Art & Music: New Forms Festival in Vancouver

 International art and music festival landscape has drastically changed over the last couple of years as a consequence of (unfortunately) mostly negative factors. Generally shrinking interest and attention span, rising management and organization obstacles, some ridiculous visa policies for artists, over-the-top fees related to travel and location rentals. The result is majority of the events forced to outprice its main target audience - primarily youngsters in their 20s, which also happened to be massively underemployed or underpaid at the moment. 

On the other hand large-scale and multi-venue events are still the main and maybe the only platform for ever-growing roster of experimental artists and musicians to showcase their work in front of wider audience and, hopefully, make some living out of it. In recent years we witnessed many big-name european music festivals "outsourcing" their original locations to cheaper and sunnier places (i.e. Croatia), winding down their operations or even abruptly cancelling previously sold-out events (Bloc 2012), facing irreparable losses along the way.

And we are talking about pop-inclined or summer dance events, which are marginally more attractive to wider audience. For festivals whose main concern resides in more obscure realms situation can and prove to be even more complicated. That is why only previously well-established institutions such as Polish-originating, but internationally held Unsound, CTM in Berlin, Barcelona's increasingly commercialized Sonar, Detroit's Movement or our local Mutek can survive this generally difficult environment. More often than not it is possible only with massive help in the form of local governments' grants, generous commercial sponsors' funding and other non-profits' assistance.

Not everything is so bleak though. In Canada we can consider ourselves spoiled with well-curated and professionally-organized events concentrating on the evolving intersection of electronic and experimental music with contemporary art. It may well be considered a sort of consolation prize for the lack of any discernible local scenes or possibility of an ongoing imported talent supply.

East of the country has its pre-summer "fix" in the form of Montreal's Mutek, which is increasingly focused on distancing itself from purely dance music although the overwhelming majority of invited artists inevitably have their roots in it. The outcome is the "live performance"-driven showcase lavishly aided by expensive light pyrotechnics to attract younger crowd with flashy installations more befitting Beyoncé show. Being quite impressive as it happens, in the process the festival might be losing part of its identity when trying so hard to translate "serious" strains of electronic or dance music performances into rock-concerts.

Meanwhile West Coast threaten to overshadow with the speedy ascent of the rival New Forms Festival in Vancouver which takes place this coming weekend (September 12-15 2013) in city's various venues. While it apparently exists since 2000 it seems that the primary angle of the earlier editions had been pointed towards media arts. Since 2011 the picture started to change with increasing attention paid to music component.

Over the last couple of years curators of the festival have put together stellar and diverse line-ups. Among the artists that graced the schedules of NFF are dutch synth-freak Legowelt, electronic music auteur Actress, Minimal Wave's boss Veronica Vasicka, Detroit's dj-legend Marcellus Pittman, edit-maestro Pillooski, Hyperdub's mastermind Kode9 and many others. As expected festival also featured various panels, friednly-festivals' showcases, discussion boards, press events and the variety of aforementioned media art installations by local and international artists.

2013 sees NFF expanding ever more with numerous new venues hosting the events and its strongest line-up yet. Among the main happenings is most certainly worldwide premiere of Detroit's veteran producer and dj Jeff Mills' Star People show presumably featuring music from his soon-to-be-released "The Jungle Planet" album. Even more intriguingly synthesizer inventor Donald Buchla will perform at Vivo / Gallery 1965 using his own machines.

Otherwise there are plenty of anticipated dj-sets from mysterious techno impressionist Kassem Mosse, en-vogue NY house producer Anthony Naples, L.I.E.S.-affiliated hypno-techno hit-maker Delroy Edwards and always impeccable disco-leaning selector Daniel Wang. Also not to miss are Gerald Donald's cult post-Drexciya electro project Dopplereffekt, live from Pan's jungle-reanimator Lee Gamble and soundscaping from local star No Ufo's.

Get in the mood by listening to one of the very first Jeff Mills freestyle radio-mixes under his 'Wizard' guise (sadly discontinued this year) on Detroit's WJLB station circa 1985.