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David Sefton brings Unsound back to Adelaide

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Former Adelaide Festival artistic director David Sefton is bringing the Unsound global experimental music showcase back to the city as a four-day stand-alone festival this November.

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With a yet-to-be-announced line-up of artists taking part in lives shows at the Thebarton Theatre, a sound-art exhibition in the Botanic Gardens and talks at the Hawke Centre, Sefton is hoping Unsound will attract up to 10,000 music fans.

“It’s a seriously expanded proposition from what we did in Adelaide Festival,” he tells InDaily.

“There will be a club program as well, which will run after the Thebby nights.

“In terms of electronic music, there is absolutely nothing like it in Australia; it’s nearest comparable festivals would be something like Mofo or Dark Mofo, but they’re not the same as this.

“The Unsound identity really isn’t comparable to anything else that’s going on at the moment so that’s why we’ve got people travelling in for it. Unsound has always been one step ahead of the game.”

Liverpool-born Sefton has remained in Adelaide since his contract with the Adelaide Festival ended in 2016, but he has kept a low profile until now.

With support from the State Government’s Live Music Events Fund, the new Unsound festival will be jointly presented by his own business, Random Harvest; Insite Arts, which produces the Mona Foma Festival in Tasmania, and Malgorzata Plysa and Mat Schulz, the Polish-Australian co-directors of the global Unsound organisation.

Unsound originated in Krakow, Poland, and now also stages events in New York, London and Toronto. Its shows feature stars of the underground electronic music scene and typically incorporate a cutting-edge visual arts or film element and lighting effects.

Some people were skeptical when Sefton introduced Unsound to his first Adelaide Festival program in 2013, but it was so successful it was brought back for his next three festivals.

He estimates around that around 25 to 30 per cent of the Unsound audiences at the Adelaide Festival shows came from interstate, drawn to hear acts such as British musician Gazelle Twin, Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, Berlin-based techno veteran Kangding Ray, Japanese experimental rock band Fushitsusha, Chicago footwork pioneer RP Boo, NSW-based Tralala Blip  and New York experimental musician James Ferraro.

“It was such a success in the four festivals I did, both artistically and publicly and critically,” Sefton says.

“For me it was one of the best parts of the festival; certainly one of the things that worked best.”

Unsound wasn’t incorporated into the Adelaide Festival program of his successors, joint artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy, but soon after leaving the organisation Sefton began discussions with Schulz about the idea of launching it as a stand-alone event.

He says the “truly amazing” line-up for the November 16-19 Unsound festival will be announced in coming weeks and will include many international artists making their Australian debut.

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