from Minsk, Rational Diet. This appearance at Unsound 2009 will be the project's live debut. The musicians from Mountain People also come from Switzerland. Their output consists of distinctive hypnotic house based on melodies lurking in the background.
The culminating point of the festival will be the Friday concert by Biosphere. The performance in Saint Catherine's Church (23 October, 7pm) is a real carnival for fans of ambient music. Hiding under the Biosphere pseudonym is the Norwegian Geir Jenssen, today 47 years old. His mysterious one-of-a-kind “cosmic” sounds are often described using the term “polar ambient” (the artists was born and creates in Nowegian Tromsø, almost 400km into the Arctic Circle). Released in 1997, the Substrata disc turned out to be a watershed not only in Jensen's career, but also for the whole of contemporary ambient music. So it comes as no surprise that such giants in the field as Brian Eno or Pete Namlook have been fascinated by his works. Biosphere, who very rarely performs, is giving his first concert in Poland! What is more, in the same concert we will see another legend of the ambient scene – the American Stars Of The Lid. The post-classical inspiration of the group will be underlined by their accompanists, the Sinfonietta Cracovia string octet.
And in the Manggha Museum, known for its marvellous acoustics, another club night still awaits us (at 10pm). The party will be inaugurated by DJ Spinoza – organiser of techno parties in the clubs of New York's Brooklyn. Also appearing are: Detroit-based Omar-S, Dutchman Martyn – one of the most versatile dup-step talents, Monolake in the Live Surround project, and Marcel Dettmann and Shed – resident DJ's at the legendary Berghain club in Berlin.
On Saturday (24 October, 7pm) in the Museum of Urban Engineering, artists affiliated with the Icelandic label, Bedroom Community, will be appearing. Opening the evening will be Soap&Skin – a young violinist and pianist from Styria in Austria. 19 year old Anja Plaschg is already these days being described as the new Nico or... Kate Bush. Next, Nico Muhly is known for her collaboration with, say, Philip Glass or Björk (on the Medúlla album). The artist also created a soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film, The Reader. During Unsound we shall also hear Valgeir Sigurðsson – founder of Bedroom Community. As a producer and session musician, the artist has clocked up collaborations with Björk, The Magic Numbers, Múm and Cocorosie. The next performer will be Ben Frost, who on 19 October will be releasing his new album, By The Throat. We will also be listening to banjo-playing vocalist Sam Amidon, who will be promoting his excellently received disc All Is Well.
The third club night in the Manggha Museum (24 October) belongs to adherents of dub and music with prominent bass lines. Introducing as to danceable pulsating rhythms will be Pavel Ambiont – Belorussian dub techno producer, while Dave Huismans, known as 2562, links dubstep and techno in a pioneering way. The next innovator that we'll be hearing is Untold, or Jack Dunning. The Brit has brought new life to dubstep with the aid of a palette of handclaps, chirps, sub-bass, the “plastic notes” played by Casio organs, and even... the snorting of an elephant. An intense, memorable experience in which the bass and vocal leaf through the pages of historic scores can be experienced thanks to the Kode9 & the Spaceape. The mysterious Zomby will be introducing us to equally enigmatic pitches. This artist is known as the guiding spirit behind the new genre known as wonky. And finally, sounds on the borderland of bleep, electro and dubstep will be served up to us by Ikonika – one of the women in a field ruled by young men.
There's already been mention of Jewish acid house, so its time for doom metal. On the last day of the festival (25 October, 7pm), in the post-industrial setting of Nowa Huta's Łaźnia Nowa, distinguished representatives of this genre – Sunn O))) will be playing. This American group’s sound is rooted in an extremely low, “drawn out” rumble deprived of practically any kind of rhythm. At concerts, the group members wear long habits with hoods. Apparently the bass lines produced by the group during performances are so intense that they give the listener headaches. Earplugs advised! This “monkish performance” will be preceded by Eagle Twin from Salt Lake City – a sludge metal guitar-percussion duet.
Unsound 2009 is not only about the concerts. There are also special projects and installations in the Erdal Factory, panel discussions, workshops and film screenings. Included in the screenings, we can see, among others, the newly created film Beats of Freedom – a Polish documentary about rock music as an element of the fight against the communist regime or Before the Music Dies – an American documentary film, observing with a critical eye the progressive homogenisation of contemporary pop music.
(Artur Jackowski, “Karnet” monthly)