Skaņu mežs



ECAS WP 4 - Stage

Skaņu Mežs 2014
»festival for adventurous music«
10.10. - 11.10.2014 / Riga, Latvia

On October 10 and 11 the annual Skaņu Mežs Festival for Adventurous Music and Related Arts will take place in the Daile concert hall (Kr. Barona street 31) in Riga, Latvia.

The 12th edition of Skaņu Mežs is a part of the official program of Riga being the European Capital of Culture 2014. It is going to be characterized by a subtle balance between the electronic and the acoustic, the improvised and the tightly woven, the obvious and the abstract. These contrasts will be reflected both in the program of the festival as well as within particular performances. Such a perspective will be taken upon in order to defend the idea that progress and innovation in music is dependant foremost on bold ideas and flexible language, not just technology.

Skaņu Mežs is a founding member of the European network of festivals E.C.A.S. (European Cities of Advanced Sound) as well as I.C.A.S. – its international version.

It is recognized as the largest experimental and adventurous music event in the Baltic states.

The program of Skaņu Mežs will feature a solo vocal performance by Blixa Bargeld and a live presentation of audiovisual piece „Lumière” by Robert Henke (Monolake) as well as performances by singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler, synth-pop duo Xeno&Oaklander, experimental techno producer Andy Stott, improvisers, such as Wadada Leo Smith, finalist for Pulitzer prize in music 2013, bass player John Edwards, drummer Mark Sanders, cello player Okkyung Lee, vocalists Phil Minton and Audrey Chen, also Innode – the electronic/acustic project of musicians from Radian, Elektro Guzzi and Pan.American, as well as many others.

ECAS supported events during the festival:
Skaņu Mežs at White Night 2014 - introductory event to the festival06.09.2014
ParticipantsBrunhild Ferrari, Kassel Jaeger, Jean-Luc Guionnet
LocationAnglican Church, Riga, Anglikāņu Street 2A
Sponsoring PartnersSkaņu Mežs
PrintSkaņu Mežs'2014 booklet
Online References
Photos Photos by Juris Justs & Sandra Garanča
Description The annual contemporary culture event, White Night, will take place in Riga on September 6. As in previous years Skaņu Mežs will host a night of experimental music in the Anglican Church continuing into the small hours of the night. Several current French experimental musicians will be performing at this event, amongst others the electroacoustic project, Kessel Jaeger, the improvisational organ player, Jean-Luc Guionnet, as well as composer Luc Ferrari’s widow, Brunhild Ferrari, who will be playing her husband’s compositions. The evening will be opened by Latvian composer Andris Dzenītis’ new composition. The concert is financed by the department of Education, Culture and Sports of the Riga City Council. In keeping with this year’s White Night organizers’ wishes to remind us of the event’s French origins, the concert organized by Skaņu Mežs wishes to bring together the best of French innovative music.
first concert evening10.10.2014
ParticipantsIf, Bwana (Al Margolis), Okkyung Lee, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Wadada Leo Smith, John Edwards, Mark Sanders, Marissa Nadler, Phll Minton, Audrey Chen
LocationDaile concert hall (Kr. Barona street 31)
Sponsoring PartnersSkaņu Mežs
PrintSkaņu Mežs'2014 booklet
Online References

Photos Photos by Arnis Kalniņš
Videos Okkyung Lee
Keith Fullerton Whitman
Smith-Edwards-Sanders trio
Marissa Nadler
Minton-Chen duo
second concert evening11.10.2014
ParticipantsBlixa Bargeld, Robert Henke - „Lumière”, Innode, Andy Stott, Xeno & Oaklander
LocationDaile concert hall (Kr. Barona street 31)
Sponsoring PartnersSkaņu Mežs
PrintSkaņu Mežs'2014 booklet
Online References

Photos Photos by Arnis Kalniņš
Videos Blixa Bargeld
„Lumière” by Robert Henke
Andy Stott
Description On October 11, 20:00, vocalist and composer Blixa Bargeld will visit the Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music and related arts in Riga, Latvia. Bargeld will present his solo vocal performance. He is also known for being the frontman of German band Einstürzende Neubauten and his work as a member of Nick Cave’s group The Bad Seeds. The performance will take place at music hall „Daile” – the main venue of the festival.

Skaņu Mežs’2014 review for The Wire

It feels like a cliche to describe a female cellist’s performance as graceful, but Okkyung Lee’s playing at the Dailes Theatre early Friday evening was built of grace notes in a precise musical sense. Great gusts of splintered appoggiaturas seemed to anticipate a textural resolution into a fully defined attack that was endlessly deferred, like a novel composed entirely of apostrophes and glottal stops. Lee hammered with her fingers upon the neck of her instrument like a tabla player, bowing as much with the wooden back as the hairs of the bow. Close your eyes, and you could imagine a table crowded with homemade electronic devices, all squealing, growling and burbling away in gleeful concert, but the sound was both violently chthonic and ethereal without any electronic augmentation.

As Keith Fullerton Whitman took the stage with his suitcase of patch leads and voltage-controlled machines, I started to wonder if perhaps we were approaching peak modular. His set contained many nice sounds, but on the whole it felt directionless —too much like bearing witness to an overgrown boy playing with expensive new toys. Of course Whitman is hardly new to the modular scene, but for whatever reason the command of these erratic machines seems to escape him tonight; his playing seems unfocused, passionless.

The trio of Wadada Leo Smith, John Edwards and Mark Sanders, by contrast, were positively burning. The latter pair seemed to be pushed into their fiercest, most urgent playing by the sheer force of Smith’s trumpet. Blasting out febrile trills and importunate stabs of almost pure noise, the former Anthony Braxton collaborator did play notes — and plenty of them — but it was the impurities he introduced into them, the grain and the patina, that made each one so compelling. Meanwhile, drummer Sanders seemed to be channelling some of the energy of Smith’s occasional sparring partner Jack DeJohnette, tearing through his kit like a Tasmanian devil.

It seems appropriate that Robert Henke of Monolake has taken to transforming his live shows into elaborate laser-assisted installations. There has always been something geometric about his particular brand of techno, a music of inclined planes and acute angles where every point appears precisely. Performing to a seated audience tonight, he allowed his sus urrant drifts more space to breathe between beats, recalling at times the tense atmospherics of Alan Howarth’s work with John Carpenter. Shrouded in darkness and choked with dry ice, his lasers pierced the room, drawing us into an ever shifting Frank Stella arcade game or an immersive physics lesson illustrated by Jordan Belson. From his involvement in developing Ableton software onwards, Henke has spent his career making live techno more engaging; with his latest venture he takes that aim to a new dimension.

Following Henke: an abrupt change of pace. A long tracking shot down a dank corridor melting into slow motion waves. A slow fade into a man alone in a derelict house; and a woman’s body floating face down in a swimming pool. The films of Katrina Neiburga could be fragments assembled from the cutting room floor of Andrei Tarkovsky or Jerzy Skolimowski; rich yet bleak, and pregnant with an unstable constellation of meanings. Accompanied by haunting music performed live onstage by Gas Of Latvia (aka Andris Indans), the assemblage became as compelling and beguiling as a dream. One of the country’s most established electronic musicians, Indans has long produced soundtracks for renowned video artist Neiburga. On this occasion, the roles were reversed somewhat with Neiburga becoming VJ to a Gas Of Latvia gig. Yet she was not a VJ in any conventional sense. Image and sound were never crudely mickey-moused, rather working in counterpoint as the eerie atmospherics of Indans’s sounds are punctured by sharp beats in unpredictable accents. But aside from a desultory set of post-Boards Of Canada electro from Martins Strautreks in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Indans-Neiburga collaboration was all we saw of Latvia’s domestic music scene in a festival dominated by US imports (aside from Wadada Leo Smith and Keith Fullerton Whitman, these included If, Bwana, Marissa Nadler, Audrey Chen,’ nsect Ark, Xeno & Oaklander, and Steven Hess, playing as part of Innode). This is a shame because the available evidence suggests Latvia has a lot to boast about.

This eleventh edition of Skaņu Mežs has brought the festival out of its usual diverse miscellany of venues into a single handsomely equipped black box theatre a short hop from Riga’s touristy old town. Like most modern festivals, such upgrades come supported by the usual bevy of corporate sponsors, in this case particularly Red Bull and the iRobot autonomous vacuum cleaner (which spent the weekend pootling about in the theatre’s lobby, part of some sort of interactive installation). But prominent among the supporters here is the US Embassy and something called the Trust for Mutual Understanding, a private body whose website claims it was set up in 1984 by “an anonymous American philanthropist” to fund cultural exchanges between the US and the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries. Nothing suspicious about that, obviously. I only hope that these American benefactors will soon be good enough to support an equivalent number of Latvian artists to a festival in the US.

Text by Robert Barry for The Wire magazine (December 2014)


Skaņu Mežs

Working Period IV