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Unsound 2012: Nine Days Of Darkness

The prestigious Krakow festival starts this Saturday. PlayGround will be there to report, but first, our recommendations, day by day

This Saturday, the Unsound festival kicks off in Krakow, Poland. It’s one of the essential dates for experimental music in Europe and we'll be there to tell you all about it. Before that, however, we take a look at the bill: nine days, nine suggestions.

The Unsound festival is turning 10 this year, and the organisation chose to celebrate it with an, at first sight, chilling theme: The End. Is this the last one? We doubt it very much: over the years, Unsound has consolidated itself as one of the most visionary experimental music events, specialising in the connection between electronica and classical music, avant-garde dance music and the frictions between noise and calm. It's not a dance festival, nor a gathering of the underground minorities, but an event that offers a dialogue between the different disciplines, and gives a very complete idea of the state of cutting edge music at this very moment. Give or take some obvious differences (because they're not the same kind of festival, neither structurally or in mentality), Unsound is, with Sónar, the most important experimental music event of the year in Europe.

In fact, The End has to do with all the ideas that have been going around for months about the hypothetical end of the world in 2012, which offers many options. Unsound starts this Saturday, 13th October, and will unfold its apocalyptic program for a full week, until the 21st. The festival takes over the city of Krakow (the most tourist-friendly and beautiful of Poland), and divides its activities over different spaces located in the Jewish neighbourhood, the historical centre and the banks of the river Vístula. Events take place in cinemas, galleries, churches adapted for a concert audience, museums and, as the stellar stage of this tenth edition, the Hotel Forum, an abandoned building on the west bank of the river, reminiscent of the hotel in “The Shining”; the latter will be the stage for the DJ sets and nocturnal dance concerts.

Over the past weeks, we've been bringing you Unsound-related news and content, including podcasts ( MikeQ and Ron Morelli; and tomorrow, we'll have one by Metasplice that will freeze your blood) and line-up previews. Now the moment has come to go over the exceptional bill and advise you to, if you're around and have the time, get on a plane to Katowice, take the bus to Krakow and enjoy the event's breath-taking line-up. Here are nine recommendations for nine days.

Day 1: Saturday, 13th October

Unsound always starts smoothly. On Saturday, the first and only activity is the start of the film cycle selected by audiovisual duo Jigoku (a tribute to the Japanese cult flick about a descent into the inferno) with 'The End' as a theme: destruction, the end of days, the Apocalypse, and so on. The movie marathon at the Pod Baranami space will feature the documentary “The Late Great Planet Earth”, narrated by Orson Welles, the mythical “Mad Max”, which brought the world Mel Gibson on a dry planet with mortal traffic, “This Is Not A Test” and “Les Temps Morts”. All that, at a more than accessible price: 15 złoty, less than 4 euro. There will be film viewings here all week.

Day 2: Sunday, 14th October

The start of the concerts. At the Engineering Museum, in the Jewish neighbourhood, there's a double bill connecting two extremes of techno and new noise, with Jacek Sienkiewicz (moving away from his more Detroit-like sound and entering gliding territory with a special set that will last exactly 20 minutes) and KTL (Stephen O’Malley + Peter Rehberg) playing a live soundtrack to Murnau's classic film “Sunrise”. Entrance fee: 25 złoty (six euro). At the same time, at the Pauza, the opening party takes plays, featuring DJ sets by Opium Hum, Andy Votel, Mi$gogo, Chino and one of our favourite journalists, Philip Sherburne.

Day 3: Monday, 15th October

The activities start to diversify: a chat with Andy Votel at the Bunkier Sztuki, an audiovisual installation at the Radar Gallery, and an afternoon of fear at the Engineering Museum - with a bill that combines local experimenters (Hubert Zemler), Japanese noise veterans (Fushitsusha), Australian drone and lower frequencies master Kevin Drumm and the new messiah of bloody and toxic techno, Vatican Shadow. 25 złoty.

Day 4: Tuesday, 16th October

The musical events take place at two spaces that day: at the Officer’s Casino we have Andy Votel (for the third time), this time paying tribute to Polish 70s avant-garde film soundtracks, a field he has been exploring as a digger in the past few years, accompanied by an ensemble that explores the links between electro-acoustics and jazz, Innercity Ensemble. At the Muzeum Manggha, on the banks of the river Vístula, the Now Everybody party is celebrated, featuring Pietnastka, chill-wave pioneers Ducktails and Teengirl Fantasy, taking their recent album “Tracer” to the stage. 25 złoty. Dead cheap

Day 5: Wednesday, 17th October

On Wednesday, things become serious and dense. The lecture department is covered by Stuart Argabright (founder of Black Rain, who will talk with the boys of Blackest Ever Black), Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin, alongside a discussion about the shape the record industry is in. On stage, a showcase of Polish avant-garde with influences from traditional Jewish music, with T’ien Lai and Tome Choloniewksi at Klub Re, and the evening Someone Else Was Dreaming Him at the Muzeum Manggha, featuring BNNT, the arid and esoteric The Haxan Cloak, legendary urban dubber Pole, and the always acidic and playful Atom TM.

Day 6: Thursday, 18th October

Peak day: lectures with journalists Dave Tompkins and Mark Pilkington (both from The Wire), occult Chicago hero Hieroglyphic Being, and Biosphere & Lustmord talking about their collaborative project to be debuted on Friday. At the Muzeum Manggha, an intense night (from 9.30 pm to 3 am) with gigs by Gathaspar, Holly Herndon, Tri Angle's new screwed & chopped signing Evian Christ, industrial acts Emptyset and Factory Floor, and Shed. But the main event is at St Katherine’s Chuch, a holy place for Julia Holter, who will play her songs with a string quartet, alongside the live premiere of the collaboration between Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin.

Day 7: Friday, 19th October

At the Feniks, an entire afternoon is dedicated to PAN, with plenty of plunderphonics and toxic ambient spaces, courtesy of Ben Vida, Helm, and Black Rain & Kotra. At the Kijow Centrum, the biggest cinema in town, an amazing double bill featuring the return of Leyland Kirby with his old project V/Vm, and the European premiere of Trinity, the collaboration between Biosphere and Lustmord, debuted last spring in New York. However, the strongest stuff will be going on at night at the phantasmagorical Hotel Forum: the bill, divided over three rooms, features Jacek Sienkiewicz, Etamski, Eltron John, Voices From The Lake, Robert Piernikowski, Max Dunbar, Black Rain, Shackleton, Beautiful Swimmers, Interplanetary Prophets ( Ital and Hieroglyphic Being), Juju & Jordash, Ron Morelli and Theo Parrish. Are you still here?

Day 8: Saturday, 20th October

The early program at the Muzeum Manggha, starting at 3 in the afternoon, is called Born Away By The Waves, and includes the four heroes of modern space and liquid music: Bee Mask (with spectacular albums out on Spectrum Spools and Room40, that take you to galaxies far, far away), Container, and two of Tri Angle's latest signings, Vessel and Wife. In the evening at the Engineering Museum, three names who have redefined industrial music in the past few years: the almighty Raime, Icelandic titan Ben Frost, and aTelecine, former porn star Sasha Grey's noise band. The finishing touch is once again at the Hotel Forum, with gigs by people like Cooly G, Slava, Metasplice, Mala (presenting “Mala In Cuba”), Heatsick, Fatima Al Qadiri, Kuedo, Traxman, Nguzunguzu, MikeQ, Oneman, and Ben UFO. If the previous night was all about the margins of techno, this night is all bass and broken rhythms. Spectacular.

Day 9: Sunday, 21st October

Unsound also finishes softly: at 7.30 pm, at the Tempel Synagogue, Everything Has Ended, And Everything Ends, featuring Sza/Za/Ze and Demdike Stare with a special show for Unsond called “Concealed”. The closing party is at Pauza, with Bill Kouligas (the PAN boss), Bass Clef, NHK’Koyzen, V/Vm (for the second time around), Acid Alan, Dave Tompkins and Hieroglyphic Being. As the subtitle of the night says: “so that, in the end, there was no end”. Which can only mean that there'll be more of this in 2013.

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