RIGA - It’s been ten years since its first festival took place in 2003, but a question repeatedly voiced by festival goers is – what is the festival’s purpose? Briefly – Skanu Mezs [Sound Forest] is organized both to give an overview of the latest developments within the music world as well as to create interesting musical events in Riga so as to make Riga a more interesting place for its residents. One of the ways in which the festival does this is to scout and select interesting new venues for each festival, some of which the wider audience has never heard of. This results in musical performances which have the power to surprise, bore, shock – in other words performances which cannot immediately be absorbed.
Skanu Mezs is a music festival which has as its goal to widen the audience’s horizons, and to offer alternatives to dominant views on culture by introducing them to music, cinema and art. Many of the festival’s events offer the visitors’ intriguing experiences which give layered, strong impressions. The events can be seen as an opportunity for people to detach themselves from their mundane and everyday comfort zones, in this way refreshing their perspective on the world.
This doesn’t, however, mean that the Skanu Mezs’ repertoire is purposefully complicated or contrary. Quite the opposite, as even though the festival is a platform for unconventional music, it also includes performers whose work is perhaps less challenging. Because of this, one could encounter a more classic contemporary act and a peculiar pop act at the same performance. The festival doesn’t focus on a certain musical genre or category, but rather on a new sound language, for people seeking new perspectives and contexts.
The 2013 festival will be Skanu Mezs’ eleventh installment and will be structured in the following way: an electro-acoustic concert, “Spaces,” will take place on Oct. 10; a dance music evening, “Chambers,” will take place on Oct. 11; an evening of contemporary music, “Rooms,” will take place on Oct. 12 in which both non-academic experimental and academic avant-garde chamber music will be presented. “Spaces,” “Chambers” and “Rooms” are imaginative titles which reflect the nature of the music played at each event – “Spaces” refers to the epic sounds capes the music of this evening will create; “Chambers” refers to the attraction that dance music has to dark, surreal and isolated venues; “Rooms” plays with the concept of chamber music.
A piece commissioned specifically for Skanu Mezs will be performed on Oct. 10. This project was created by Nate Young, member of the well known noise music group Wolf Eyes. Young has composed a new soundtrack to the classic Latvian film “Naves ena” (In the Shadow of Death) based on the novel by Rudolfs Blaumanis. The piece will be performed to segments of the film.
The venues include the cinema Splendid Palace, the concert hall Palladium and the Latvian Railway Museum. The following are only part of the line-up set to perform at the festival: Stephen O’Malley with his duo KTL; free-jazz drummer William Hooker; Norwegian experimental jazz group Jaga Jazzist; dance music projects Shackleton, Andy Stott and Demdike Stare; dark ambient performer Lustmord.
The British dark electronic project Lustmord will play at the Railway History Museum in Riga on Oct. 12 as part of the festival. Its creator, Brian Williams, is often referred to as the father of dark ambient and Lustmord’s recordings, which date back to the mid-1980s and have achieved cult status.
FACT magazine writes about Williams’ concerts thus: “Hearing Lustmord so loudly as it was played tonight […] means realizing how inadequate the label “ambient” is. At times the lowest frequencies were so insistent, I didn’t hear the music, but rather the building shake.”
Another highlight of the festival is the legendary free-jazz drummer William Hooker. His presence at Skanu Mezs this year will continue the festival’s exploration of free jazz and free improvisation. Up until now the festival has focused on Europe and its surrounding regions by inviting such guests as Evan Parker, Keith Rowe, Peter Brotzmann and Mats Gustafsson, as well as improvisers from the Beirut label Al Maslakh. This year the festival will focus on the so-called loft jazz scene of New York, which is a genre of free jazz with a distinct sound closely tied to the history of classic American jazz. Hooker is well known as a virtuoso avant-garde jazz drummer, but has become popular due to his ability to cross genre boundaries.
He has played improvisational music with William Parker, Christian Marclay and Sabir Mateen as well as with musicians from the dance and rock music scenes, such as DJ Olive and musicians from Sonic Youth. His style is easily recognizable and is characterized by strong, precise beats which revolve around specific rhythm patterns, without ever fully succumbing to them, creating crisp and intense sound eddies.
Overall, during the few days of the festival, there will be plenty to see and to listen to for every taste. And there is the chance to explore new musical talent and add new music genres to your favorites.
Skanu Mezs festival
October 10 – 12. Venues include the cinema Splendid Palace, the concert hall Palladium and the Latvian Railway Museum.
More information can be found at: www.skanumezs.lv