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Festival Review and Photos: Unsound Festival, Day 3, April 20, 2012 – New York, NY



Electronic music, and particularly bass music, is one of the more fickle beasts of the music community. In the right circumstance, with the right sound equipment, it can sound and feel like the best thing you’ve ever heard, but inferior technology can leave something wanting. Fortunately Friday night’s show at the Warsaw was firmly in the former camp rather than the latter.

As doors opened Brooklyn’s (and yes all the acts I caught at this show were from Brooklyn) Zemi17 had already taken the stage. Though there wasn’t much to look at aside from the projections, the visceral experience was what made this set interesting. Due to the speakers that surrounded the listening space (I would say dancefloor, but not too much dancing was happening at least at this point) the whole floor was shaking. This is the ideal environment for hearing electronic music, each hit of Zemi17’s four on the floor concoctions was felt, both literally and metaphorically. Bass rumbles made their presence known in the hearts, minds, and faces of attendees. Though his set didn’t resemble brostep in the slightest, the appeal of such a concert becomes clear when you’re provided with a sound system such as this. When you can physically feel each note, in addition to hearing it, you become so much more involved in the experience. His set was full of insistent beats surrounded by spacey instrumentals and it made for a perfect start to the night in a mostly empty room.

Laurel Halo’s set, though no less affecting, certainly was lighter on the rumbles. Instead we were treated to her angelic vocals typical of her early EPs. Though the set was mostly entertaining, the instrumental numbers tended to drag a bit due to their lack of physical presence. They were still interesting to listen to, but they lacked the punch of the set that Zemi17 had delivered shortly before. Fortunately this was made up for by the abundance of vocal tracks that she dropped. Though she wasn’t really putting on much of a show aside from the headbobbing that accompanied each track, it was still a pleasant listen and one that certainly surpasses the shows that many laptop musicians put on night after night.

The last act that I caught, due to the increasingly late hour of the night, was Brooklyn scenester Daniel Martin-McCormick, performing that night under his Ital moniker. I’ll admit a bit of bias, the album he released earlier this year, Hive Mind, is probably my favorite electronic release of the year so far, so it was going to be a pleasing set regardless of what sort of performance Martin-McCormick put together. Even Hive Mind couldn’t prepare me for how immense this live set was. Though Martin-McCormick certainly benefitted from the punch of the aforementioned sound system, tracks like album opener (and set closer) “Doesn’t Matter If You Love Him” took on an amazingly vibrant live presence. On record, many of these tracks, though structured in a fashion familiar to fans of House music, take on a much more insular bent. In their studio incarnations, these are tracks that while reliant on insistent beats maintain some sort of bedroom characteristic. They feel like tracks that you should be listening to on headphones rather than in a club, but finally hearing them in a club changed all that. Maybe it was Martin-McCormick’s enthusiastic dance moves that accompanied every button press on his midi controller, but these tracks seemed like absolute bangers live, and they never really struck me that way on record. Through clattering drums, overemphasized bass and the ever present vocal samples, Ital constructed a live set unmatched by many electronic producers much more popular than he was.

Though I was unable to stick around to catch sets by Hieroglyphic Being, Demdike Stare, and Monolake, the set at the Warsaw certainly represented another interesting dynamic of Unsound Festival. Friday night’s lineup was firmly dancefloor minded and was all the better for it.


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