Skaņu Mežs festival 2019 announces full line-up

Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music will happen in Riga, Latvia on October 11-12 at concert hall Hanzas Perons (16a Hanzas street) with a free-entry opening event on October 5 at the Art Museum Riga Bourse (Doma Square 6). Two-day passes to the festival can be purchased for 25 EUR at The full line-up of the festival has been revealed.

The free-entry event of October 5 will be the festival’s fourth collaboration with the art museum Riga Bourse, presenting avant-folk ensemble Circuit Des Yeux, whose most recent two albums have been rated 80.0 and 8.2 out of 10 by the music criticism platform „Pitchfork”, the website also suggesting Circuit Des Yeux’s album „Reaching for Indigo” to be a part of the most recent wave of music that is „pushing folk music toward more experimental territory”. The programme will continue with New York duo Subtle Degrees, performing their forty-minute composition „A Dance That Empties” that draws on sacred music, minimalism, technical metal and jazz, and Scottish bagpipe player Erwan Keravec who works on integrating his instrument in the fields of free improvisation and contemporary music. In his solo shows, Keravec often interacts with the acoustics of the venue, sometimes moving through the space while playing, even walking amongst listeners. Instrumentalists Ilona Meija, Jānis Semjonovs and Herta Hansena will perform Trio for flute, bassoon and piano by Russian composer Edison Denisov (1929 – 1996), and Portuguese avant-garde music composer Candido Lima will perform his electro-acoustic music. The latter two performances are part of the international project „Um-Scene” that aims to shed more light on the history of experimental music in countries that have experienced non-democratic regimes in the past century. The two performances will be preceded with a panel discussion, featuring, among others, Artemy Troitsky, a very influential Russian music journalist and Chris Bohn, who has written for such magazines as The Wire, Melody Maker and NME.

October 11, the first of the two central concert evenings of the festival, happening at the newly opened music hall „Hanzas Perons”, will feature two members from the legendary experimental rock group Swans. Skaņu Mežs has organized a Swans concert in 2011, and now welcomes the band’s members, vocalist and only permanent member Michael Gira, and guitarist Norman Westberg, back to Riga. Gira will give a song-based solo acoustic performance, also featuring new songs he has written for the next incarnation of Swans, and Westberg will play a set that reflects the ambient music interests he has been exploring in recent years. Irvine Arditti, characterized by Telegraph as an „extreme violinist” and called a „maverick musical genius” by The Guardian, is best known as the founder of the influential Arditti Quartet. At the festival, he will play such pieces as „Sei Capricci” by Salvatore Sciarrino and „2017-V” by James Clarke. He will also give the world premiere to a short piece called „Airhui” by Robert H. P. Platz. The evening will continue with CHAINES, a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Manchester UK, who writes surreal and fantastical electronica and electro-acoustic music. In 2019, CHAINES was granted the prestigious Oram Award, inspired by Daphne Oram and recognising emerging female and non-binary artists working with music and sound. White Suns will play a furious, punishing blend of hardcore punk and harsh noise, with unconventional time signatures, screamed (and sometimes spoken) vocals, and hair-raising electronic feedback. Pitchfork has characterized their latest album’s opening track as sounding like „the end of the world”. The sole audiovisual show of this concert evening will be a performance by Daniel Rozenhall and Sten Beckman. Rozenhall works with various synthesizers and concrete sound sources, creating electroacoustic soundscapes with a surrealistic, nightmarish and sometimes psychedelic character. Sten Backman is a visual artist, composer and graphic designer, based in Stockholm. His fields of work include many areas, such as branding and identity, editorial, interactive applications, product design, websites, exhibition design, music videos and record covers. The evening will be opened by Gunta Ābele, Arvīds Kazlausks, Ilona Meija and Marta Spārniņa performing the music of Switzerland-based Latvian composer Anita Mieze.


On October 12, Skaņu Mežs will continue its search for experimental hip-hop with a performance by the British artist Manonmars, accompanied onstage by the duo of producers O$VMV$M – all three are affiliated with the Young Echo collective of artists, which is somewhat demonstrated by their trip-hop influenced, yet even more abstract sound. The nearly anonymous electronic music project patten, which has been publishing releases via WARP Records, will be the sole audio-visual show of the concert evening, its visual part being based in projections and lasers, whereas the sound can be difficult to predict, with the project’s musical influences spanning from footwork to “80s goth” or from computer music to acoustic ensembles. The evening will also see avant-garde composer and legendary educator Alvin Lucier – this year’s guest of honour – performing his historically significant piece „I am Sitting in a Room”. The piece is one of the many reasons why Grammophone, the world’s leading classical music review media, has stated that „Lucier has fundamentally redefined what it is to be a composer”. The work, even though not a physical piece of art, has also been acquired by MoMA. Trevor Saint, the world’s preeminent specialist in performing experimental works for Glockenspiel, will perform two pieces by Lucier – „Ricochet Lady” and „Tilted Arc”- as well as give the world premiere of a new piece, written by USA-based Latvian composer Krists Auznieks. Lucy Railton, cello player with Xenakis, Feldman, Fullman and Lucier in her repertoire, and collaborator of Peter Zinovieff, will give a solo performance, based on material from her solo album „Paradise 94”, which exists between modern instrumentalism, hard-edged electronic composition and expressive musique concrète. Ex-Wolf Eyes member Aaron Dilloway will play his unique form of noise music: his performances incorporate rhythmic loops from eight-track tapes, vocal improvisations, found sounds, and field recordings. He often uses contact microphones in order to generate harsh, feedback-laced noises, sometimes placing microphones inside his mouth in order to create bizarre, ogre-like distorted voices. Another artist, known for eccentric and expressive live shows is John Bence, whose debut EP „Disquiet” has been released on Nicolas Jaar’s label Other People, while the second one – 2018’s „Kill” has been published by Yves Tumor’s Grooming. London In Stereo has described his live show as a „perplexing, challenging but ultimately rewarding experience, one [the listeners] are unlikely to forget for sometime.” Closing the event, the sole rhythmic music performance of the festival – with the exception of, maybe, patten – will be a live set by Detroit’s Terrence Dixon, also known as Population One. Dixon describes techno as „forward-thinking ghetto electronics”, and has been described by Resident Advisor as „one of Detroit techno’s most unorthodox talents”.


Erwan Keravec, Lucy Railton and patten are 2019 artists of the SHAPE platform for adventurous music and audiovisual art, co-funded by the „Creative Europe” programme of the European Union.


Skaņu Mežs festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation, the Municipality of Riga, Trust for Mutual Understanding, Danish Cultural Institute as well as iRobot, Valmiermuiža and Red Bull Music Academy. Skaņu Mežs is also a member of the SHAPE platform for innovative music and audiovisual art, supported by the „Creative Europe” program of the European Union, and I.C.A.S., an international network of festivals, devoted to adventurous sound.

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Full program of the festival:

October 5, 18:00, art museum „Riga Bourse”

Circuit Des Yeux

Subtle Degrees

Erwan Keravec

Ilona Meija, Jānis Semjonovs and Herta Hansena play Edison Denisov’s Trio for flute, bassoon and piano

Candido Lima


October 11, 20:00, “Hanzas Perons”


Michael Gira (Swans)

Norman Westberg (Swans)

Daniel Rozenhall with Sten Backman

White Suns


Irvine Arditti plays S. Sciarrino, R. H. P. Platz and J. Clarke

Gunta Ābele, Arvīds Kazlausks, Ilona Meija and Marta Spārniņa play Anita Mieze


October 12, 19:00, “Hanzas Perons”

Alvin Lucier (with Trevor Saint) + Trevor Saint plays Krists Auznieks



John Bence

Aaron Dilloway

Lucy Railton


Terrence Dixon


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