Unsound is co-presenting a music and performance program for the Solidarity of Arts Festival in Gdansk, at the invite of artistic director Magdalena Sroka and the European Solidarity Centre. Like Unsound, each year the Gdańsk-based festival presents multidisciplinary programs around themes that take a look at the contemporary world from different angles - this year their theme is Bravery.
Although Unsound has produced scores of events around the world - from New York and London to Minsk, Kiev, Tbilisi and Vladivostok - this marks the first time that the festival and platform has collaborated with a Polish partner outside Krakow on a large scale. The four-day event takes place from 22nd to 25th August at B90 and 100cznia, as well as in the European Solidarity Centre, all in the former Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity protests took place.
In various ways, the context of the event therefore connects with Unsound 2019’s own theme of Solidarity.
One of the program headliners are TANGERINE DREAM. Hugely popular across the Soviet Bloc during the time of communism, the band toured Poland in the 1980s in an era of Solidarity protests and political turbulence. They played two legendary shows in Warsaw in 1983, the following year releasing the classic live album Poland. Performing at the site of the Gdansk shipyards in B90 is an event with historical meaning that will resonate with a diverse demographic, as well as position the band as pioneers of electronic music.
Some acts connect explicitly to the theme, especially Russia’s PUSSY RIOT. Also performing at B90, they will present RIOT DAYS, an audio-visual piece that encapsulates punk and protest, blurring the line between concert and theatre in telling the story of the band’s political activism, arrest and imprisonment.
Polish artist SIKSA also channels a spirit of protest, her brutally honest performances smashing the patriarchy one gig at a time. Coming from punk, literary and theatre backgrounds, her shows dissect the Polish consciousness. To quote her own words, she's a girl on a mission - and will present a special show for the context of the Gdansk festival.
THE ROUND TABLE ORCHESTRA was formed especially for the European Solidarity Centre and Unsound Krakow, referencing the 1989 Warsaw talks in which the Polish government engaged in discussion with members of the opposition, including the trade union Solidarność. Its members include musicians of REMONT POMP - a percussion ensemble with members with and without a disability - as well as some of Poland’s best jazz musicians, including saxophonist/clarinetist MIKOŁAJ TRZASKA, bass player MIKE MAJKOWSKI, guitarist RAPHAEL ROGINSKI, saxophonist TOMASZ GADECKI and trumpeter TOMASZ ZIĘTEK. They will perform a free concert at the European Solidarity Centre.
Back in B90, the program includes HOLLY HERNDON, one of the most innovative and best known electronic musicians of her generation, who recently released the album Proto on 4AD to enormous acclaim. The unique works explores themes of community and tradition, as well as testing the boundaries between human and AI creativity. Alongside a human cast of collaborators, Holly also worked with Spawn, a program she calls her AI baby. The result is a fascinating and life-affirming take on songwriting, exploring profound ideas and powerful sounds. She performs with a choir.
Though a creator of primarily instrumental work, BEN FROST is a politically engaged artist, a vocal critic of inaction on environmental destruction. He also composed the score for the critically acclaimed film series The Invisibles, which documented the plight of Central American refugees for Amnesty International, and has collaborated with fellow artist Richard Mosse, most recently documenting various aspects of the European refugee crisis in the work Incoming. His most recent album The Centre Cannot Hold is an attempt at framing a descent into global instability, which he will present a live show with visual artist MFO.
SOFT POWER brings together London-based FELICITA - an electronic music producer with Polish roots connected to the label PC Music - and traditional dancers from the ŚLĄSK SONG AND DANCE ENSEMBLE. Commissioned by Unsound, the unique work is an unexpected synthesis of hyper-contemporary music and traditional choreography and costume to create a hypnotic multimedia experience. The concept stems from Felicita’s childhood education in traditional Polish dance, and explores folk culture, national identity, illusion and farce.
Polish songwriter and vocalist MARY KOMASA will present the music from her new record, where her versatile sound captures her uncompromising character. In her work, she openly defends the right to freedom and dignity of those who are excluded or discriminated against because of their identity.
Sleep concerts have become popular in recent years, an experience in which the audience listens and sleeps overnight while an artist or artists play, but the originator of the concept is Californian ambient musician and sound designer ROBERT RICH. Dating back to the 1980s, these events aim to influence the REM sleep cycle with auditory stimulus, altering the state of consciousness of those sleeping. Unsound first presented a Robert Rich sleep concert in 2013, the first such event for many years. Now Robert returns to Poland to perform overnight at the European Solidarity Centre, creating a special sense of community around sound.
Events at 100cznia - also located in the Gdansk shipyard - will take place around a communal vegan kitchen, where members of the local community as well as artists will get involved in cooking - while getting to hear some great Polish music. Acts include the highly acclaimed post-minimalist/avant-jazz trio LOTTO, while POLMUZ incorporates Polish folk, jazz and electronics.
Unsound Solidarity takes place in Kraków between 6 and 13 October. For more info visit www.unsound.pl/solidarity and a Facebook event. Weekly and Weekend Passes are sold out, but you can still buy a Forum Pass and tickets to Sunn O))) concert. They are available through Going. Tickets to rest of the shows will go on sale in August. Some of the events are free.