By Katrina Lobley
When 2016 Adelaide Festival’s artistic director David Sefton first heard of Unsound, an experimental music festival in Krakow, he had no idea of its Australian connections.
It turned out Unsound’s co-founder, Mat Schulz, was from Wagga.
“In 2013 I invited him to do a one-off initially to work with me on doing an Unsound for Adelaide,” says Sefton.
“That was such a success on every level that there seemed no reason not to keep going. So we’ve done it every festival of mine.
“Every year it’s a massive hit. Every year we manage to bring a completely different line-up of really interesting artists and each year we find a bigger space to put it in. This year, it’s going into its biggest space in the Thebarton Theatre.”
Unsound fans could see both nights of music or just the one gig.
On February 26, the bill included Nine Inch Nails’ keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, who performed an experimental set on synth with his own visuals accompanying the show.
Mogwai bassist Barry Burns joined forces with French-born techno veteran Kangding Ray, who made his Australian debut, to present a new work that’s cinematic in scale.
The bill also included dubstep pioneer Kode9, American producer Jlin and NSW group Tralala Blip, featuring members with and without disabilities.
The February 27 line-up included Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, whose score for the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything won him a Golden Globe statuette and an Oscar nomination.
He presented minimalist, drone and electronic compositions together with Australian art-music outfit Zephyr Quartet.
Austrian guitarist Fennesz returned to Australia for the first time in 15 years – he collaborated with another single-monikered creative, the Berlin-based video artist Lillevan.
Sefton credits “a really curious audience” with Unsound’s enduring success Down Under.
“There’s a lot of really interesting work out there,” he says.
“But these things don’t tour the commercial circuit. They don’t play the big outdoor festivals; they’re not going to get on the big Stereosonic-type line-ups because they don’t fit into that world.”
The festival therefore provides a rare platform for this type of music – and audiences are appreciative.
“The Adelaide Festival has the means to bring however many of these artists out together and to be ambitious about that,” he says.
“We’re in a really privileged position to be able to go large with it. I think audiences don’t get it elsewhere and they’re incredibly enthusiastic.”
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