Unsound Festival New York 2012
Five-day fest featuring the likes of Hype Williams, Actress, Demdike Stare, and Laurel Halo
True Horizons: Sun Araw, Inner Tube, pole
[Friday, April 20 @ (Le) Poisson Rouge]
I arrived a bit late for Inner Tube’s set. It was New Age computer-and-guitar wankery, not dangerous in the least, nor urgent, nor necessary. During the last song, a guy walked up to me and said, “Has anybody started playing yet?” I pointed: “He’s playing right there.”
I was worried that the rest of the night would go the way of all the other performances I’d seen at Unsound. (I think not dangerous is the most concise way of describing their common failing.) pole (Stefan Betke, a middle-aged German man who looks like he could be a retired golfer or pro poker player) began tweaking knobs. He was making some strange high-end noises, but it wasn’t particularly special. Then the bass dropped, and I mean BASS. I could feel it in my chest, and for the better part of an hour, I was transfixed and transported, gyrating and wishing for once that everyone would let their shit go and just dance. This was the only show I saw at the festival that was serious and funky. Will be buying some pole records.
Sun Araw was four dudes I probably wouldn’t get along with. The set was hip; kind of a mess, kind of sucky. I left early, but other people seemed to be down with it, if not getting down to it.
Transgression: Lustmord, Biosphere
[Saturday, April 21 @ West Park Presbyterian Church]
So, aside from going to see Lustmord and Biosphere get super fucking serious here of all places, I had to leave my girlfriend across the street because we were too cheap to pay her entry. But arriving right at the beginning of they’s set, shit starts to get real: indistinct talking from either the stage or audience, switching taps and twitches, overture atop of overturn atop of overturn, etc. Lectures on thinking happened and it got kitschy, so I zoned in on the screen behind them displaying black-and-white nature and landscapes. Absorbed in colorless trans-views and -sound, there was patience in the audience as sounds chiseled away at their being.
Away from all this land, Lustmord and Biosphere led the audience to a beyond blanket of sound and meditation. In that landscape, the viewers are led both musically and visually (upon their screen) to a place hidden, yet past our existence. Humming scorched any hearing I had the rest of that night. Swelling between myself, their instruments, that dude who keeps taking pictures, cameras they used to film, and the church began to fuse everything into one vibrating entity. Which also turned on my dead phone, as my girlfriend was calling me from across the street. Beating the crowd, I raced out only to hear my girlfriend’s inquiries on the ritual I just experienced and if there was anything that climbed out of the dead body she assumed was sacrificed.
Bass Mutations: Distal, Nguzunguzu, 2562, Sepalcure, Dave Q
[Saturday, April 21 @ Indie Screen]
This year’s Bass Mutations night of the Unsound festival took place at Indie Screen, a venue I’ve passed by for years on my way to either Death By Audio, 285 Kent, or Glasslands in a small but ever-increasingly bustling block/corner of Kent Ave between South 1st and 2nd in Williamsburg, overlooked by an enormous, towering decrepit factory and along the East River. In a positive sign of growing relevance and significance within the electronic and bass music scenes, the party was thrown by Percussion Lab and Dub War (NYC), and started off with current resident Dave Q, who got it going strong by only 10:30.
There was no mistaking the focus of the event was BASS: upon entering the venue — which is, in actuality an independent movie theatre with a bar — I noticed the performance space overlooking everything and everyone from a balcony; under it was a set of speakers emitting blaring beats of such density as to literally dissolve one’s tympanic membranes, and you couldn’t escape them, even when wandering into other areas such as the actual movie theatre, which was showing all manner of short films, hand-drawn and computer-generated animations, lights, shapes, birds flying, clouds, scenes that seemed to have been left on the cutting-room floor of Blade Runner, sped-up footage of city streets, ballet, King Kong, Babes in Toyland… all the while, viewers engaged in all sorts of activities, which grew all the more daring as the night wore on, ranging from dancing on the seats, to the active use of illicit substances, to possibly, well, intercourse… yeah.
The bass having drowned out almost all else pertaining to sense and sensation — and perhaps I’m exaggerating as a result of partly having had more than a few drinks — Dave Q (who at one point yelled he just wanted to play some drum ‘n’ bass, or “whatever you call it these days”) seemed to blend seamlessly into Sepalcure’s schizophrenic old-school homages, and from there to 2562’s house and dubstep-ish variations and then Nguzunguzu’s inventive bleeps and bloops, all the way into arguable headliner Distal, but by then, I reason I must have been effectively rendered incapable of reporting on what occurred thereafter.
Fade Out: Sun Araw vs. Heat Wave, Eltron John, Maria Minerva, Napszyklat
[Sunday, April 22 @ Glasslands]
Napszyklat was slick. They got them deep beats, which world-ruled. Their vocals weren’t totally a style I was into, but they were into it WAY hard, so I bobbed, ya dig? Went back stage with Alex Gray [of Heat Wave] after, and they were so Polish-ly verklempt that when I was saying, “You guys were feeling that set,” I only received sweat and nods.
Maria Minerva (pictured) gave 100% too. I mean, like, performance-wise, as someone who’s caught the MC ego bug, I’d rather Maria Minerva handle shit on stage than anyone else. She questioned why there was no whiskey accompanying her between her first and second harsh-crooned track. And her backgrounds were real real: work-out dancing, the Milky Way, a hurricane, etc. Deep electronic melodies surged and the stage strobe-light seemed to display the rainbow intermittently. Some of it was cut up super-fresh too, like her first album Tallinn At Dawn. Shit was 3D in a real way.
The Eltron John set consisted of talking to Jonathan Dean about some nasty shit and how hurricanes are not cool. Eltron John was some jam-dance shit, and it got all the Italian ladies bopping. Yeah-yeah, though. Attention was my first priority at this point. Like, rock ‘n’ roll and all that jazz, yeah?
The main event-slash-after-after-after party was a Sun Araw vs. Heat Wave DJ set, which expectedly caved the roof in. It was a rainy night to begin with, but if some of that Cali weather were temp’ing outside, and the roof had actually been torn off, the moisture would’ve been welcomed by savagely dancing audience members. Oh, they brought that Fornia-funk via soul-zones to the East Coast way hard. Without remorse. Gray turned his faucet to drippy and was wearing a kick-ass purple shirt with yellow guitars on it. But Cameron Stallones boiled them noodle beats, strained ‘em, and by a mustache hair, won the live versus!