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FEST REVIEW: UNSOUND, POLAND

Eastern Europes's bravest festival experience

Krakow’s abandoned Hotel Forum defines communist design, invoking Orwellian futures via a rejection of humanist aesthetics. Instead it boasts a brutish, unforgiving concrete designperfectly suited to 1984's dictatorial ministries.

That it'sthe focal point for Unsound Festival’s tenth instalment makes perfect sense, then. A week of sonic discussions and dancing, finishing with an almighty two-day session, 2012’s theme centres on The End. Be that of freedom, life, creativity, or this annual event (as rumours suggested), whatever ‘it’ was went out with an audible bang. A fact that can, in part, be attributed to the production quality, venue choice and soundsystems.

As night falls on Friday, we approach the monolithic building with tangible excitement over what's to come. By this point the location is shrouded in thick mist, hanging heavy in the air like pea soup, making it impossible to see more than 30 feet ahead, let alone recognise that we're in the centre of a major European city. In line with the aforementioned concept, the world beyond our party could well have stopped altogether.

That wouldn't have been much of a problem, mind, as inside the curious complex we havealmost everything required. Thesight of a guests' buffet serving hot food at 1am confirms our self-sufficiency, not to mention accentuates the sensation of raving in bizarre surrounds, withthe first night of Unsound's final weekendoffering an abundance of must-sees too.

Shackleton being one example. He delivers a confusing, cacophonous and difficult to define meld of broken beats, edging towards a bare bones, fart-free dubstep variation. Despite the lack of flatulent bass, the room still stinks though, with the time signature-straddling mix giving percussion heads plenty to sweat over — and discuss afterwards. That this follows a poorly-placed ambient performance by Voices From The Lake (nice as the lush noises are) only makes his set feel more energetic and vital.

Other nods must go to the likes of Juju & Jordash for their patient, spatial hour of deep tech house. This is a stark contrast to Theo Parrish, who's present and correct in typically groove-infused, disco-topped form. This only scratches the surface of our audio intake — another hat tip must go to the programmers for ensuring that Saturday doesn't disappoint either.

In fact, the following evening's after-dark entertainment is even better, although it stops short of perfection. Reaching the main room (and former restaurant) in time for future-house girl Cooly G’s live set, we feel that despite her vocally impressive and musically astute performance the showcase offunk and soul-leaning danceable tracks still needs to mature before coming into its own.

A little later Digital Mystik founding member Mala is somewhat astonishing, given Unsound is the first time his recent LP, 'Mala In Cuba', has been performed anywhere. Expanding, dissecting and rebuilding album tracks, you could easily assume this to be a far more established and practised stage show, with the entourage refusing to simply repeat the record. A multitude of drums, instruments and samples are employed, creating evocatively exotic rhythms, far more representative of the eponymous Caribbean republicof the release title than any urban sounds from the London producer’s hometown.

Those looking forbouncy 4/4s aren’t left disappointed either, albeit so long as they can stomach them being served up at 135BPM+. Without knowing where he’s from, after five minutes watching juke hero Traxman even the least observant could recognise an inherent Windy City style – his approach to turntable melding is wholly reliant on cutting, stabbing, juggling, and perhaps most importantly, having fun. Furthermore, the vinyl selection isn’t bad either, dropping sounds like Cajmere’s 'Percolator'to make hips shake and bodies jack with a zeal often sorely missing from the contemporary club scene.

By the time of our departure, Ben UFO is alsoinvolved in the action, driving hulky, wide-load techno and heavy, dark electro into a rapidly depleting — but still enthusiastic and welcoming — hotel crowd. Needless to say, disappointment abounds when time is properly called. A truly spectacular double-header, both innovative and bold, Unsound is also visually unforgettable, albeit far from beautiful. As such it's hard not to imagine returning for the next edition — that's if they'll have us back, of course

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