Just as Kraftwerk's chronological overview at the MoMA finishes, New York becomes the epicentre of electronic activity once again, thanks to Unsound - a festival that started in Krakow, Poland, ten years ago. This year's the third time the event has an American leg - celebrated in the heart of Brooklyn - occupying art galleries, bars and small venues; providing the most cutting-edge dance and experimental music and audio-visual arts of the moment to the Big Apple's avant-garde crowd.
A visit to Unsound NY 2012 is mandatory for curious ears. While the masses, trend spotters and celebs are at Coachella, the future is in New York. Unsound is, without a doubt, one of this house's favourite spring time festivals - and for those who are going and/or want to know more, we wanted to list the ten performances we feel you really need to see and hear between the 18th and 22nd April. To get a first idea of what's on offer, check out the Soundcloud page for the sampler the event put online, featuring 35 of the performing artists.
10. Hype Williams (Le Poisson Rouge, 12.15 am, 19th April)
Along with Next Life - a Norwegian band parodying Scandinavian black metal with the sounds of video games - and the great Actress, Hype Williams are part of an evening called ‘Singularity’. And it's true, Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt's music is singular and unclassifiable; like blurry and distorted elements of dub, psychedelic rock and faded electronic floating in a thick cloud of toxic fumes. Their latest album on Hyperdub, “ Black Is Beautiful” (signed as Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, as a side-project) features all that and reinforces their mystery.
9. Pole + Sun Araw (Le Poisson Rouge, 07.00 pm, 20th April)
Inner Tube, formed by Spencer Clark (The Skaters) and Mark McGuire (Emeralds), will make their debut paying tribute to Australian surf flicks from the 80s (!), after which two very different visions on club music will take the stage. Sun Araw is a psychedelic voyage through thick, electronic woods and ancient civilisations; Pole is a pioneer in the sonic disintegration of dub, as if Jamaica were really an island on the North Pole.
8. Biosphere & Lustmord (West Park Presbyterian Church, 08.00 pm, 21st April)
It's not a collaboration, but it is an attractive double bill (triple, if we count Jacaszek's opening gig) where we can dive into the dark depths of the coldest ambient. Lustmord are an isolationist pillar of dark ambient rooted in early industrial music; Biosphere, on the other hand, represents the long and winding experimental road of Norwegian Geir Jenssen, going from early 90s techno to the Polar quietness of the music he's been producing over the past fifteen years. A night of legends, a night of fear.
7. Sepalcure (Indiescreen, 11.00pm, 21st April)
Sepalcure are headlining the Bass Mutations night (further featuring 2562, Teeth, Nguzunguzu, Distal, and Throwing Snow) with a heavily audio-visual live set. They represent the most accessible and popular branch of the bass underground, coupling the past and present of dance music in a stylistically new and attractive formula, carried by their ample experience in techno and house.
6. Unsound Labs (Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building, 21st and 22nd April)
Unsound Labs holds several explorative and collaborative projects commissioned especially for Unsound: there are lectures (music journalist Dave Tompkins will talk about the history of bass music in Miami on Saturday at 3.15 pm, while Stefan Betke, alias Pole, will explain the art of mastering at 4.30 pm) and concerts. On Sunday, in the Issue Project Room, there will be improvised performances by Mark Van Hoen and Maria Minerva, alongside Mark McGuire and Bartek Weber, among others. A look at the unknown.
5. Laurel Halo (Warsaw, 11.00pm, 20th April)
Laurel Halo offered one of the most complete and interesting concerts at the past autumn edition of Unsound in Krakow. At the time, her two EPs on Hippos In Tanks were still fresh out - particularly “Hour Logic”, the housier of the two. It was clear that she would be going deeper into her danceable sound in the near future, something that can be heard on her first 12” as King Felix, while at the same time fine-tuning her pop side. This is the year of Laurel Halo's final breakthrough, and this live show promises to be a revelation.
4. Peaking Lights (David Rubenstein Atrium At Lincoln Center, 08.30 pm, 19th April)
One of the few free gigs at Unsound NY, so be there early before the venue fills up entirely. If there was one duo that stood out last year, it was Peaking Lights. The pair created “936”, on which they found some unique links between slightly AOR-like, psychedelic pop-rock and the technique of subtraction, echo and hypnosis in dub.
3. Monolake (Warsaw, 03.00 am, 20th April)
It may seem like an ungodly hour for Robert Henke - mostly because his most recent releases, installations and live shows were meant for a more museum-like environment - but his new album, “Ghosts” (which reactivates his Monolake project), is undeniably clubby, with traces of drum’n’bass, dubstep and stabbing techno. He will most likely get out his hardest sounds, maybe even with some hints of his early years on Chain Reaction. You should go, just in case.
2. Actress (Le Poisson Rouge, 01.15 am, 19th April)
We couldn't think of a better time and place to debut “R.I.P.”, one of the two albums Darren J. Cunningham has in store for us this year; the perfect follow-up to “Splaszh”, possibly the best album made in 2010. Actress' techno goes its own way, disappearing into thick smoke where you have to stick your head in to fully enjoy his post-Detroit fantasies, vague dub connections and fragmented rhythms.
1. Julia Holter (Issue Project Room, 09.00 pm, 18th April)
There’s no better way to start this Wednesday, than with a night dedicated to the new writers operating on the intersection of classical and popular music; naturalist reality and surrealist dreams. Julia Holter might have made 2012's most captivating album with “ Ekstasis” (RVNG Intl.), a meeting in distant, dreamy realms, between atmospheric pop and chamber music, with references to high-brow literature and the Middle Ages. On stage, Julia Holter becomes a one-woman orchestra, weaving delicate melodies into fine cloths of fragile electronica. She will be accompanied by cellist Julia Kent (formerly of Antony & The Johnsons, nowadays more influenced by Bach suites) and Jenny Hval, another musician in the vein of Holter herself.