Unsound 2018

Music festivals

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  • Sunday, October 7, 2018, 12:00 PM - Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to Live

Facebook, memes, fake news, bots, algorithms – reality (and not just virtual!) has become rather complicated of late. So how do we keep our heads among it all?

New York, London, Adelaide, Toronto… but it all started in Kraków. Unsound has grown immeasurably since 2003, but the flagship festival is still held here in the capital of Małopolska. This year (7-14 October), we are joined by artists from all corners of the globe to ponder the meaning of presence.

Being here or being there

The history of our relationship with music is rather turbulent. Before sound recording became a reality, we had to be in close physical proximity to musicians, singers and instruments to hear anything. The invention of the gramophone brought music to people’s homes where they could enjoy it in rare solitude. Almost a century later, the Walkman made listening to music something intensely personal, even intimate. We seem to have now come full circle, and in the era of private sound we long for the time of when we united over music. However, today’s concerts are nothing like those from decades or even a few years ago. The ubiquity of the internet and smartphones has expanded the experience – or perhaps narrowed it?

When the organisers of Unsound banned phones and photography from the festival, they caused quite a furore. We now know that portable electronics have a major impact on our relationship with the world; the question is what we do with this knowledge. The problem is explored by this year’s Unsound through the leading motto of PRESENCE. We will dispel (or deepen) any doubts during eight days of discussion panels, numerous film screenings and myriad concerts. The artists serve as provocateurs, stepping into their usual role of questioning and shifting boundaries.

Recollections, regrets and pandilla

The music programme of the festival comprises twenty blocks with over a hundred artists. The first sounds of Unsound resound on 7 October at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre under the banner Gateway. The evening kicks off with the Polish cellist Resina whose music is inspired by memories and damaged, broken sacral objects. The maestro of ambient music Tim Hecker is joined by The Konoyo Ensemble – a collaboration with traditional Japanese Gagaku musicians of the Tokyo Gakuso group and the Canadian composer Kara-Lis Coverdale – to present their new album Konoyo, ranging from ethereal, gentle sounds to almost unworldly tonality. On the same evening we’ll be partying at the festival launch event at 8 Kamienna Street (Click Here to Subscribe). As well as traditional club sounds (Discomule, Lautbild, Eris Drew), we will be entertained by DJ Bus Replacement Service and hear Peruvian pandilla music from Dengue Dengue Dengue.

Voices, silences and ghettofuturism

We spend Monday evening (8 October) at the Manggha Museum. The Hyperlink block reveals the interplay between silence and noise, showcases the range of the human voice (Eartheater, Christoph de Babalon and WIDT), presents improvised Italian music from Andrea Belfi (percussion) and Valerio Tricoli (magnetic tape), and combines colours with music (Jung an Tagen).

We return to Manggha the following morning (9 October, Morning Glory I, free entry) where we’ll wake up with the gentle drones from the multi-instrumentalist Sara Davachi. The venue will perk up later in the evening (Torrent), starting with the audiovisual programme Monopercussion with sounds by Miłosz Pękala and video sequences by Wiktor Podgórski. We discover more mutinous aspects of music with the free jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements led by the rapper Moor Mother presenting poetic tales of everyday lives of Afro-Americans. We also hear about the trials and tribulations of London life from GAIKA whose music is described as “Gothic dance hall” and “industrial electronica”; the artist himself calls his sound ghettofuturism.

Delicious tingling and hot dancing

Wednesday 10 October promises to be hectic and eclectic. During the second Morning Glory meeting at the Tempel Synagogue, the legend of Polish avant-garde – 81-year-old tuba virtuoso Zdzisław Piernik – joins forces with the HATI duo performing using instruments made from recycled materials. We head to Alchemia to experience the mysterious, pleasant tingling of the skin of the neck known as ASMR (Trigger I, II). Will music help us reach this state of low-grade euphoria? We’ll find out with Teonika Rożynek, Kamil Szuszkiewicz and Antonina Nowacka; they return to the club for another performance on Thursday. In the evening at the Tempel Synagogue (Domain), the multi-instrumentalist Lea Bertucci explores how the human body responds to acoustic phenomena. Next, for something completely different, we will hear live sung poetry in an imaginary language and performed on imaginary instruments. The album Music and Poetry of the Kesh is performed by the co-author (alongside the late, great Ursula Le Guin) Todd Barton with support from The Kesh Ensemble. The evening at Szpitalna 1 (Bandwidth) gets us ready for events at Hotel Forum. Guests Rian Treanor, Aquarian, Tutu, Slikback and Newtype Rhythm Sheepshead and resident club DJs Chino, Charlie and Biøs take us on an experimental dance journey.

Sound mine

On Thursday (11 October), we move to the Wieliczka Salt Mine (Cloud). Listeners are welcomed by RRRKRTA, while the Colombian artist Lucrecia Dalt presents sounds from her album Anticlines. In the evening we will hear one of the pioneers of Minimalism Terry Riley, accompanied on guitar by his son Gyan. The evening party at Hotel Forum (Keep Me in CC), spread over three dancefloors – the Ballroom, the Chandelier Room and the Kitchen – introduces music stepping beyond club standards. We will hear brand-new forms of industrial music and explore intimate and dreamy atmospheres seasoned with bass with Arabic and African notes.

Trump, science and gambols

On Friday night (12 October), we head to ICE Kraków to discover different approaches to audiovisual arts (Clickbait). The British ensemble AUDINT talks about the White House under Donald Trump’s rule, while the performance group House of Kenzo from Texas are joined by Rabit and the visual artist Sam Rolfes to present the premiere of Magna Surgat. The German musician and visual artist Alva Noto brings his spectacle UNIEQAV combining scientific inspirations, raw data and minimalist electronic music. The second evening at Hotel Forum (FOMO) brings a blend of pop, funk, experimental music and techno. Performers include SOPHIE and Linn da Quebrada. The dancefloors of the Chandelier Room and the Kitchen shake with Portuguese, Brazilian, Egyptian and Tanzanian rhythms. Meanwhile the hotel basement resounds with sets prepared by representatives of the Polish scene.

Folk, oracle and legendary drones

On Saturday (13 October), we return to ICE Kraków (Compound). The afternoon is opened by Remek Hanaj, joined by ensemble and folk vocalists to perform tracks from his latest album. We’ll then get lost in time: the hypnotic album Time Machines by Coil is performed by Drew McDowall supported by the visual artist Florence To. The American composer Colin Self presents the European premiere of Siblings – the latest instalment of his sci-fi operetta. The artist is joined on stage by Resina (cello), Julia Ziętek (violin) and Maria Tomala (viola). The evening at ICE Kraków (Helix) kicks off with a spectacle by Caterina Barbieri (music) and Ruben Spini (visualisations). Next it’s time for another European premiere: the American producer Jlin performs the soundtrack to Wayne McGregor’s dance spectacle Autobiography Edits. The final night at Hotel Forum (Simulator Sickness) brings two premieres: Huerco S. AKA Pendant presents material from his latest album Make Me Know You Sweet, while Amnesia Scanner shares tracks from Another Life. The artist is joined on stage by an artificial intelligence named the Oracle. And we mustn’t forget the 85th birthday of Phill Niblock; the pioneer of drone music performs a marathon set in the hotel basement.


On the final day of the festival (14 October), ICE Kraków presents the project Archive with a performance by Paweł Romańczuk and Japanese artists from Tomoko Sauvage, accompanied by visualisations by the Elektro Moon Vision duo inspired by the photographic legacy of Zofia Rydet. The evening concert at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre commemorates the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson who passed away before his time earlier this year (Memory). Despite his Hollywood success, he never stopped experimenting. He will be celebrated by Hildur Guðnadóttir, Sam Slater, Erik K. Skodvin, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Sinfonietta Cracovia. We say goodbye to this year’s Unsound with an international ensemble at Kamienna (Incognito Mode). The adapted railway warehouse resounds with Rusałka, Rabit b2b LEDEF, Bill Kouligas, Powder and DEBONAIR.

Eye candy

But Unsound isn’t just about music. The film programme (7-12 October, Pod Baranami Cinema) introduces a number of fascinating, inspirational people. Donna Haraway (Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival) is a prominent scholar of science, technology, media and cyborgisation, and an impassioned storyteller. The New York percussionist Milford Graves (Milford Graves, Full Mantis) has long been a legend of free jazz, and he continues to inspire young people with his love for music and science. We will also learn more about some of the protagonists of the music part of the festival. Ursula Le Guin (featured in the concert Domain) was one of the leading authors dragging science fiction and fantasy writing from the peripheries towards mainstream literary respectability (Worlds of Ursula Le Guin). Linn da Quebrada (Tranny Fag) as a self-described “gender terrorist” has thrown down the gauntlet for macho Brazilian culture.

Other films are linked directly to the festival’s leading motif. We will see reality through the perspective of YouTubers (Hoax_Canular and Going South) and Chinese livestreamers (People’s Republic of Desire) and take an artistic look at life in an isolated society (90 Seconds in North Korea). We will consider how infrasound affects our lives (The Hum), look at fascinating visions of the future (World of Tomorrow, 3049) and creative awakenings of artificial intelligence (Geomancer) and take a peek behind the scenes of the information war using Russian interference in American presidential elections as an example (Our New President). We will also explore dazzling Afro-American culture (Rebirth Is Necessary) and the effect of electronic litter on life in Ghana (Welcome to Sodom).

Discussing, singing, sniffing

Festival organisers also commemorate Mark Fisher. The British critic and theorist of culture, known as k-punk, intertwined reflection on pop culture, philosophy and politics. The two meetings of reading groups at Hevre (8 and 9 October) are the perfect opportunity to examine his ideas from the perspective of “the outsideness” and innovation in independent music.

Unsound also includes workshops (entry free; registration necessary) on subjects ranging from group singing via music journalism to event safety. We will cover some of the most pressing issues in the digital world, including programming, collecting data and social media with a focus on algorithms.

Additionally, every day Studio Vintage at Kamienna Street presents the project Ephemera. Foris with sounds by Chris Watson, smells by Geza Schoen and lighting by MFO.

To be, or not to be, Hamlet wondered. The rapid development of technology makes our relationship with reality increasingly complicated, giving rise to more existential questions. One thing is certain: the problem isn’t going away. To find answers, we must engage in discussion, and this year’s Unsound is the perfect opportunity. Make your presence felt! (Bartosz Suchecki, “Karnet”)




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