Night 2 – Thurs 28th – MAC
From my research, I knew sort of what to expect, but not really. And apart from catching the back end of Fake Electronics opening set, I spent the rest of the night downstairs at the MAC, in Salle BWR. I much preferred the vibe there to upstairs – something about the depth, rather than the width or the length, of the room, makes me feel more at home. So home I stayed.
I caught all of local Pheek’s set, which was calm, meditative, rounded. Overall I enjoyed myself, though I felt he moved through his good ideas far too fast. “Music for a Submarine Romance” was the bizarre phrase that came to mind while watching his set. Most of the crowd was pinned to the ground, either seated in half-lotus or lying, which added to the relaxed atmosphere.
The highlight of the evening was definitely the UK’s Stephen Bishop aka Basic House. He began in much the same manner as Pheek, but quickly took off in a completely new direction. Think getting hit in the face by 10,000 black bouncy balls at once. Super-modular, aggressive, danceable, yet rounded-edge third-eye opening waves of slam. I loved it. Unfortunately, his set was short – but sweet.
Last before I packed it in was most of Richard Devine. Similarly modular, but more alien, Devine appeared on stage with the air of a transplant from another planet. With an intense frown, twisting hundreds of dials a minute, the sound was monstrous. No hint of melody. No trace of harmony. Just pure noise and thump. It was cool for a while – I was in the jungle. Eventually it was late though, and my soul had had enough ravaging for one night. I missed Lucy…but I’ll be back.
First night at Mutek – great success.
Night 3 – Friday 29th – MAC
Less obtuse and more down-to-business, the dancing crowd was made happy at MAC on Friday night.
Rival Consoles was holding court when I walked into the main room at MAC. His set was certainly danceable, with enough largesse to be convincing, but for some reason the consistency of energy was a little off. I wished he’d been mixing his ideas together with more finesse, as I would just be getting up into the hype when he’d trail off into outer space. Still, when he was on, he was on, and I danced.
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While Andy Stott was wreaking havoc down the block at Metropolis, I stayed for the promise of Kiasmos, and damn, did they deliver. Known for creating epic builds out of rarefied Icelandic air, they kept the room alive through all kinds of dynamic twists. They had one drop at 110ish BPMs that was especially heavy – All-enfolding, enrapturing, spiritual, even. The packed MAC was lit for their whole set by some custom visuals of churning seas, tundra, eclipsed suns and melting mountains. So epic. Top gear.
The crowd really thinned out for the start of John Tejada’s set but quickly regained steam for his definitely darker vibe. Just a shadow onstage, Tejada seamlessly (really, really seamlessly) went through idea after brooding idea of aggressive tech-house, with just enough intimacy to feel he gave a fuck. As his set progressed deeper into the night, the early-hours vibe began to take effect. The dance floor became a place to see people reconciling their day, and life, into the trance of sweat, bass, over-exhaustion, substances and strobe. I left with about 30 mins to go, fully satisfied, filled up and drained out.
Night 4 – Saturday 30th – Metropolis
I arrived at Metropolis too early – the place was basically empty for Seekersinternational, who was an oblique figure behind a bunch of mixing desks. It seemed like he was flipping old Jamaican reggae samples with some ableton starter-pack beats. Odd. It was nice to move on…
…And into Sherwood & Pinch, a classic, English goof-troop duo, laying down dubstep(??!) and all its many guises. It was actually good. I feel they’d have gone over well at Shambhala, for example. I definitely got my warmups and vibeups from their set.
By the end, the place had started to fill, though one quirk of Metropolis became obvious – the whole second floor is just a tier of seats, so while all the heads were on the floor getting dangled, simultaneously a whole “holier-than-thou” gallery of onlookers gawked. It was weird. Mutek, next year you need a new venue that’s just a big floor. Plus, Metropolis has a haunted, bottomed-out vibe anyway…especially in comparison to MAC.
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Then it was Millie & Andrea, the highlight of my night. So much D&B! I’m not complaining, but seriously, we can’t exactly say Mutek is “pushing the limit” in terms of some of their curation. I felt like I was in one of LTJ Bukem’s daydreams for much of their set – pulsating, snaredrum in your teeth 170’s. BAM BAM BAM. Everyone was gleeful of course, myself in a sweaty trance. Still Montreal, you need to learn how to dance a bit wilder. Am I a snob? I guess that’s why I write for a blog. Anyway, Millie & Andrea – props. Lots of edge and grit, and most refreshingly, playfulness. Sometimes electronic music gets so serious…
As it did with the next duo, Atom™ & Tobias. Both with shiny, bald heads and leather jackets, I felt as if in a Gestapo underparty – lots of dials being twiddled, smug faces, wide stance action – translated sonically into just: THUMP. We thumped, and for a while, I loved it. I got drunk on the simple aggression. Then, my mind yearned for melody. Then I hungered for it with a pang deep as hell. So I left. Yeah, I left the big night early. Outside I heard some popular dance hit coming out of a taxi window. I liked it more. Maybe I was tired from being out consecutively, but dudes need to bring the heat at the peak of the festival. Instead they brought sheets of ice cold German steel. Cool, I guess, but if that’s where techno is going, you can take me back to Blank & Jones right now. Peace.
Night 5 – Sunday 31st – MAC
I found my faith fully restored in electro on the last night at the MAC. Arriving in time for the last quarter of Pole & MFO’s set, the main room was packed and finally moving with some gumption. I didn’t catch enough to get a real picture of their deal, but Pole & MFO were nonetheless bringing some hype. Nice way to start the soirée.
While they flipped the stage upstairs, me and half the room trekked downstairs to the smaller, more cavernous Salle BWR for Perfume Advert. Initially everyone sat and waited on the floor, so for the beginning of their set it was a bit ridiculous to see everyone on their asses. Thankfully it didn’t take long before the kids clued in and got moving.
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I have to say, Perfume Advert’s set was really, really good, and it took me a while to understand why it was having such an effect. I finally got it though: absolutely no gimmicks whatsoever. No weird clothes. No weird vibes. No overbassy EQ mixing. Etcetera. Maybe it’s not coincidence that my other highlight of Mutek, Basic House, are on the same label (Opal Tapes). Straight up dance music that gets the job done, and with #thefeels to boot. My feet loved it. I yelled alot. I invoked Danny Tenaglia. I praised all the micro house demigods. I found my set.
After receiving my dose of nutrients, I figured anything after was gonna be just a bonus. What I had seen on Session Victim hadn’t convinced me – electro swing elements always tend to send me the other way. But I was damn wrong. Heading back into the main room upstairs was like entering a big sweaty bit of mirth. Hype, energy, so much movement. Definitely raw, uncut and unpolished, Session Victim had a ton of momentum that they used to dangle the last bit of energy out of the Sunday night crowd. While Perfume Advert’s subtle chords had me milked and silked, Session Victim got me way amped. I just danced and danced and danced.
I thought I had nothing left for Solpara but went back down anyway. The truth was, it wasn’t particularly exciting to begin with – the same dark, brooding and self-involved eastern bloc techno I don’t really get. But somehow I warmed to it, and moved slow, consolidating my night and the last 4 days. Meanwhile though, the visuals were blowing my mind to smithereens. Most of the on-screen stuff had been “cool” during the festival until that point, but VJ’s Cafrine and Yaneek spun some of the most confoundingly beautiful shapes and patterns I’d seen, all linked up perfectly to Solpara’s rhythms. So much props to this visual team for taking it to another level for me.
All told, Mutek was fantastic. I danced more than I have in quite a while, and got into a whole bunch of new music and sounds. Biggest ups to Opal Tapes, and Kiasmos, for highlighting my nights. Long live electro.