Open Your Ears: Sound Of The City’s Night-By-Night Guide To The Best Of The Unsound Festival


The Unsound Festival, which place tonight through Sunday around New York, is defined by a belief in the thrills to be found in experimental eclecticism. The first New York edition of the festival (which originated in Krakow) took place in 2010 and has yet to disappoint, with one-of-a-kind programming and performances that split the difference between sit-down solemnity and spine-cracking propulsion.

In addition to musical performances, Unsound LABS will host a series of free talks exploring topics varying from vinyl mastering with dub techno legend Pole to the history of Miami bass music. For those looking to plunge into the festival’s blissful unpredictability, SOTC has rounded up a selection of Unsound musical events, one for each day.

Animators (BamCinêmatek, 7 p.m., $15)
Warsaw-based Baaba slice and jangle through a live score to Polish animated films. The feints that weave through Baaba’s work can devolve into sonic schizophrenics, but their playful, ramshackle constructions should meld well with the peculiar selection of films taken from the 1950s through the early ’70s.

Singularity (Le Poisson Rouge, 11 p.m., $15/$20)
Live videos of Hype Williams (not the rap director, but the mysterious UK duo) show incense clouding the room while the duo of Dean Blunt and Inga Copland swerve from lurching synth washes to blubbering bass massages and every sample, siren, and provocation you can perceive in between. Paired with Actress, who shuffles confidently through glitchy explorations of bass and more traditional dance music forms, this showcase for deeply experimental artists should provoke significant dance-floor disorientation. Queasy metal noisemakers Next Life also are on the bill.

The Bunker (Warsaw, 10 p.m., $20)
The most stacked night of music at the festival, drawing from all manners of brainy, spacey dance music, equally adept at provoking beard-stroking and floor stomping. Michaelangelo Matos aptly positioned Ital as a rock guy wading into dance music last month in the Voice, and Daniel Martin-McCormick’s music does squirm excitingly through carefully constructed gates of indie and dance. Releasing music on Manchester-based label Modern Love alongside artists like Andy Stott and Claro Intelecto, Demdike Stare has been lately leading the way for alternately screeching and narcotic techno, the soundtrack for a drugged clubber attempting to weave his way out of a woozy fog. Techno luminary, Ableton Live co-developer, and all-around futurist Robert Henke’s most recent album as Monolake, Ghosts, is a tremendous work trembling with immersive power, luring the listener from lush, unnerving soundscapes into moments of overwhelming force. At the debut of the new Monolake Surround show in Berlin at Berghain, which will be reprised here, sounds popped and swirled so intensely they appeared three-dimensional, Henke as puppeteer pulling the sonic strings. Not to be missed. Hieroglyphic Being, Laurel Halo, and Zemi 17 are also on the bill.

Transgression (West Park Presbyterian Church, 7 p.m., $20)
A centerpiece event featuring a new collaboration between Lustmord, a master of deeply physical ambient music, and Biosphere, who takes a softer tack less indebted to willful darkness and oppression without sacrificing the sense of impending danger. The unlikely duo will be premiering the piece “Trinity,” commissioned by Unsound and described as “exploring the first tests of nuclear weapons in the New Mexico desert.” Earplugs suggested; with Lustmord at the reins and backed by a explosive concept like that, there’s no telling what shattering bass frequencies he’ll be exploiting.

Fade Out (Glasslands, 8 p.m., $10)
The Unsound closing party brings together an international mélange of artists including fractured Polish hip-hoppers Napszyklat, squeaky-clean Not Not Fun mainstay Maria Minerva (performing for the first time in New York), what’s billed as a “Disco Hermetics” DJ set helmed by Sun Araw vs. Heat Wave, and a closing set of steady psychedelia from Krakow-based Eltron John that should be enough to tide attendees over until the festival’s 2013 return.

The Unsound Festival starts tonight and runs through Sunday; tickets are sold individually by venue. Check the official site for a guide to all its shows, and sample the artists playing at The Hype Machine.