by Daniel Emberg
Forthwith marks its third edition this year, after having quietly appeared in 2017 and immediately marking itself as a mixed media festival with a heavy emphasis on sound art, electronic dance music of various flavours, and a bevy of international artists. Indeed, this year there are as many performers from abroad as from within Canada.
The globe-spanning lineup is partly attributable to artistic director Wouter Jaspers. As a busy touring artist himself, Jaspers keeps the kind of schedule and company that lead to being steadily situated around exciting new artists. Proximity alone does not make for an effective festival booker, but just a few seconds around the gregarious Jaspers makes it easy to imagine someone being talked into booking a flight toward the depths of a Winnipeg winter to play a fledgling festival. Here is how the weekend shapes up.
Friday night commences with a brief schnapps reception on the rooftop at Forth, after which everyone will come back inside to the main floor for an opening performance by Odd Narrative. Following that comes an extended synth/guitar experiment from Bram Stadhouders, whom Jaspers proclaims, “a new jazz god in the making.” The action then moves to the Forth basement gallery, where Miké Thomsen performs a spoken word piece about his upbringing in Greenland, along with drum dancing.
Whitehorse hip-hop duo Local Boy and enigmatic 3 Moonjask summon the party back upstairs, before passing the torch to Montreal DJ softcoresoft. From there, Uyarakq takes the reins. He, too, is from Greenland and does much of his production work for arctic-based rappers. At Forthwith, however, Uyarakq steers a dance party that may not stop until everyone’s perspiration has been absorbed and sweat back out again.
Quite a bit to take in, and that is just the first night. It did not even mention that there will also be DJs in the basement bar.
Saturday moves the festivities to other locations for the afternoon, as Bana Haffar’s “Modular On the Spot” series of synth collaborations finds its way to Winnipeg. There will also be concurrent workshops on beatmaking, turntablism, and creating an amplifier for environmental frequencies the human ear cannot otherwise perceive.
The workshops all wrap up in time to reassemble for early evening performances by Scott Fitzpatrick, Kaunsel, and Martin Tétreault. Such a lineup could, on its own, carry a show on a regular night. However, those artists are merely the start of another packed evening: Forthwith again leaves the nest of Forth to present what Jaspers describes as, “a Berlin-style industrial techno party in a warehouse,” that will fill two floors with visual installations and musical performances in a cavernous, resonant industrial building.
Subtrack, as the evening is dubbed, opens with sets from Edmonton’s Static Control and local powerhouse B.P., whose live schedule of late is nearly matching pace with his prolific recording output. Next up comes the one artist who leaves Jaspers at a loss to describe: of 000, all he can say is, “I don’t know exactly what  will do, but everything he does is in your face…the walls will shake.” If anything remains of the building, the plan is to keep people dancing until the wee hours with Huren (David Foster of Canadian techno legends Teste) playing between two Norwegian acts in CVK and Rangnes.
Sunday opens with brunch prepared by Pepe Dayaw, a Forthwith staple since its opening year. The workshops this day focus on movement and electronic music improvisation. The remainder of the program is on the main floor, Sage Thrashers leading off with their commingling of concrete and synthesized sound. Bana Haffar, Mike Dobler, and Ang Wilson (Teasips) carry out an extended collaboration until Jaspers himself performs with the aforementioned Miké Thomsen. Jeremy Parkin then comes along with what is expected to be a relaxed electronic set.
Rather than go softly into Sunday night, Forthwith finishes with what may be some of the most challenging work of the weekend. Peruvian sound artist Maria Chavez has written a book about abstract turntablism and is literally the cover image for a textbook about avant-garde electronic music, so the Chavez set will be a high point for anyone interested in turntabling. Closing the festival is Tropical Contact High, from whom Jaspers promises “music created in his brain,” which is to say generative music built on real-time use of an electroencephalogram.
Given how much mind bending and reconfiguration may come from the weekend, a brain scanner seems like a fitting tool with which to close Forthwith. This preview, too.
Forthwith is based at Forth (171 McDermot Ave) and runs from February 1-3, 2019. Other events, workshops, and installations will take place at Studio 393, Video Pool, Natural Cycleworks, and 90 Annabella. Full festival schedule and artist profiles can be found at http://forthwithfestival.ca/