Skaņu Mežs 2021 announces first wave of artists

The 19th edition of Riga, Latvia’s Skaņu Mežs festival for innovative music will take place on October 8 and 9 at concert hall Hanzas Perons (16a Hanzas street) with a free-entry opening event on October 2 at event space Fantadroms (74a Gustava Zemgala street, building „Heinrihs”). Tickets can be purchased at One-day tickets cost 15 EUR, whereas a two-day pass costs 23 EUR.

Attendance to the festival will be available only with a valid Covid-19 digital certificate, confirming that the visitor has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has  tested negative or has recovered from Covid-19. Therefore the festival may only be attended by persons 12 and up this year.

The first wave of artists includes Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio (US/PT), Shapednoise (IT), Duma (KE), Prison Religion (US), Nazar (AO/BE/UK), JACK Quartet (US), Still House Plants (UK) and Jānis Petraškevičs (LV).

Duma a.k.a. Martin Khanja (aka Lord Spike Heart) and Sam Karugu emerge from Nairobi’s flourishing underground metal scene as former members of the bands Lust of a Dying Breed and Seeds of Datura. Together in 2019 they formed Duma (Darkness in kikuyu) with Sam abandoning bass for production and guitars and Lord Spike Heart providing extreme vocals to the project.

Anthony Braxton (born 1945), the Chicago-born composer and multi-instrumentalist, is recognized as one of the most important musicians, educators, and creative thinkers of the past 50 years. He is highly esteemed in the experimental music community for the revolutionary quality of his work and for the mentorship and inspiration he has provided to generations of younger musicians. Drawing upon a disparate mix of influences from John Coltrane to Karlheinz Stockhausen, Braxton has created a unique musical system that celebrates the concept of global creativity and our shared humanity. His work examines core principles of improvisation, structural navigation and ritual engagement – innovation, spirituality, and intellectual investigation. At Skaņu Mežs, Braxton will perform with his Diamond Curtain Wall Trio featuring accordeon player Adam Matlock and trumpet player Susana Santos Silva.

Hailed by The New York Times as “our leading new-music foursome”, the JACK Quartet is one of the most acclaimed, renowned, and respected groups performing today. JACK has maintained an unwavering commitment to their mission of performing and commissioning new works, giving voice to underheard composers, and cultivating an ever-greater sense of openness toward contemporary classical music. Over the past season, they have been selected as Musical America’s 2018 “Ensemble of the Year”, named to WQXR’s “19 for 19 Artists to Watch”, and awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. At Skaņu Mežs, JACK will perform works by Iannis Xenakis, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Zorn, Rodericus and Anthony Braxton.

Nazar is a 26-year-old Angolan producer who grew up in Belgium until his late teens, when he returned after the civil war and is now based in Europe. Nazar coined the term Rough Kuduro on his Soundcloud page, as an interpretation of the Angolan music and dance style, ‘weaponising’ it on his first EP ‘Enclave’ released in late 2018, translating the normally upbeat style to expose the uglier side of what he saw in Angola. On Guerrilla Nazar uses Rough Kuduro to sensitively examine and digitalise his family’s collective memory and country’s past, threading together oral histories, political realities and most significantly re-imaginings of direct horrors. Every track on Guerrilla documents his personal story of the war and its aftermath in countless people’s lives in a detailed and episodic manner.

Still House Plants are a UK group made up of Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach, Finlay Clark, and David Kennedy. Using a bare-bones, litecore set-up of guitar, drums and vocals they create sharp, fractured music with a melting pop heart. Pulling elements of sampling, slow core, and R&B, their songs break down and fuse back together at a lurch. Their latest LP, Fast Edit, released on Blank Forms and Bison, is a brew of resurrected and embalmed recordings. Things sit on top of each other, fall over, or click into place, with hearts on sleeves and spirits in motion. The album was namong The Wire magazine’s 50 best recordings of 2020.

Prison Religion is the collaborative project of Richmond-based audio/visual artists Poozy and False Prpht. Working together since 2016, the duo have dived deep into the space between blown-out trap (2016’s Cage With Mirrored Bars) and contemporary destructive club music (2018’s O Fucc Im On The Wrong Planet). Since linking up with Texas-based experimental label Halcyon Veil, they’ve connected a global crew of like-minded collaborators for a remix album including Rabit, Endgame, Swan Meat, Lee Gamble and Bonaventure. With close ties to Richmond-based NON Worldwide, P_R are ushering in a new wave of vocal-based club performance.

Shapednoise is Sicilian producer, sound designer, DJ and label founder Nino Pedone. Pedone produces disassembled, distorted techno flawlessly hybridised with abrasive and transcendent sound design. His experimental and unconventional production practices are catalogued across three cerebral album releases;- the 2013 debut ‘The Day of Revenge’ on Hospital Productions, 2015’s Different Selves on Type, and most recently Aesthesis on NumbersAesthesis  is a complex, controlled collision of noise and metal with rave and hardcore. The release fully reveals Shapednoise‘s exploration of textural sound research, casting sheets of noise, industrial, the UK’s multilayered rave history, and modern rap production influences to create highly sculptured, at times vividly visual sound designs. At Skaņu Mežs, Shapednoise will present his live show Overweight Subs Mutations, an exploration of the diversity of contemporary rap, trap, textural noise, bass weight, abrasive transcendence, and the idiosyncratic ways sound design bleeds through its various styles.

Jānis Petraškevičs is a composer of classical contemporary music. Born in 1978 in Rīga, Latvia. Lives and works in Rīga. Works for acoustic instrumentations. His music has been performed in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK, including once each at the Biennale di Venezia (2008), the ISCM World Music Days (2008, Vilnius), the concert series Musica Viva in Munich (2012), the festival Warsaw Autumn (2013), the festival Ultraschall Berlin (2015), the festival Archipel (2015) and Donaueschinger Musiktage (2018).

On October 2, violinist Magdalēna Geka will give the world premiere of his piece „Madman’s Glove I”, commissioned by Skaņu Mežs. Altist Ivars Brīnums of Sinfonietta Rīga will afterwards perform „Madman’s Glove II”.

The full program of the festival will be announced in the coming weeks.

Given the difficulties caused by the global pandemic of the Covid-19 virus, and the fact that the program of the Skaņu mežs festival consists mainly of foreign performers, we ask visitors to keep an eye on possible changes in the program.

Nazar, Still House Plants and Shapednoise are artists of the SHAPE platform for innovative music and audiovisual art, co-supported by the „Creative Europe” programme of the European Union and the Latvian Ministry of Culture.

The performance of Duma will occur as part of the REMAIIN project, which has received grants from the European Union’s “Creative Europe” programme and the Latvian Ministry of Culture. It investigates non-European influences in the avant-garde music of the past and the present.

The Skaņu mežs festival is supported by the State Cultural Capital Fund, the Riga City Council, the Ministry of Culture, Goethe-Institut Riga, the Trust for Mutual Understanding Foundation, and the US Embassy. The sponsors of the festival are iRobot and Valmiermuiža, Radio NABA. Skaņu mežs is a member of the international network ICAS (International Cities of Advanced Sound).

All artists announced so far:

October 2, “Fantadroms” (Gustava Zemgala 74a)

Jānis Petraškevičs – „Madman’s Glove I” (performed by Magdalēna Geka, world premiere), „Madman’s Glove II” (performed by Ivars Brībums, Latvian premiere)

Octobober 8, „Hanzas perons” (Hanzas 16a)



Still House Plants

Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio


October 9, „Hanzas perons” (Hanzas iela 16a)

JACK Quartet play Xenaxis, Ligeti, Zorn, Rodericus and Braxton

Prison Religion









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