A remarkable number of independently funded alternative music and arts festivals have sprung up around Cork city and county in the last five years. Think DIY music and arts festival Quarter Block Party and the celebration of Irish electronic and experimental music on Sherkin Island that is Open Ear. Now it is the turn of Cork Sound Fair.
The not-for-profit festival, which focuses on experimental and electronic music, as well as incorporating installation work, is the brainchild of Conor Ruane.
“I’d just seen a lot of people that were making a different sound and that wasn’t really getting recognition on the traditional festival circuit,” he says by way of explanation.
“A lot of those people were people I knew, I suppose, and that was a big inspiration to get all those heads in the room and see what we could come up with.
“There was no grandiose vision behind the whole thing. I just really wanted to give those guys a platform to show what they were doing.”
A Mayo man, Ruane had developed an appetite for doing similar types of events in Dublin.
“I always had an idea of doing some sort of a showcase or some sort of a day event of experimental or electronic music on the weirder side, in unique locations.”
Having arrived in Cork in August 2016, he saw the potential for doing something similar here and last year’s inaugural Cork Sound Fair took place in two unusual venues, St. Peter’s on the Friday and Cork City Gaol on the Saturday.
“I like the idea of the one stage, one crowd thing, especially for a small thing like this,” he says outlining his approach.
“You need to kind of concentrate everything. It doesn’t have that element of: ‘Oh, what did you see?’ or ‘Did I miss that thing?’ and trying to pool your resources, because at the end of the day, I’m doing this completely voluntary.
“You’re just trying to concentrate on one thing and make that good, I suppose.
“And from that then after publicising last year we got so much feedback from people, especially around Cork, who were doing so many like-minded interesting things.
“That’s why we did the open call to try to widen the net as much as possible and from that then we got a great response this year.
“Like a lot of the acts playing on the Friday night — they’re all open-call acts. I’m not long in the city as well, so I was very mindful to take a clean slate and look at who we can bring in that I’m not aware of.”
This year’s expanded event takes place over four days and in venues such as St. Peter’s, the Crypt at St. Luke’s, The Roundy, Kino, Dali, as well as a secret venue. Cork artists are really to the fore at this year’s Sound Fair with names like Lighght, No Sleep, ooSe, Shiv, Chris Somers and James Fortune.
The bill also features the likes of Bishopstown’s James Kelly, who brings his Bliss Signal to Cork. Also known for fronting black metal band Altar Of Plagues and dark soulful electronic act WIFE, Bliss Signal is an unlikely but potent collaboration between Kelly and grime artist Mumdance. While Mumdance unfortunately can’t be there, his role in Bliss Signal will be taken by Shapednoise.
Featuring composer Irene Buckley of Altered Hours, Morning Veils member Elaine Howley, and fellow Morning Veils member and solo artist Roslyn Steer, Crevice bring their unique sound to the Roundy on the Sunday. While defying easy categorisation, the overwhelming feeling from their soundscapes is one of complete immersion.
“We all do get quite lost in what we’re doing,” ventures Steer. “And I think we all enjoy that a lot because we’re all sort of exploring making sounds together, so stuff comes out that’s unexpected and you don’t always know who’s making what sound. It’s very easy to immersive yourself in the experience of playing together.”
Their exceptional album In Heart as released at the end of 2017 and while Steer promises new material for Sound Fair, she says the band won’t be putting themselves under pressure to make the follow-up.
“It’ll come when it’s ready,” she says firmly.
Jimmy Wormall operates under the name Darqhorse. On Sunday night he will be presenting an ambitious piece that explores spatialised composition and hypnogogic states.
“It’s the first time that I’m playing a gig where the focus isn’t dancing or trying to make people move. It’s more cerebral. It’s more of an experience,” says Wormall.
It’s an idea he explored for his MA in Art and Technology in UL.
“It’s trying to portray a hypnogogic state, the state between wakefulness and sleep. I believe that it’s a very creative state,” he explains.
“It’s a very interesting field and I’d like to see if I can sonically portray these kind of experiences in an interesting way and in a kind of communal way as well that people can experience it at the same time.”
For Ruane’s part, he’s happy to have found a keenly interested audience for the Sound Fair in Cork.
“The people who come to these things are very open-minded and when an artist is pouring their heart out the reception that these particular kind of crowds give is something very unique,” he says.
Cork Sound Fair runs from Thursday, March 28, until Sunday, March 31. Tickets are available now via eventgen.ie/cork-sound-fair.