Unsound 2019

Music festivals

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  • Sunday, October 6, 2019, 12:00 PM - Sunday, October 13, 2019


Sometimes we agree with it, sometimes we don’t; sometimes we find ourselves within it, sometimes we can’t get away from it. For better or worse, though, we cannot live without community.

Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, when minorities were gradually securing rights which were previously only available to a select few, it felt like we were following the right path. When mass protests finally led to the fall of communism, we were certain that we had started down the motorway towards freedom. Yet it turned out that we were far further from our destination than we’d hoped. So what made our optimism and hope give way to fear and unease? The leading theme of this year’s Unsound festival (6-13 October) is solidarity. Thirty years since the first free elections in Poland, we will examine the concept in local and global contexts, and in the strict framework of the music industry.

Wake up!

It’s hard to express solidarity while remaining indifferent. We will commune with our surroundings during the concert Wake (6 October) when we take a look at the past and try to predict the future. The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre hosts the experimental electronic musician Sote from Iran, presenting a live version of his vision of alternative reality from the album Parallel Persia. We will hear traditional Persian instruments santur and tar alongside synthetic sounds. The American poet and rapper Moor Mother, accompanied by the London Contemporary Orchestra, explores the history of slavery in the Commonwealth: The Great Bailout tells the story of social and economic (in)justice. Bambounou and Lutto Lento take us well into the night with their programme Coalition. The first DJ is a Frenchman with Polish roots, familiar to clubgoers in Paris and Poznań and with a real penchant for percussion, while Lutto Lento AKA Lubomir Grzelak brings soundscapes inspired by ritual music from Jamaica.

A challenging nest

We kick off Monday 7 October with the first instalment of this year’s Morning Glory cycle, hosted by the Manggha Museum and opening with a performance by Anthony Pateras. The Australian composer works in psychoacoustics and quadraphonics; during the concert This Ain’t My First Rodeo, he attempts to challenge how we perceive time through sounds extracted from prepared piano and synths. The title of the evening concert at the museum might seem a bit confusing: the titular Nest doesn’t bring a calm shelter, since the performers present unusual combinations and challenging topics. Hubert Zemler and Piotr Bukowski, known as the duo Opla, focus on trance aspects of folk music. The classically-educated Lingua Ignota creates austere, oppressive music: she reaches for metal, noise, industrial, baroque and opera music to speak out against domestic violence against women. The Portuguese artist Jonathan Uliel Saldanha is joined by his two ensembles The Macumbas and The Kampala Unit from Uganda to explore the nooks and crannies of jazz and dub.


We spend the morning of 8 October in the company of the Kwartludium ensemble, performing premieres of compositions by young Polish composers: Rafał Ryterski’s Doppelganger, Teonika Rożynek’s Bulb and Jan Duszyński’s Deaphone. Instrumental sounds are complimented by electronica, video projections and VR elements. The programme Gaze features myriad concepts. The trumpeter Kamil Szuszkiewicz, inspired by polyphonic Lithuanian songs known as sutartinės, is joined by his ensemble Zvanai to present their interpretations of Eastern European folk music. For the New York multi-instrumentalist Ka Baird her voice is the most important instrument, and she explores its limits in the context of rituals. Dreamcrusher presents a queer nihilistic take on music; the artist uses his art and intense interactions with the public to smash the patriarchy. The Japanese group Goat erases boundaries between genres by using a rock instrumentarium (guitar, bass, percussion and sax) in minimalist, avant-garde ways.

Up and down

The final concert held as part of the Morning Glory cycle (9 October) features the Polish trio Bastarda, presenting contemporary interpretations of mediaeval funeral music. The programme Descent takes us deep underground into the Wieliczka Salt Mine where the French electroacoustic composer Félicia Atkinson presents her album The Flower and the Vessel based on the simple concepts of her own voice, birdsong and melodies. Long, complex improvisations are the trademark sound of The Necks. The avant-jazz trio from Australia has been hypnotising the public for over thirty years. They perform at Wieliczka alongside Sinfonietta Cracovia under the baton of Israeli conductor Ilan Volkov. In the evening we return to Kraków – during the set Room 4 Resistance × Club Chai representatives of the collectives from Berlin and Oakland fill the club at Szpitalna 1 with eclectic, “non-Western” sounds.

Visual noise

The programme Hum at Kijów.Centrum (10 October) puts music on equal footing with images. To start with, the American percussionist Eli Keszler and the guitarist and visual artist Nate Boyce present a European premiere of their audiovisual spectacle Pedagogy. The second part of the evening features The Caretaker AKA Leyland James Kirby, presenting a concert version of his project Everywhere at the End of Time, dedicated to memory and its loss and spaced over six albums. The visuals come from the artist Ivan Seal and the VJ Weirdcore. As is traditional, the former Hotel Forum fills with club sounds from all over the globe every night of the festival. This year we have the choice of three dancefloors once again: the Ball Room, the Chandelier Room and the Kitchen. On the first night, the Pandemonium programme resounds with minimalist and unhurried beat acid techno (Bartosz Kruczyński and Poly Chain), rave (LSDXOXO), a blend of electronica with Javanese gamelan (Uwalmassa), avant-garde hip-hop from Palestine (Muqata’a), a concert for voice and organ (the sisterly duo Mentos Gulgendo) and the spectacle Portable Revolution (WIXAPOL).


Robert Henke is a German artist and composer, as well as being a programmer and lecturer. He rose to fame as one of the co-designers of the Ableton Live music software. On 11 October, Henke comes to the University of Physical Education to present his two-part audiovisual project CBM 8032 AV, based on 1980s Commodore PC technology but rooted firmly in the present. The Łaźnia Nowa Theatre hosts the legendary American drone metal band Sunn O))). Their compositions eschew drums and rhythm in general, and during live performances they focus on sound intensity and spectacle; they appear on stage as cloaked, hooded figures emerging from dense fog. Their set during the Exaltation programme will be supported by the premiere concert by Lyra Pramuk featuring Ben Frost’s original multichannel installation and the performance Kistvaen in which composer Roly Porter and MFO are supported by Polish vocalists Katarzyna Smoluk-Moczydłowska, Agata Harz and Barbara Wilińska to give their take on the relationship between technology and forgotten pagan beliefs. The second night at Hotel Forum (Flock) takes us on another journey around the world; we will visit Indonesia (Gabber Modus Operandi), Brazil (Badsista and Cashu), South Africa (Rudeboyz), Uganda (MC Yallah & Debmaster), China (33EMYBW) and Tanzania (Jay Mitta & Ant Virus). Before guests from abroad, we will see Lotto and Zamilska representing the local scene.

Human error and an AI baby

In the current, unsettled climate, pop culture frequently explores major disasters, such as HBO’s TV drama Chernobyl. On 12 October, the former factory Telkom Telos presents the world premiere of a live performance of the soundtrack, intertwining instruments with field recordings. The author Hildur Guðnadóttir is joined by Sam Slater and Chris Watson – artists who assisted her during the recording process. The concert Hive at ICE Kraków is dedicated to motifs of community in music. Dominik Strycharski presents a live performance of the soundtrack from the film Symphony of the Ursus Factory (more about the cinematic section of the festival below); he is accompanied on stage by musicians from Warsaw and members of the Ursus factory brass orchestra. Klein, a British artist with Nigerian roots, introduces her native culture with the programme Lifetime. Holly Herndon is joined by a group of friends and her AI baby named Spawn to present the results of their collaboration. Two years ago, the American artist gave us a taster of her project Proto, and this time she presents it in full. We also say goodbye to Hotel Forum in style. The programme Dazzle features rhythms from Saudi Arabia (MSYLMA), Brazil (Teto Preto), Detroit in the US (Terrence Dixon), Chile (Matias Aguayo), and China and Kenya (the back-to-back set by Hyph11E and Slikback). There will be later additions to events at Hotel Forum – keep an eye on Unsound’s social media!

Plastic ears

The last day of the festival (13 October) is brought to us by the duo Matmos, presenting their album Plastic Anniversary twice at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre: as part of the sold out Flutter programme (with the Round Table Orchestra being the second act) and during an additional concert. The musicians from San Francisco recorded their most recent album using plastic objects, exploring the dissonance between the usefulness of plastics and their impact on the environment. Created on the initiative of the festival, the Round Table Orchestra is a collaboration between the percussion ensemble Remont Pomp at the Polish Association for People with Learning Disabilities “Koło” in Gdańsk and musicians exploring the boundaries between jazz and experimental music Mikołaj Trzaska, Raphael Rogiński, Tomasz Gadecki and Tomasz Ziętek. Unsound closes with the Parade filled with joyful sets of dance music.

Pictures of the world

As well as the music programme, the festival also features an extensive film repertoire. Over the course of eight days, Pod Baranami Cinema presents sixteen short and feature-length films exploring problems faced by the contemporary world. The motif of solidarity is especially prominent in Polish cinema; we will take a look at the past with Piotr Śliwowski and Marta Dzido’s Solidarity According to Women and Jaśmina Wójcik’s Symphony of the Ursus Factory and the present with Konrad Szołajski’s The Good Change: Poles Apart and Grzegorz Paprzycki’s My Country, So Beautiful. However, most of the films in the section explore global perspectives. Filmmakers from the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Macedonia examine issues such as humankind’s impact on the planet, the development of android technology, social inequalities, the era of post-truth and the future of democracy. The music section presents an experimental story about the roots of techno (Black to Techno, Jenn Nkiru) and Piotr Macha’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa intertwining musical, music video and performance styles.


And that’s still not all! Festival locations also host numerous discussion panels; the detail programmed will be revealed soon. An important feature is the exhibition Incoming with artworks by Richard Mosse and soundtrack by Ben Frost, prepared jointly by Bunkier Sztuki and the Unsound and Sacrum Profanum festivals (26 September – 31 October, Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art). More about the installation exploring the refugee crisis here.

The motif of solidarity underpinning this year’s Unsound also fits in perfectly with the festival’s underlying aim of presenting a range of different views and respecting myriad artistic choices. True art never lets us forget that those who are weaker, less numerous and excluded are also the integral part of our community. (Bartosz Suchecki, ”Karnet”)



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