The Exotic Appetizer: Unsound With Vladislav Delay & Sebastian Meissner

Sebastian Meissner

It'd be no surprise to say, two weeks from now, that the New York installment of Poland's Unsound Festival blew my mind. But the fact is that it already did so tonight, and in such an unconventional manner, comes as a shock. Month after month, the Bunker parties as well as my few but favorably attended Wordless Music events have consistently impressed and enlightened me. Unsound's opening reception - featuring Vladislav Delay + visual artist Lillevan as well as Sebastian Meissner leading the Kwartludium quartet - was a deconstruction of established ideas, and left my American mindset feeling completely mindfucked. While it was happening, I couldn't understand, but as both performances came to an end and a few discussions were had, the mission to blow apart expectation, regimentation and perception was coming in to focus.

Sebastian Meissner's conduction of a four musicians set against a handful of SST classics was far from a cover band. In all honestly, I went into the event believing I had no preconceived notions about how this "modern classical interpretation" was going to unravel. I was wrong...I think. I had expected, perhaps, to hear as much as one riff or one famous vocal line translated through the violin or piano atop a dubby whirl of live samples and loops, but it wasn't the case. This was not an ambient filtering of punk, but a complete deconstruction (there's that word again) of some of the simplest sonic structures. It was best commented on after the event by a friend, who acknowledged the difference between a city of, say, New York and those that make up the cultural backgrounds of Unsound's Eastern European lineup. Poland. Romania. Belarus. Ukraine... These countries are vast and far more ancient than most of North America's development, and their cities and roads were developed on anything but a grid system.

One other amazing comparison made by such friend was that of going to a fine restaurant and trying something new. The chef takes one exotic element and piles one or two other exotic elements on top, but it's so small and you taste it and in an instant it's over and you say, "Well, what the hell was that?!" After about seven or eight courses, though, you begin to understand the purpose of that first course in the big picture, and it all ties together and harmonizes the palette somehow. Ultimately, this could be the genius that lies ahead at the close of the Unsound Festival...let's see.


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