Riga, Latvia’s Skaņu Mežs festival holds 21st edition

Riga, Latvia’s Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music will host its 21st edition on October 6-8 at concert hall Hanzas Perons (16a Hanzas street), with an opening event on September 30 at venue Tu Jau Zini Kur. (Tallinas street 10-3). Single-day tickets to the opening event cost 25 EUR, while single-day tickets to the concerts of October 6 and 7 cost 35 EUR. A three day pass costs 50 EUR, and tickets can be purchased at www.ticketservice.lv.

Last year, Geeta Dayal of The Wire magazine praised Skaņu Mežs as “wildly ambitious” and called it the “biggest avant-garde and experimental music festival in the Baltics”. 

Headlining the festival this year will be Berlin-based Finnish duo Amnesia Scanner, once described by The Guardian as “one of the cornerstone acts in the electronic underground”, with a refined version of the show they presented at the closing concert of this year’s Transmediale. They will perform on October 7.

On October 6, improvising guitarist Joe Morris, described by The Wire as “one of the most profound improvisors at work in the U.S.”, will perform alongside bass player William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake, hailed by Phil Freeman as “the best rhythm section in jazz right now” and as “Two icons of free jazz” by Tom Schulte. 

SHAPE+, the EU-supported and Skaņu Mežs-co-founded platform for innovative music, will be represented by Israel-born, Berlin-based composer Maya Shenfeld in collaboration with video artist Pedro Maia. They will perform at the opening event of the festival on September 30, which will also feature a showcase of British grime label South London Space Agency and a performance by Danish producer Hvad alongside local acts Flowerpower, KODEK and TV Maskava.

Extreme and experimental metal will be well represented at Skaņu Mežs this year: the line-up features Mories de Jong’s solo act Gnaw Their Tongues, a key act of the Dutch extreme metal scene, once described by The Quietus as being “at the viscerally misanthropic end of the musical spectrum”. The Japanese band Violent Magic Orchestra, on the other hand, describes itself as an “extreme art music project”, boasting a disorienting live show that utilizes strobes, smoke machines, high volume and live visuals, consuming a whopping 5000 watts – the equivalent of 60 amplifiers. Fact magazine has described the band as a “beloved black metal supergroup”. 

A special guest of Skaņu Mežs will be Raven Chacon – the first Native American composer to win the Pulitzer prize for music, and, in the words of The New York Times, “the first harsh noise musician to win the Pulitzer”. He will perform a solo set, and his string quartet The Journey of the Horizontal People will also be performed by the Mivos Quartet, described by Chicago Reader as “one of America’s most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles”.

Experimental pop music will be heard at Skaņu Mežs by spoken word artist, post-grime musician and NTS Live show creator Coby Sey as well as singer-songwriter and film score author Daniel Blumberg. Post-punk veteran and genre-crossing Japanese vocalist Phew will perform on the same evening as Debit a.k.a. Delia Beatriz, whose album The Long Count, released by Modern Love, earned the “Global Album of the Month” description by The Guardian, reimagining the sounds of ancient Mayan musical history.

Max Eilbacher, another SHAPE+ participant and member of Horse Lords, will perform computer music on the same evening as The Vex Collection – an ensemble that uses new and surprising combinations of traditional instruments and original music contraptions. 

Thanks to Skaņu Mežs’ participation in sound art-oriented project tekhnē, two performances will happen offstage – Maria Chavez and Jordi Wheeler will perform in the lobby of the concert hall, whilst text/multimedia art group Orbīta will perform in a separate room next to main concert space. After both performances will conclude, sound art installations will remain in said locations.

Finally, a free-entry concert evening will be held on October 8 in collaboration with LYRA, a project for kids and teens that is supported by the EEA Grants and Norway Grants funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The concert starts at 13:00 to encourage younger adventurous listeners to attend it, and the line-up features PAN signee Evita Manji, guitarist and vocalist Stian Westerhus, composer Peter Ablinger with percussionist Sylwia Zytynska, the duo of composer Anna Ķirse and visual artist Miķelis Fišers, and sound artist Alexander Rishaug with visuals by Ingrid Bjørnaali.

Skaņu Mežs is a member of the SHAPE+ platform for innovative music and audiovisual art as well as the project tekhnē, supported by the European Union and the Latvian Ministry of Culture.

Skaņu mežs festival is supported by the State Cultural Capital Fund, Riga City Council, Gamechanger Audio, the Latvian Ministry of Culture, Goethe-Institut Lettland, Trust for Mutual Understanding Foundation and the Nordic Culture Point. Sponsors of the festival are Valmiermuižas Alus and Radio NABA. 

Skaņu mežs is a member of the international network ICAS (International Cities of Advanced Sound) and the Northern European music festival network NERDS (North European Resonance and Dissonance Society). 

Media partners are TVNET, Rīgas Laiks, Satori and Mūzikas Saule.

The festival will also feature activities of LYRA, a project for kids and teens that is supported by the EEA Grants and Norway Grants funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

LYRA receives grants in the amount of EUR 206,256.00 within the framework of the EEA Grants and Norway Grants funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The project aims to introduce kids and teenagers to experimental music and to get them involved in its creation. As it is democratic and non-hierarchical in essence, experimental music gives trained and untrained kids the chance to take part in making music. Since the project crosses social and ethnic divides, it is also socially inclusive.

Total LYRA eligible costs: EUR 202,510.00, European Economic Area financial instrument programme Local Development, Poverty Reduction and Culture Cooperation support sum: 85% or EUR 85,000.00, of which:

  • European Economic Area financial instrument co-financing: 85% or EUR 175,317.60;
  • State Budget co-financing: 15% or EUR 30,938.40.