Riga, Latvia’s Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music will celebrate its 20th anniversary on September 23-24 at concert hall Hanzas Perons (16a Hanzas street). Tickets can be purchased at www.bilesuserviss.lv. One-day tickets cost 20 EUR, whereas a two-day pass costs 30 EUR.
Their releases “Above The Concrete/Below The Concrete” (2014) and “Somewhere Decent To Live” (2018) were sparse, spacious yet intimate electronic abstractions, partly inspired by their observations of industrial landscapes and experiences of life in the North of England. In 2020, Space Afrika released their most emotionally charged project to date, “hybtwibt? (have you been through what i’ve been through?)”. First recorded for broadcast on NTS Radio before being edited down to a half-hour collage and released a few days later in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As Black Lives Matter protests were gathering momentum across the U.S. and UK, the Manchester duo’s self-released mixtape captures the unrest with intercutting fragments of their own unreleased work. Described as a “dreamlike tapestry”, and hailed by Pitchfork and Bandcamp as one of the best ambient albums of 2020, sales of the mixtape continue to raise funds for Black Minds Matter UK and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in support of the fight for racial equality.
The duo went on to release in the spring of 2021, “Untitled (To Describe You)”, a collaboration with photographer, filmmaker and poet Tibyan Mahawah Sanoh, generating a living, breathing study of the duo’s Northern working-class Black British reality.
In January 2021, they announced their signing to Dais Records. “Honest Labour”, the duo’s first full-length since 2020’s landmark “hybtwibt?” mixtape expands the project’s palette with classical strings, shimmering guitar, and visionary vocal cameos, leaning further into their enigmatic fusion of ambient unrest and cosmic downtempo. It’s a sound both fogged and fragmented, at the axis of songcraft and sound design, born from and for the yearning solitudes of life under lockdown.
Music media Pitchfork gave “Honest Labour” 8 out of 10 stars, adding the following: “A genre-spanning collection of cryptic transmissions, interludes, and asides, the Manchester duo’s second album gets at emotion in an oblique fashion, remaking your desires as it plays.”
Yuko Araki is one of a number of young female artists emerging from Japan that are redefining the outer boundaries of noise, post-industrial techno and experimental electronics. Raised as a pianist, Araki’s teenage obsession with metal opened a gateway towards various types of intense sonics. Exploring a range of diverse music projects over the past decade (KUUNATIC, Concierto de la Familia), her solo work resolved in 2019 after she developed an approach to freeform analog noise, releasing her first EP “I” via Indonesian label Gerpfast Kolektif and her debut album “II” via Italian label Commando Vanessa.
Working with a reductive set of tools, her methodology was to create work that created a sense of timbral density and complexity through a weaving together of competing elements. In April 2021 Australian label Room 40 released “End Of Trilogy”: the new album pushes this approach outward, taking in almost Kosmiche sensibilities, creating a sound that glints with the unsteady radiation of a dissolving pulsar. The album is an offering of competing states of tension and release. It merges polychromatic pulses against waves of sheering noise and uneasy ruptures of sound. “End Of Trilogy” is a record of unpredictable momentum and tempered ferocity. Even at its most intense.
Yuko Araki’s work maintains a sense of playfulness, and a determination not to succumb to mere sonic nihilism. Drawing on techniques borrowed from 70s prog-rock and even free jazz, she dissolves expectation and in the process reveals an utterly personal approach to noise and experimental electronics. Araki’s performance 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.
Edgars Rubenis is a Latvian guitarist and composer, currently living in The Hague, The Netherlands. With background in experimental rock and new music composition, his latest record Slow Lightning explores the vitality of American acoustic guitar traditions as a source for bold and contemporary music.
Working particularly with the forms of early blues and ragtime, in Slow Lightning Rubenis writes seemingly old yet entirely new music that reveals him as an elaborate guitar player and adventurous, stylistically accurate composer. Risking blunder in search for possible authenticity, this music investigates how various historical materials could meaningfully reemerge at the current point in time.
Rubenis first emerged on the underground scene in mid-2000’s as the member of Riga’s experimental rock band Mona de Bo. Often considered as one of the most vital forces on the Baltic scene of the recent decade, this ensemble released 5 albums spanning psychotic indie garage, collisions of free-improv and noisy drone rock.
Skaņu mežs is a member 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.
Skaņu mežs festival is supported by the State Cultural Capital Fund, French Institute in Latvia, the Ministry of Culture, Goethe-Institut Lettland, the Trust for Mutual Understanding Foundation, and the US Embassy. 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).