Words: Cecilia Doreng-Stearns
Photos: Katya Guseva and Stephanie Kimberly
While Unsound Festival was born in Poland and hosts its primary events in Krakow during October, the past several years have seen it bring progressive and experimental electronic music to New York City. This year, the festival took place from the April 18 through the April 22 and featured a variety of groundbreaking artists who performed in both noteworthy live music spaces and untraditional venues across Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Of all the events that take place during Unsound, for many, Bass Mutations is the one most looked forward to. This event focuses on bass music’s latest evolutions, something that New York City and Brooklyn in particular is very preoccupied with at the moment. This year, Nguzunguzu, 2562, Sepalcure (Machinedrum and Braille), Distal, Throwing Snow, Teeth, and DaveQ lead the charge into the uncharted bass territories.
The event took place at a slightly decrepit movie theater in Williamsburg aptly entitled Indie Screen, which had been transformed into a space fit not only for dancing but also for viewing the visuals that accompanied the sound. The space was split into two rooms, with one room housing the DJ booth, bar, dancefloor and a bit of seating, and the other an actual movie theater complete with a sizable screen and row upon row of cushioned seats. While the aural artists performed in one room, the visual artists displayed their talents in the other, with the sound feeding in through the theater’s speakers.
While the musical line-up might have been the initial draw to the event, and the DJs did indeed keep the dancefloor full, the true stars of Bass Mutations were the visual artists. Of particular prominence was Sougwen’s projection mapping that accompanied Sepalcure’s live performance. The visuals were projection mapped onto three screens, with the two smaller ones standing in the foreground to create a sense of depth and space. The black, grey, and white imagery provided the perfect accompaniment to the atmospheric sounds that were being performed in the room next door.
While the pairing of visuals with sound is no groundbreaking concept, the manner in which it was done at Bass Mutations was unique and thought provoking. By forcing the viewers to remove themselves from the dancefloor and enter a separate room in order to experience the visuals, the viewers became disengaged from the “party” atmosphere and more in tune with their senses. There was something engaging about moving between the two rooms, one of sound and one of sight, that enhanced the experience of what might otherwise simply have been another thrown together bass event in Brooklyn. By removing the element of watching the DJs as they played, the visual room shifted the entire experience of the set, creating a more simplistic and intellectual environment.