Festivals. They’re ten a penny these days. You hardly need us to tell you that.
Unsound stands out from the morass, for several reasons. One is that it rejects the whole pseudo-futuristic, “this is cutting edge” digital media vibe that has become the going rate for the typical post-Sonar European festival. Unsound isn’t about nurturing artless laptop bashers and A/V lemmings who use technology or derivative conceptualism to mask a paucity of ideas. Unsound is cutting edge, but it doesn’t define itself as such; in fact, for its 2010 edition, it appeals to more ancient forces: fear and unease.
In a year that has seen pop culture take a turn for the gothic, Unsound 2010’s governing theme of “horror” feels entirely apt. By no means every artist on its glittering bill subscribes directly to the theme,but the theme nonetheless serves the whole enterprise well – gives it depth, character, a sense of focus beyond the loose-as-a-goose “sound of now” schtick that other festivals rely on. Its programme, which takes in music, visual art, film and talks, is open-minded and diverse, but it’s also discerning. No stage-time is given over to chancers or wheedling amateurs who’ve wrangled government funding for their emotionally blank iMovie experiments. This is a festival that bespeaks good taste and good judgement. It feels like a festival where one might actually learn something, as well as get battered and dance the night away.
The festival takes place across various venues in Krakow, Poland’s cultural centre and architectural treasure trove. We kick off at the Kino Pod Baranami cinema with the first of the Night Of The Living Dirt Midnight Videotape Horror Sessions, curated by Jingoku: Blue Eyes of The Broken Doll (Carlos Aured, 1973), Scorpion Thunderbolt (Godfrey Ho, 1988) and The Demon Lover (Donald G. Jackson & Jerry Younkins, 1976). The Sessions continue over Unsound week, providing opportunities to catch such mucky oddities as Blood Lust (Marijan David Vajda, 1976), Headless Eyes (Ken Bateman, 1971), Premonition (Alan Rudolph, 1971), Wolf Devil Woman (Ling Chang, 1982), A Cold Night’s Death (Jerrold Freeman, 1973) and The Stranger Of Vienna (Guido Zerli, 1971) . All in all, a gutter cineaste’s dream.
When we think of “horror” we think of horror movies, and Unsound’s exploration of the territory extends beyond screenings of cult video nasties. The festival’s opening concert at Kino Kijow is subtitled The Dark Side, and is headlined by the Sinfoniette Cracrovia (conducted by Daniel Bjarnason) performing Bernard Hermann’s Psycho score and Kanon For Orchestra and Tape among other works, while the Miasmah label’s Macus Fjellstrom presents”eerie screenings and music”, including a specially commissioned collaboration with Elegi and the Sinfoniette.
At Manggha later that evening, Polish band Baaba offer up their interpretation of Krzysztof Komeda’s score for Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, with support from hypnotic synth types Roll The Dice. At the same venue on Monday, Elegi pops up to provide a live soundtrack for silent horror film footage with Krakow soprano singer Jolanta Kowalska and cellist Marcin Laczynski, while Sza/Za invoke Komeda once more and re-score a number of Polanski shorts. On Thursday, Zombie Zombie are set to perform music by their hero John Carpenter, with the help of Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth; later in the week Howarth will conduct a Sound Design and Horror Film Workshop at Kino Pod Baranami, and then talk to Joel Martin about his work on Escape From New York, Halloween et al, in a free event at Krakow’s Music Academy Concert Hall. As if that wasn’t enough horror for your zloty, there’s also a chance to catch Martin talking to Philip Sherburne about the use of library music in exploitation films, a panel discussion with industrial legend Brian ‘Lustmord’ Williams and Badawi (whose score for Hellraiser 5 was rejected for being too scary) tackling artists’ enduring preoccupation with the dark side, and a live performance from veteran Italian band Goblin, focussing on their legendary score for Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Support comes from inspired Ohio post-rockers Emeralds.
he Intersections concert at Manggha should satisfy the more squeamish among you, with live, song-based performances due from Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier, Mice Parade and Silje Nes. The 16th century St Katherine’s Church is the suitably grand and gothic setting for music from Tim Hecker and dream-pop duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, the latter appearing with the 14-strong Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir and OCTAVA Ensemble arranged by FACT favourite and Touch artiste Hildur Gudnadottir.
Out Of The Fog: Darkness to Disco at Fabryka includes the aforementioned Zombie Zombie show, as well as turns from synth wizard Oneohtrix Point Never (capping a year which has seen him graduate from obscurity into the internet equivalent of pop stardom), Demdike Stare and cosmic disco don Lindstrom. The same venue welcomes an array of eldritch rhythm kings on Friday 22 October: Raime, a shadowy London duo who have earned considerable acclaim for their recent industrial-tinged debut on Blackest Ever Black, open up for squashed house maestro Actress, spooked techno wraith Oni Ayhun and the mighty Shackleton, whose ever-evolving live set is usually the highlight of even the most formidable bill. Warmer, less nihilistic dancefloor sounds come from Petre Inspirescu, Detroit’s Kyle Hall and Mike Huckaby. Fabryka on Sunday is given over to an out-and-out celebration of post-dubstep creativity, with sets from James Blake, Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie, Cosmin TRG, FaltyDL, Dorian Concept, Terror Danjah and Badawi among many others.
The Alchemia venue plays host to the No Fun House of Horror, a free showcase produced in collaboration with New York’s No Fun productions. Label boss Carlos Giffoni performs alongside Hild Sofie Tafjord, Anna Zaradny and Noveller. There are also several opportunities to see The Pretty One, a collaboration between Kreng and Belgian theatre company Aatoir Ferme, and a night of ear-shredding “blackjazz” from Jazkamer, Monno and Shining. The Moritz Von Oswald Trio – comprising the eponymous Basic Channel man, Vladislav Delay and NSI’s Max Loderbauer – play live, following a set from Lustmord (only his second in 28 years, the first taking place at a High Mass of the Church of Satan). Throughout the festival you’ll want to check in on The Hidden, a series of installations located in the cellars and abandoned spaces of a disused cosmetics factory. Participating artists include Mordant Music and Jana Winderen.
The darkness subsides for the festival’s closing party at Pauza which headlined, appropriately enough, by two of the world’s finest party DJs: Jackmaster and Deadboy. If don’t already have another window open looking up the price of flights to Poland, there must be something wrong with you.
Tickets for individual events, as well as a full festival pass and various other deals, are available at the Unsound website here.