Unsound Festival is returning to Toronto for a two-night Halloween special taking place at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. We spoke with Unsound's co-founder and artistic director Mat Schulz to get the scoop on what makes these events different and what to expect.
Luminato: People in Toronto may be familiar with the Unsound Toronto festival we presented at the Hearn Generating Station in 2015 and 2016, but Unsound takes many forms worldwide. What is Unsound?
Mat: Unsound is an international platform of electronic and experimental music, with a very diverse program. Its main festival is in Krakow, Poland, where we produce a wide range of shows in many different venues, often thinking about how architecture intersects with sound and the experience of a live show or club event. We commission many new works, and are also known for putting a spotlight on emerging artists. We also produce Unsound events in many places around the world, from larger capital cities such as New York, London and Toronto to more isolated locations as far away as Vladivostok and Murmansk in Russia, or Almaty in Kazakhstan. The music programs also often relate to visual works, including video art, lasers, and innovative use of lighting. If we wanted to encapsulate the idea of Unsound in a sentence, it would be that you don't come to our festivals and events to confirm what you know, but discover.
L: How will this year's Unsound Halloween events be similar or different to previous Unsound events in Toronto?
M: As far as adapted spaces go, The Hearn was an incredible venue, but we're now excited by the idea of producing memorable, unexpected shows in a more traditional seated theatre setting. The program we've made reflects this. Though the guiding force is sound and music, the shows embraces other arts forms, such as dance, film and video art. We've tried to create a program that is innovative, takes risks, yet will also engage a wider audience.
L: Tell us about Halloween High and Halloween Hangover. What was the thinking behind these particular lineups?
M: Both of the lineups are centered around Halloween, so in different ways they're dark or even spooky, but sit together in unexpected combinations.
For Halloween High we're screening Under the Skin, an acclaimed sci-fi / horror film directed by Jonathon Glazer, which has an utterly mesmerizing score by Mica Levi that will be played by the especially assembled Unsound Toronto Ensemble. The double bill also features a show by Jlin – one of the most hyped electronic musicians of the year – with dancers from Company Wayne McGregor. Together they will perform Autobiography Edits – a condensed version of Autobiography, a work that tonally I think will intersect with Under the Skin in an interesting way – but will leave the audience on a high.
Halloween Hangover features synth musicians Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein playing live music from the hit horror TV series Stranger Things, which very clearly fits the Halloween vibe. The second series will even be launched on Netflix for Halloween! Alongside this is an A/V show from legendary German electronic composer GAS who plays ambient music, often with a deeply submerged techno beat, while the visuals take the audience through dark, almost hallucinatory forests. It's a very intense experience. Also on the lineup is the Polish band Ksiezyc, channeling ancient Slavic music to create a show that is very otherworldly, even mystical. This is a powerful trio of shows that I think will leave audiences with a mix of contrasting and vivid impressions.
L: What's your Halloween costume this year?
M: Like much of the Unsound audience, I almost always wear black, so I'm not sure I'll need to dress any differently!