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Music Unlimited Festival 2014

Music Unlimited Festival 2014
Eyal Hareuveni By

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Music Unlimited Festival
Wels, Austria
November 7-9, 2014

Nothing about the appearance of the town Wels, in western Austria, suggests that this sleepy old commune located in the middle of a vast agricultural area is a Mecca for adventurous music aficionados. Every year, hundreds of people habitually gather from all over Europe to visit Wels' annual Unlimited music festival. This cosmopolitan tribe of like- minded people don't care much about conventional definitions of genre or style, as as long as the music is performed with total commitment, uncompromising intensity and healthy doses of imaginative freedom.

The festival atmosphere encourages a close, friendly bond between performers, label owners, agents, promoters, professional photographers and the audience. The festival's main hall, Alter Schl8hof, featured an exhibition by Slovenian photographers Žiga Koritnik and Petra Cvelbar while most participating musicians and most of the audience stayed in Wels for the festival's duration, enjoying a unique communal vibe. That vibe was strengthened by the musicians who concluded their nights as DJs, leading the varied, colorful flock of attendees toward a new morning full of new sonic experiences.

The 28th edition of this well established festival offered a program of 17 performances, emphasizing different left-off-center angles of improvisation, free jazz, alternative rock, contemporary music and out of this world sound experiments of the 21st century. The festival's artistic director Wolfgang Hermann balanced wisely between new, intriguing acts and returning guests who had appeared more than once at the festival. All performances offered different energies yet demanded close, sensitive attention and all eventually delivered plenty of inspiration and uplifting fun.

First Day: Friday, Nov. 7 2014

Dutch performance artist Peter Zegveld, together with guitarist Terrie Hessels (from The Ex) opened the festival with a theatrical performance revolving between the eccentric, frightening and hilariously funny. Zegveld operates a vast set of industrial sound machines that literally make sounds visible. He structures these mechanical devices on his own, including a noisy compressor that was outside the hall. There were metal barrels, megaphones, and weird objects that produced explosions, torrents of smoke, bursts of flame and varied metallic humming and gargling sounds, all rigged to a console of electronic effects.

This massive apparatus may sound like a definite recipe for sonic mayhem, but the charismatic Zegveld, with the ever experimental and provocative Hessels, succeeded in creating a moving, often dramatic and comical experience. Zegveld orchestrated chaotic noises with the attitude of an eccentric opera singer, with utmost pathos in gibberish Italian, adding elements of surprise and danger. Both Zegveld and Hessels were totally attentive to each other and didn't shy from contemplative, poetic pieces. Their short encore, presented by Zegveld as an "experiment in improvisation totale," featured him carrying a smoking wooden box, in a typical dadaist act. Zegvald entranced the front rows with a dramatic wordless speech while spreading smoke around himself, Hessels and, eventually, the enchanted audience.

The second set—by Brooklyn-based drummer-composer Harris Eisenstadt's Golden State Quartet, in its European incarnation with partner and bassoon player Sara Schoenbeck, clarinetist Michael Moore and double bassist Pascal Niggenkemper—presented Eisenstadt's ambitious musical vision. His wise compositions suggest intricate, haunting textures that blur distinction between the composed elements and highly personal, improvised interpretations. Eisenstadt's assured, non-hierarchical leadership emphasized a delicate balance between subtle, economical polyrhythmic pulse and loose skeletal forms. Exploration of the acoustic instruments' timbral range and generous freedom enabled each musician to expand on their own unique language.

The next group, with Dutch acoustic bassist Luc Ex (one of The Ex's founders) and his new group Naked Wolf, featured a different kind of energy. This cosmopolitan, Amsterdam based sextet —Australian trumpeter-vocalist Felicity Provan, Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Finnish guitarist Mikael Szafirowski, French vocalist Seb El Zin and Austrian drummer Gerri Jäger—just released their self-titled debut (El Negocito, 2014).

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