Making music beautiful

This year’s Sound Unseen proves to be as diverse and engrossing as ever

Keri Carlson

The story behind the music is not always as stereotypical as a tale of sex, drugs and bankruptcy. But those are the kind of stories we hear about in rock music – the price of fame, the endless drinking binges, the rehab, the private jets, blah, blah, blah. If you’ve seen one rock-band documentary you’ve seen them all. Or have you?

The yearly Sound Unseen festival once again offers an alternative. Not only is the music featured in these films all over the map – sometimes seemingly from space – each film presents a unique story about an artist.

“Jandek on Corwood” is not even really about the artist Jandek; it’s more about the perceptions people have about him. Jandek has released 34 albums in the last 25 years; yet he has never performed live or given any information about himself.

Director Chad Freidrichs attempts to discover the artist through Jandek’s haunting music and lyrics. Though the mystery remains, the film explores how Jandek became one of music’s biggest myths.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre music scenes explored in the festival, director Mika Ronkainen documents a Finnish men’s choir, Mieskuoro Huutajat. What sets this choir apart is that the 30 members do not harmonize as a typical choir. They scream at the top of their lungs. The appropriately titled “Screaming Men” peers into the world of strange aggression.

Sound Unseen doesn’t focus solely on documentaries. The rarely screened, late-1960s film “Privilege,” starring Paul Jones of the band Manfred Mann, is a psychedelic journey of a pop singer in a time during which the government controls the music to sell products and sway political opinions.

The festival also provides a number of films about local artists, such as Paul Westerberg, Low, Janis Figure and many more.

“Spectrum: MN Soundtracks Vol. 2” continues the successes of the first with music videos from Black Eyed Snakes, Askeleton, Spaghetti Western, Melodious Owl and The Honeydogs.

This year, Sound Unseen takes even larger leaps to include concerts coinciding with the films. Almost every night of the festival, there’s a show.

Look for performances by Doomtree, Brooklyn composer DBR, and alt-country crooner Charlemagne.

Also appearing is collage-artist pioneer Mark Hosler, of the group Negativland. He will show a multimedia presentation full of manipulated media.

For the festival’s closing night, Destijl Records brings in experimental artist Charlie Nothing (who hasn’t performed in more than 30 years). Nothing creates an amazing sound with the giant guitars he calls Dingulators, which he crafts from cars.