Thebarton Theatre, Fri 26 Feb
Unsound is a music festival of experimental and underground club music specialising in extreme textures and volume, which has taken place annually in Poland since 2003, and gradually expanded to several locations around the world. 2016 marks the fourth iteration of Unsound in Adelaide.
Before getting into the review, it should be mentioned that Unsound is loud. Like, irresponsibly, dangerously loud. Bartenders expressed concern regarding the structural integrity of the Thebby due to the ceiling-rattling bass. People who know me know that I trade in high volume escapades as a daily ritual, and I am no stranger to extreme volume. Unsound is the first time I have ever availed myself of complimentary earplugs (twice in one night), and I still managed to come home with my left ear swollen shut. If you plan to attend Saturday night or future Unsound events, please be safe.
When I arrived SUMS had just begun. The collaboration between Barry Burns of Mogwai and electronic producer Kangdin Ray settled into a slow, tight groove that continued for the entirety of their set. Their performance bore a sonic resemblance to Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack work and built a nice atmospheric vibe, thanks to the combination of Ray’s synths, the stand-up bass of Robert Lucaciu, Burns’ electric guitar, and an animated performance from percussionist Merlin Ettore. It was, all in all, a pleasantly mesmerising experience.
After SUMS, a fog machine or five began to pour into the Thebby. A DJ table draped in the Union Jack was brought to the stage and was visible for several seconds before the entire front half of the theatre was cloaked in white haze. I have to work under the assumption that this artist was composer/MC Dean Blunt, AKA Babyfather, but I can’t say with any certainty that he was seen. I can say that what was played started with slow beats with occasional MC’ing and gradually devolved into increasingly outrageous interludes comprised first of police sirens, and then white, black, grey, and full spectrum noise at volumes that words fail to accurately describe.
Eventually, the fog cleared, a projection screen was erected, and Jlin began her set. While things started out slow, she eventually picked up steam and by the time her accompanying dancer Avril Stormy Unger took the stage toward the end, the crowd had largely recovered and was won over by her captivating rhythms. The performance was well-complimented by the mostly grayscale projections, which started out resembling a kaleidoscopic switcher solo between a game of Atari pong and UHF static, and eventually expanded to include dancing squiggles interspersed with Etch-A-Sketch-styled line designs and geometric grids.
Next up was Unsound mainstay Kode9 performing his N0tel work, the visual component of which involves a quad copter piloting through an uninhabited hotel in the wake of a financial apocalypse. Starting out interspersing the hum of bass drone with howling winds, and then gradually building his way into his N0tel project, Kode9 delivered a skilfully polished set that synced seamlessly with the display. Unsettling pulsing synth sounds combined with disjointed rhythms and a less overtly bass-heavy attack than some of the other acts. The effect was something like a more aggressive take on Aphex Twin’s early ambient work.
Finally, RP Boo took the stage to get the crowd moving. There had been some bobbing and grooving to Jlin and Kode9, but RP Boo’s polyrhythmic tracks were full of energy, and it was impossible not to be drawn into his enthusiasm behind the table as he bounced and engaged the crowd while seamlessly moving from beat to beat. There was a genuine catharsis amongst the remains of Unsound as RP Boo began his set and compelled virtually everyone present to dance with abandon.
Unsound continues at Thebarton Theatre from 7pm Sat 27 Feb.
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Image courtesy of Piotr Jabubowicz