Unsound is an amorphous, genre-spanning festival that fractures the idea of what belongs inside a club.
While only in its second year in Toronto, Unsound began in 2003 in Krakow, Poland and has become an annual event. The festival marks an emerging sensibility in Toronto’s musical community. Sponsored by Luminato Festival, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, Unsound took place at the Hearn Generating Plant, June 10-11.
The various visual installations that were featured throughout the power plant sought to esteem the event beyond being a space where debauchery and delirium are encouraged.Interactive audiovisual accompaniments were paired with several performances to create a conceptual experience.
The fusion of technology and sound manufactured a multi-sensory environment for audience members. Several artists, including Roly Porter, presented strobe lights that produced borderline hallucinatory effects. During the pair’s performance, audience members were asked to close their eyes in order to “hear with them” — the intention being to hear with your eyes rather than ears.
Their strobe lights were almost blinding, deliberately so, in order to facilitate a “light show beneath the lids.” Later in the night, Evian Christ closed the main stage’s set. He paired his laser light show with fog machines to obscure audience members, and provide a more solitary environment in which audience members could experience club music.
The industrial setting augmented the nostalgic and authentic revival of rave culture. Despite being housed in a generating plant, abstract forms of electronic music, such as Tim Hecker’s noise, were tolerated by an audience whose palates have been limited to more conventional soundscapes.
Genres that were heard were not exclusively limited to sonic abstraction — rather, in the side room, audience members were invited to watch as Olivia Ungaro and Aurora Halal, among others, performed sets rooted in techno. That said, even these artists used technical finesse to deconstruct canonic genres, and manipulated their qualifying parameters into new forms. Aurora Halal produced a live demonstration of how analog performance can yield the same perfection as a digitally produced track.
The artists on the lineup ensured that the sounds heard payed homage to the traditions of their respective genres, while paving a path for the future of the clubbing experience.
Toronto is small enough as a music city to be monopolized by management and public representation brands. These brands not only own their talent, but own the spaces in which their talent will perform. The monoculture that emerges from this hinders the growth of more experimental ecologies of genres that could flourish in a metropolis like ours. Unsound is a step against this monoculture, and a step in the right direction.