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Unsound Founder: "You Don't Come To Confirm What You Know, But Discover"

23 October 2017 | 4:11 pm | Mat Schulz

By Mat Schulz – co-artistic director of Unsound Adelaide, founder of Unsound

In 2015, Unsound Krakow had the theme Surprise: the concept was that we would announce only around fifty percent of the program, and that remaining acts would perform without any pre-announcement, and would only be added to the website schedule afterward.

In curatorial terms, it disrupted the concept of headliners. Richie Hawtin played without any warning at 4am in a small room in a club, while a relatively unknown Polish experimental hip hop group had a prime slot elsewhere.

This created a tension between the known and the unknown, and made you assess expectations that you bring to a show, and how they influence the way that you listen. It also made me realize that the Unsound audience is not only very trusting, but actively expects us to present artists and works they've never heard before.

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And so, I began to think of an Unsound maxim: you don't come to confirm what you know, but discover. In fact, at this point, a risk-taking action for us would be to consciously and cynically populate our program with headliners as a way of seducing an audience. The Unsound audience we've developed over the years would not react well.

Instead, our festival is full of commissioned projects we initiate and help develop, often with artists we've established long-term relationships with. We also try to represent emerging artists, and the freshest strains of club and experimental sound, navigating paths through the contemporary overload of music.

In some ways, this approach is like that of a label, but the results are live and ephemeral: sometimes the acts blow minds, occasionally they flop. But even the failures are usually somehow interesting.

Which relates to another way I think about the festival: as a laboratory, a place of experiments. The Unsound audience becomes willing participants in the experiment - without them, and their trust, it wouldn't exist.

In terms of these ideas, the first stand-alone Unsound Adelaide event is by far the boldest, and closest in programming style to our flagship festival in Krakow. We have world premiere projects - such as Robin Fox's new laser work and the trio of Ambarchi / Abrahams / Avenaim. We also have some incredibly fresh sounds, from an underground legend like Errorsmith - whose new album is just about to drop - to Amnesia Scanner, Holly Herndon and Kara-Lis Coverdale. Then there's the surprising left turn addition of Señor Coconut. 

Maybe you've heard of some of these artists, maybe their names mean nothing to you. Either way, if you approach Unsound Adelaide with open ears and an open mind, I'm convinced that the Unsound maxim - come to the festival to discover - will make total sense. So, see you there to celebrate a shared sonic adventure!

Head to Unsound Adelaide's website for more details and buy tickets here.