This year’s bill for experimental electronic music festival Unsound Adelaide, hosted at the Polish Club and The Lab, aims to sate locals' pent-up desire for international and genre-pushing contemporary electronic music.
Pioneering producers are taking over Dom Polski for Unsound Adelaide
CityMag meets Lee Cumberlidge at the Dom Polski Centre on Angas Street in the city.
As we exchange our hellos, we survey the room – a very empty, two-storey, 700-capacity venue. In a matter of months, the Eastern European cultural hall will mutate to become the centre of Adelaide’s experimental music universe.
22—23 July 2022
Dom Polski Centre + The Lab
More info and tickets here.
“Unsound is a Polish event,” says Lee, co-founder and creative director of South Australia’s multidisciplinary winter lights festival, Illuminate Adelaide, to explain the choice of venue. Dom Polski is not known for hosting a lot of music festivals.
“We’ll bring an audio system in here, screen technology, lighting technology to really transform this space. It’s got such great acoustics, and it’s a really solid venue.”
When CityMag attended the launch of Illuminate Adelaide’s program at the venue two weeks ago, we were taken aback at how perfectly the Polish Club – fitted out with branding and lighting – presents as a venue for underground music.
The bones of the space are mid-century architecture, stretching from the ground floor to the mezzanine, and the room was accented with flourishes such as a lonely disco ball hanging in the middle of the ceiling and period-looking chandeliers. The club is a little bit dingy, but also perfect.
Unsound founders Mat Schulz and Gosia Płysa had a similar reaction when they visited, and were instantly enamoured with the space, Lee says.
“When they walked in here, they were just like, ‘Oh, this is fantastic’,” he says.
“It’s perfect for doing really loud, really weird and strange sounds. It’ll be transformed in a way that I think people won’t recognise it as the Polish Club.”
Unsound Adelaide will run from 22—23 July as part of Illuminate Adelaide. The Unsound festival proper has been running for 15 years and calls Kraków, Poland, home.
The Adelaide program includes better-known international acts, such as Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, composer-producer Kali Malone, poet-singer Moor Mother (under the 700 BLISS moniker with Discwoman’s DJ Haram) and Uganda’s MC Yallah and Debmaster.
Australian bands include post-punk duo HTRK – billed to play last year’s MAAD program for Illumiate, which was cancelled due to COVID – as well as industrial three-piece MY DISCO, plus electronic producer Corin – the latter of which is performing as part of the late-night Unsound Club.
Unsound Club is running from 11:30pm—5am on both nights of the festival, hosted at LED-screen-wrapped venue The Lab (at Light). The activation will extend the festival’s life by billing musicians with a penchant for late-night club sounds.
Some acts will span both Unsound programs, such as Discwoman’s DJ Haram, but Lee says the Club will showcase musicians “pushing the boundary of club music” at the moment, with The Lab set to be “the place to go after”.
When we ask Lee – who, along with David Sefton, helped spearhead Unsound’s Adelaide satellite program in 2017 – who he’s excited about from Unsound’s main program, without missing a beat he says Stephen O’Malley.
“He creates these incredible environments of sound that you can sit within,” Lee says of the member of cult drone doom band Sunn O))).
“I’m looking forward to seeing his collaboration with Kali Malone as well, who is new to me.”
Another highlight is the dual Fractal Fantasy DJs and producers, DJs Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke, who will incorporate motion tracking technology into their performances, creating large moving avatars.
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Landing international acts outside Europe’s orbit was important, Lee says, which is why he’s looking forward to hip-hop savants MC Yallah and Debmaster, from Uganda, taking over the main stage.
“There’s this scene coming out of Uganda that you see most in the programs within the Nyege Nyege Festival, and it’s really interesting,” he says.
Compared to Melbourne and Sydney, Adelaide’s pool of electronic music fans is significantly smaller (though no less enthusiastic). When we ask Lee, who is also a co-founder of MONA FOMA, how Unsound Adelaide’s team will attract punters to a festival boasting very niche genres of music, he says ticket sales already reveal local appetite.
“There are audiophiles that seek what’s new and what’s ground-breaking and it’s really great to see them come out,” Lee says.
“We’ve seen tickets already selling quite strongly – a lot stronger than we even did in 2018 – and I think that’s because there’s a lot of pent-up demand for interesting international music in general, which is not the usual set of circumstances.
“But I think our experience, Rachael [Azzopardi] and I, of doing new things in different places, gives us that sense that you have to commit and take risks artistically in order to make sure that you’re really providing experiences for a really wide range of audiences across the board, and I think Illuminate more generally tries to do that.”
For more information on Unsound Adelaide, visit the website.