Unsound Festival draws thousands from within Poland and beyond its borders every year, which makes it a great opportunity to both expose locals to music from around the world and provide a platform to launch native talents. That potential is not lost on the curators, who make sure to stock the lineup with a cadre of Polish talent year after year, from residents like DJ Olivia to those who are just starting to bubble up. We’ve learned to look to Unsound’s bill to stay current on the goings-on in the country’s underground music and art scenes. As we did last year, we’re bringing these findings to you to help you sort through the massive calendar to be carried out in Kraków this week.
Księżyc and Paweł Romańczuk (with Svitlana Nianio)
One of Poland’s most hotly followed cult groups returned to Unsound to play Unsound’s opening ceremony last night at the Juliusz Słowacki Theater. The band’s unique, ethereal sound is based in Slavic folklore, psychedelia, minimalism and avant-garde theater, and in Krakow they presented a specially-commissioned project alongside toy instrument expert Paweł Romańczuk. The performance used musical machines and replicas of instruments to explore humor and fantasy and featured with the “fairy-like” vocals of Svitlana Nianio, a Ukrainian folk singer.
As a central player in the Krakowian underground club scene, SHAPE-affiliated DJ Olivia is a natural fit for Unsound’s stable of resident selectors. Her role in the local milieu includes booking nights at the club Szpitalna 1, operating the now-defunct Radar club and contributing to Kraków’s Chrono Bros collective. While last year she knocked out a closing set at the Hotel Forum, her slot this time around featured on the opening night party at Kamienna, the theme of which centred around artists from the “New East.” (Granted, she broke the pattern by going back-to-back with a non-New Easter: American L.I.E.S. boss Ron Morelli.) Get a sense of her range as a DJ via her recent contribution to our Played Out series.
Piernikowski is the voice of the Polish hip-hop group Syny. He honed his love of experimentation and penchant for storytelling into what Unsound has identified as “punishing noise.” His collaboration with Gołębiewski—an improv percussionist who has played with renowned artists such as Yoko Ono and Thurston Moore —will be held on Monday at Małopol following the Berlin-based experimental artist Pan Daijing.
Zimpel Ziołek—the duo consisting of Wacław Zimpel and Kuba Ziołek—will perform on the same bill as BNNT at Manggha on Tuesday at 19:30. Their unique musical sensibility transcends genres, but their emphasis on folk and psychedelia places them firmly within the Polish non-electronic narrative. Zimpel is also a participating artist in the SHAPE platform for innovative music and audiovisual art.
Poland’s own Siksa engages with today’s politically charged atmosphere head-on with odd and radical performances that showcase her extensive background in various fields. Her stated aim is to dismantle “the Polish consciousness” and confront patriarchal oppression with effusive spoken word, dancing and rap-oriented mises-en-scène that actively engage with and challenge her audiences. You can witness her unique pastiche of brazen performance art at NTS Session 1 on Tuesday, October 10 and later at Manggha alongside Puce Mary and tT.
Konrad Smoleński and Daniel Szwed’s masked collaboration delivers a jarring musical experience: jagged shots of dissonant guitar, mangled vocal samples, drones and blackened walls of hollow sounds over intense hypnotic beats. Their music is the product of lengthy improvisations rooted in tribal drumming and is heavily inspired by the writings of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran. BNNT’s performance, which will take place at Manggha on Tuesday evening, will also feature free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson.
Zakład Ostatniej Posługi
You’ll be hard-pressed to find much information about Zakład Ostatniej Posługi, so we’ve relied on the limited information provided by Unsound itself. Although he appears rarely, he’s well-known known in the city for composing well-crafted sets that adeptly blend ambient, techno and experimental music. Posługi will be setting a deep vibe when he opens the main stage at Hotel Forum on Thursday night. You can also check him out with the Unsound crew at NTS Session 2.
Mchy i Porosty
With releases on Recognition, Pointless Geometry and the eponymous label from Polish party Brutaż, this new abstract techno project by Bartosz Zaskórski explores deep textures and unusual atmospheres. It’s a break from his work as a graphic designer for some of Poland’s most famous electronic artists, including Jacek Sienkiewicz. At Unsound 2017 he’ll open the October 12 night at Hotel Forum’s Room 2 with a cryptic and banging approach to dance music.
The London-based Polish artist Ewa Justka isn’t just a producer; she’s also a self-taught instrument-builder who works with homemade synths to showcase multi-sensory tableaus that combine light and sound. Justka is known for her collaborations with Manni Dee and Jayson Haebich and recently released a solo work on Fractal Meat, the label run by Graham Dunning, who made this self-playing techno-making drum machine and spoke to likeminded musician Maria Chavez for us here. Ewa has also performed and led workshops at various festivals. Catch her on Hotel Forum’s main stage on Thursday at 22:30.
VTSS as TRY
Warsaw-based Martyna Maja is the artist behind the new alias TRY, a dark techno project that draws inspiration from industrial music and Polish folklore. Maja is known for her residency with the Polish crew Behind The Stage, which organizes events and hosts a podcast series focused on experimental and industrial techno. TRY is an outgrowth of her penchant for experimental EBM, and it will debut at Hotel Forum on Thursday night.
Jędrzej Dondziło (a.k.a. Dtekk) is a pillar of the Polish electronic music scene. The DJ and promoter is the head honcho behind Technosoul Records, a number of clandestine electronic music events in Białystok and the director of Up To Date, a techno festival that brings experimental techno to the northeastern reaches of the country—and where Electronic Beats hosted a special stage. Catch him presenting an immersive ambient set at Hotel Forum on Friday at 21:30.
Lua Preta is the Polish-Angolan collaboration between Mentalcut and Supa Gia G. The duo will play Unsound on the heels of their recently-released Emoções Coloridas on the Greek label Shango Records, which offsets Afrohouse influences against an amalgam of electronic genres. Check them out on Friday, 22:00 at Hotel Forum.
1988 is Przemysław Jankowiak and one half of Syny, a leftfield hip-hop outfit that marries mangled lo-fi beats with dark, psychedelic atmospheres. According to Unsound festival, 1988’s performance—which will be held on Hotel Forum’s main stage on Friday night—evokes the “chilling atmosphere of a late-night stroll through a menacing city, telling a modern urban story.”
Modular synthesist Magda Ter will open the floor at Hotel Forum on Saturday in anticipation of her forthcoming album, Remains. The LP is due to come out on the Warsaw-based tape label Jasień, and it explores atmospheric sounds that gracefully undulate between beatless textures and techno.
Long-time attendees of Unsound know Eltron John as a resident since the festival’s beginnings. The Krakow-based DJ spins what he calls “records for people to hop and swirl and gasp and beam to.” He’ll perform early on Saturday night at Hotel Forum. He’ll also go back-to-back with dance music columnist Philip Sherburne on October 10 at Szpitalna 1 as part of one of the Unsound NTS Sessions.
The duo Naked is half-Polish (Agnes Gryczkowska) and half-British (Alexander Johnson). Together they create enticing and abrasive experimental pop music. Zone, the outfit’s debut LP on LuckyMe, introduced their dark noise aesthetic to the world. And now Unsound Festival goers will have a chance to experience their otherworldly live show for themselves at Hotel Forum’s Room 1 on October 14 at 12:30am.
Warsaw-based Lutto Lento (aka Ludomir Grzelak) has offered a series of odd and interesting takes on dance floor sounds via labels like Where To Now? and his own Sangoplasmo imprint. His work also spans theater scores and art installations, which speaks to his versatility and out-of-the-box approach to music. He’ll play at Unsound’s Saturday afternoon NTS Session and at 23:30 on the main stage at Hotel Forum.
Hubert Zemler and Miłosz Pękala (with the Jon Gibson Group)
Hubert Zemler and Miłosz Pękala are two of Poland’s premiere percussionsists, and this year’s edition of Unsound will see them perform a special piece alongside minimalist musician Jon Gibson, who was once a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Their collaborative piece, “Visitations”, will be performed to a screening of a film shot by Gibson himself on Sunday, October 15 at the Juliusza Słowackiego theater.
Studio Barnhus and Transatlantyk artist Naphta creates spacious electronic sounds that wed influences from jazz, funk and disco. To hear his unique blend of cosmic dance and interstellar funk, catch him on the last day of the festival at Kamienna, where he’ll warm up the floor of the Unsound closing party at 21:30.
The first thing you need to know about RRRKRTA is that he organizes the traveling Polish party-turned-label Brutaz, which “aims to unlock the scene for those who struggle, to give back what was given and to leave the door open for those who haven’t figured it out just yet.” You’ll have to wait till Unsound’s closing party to hear him close the festival at Kamienna.