Returning to the South Australian Freemason’s Grand Lodge for night two of Unsound Adelaide the anticipation was building for a night possibly grander the previous evening.
The throbbing live bass guitar of Forest Swords grinding over thick dub beats drew us into the main hall – a welcome sight to see some traditional instrumentation mixed with desk artisty. It certainly wasn’t all dub odyssey, with Matthew Barnes touching on Portisheadish trip hop beats, explorations into distinctly bluesy phrasing and somewhat Spaghetti Western guitar moments that gave me pleasant Ennio Morricone chills.
It is very difficult to describe what happened next when immersed into the RGB world of ATOM ™ & Robin Fox. Full body scans of laser light with visceral sounds that boil blood in a surreal sensory tennis match with Uwe Schmidt’s Germanic precision electro dance sounds and video projections. His luminous head projected above us – a demigod of the matrix reassuring us that the following treatment will be painless and liberating. Sensory overload was balanced with ambience of deep grey noise and indistinct swirling visuals – a respite for our synapses. You can’t dance to architecture and it is equally hard to give words to this performance that would be subjected to injustice if described simply as a sound & light show.
The Bug (Kevin Martin) proved to be a major crowd pleaser – bathed in haematological light, underpinned by siren driven loops, he delivered subterranean dub beats weaving below high frequency drone. He would also move effortlessly between open ended electronica and the framework of traditional song structures, working dynamic arches and minimalism as a counterpoint to his heavy artillery dancehall beats. Intermixed with eviscerating hip hop from Manga and a toasty Miss Red – the audience were in it penny for a pound. This did raise some interesting questions and discussion with my concert going companion about the propensity for Australian audiences to self-identify with music touching on themes of class struggle, in what is arguably a much more egalitarian society.
Lastly (Sam) Shackleton took us back into realms that one would be mistaken as thinking of as traditional techno sounds, although such an error could be made if one were not paying attention. Clever xylophonic arpeggiated sounds overlays old school beats, but builds in Tubular Bells fashion with simultaneously stripping back older layers. It was nothing short of painting through music. And throughout this thoroughly danceable symphony were very distinct melodies, sometimes like a folk tune, differentiating this electronic musical craftsmanship from the less adept IDM-meisters.
Will Unsound return next year under David Seftons extended tenure as Director of the Adelaide Festival, or have we experienced something quite special and unique over the past three years? There is no doubt Australia’s appetite has grown year on year – and it would be a shame for the momentum to stop now.