Unsound Festival New York 2012 Preview Pt 1: Actress, Laurel Halo, Hype Williams, Demdike Stare ++

With Summer upon us sooner than seems earthly possible here in New York, the city’s various music festivals aren’t far behind in rolling out previews of the heat to come. But while festivals like New York’s Electric Zoo just announced a blazing “1st phase” line-up with DJs like Tiesto and David Guetta, many of the city’s best events lie in the shadows.

Content with their shadowy presence in a festival market flush with electronic music monoliths the Krakow-born, New York edition of the Unsound Festival has emerged as one of electronic music’s most revered showcases in experimental talent. Founded in 2003, Unsound producer Fundacja Tone brought the festival to New York in 2010, producing Krakow’s version in October and New York’s in the Spring. Produced in collaboration with New York’s Goethe-Institut and the Polish Cultural Institute, the festival aims to promote soundscapes across Eastern Europe while acknowledging the porous, free-floating way music—both experimental and mainstream—is now traveling borders and genre boundaries.

Starting Wednesday, April 18th and ending Sunday the 22nd, this year’s Unsound Festival features a remarkable line-up of talent, including a number of workshops (Unsound LABS) that pair artists for live collaboration or Q&As. Among the various workshops, be sure to check out some of the roundtable discussions sponsored by The Wire magazine, including one with Berlin techno wunderkind and Ableton Live inventor Robert Heneke (a.k.a. Monolake), who will also perform at 3AM on Friday at New York’s famed Bunker venue. To hear a preview of the other artists featured at this year’s Unsound, check out Hype Machine’s exclusive Unsound Festival playlist below. The playlist features music from Baaba, Sepalcure, 2562, and Nguzunguzu among others.

Unsound Festival 2012 Lineup:
2562, Baaba, Biosphere, Black Rain, Dave Tompkins, Demdike Stare, Distal, Heiroglyphic Being, Laurel Halo, Julia Holter, Jenny Hval, Hype Williams, Inner Tube, Ital, Jacaszek, LXMP, Julia Kent, Kotra, Maria Minerva, Monolake, Nguzunguzu, Peaking Lights, Pole, Sepalcure, Sun Araw, Throwing Snow

Here are 4 artists we are especially looking forward to seeing at Unsound this year.

Actress – Lost

Thursday at Le Poisson Rouge the SINGULARITY showcase will feature Norway’s Next Life, elusive London performance art duo Hype Williams, and Britain’s critically acclaimed producer Actress. Known in particular for his 2010 album Splazsh, Actress (a.k.a. Darren Cunningham) stunned (even confused) listeners with his super modern take on house and techno. Almost unfinished-sounding in its execution, much of Splazsh often sounds more like sketches than fully realized tracks. Most profound in Cunningham’s sound design though is that while minimal techno and it’s various sonic tropes seem present—it’s as if he has neutered, distorted and all-together destroyed their parts, only to re-assemble them into pieces of sonic sculpture that at times seem to derive from the dance floor, but are rarely interested in returning to it. In fact, Actress’ vision of the techno sound is almost thwarting. On his track “Lost,” techno’s major reference comes by way of deformed snares midway through the track, but play obvious second to a maelstrom of vocal slivers and toyish synths that transform a genre intent on a sterile cleanliness into something Actress prefers messy.

Laurel Halo – Embassy

At any given electronic music festival the music may differ wildly but there will, undoubtedly, be dudes twisting knobs. At this year’s Unsound however, some of experimental music’s most standout women are not only turning knobs, but turning knobs on their voices as well. In addition to appearances from much-lauded singer Julia Holter, Estonia-born singer Maria Minerva, and New York’s own Laurel Halo will be attendance as well. Just last week Halo made news when she announced that she has signed her first LP to Hyperdub. Released in 2010 on LA’s Hippos In Tanks (Oneohtrix Point Never, Gatekeeper), Halo’s first EP King Felix marked a grand entrance for the Brooklyn singer. Romantic and pop with out sacrificing eccentricity, Halo’s voice provides a perfect glaze to her delightfully eerie productions. On tracks like “Hour Logic” from her 2nd Hippos In Tanks EP of the same name, Halo rolls out a long, deep piece of techno that features only hints of Halo’s previous vocal stylings, and ends up sounding like a dreamy b-side of showcasing Halo’s many sonic inspirations. Laurel Halo plays 11PM Friday, at The Bunker.

Demdike Stare – Hashshashin Chant

Though rumored to be from Manchester, UK duo Demdike Stare (Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty) has been pointedly evasive about either of their actual whereabouts. But when the duo’s music sounds just as mysterious, alien, and uninterested in your ideas about context, who wants to know that these guys aren’t just from some distant galaxy anyways? After a highly celebrated series of releases in 2010 (Forest of Evil, Voices of Dust, and Liberation Through Hearing) the three releases were bundled as a compilation called Tryptych, which wound up on many year-end lists for both artists and critics. Released in a similar format this year, Demdike put out a 3-part series of EPs, all of them re-packaged as a compilation called Elemental. Both compilations feature a staggering array of sounds, samples, and styles—from the avant garde jazz-inflected horror music of “Forest of Evil” to the equally haunting though potentially club-ready rhythms of “Hashshashin Chant.” Obsessed with found sounds and the folk musics of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cultures, Demdike’s sonic palette is one that confounds as much as it astonishes. This isn’t easy listening by any means, so come prepared to Le Poisson Rouge on Thursday night, as you may leave terrified or in a state of meditative, bass-embroiled peace, either way you’ll have to pass through both to get there.

Hype Williams – Rescue Dawn

If many of Unsound’s most notable line-up this year seem (and sound) elusive, abstract, or difficult to talk about no artist will dumbfound audiences this year like UK duo Hype Williams. Comprised of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland (fake names, go figure) Hype Williams is everything the famous hip-hop director is not—lo-fi, genre-combustible, or interested in fame. Rumored to be friends with Cam’ron, to have sold music with USB-stick filled apples, and to have tried out for Arsenal, Hype Williams is basically running laps around your desire for a cohesive musical narrative. Of course their music is no different, though the duo’s LP Black Is Beautiful for Hyperdub (out April 17th) will likely open you to the Hype Williams aesthetic better than past releases. On their track “Rescue Dawn” off their album Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Start Gettin Real, the duo samples Major Lazer’s “Baby,” where crying baby intro is made to sound particularly startling, before settling into what sounds like snap music on delay as ambient wooshes backdrop a pitch-shifted manifesto on catching all the Pokemon. On the duo’s FACT magazine mix, the only consistent thread through out the whole mix is a string of Steely Dan tracks peppered through out the entire thing. If consistency or clarity is of no interest to this duo, their aesthetic is no less fascinating, and there is no question they will bring deliciously vexing A/V treats to their set at Le Poisson Rouge on Thursday night.

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  • 4/13/2012

[...] on Friday April 20 Ital will perform alongside other genre defying electronic musicians on the Unsound Festival New York Bunker bill including Demdike Stare, Hieroglyphic Being, Laurel Halo, Monolake, and Dubspot [...]