The Return of Unsound

Unsound Adelaide is back with former Adelaide Festival director David Sefton behind the expanded stand-alone electronic and experimental music festival.

During his four-year reign as Adelaide Festival’s artistic director, David Sefton was synonymous for delivering programs that featured experimental and edgy work, especially in regards to contemporary music. This was highlighted by Unsound Adelaide, a festival within the Festival, which showcased electronic and experimental music over a number of nights and brought artists such as Actress, Tim Hecker and Shackleton to Adelaide.

The new Adelaide Festival directors decided not to continue Unsound but a few months ago, Sefton, who stayed in Adelaide once his directorship ended, announced the left-field festival would return as a standalone event in partnership with the parent company in Krakow. Away from the auspices of the Adelaide Festival, Unsound Adelaide will more closely reflect Unsound Krakow, which delivers talks, visual arts and club nights on top of its concert program.

Sefton — who moved to Adelaide to be director of Adelaide Festival after running Los Angeles’ UCLA Live and who founded London’s Meltdown Festival — says it was always on his mind to keep Unsound going.

“Once my successors [Adelaide Festival co-directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy] were appointed it was very obvious they were not going to go down that road,” he says. “I suppose, in terms of my thinking of sticking around, it became one of those things I wanted to do: you’ve got an audience for it, a very enthusiastic crowd, it’s got a really strong reputation and a good history.”

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Robin Fox is set to return to Unsound this year with his experimental sound and lightscapes. Photo: Rob Sferco

It was on Sefton’s mind to continue Unsound Adelaide as its own festival from about 2015. Was there a chance another Australian city might have nicked Unsound from Adelaide?

“I couldn’t possibly answer that question,” Sefton says with a cheeky grin. “You can take from that whatever you want, it’s a very popular festival. The great thing about the Polish Unsound is that they stuck with the idea of doing it here because of the four we’d previously held. Regardless of what else may or may not have come up in the meantime, which I couldn’t possibly comment on, they really wanted it here. And we got support from Tourism, Music SA and the Premier’s office. The local arts community got behind the idea of doing it here whereas elsewhere it would have just been a case of somebody buying it off the peg.”

Unsound will feature artists such as Senor Coconut (Atom TM), Wolf Eyes and Holly Herndon, alongside a talks program in partnership with UniSA’s Hawke Centre and visual arts. With Unsound, and his business Random Harvest, Sefton and his family will stay in Adelaide for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve kind of been cultural gypsies for 25 years with the move from the UK to the US and the move from the US to here,” he says. “I didn’t want to go to another festival. I’ve been doing that for a long time and I fancied the idea of having more control of my own destiny for a while. We decided this was a nice place to live. It’s a great place for a family. What’s proven to be the case is that there is support here for Unsound. Another thing is coming. Unsound is the first cab off the ranks.”

Unsound Adelaide
Thursday, November 16 to Sunday, November 19
Various venues
unsoundadelaide.com

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