The Toronto edition of Unsound Festival returns to the massive abandoned Hearn Generator Station for its second year this weekend, and promises to be one of the most unique events in the city this summer. Unsound originated in 2003 in Krakow, Poland, and has expanded over the years to include spin-offs in New York, London, and Adelaide.
The festival has always put a focus on using unconventional venues, from abandoned tobacco factories to holding a salt mine hundreds of meters below the surface. Their musical programming has long been similarly adventurous, featuring everything from experimental noise music to forward-thinking techno.
While all of the talent is top-notch this year, here's our five picks for must-see acts, with an accompanying playlist featuring other artists playing the two-day event.
Hometown: New York City, NY (originally from Washington, DC)
Why: The DJ and producer has played a key role in Brooklyn's underground DIY party scene through her Mutual Dreaming event series, and is one of the organizers behind the amazing upstate techno summer camp Sustain-Release. Besides throwing can't-miss events, she's also known for her video art and documentary work, including a film about electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick. Her live performances specialize in elegant melodic techno with traces of early trance influences.
When: June 11 at 1 AM (Side Room)
Hometown: London, UK
Why: British producer and musician Kevin Martin has made jazzcore as part of ensemble GOD, industrial hip-hop as Techno Animal, and helped influence the early days of dubstep through his work as The Bug. Most recently, he's collaborated on more ambient material with Japanese singer Kiki Hitomi and Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson, as King Midas Sound. For his Unsound set, he'll be joined onstage by dancehall MCs Flowdan and Miss Red, both of whom guested on his excellent 2014 album, Angels & Devils.
When: June 10 at 1:20 AM (Music Room)
Hometown: Berlin, Germany (originally from Houston, TX)
Why: Producer J'Kerian Morgan makes jagged, experimental electronic music that mixes in subtle references to ballroom, dancehall, R&B, and more. His DJ sets are wildly eclectic, jumping from Rihanna to noisy IDM in the blink of an eye, while his productions tend to lean towards the abstract side. His remixes of artists like Bjork and Teengirl Fantasy have an eerie beauty to them, freely mixing ugly noise and pretty melodies, and he'll be making his Canadian debut at Unsound.
When: June 10 at 12 AM (Side Room)
Hometown: Hamilton, ON
Why: We can't think of a better way to end Unsound than a live performance by Hamilton, Ontario duo Orphx. Fresh off an appearance at MUTEK, Christine Sealey and Richard Oddie have been honing their industrial sounds since the mid-90s, and their shows are dark, gritty, and full of richly-detailed textures.While their early work was more drone-based and ambient, over the years they've incorporated tough techno rhythms, and warm analog modular synth gurgles.
When: June 11 at 3 AM (Music Room)
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Why: Drone metal veterans Sunn O))) might seem like an odd fit alongside so many electronic acts, but their idiosyncratic approach to guitar music fits in better at Unsound than most rock festivals. Their insanely loud live shows are legendary, relying on walls of tuned-down guitars, waves of feedback, glacially slow tempos, and dense fog to overwhelm the senses.
When: June 10 at 11:45 PM (Music Room)