“Too much change in too short a period of time,” this quote from Alvin Toffler’s seminal work Future Shock could be an apt description of festivals, audiovisual marathons, a music consumer’s paradise. Toffler was something of a conceptual godfather for this year’s Unsound Festival that took place between 8 and 16 October in Krakow. The Polish festival has grown in stature in the last couple of years, even expanding overseas to New York. It is the “home” edition, however, set in the fairy-tale like Krakow that the festival truly shines.
Unsound bases its dramaturgy around thematic concepts each year and following last year’s Horror edition, it was Future Shock this year, epitomizing an overwhelming fear of future, information overload – the state we live in. Unsound’s line up conceptualized this idea in an interesting way – showcasing acts that were active in the 70’s and 80’s, a period that is similar to the current gloomy zeitgeist, and who championed a futuristic, dystopian ethos in their work. The stars of the yesteryear were juxtaposed alongside currents acts, be it weird pop, analogue psychedelia, juke or post-witch house (whatever that may be). Thus, the ultimateDetroit techno rebels – Model 500 – headlined Friday’s night delivering their greatest hits including Clear, Cosmic Cars (with a peculiar video projection inadvertently? featuring a Citroen ad) and Alleys of Your Mind. The following day, in the fittingly industrial environs of the Engineering Museum, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter graced the stage followed by Ultravox legend John Foxx’s rather self-indulgent performance. Morton Subotnick blew us away with his Silver Apples of The Moon still sounding fresh fourty-four years since its creation.
Whereas the aforementioned projects, mavericks of their era, were looking into the future – no matter how uncertain it may have been, their younger counterparts at this year’s Unsound, tend to look into the past and re-contextualize it for the present. With a showcase by leading underground labels such as Not Not Fun and the recently established imprint Public Information featuring a diverse selection of psychedelic weirdness, analogue niceness and general audio mindfuck the programme offered an onslaught of sounds, ideas and hobnobbing. The nocturnal section primarily catered for dance music fiends – and techno in general was one of the predominant sounds at this year’s edition.
A stellar back to back set by footwork’s best DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn made your legs hurt after half an hour, 2562, Kink, Teeth, Kassem Mosse and Ital rocked the crowds too. Aside from the psychedelic and the dance, there were also special shows in some of Krakow’s jaw droppingly beautiful churches such as the slightly underwhelming performance by Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer at ST Katherine’s Church or Ghostly International’s latest signing Jacaszek at the Tempel Synagogue. What’s great about Unsound is the selection of venues, tailor-made for each concert. Thus, the increasingly international audience gets to see a bit of the city aside from spending the days and nights locked in some dark nightclub.
LA Vampires and VHS Head, Machinedrum and Braile closed off what was undoubtedly a well-attended and successful edition of this ambitious Polish festival.