UNSOUND HALLOWEEN HIGH with JLIN, WAYNE MCGREGOR and THE UNSOUND TORONTO ENSEMBLE at Bluma Appel Theatre, Friday, October 27. Rating: NNNN
After shocking Toronto’s colossal, long-abandoned Hearn Generating Station back to life with Luminato in 2015 and 2016, experimental sound and art festival Unsound was noticeably absent from the city this June. The Kraków-based international fest hasn’t given up on us, however, and they’ve returned with tricks and treats for Toronto’s upscale goths (they must have spotted us lurking the Hearn) with two Halloween sit-down shows on consecutive Fridays, October 27 and November 3.
The lux incarnation may have disoriented locals who gleefully rumbled with Sunn O))) while flakes of cement dislodged from the Hearn’s ceiling in 2016, but anyone familiar with Unsound’s work outside Toronto knows 2017’s bougier itineration isn’t off-brand — New Yorkers dig Unsound programming at spots like Lincoln Center — and last night’s show proved Unsound is less interested in repeating patterns than looking for new ways to disrupt them.
The first night, dubbed Halloween High, opened with a screening of Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 Scarlett Johansson-starring alien horror film Under The Skin, with Mica Levi’s tense score performed live by the Unsound Toronto Ensemble. The movie’s on some serious David Lynch shit — like Twin Peaks, Season 3, Episode 8 shit: weird, uncomfortable and magnificent. Yet Glazer’s creepy take on the Born Sexy Yesterday trope falls short, even if Johansson’s character is granted more autonomy than most genre peers.
The orchestra’s position on stage threatened to take away from Under The Skin’s scare factor, but watching the conductor (and some of the players) take in the tautly paced brutality along with us, it soon became evident that the Ensemble was complicit in our frightening, sinisterly bending notes and melodies to echo the twisted atmosphere on screen.
Tension and body horror carried on to a much anticipated set by Indiana producer Jlin, who at Unsound Toronto 2016 had the side room going wild. Jlin, who often performs with dancer Avril Stormy Unger (they first met at Unsound in Krakówin 2015), was joined by Autobiography Edits choreographer Wayne McGregor, a verified weirdo who maps dance steps to the sequence of his own DNA — taking the audience far deeper under the skin.
Autobiography Edits can best be described as Adderall ballet meets health goth gym, with each dancer looking like they’re dressed exclusively from Alexander Wang’s Resort collections. Jlin’s frantic post-footwork beats sync to the rapid, sometimes slick, sometimes jarringly casual movement of the dancers so eerily that the cyborg art age feels imminent and the secret locations of future raves will be in the uncanniest of valleys.
A standing ovation proved Toronto and Unsound still have mutual feelings for each other, abating some anxieties spiked by the Halloween shows’ relocation from 3000-capacity Sony Centre to Bluma Appel Theatre’s 900 seats (for comparison, the Hearn’s tiny side room had a cap of 650). If we can maintain the bond, the Polish fest may just be the one to finally bring the cyborg raves to our ravines.
Unsound is back with Halloween Hangover on Friday, November 3rd with Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (S U R V I V E) playing the synth sounds of Stranger Things, plus MFO, Theresa Baumgartner, GAS, and Księżyc. See listing.
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