Mutek Wrap and Review 2015 – by Colin
Denied the luxury of taking time off work, this year at Mutek began as an experiment: how little sleep can I get while still functioning?
Wednesday night started off on a decidedly welcoming note, with Waveshaper (Jakob Thiesen). Stepping into the Salle BWR underneath the Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC), I was immediately immersed in beautiful warbly synth vibration. Ultra relaxing. Some friends sitting on the floor caught my attention, and the next hour was spent in prefestival bliss, preparing for the long night ahead.
Next up was Dichotomie (Hugues Clément). The main draw here was the visuals; at one point the scene abruptly changed to a serene lakeside, with chirping birds and buzzing insects. Then, a throbbing black polygon appeared above, as if aliens hadn’t quite figured out their interdimensional transporter yet. Not ready to fend off a complete invasion, it was time to head upstairs for James Holden.
“It’s nice, but I don’t really get it” was the sentiment I heard most about Holden’s music. Performing his most recent album ‘the inheritors’ with a live drummer, it was really the most rock and roll act at the festival; just a crazy, balls to the wall synth jam filled with long-held teenage angst and a ton of avid fans. I got it, then got out. It was time for an unexpected festival highlight.
Boomers (Billy Dalessandro and Ombossa) killed it. It was like exploring the world’s most awesome desert, on peyote, with a kaleidoscope strapped to your face. Think fear and loathing meets my little pony. So much rainbow! While everyone’s butts were glued to the floor, I took a little walk to explore the venue proper.
The MAC was a fantastic venue. Both stages had supreme sound, and there were nice light displays to catch the eye in-between sets. Outside, place des arts provided steps to recuperate, mingle, and hide beers (shhh). Located in the heart of Montreal, we were treated to tall buildings bathed in visuals, and an exuberant ambiance. Fully charged, I headed back into the fray to check out the most ‘mainstream’ act of the night: Ten Walls.
Not gonna lie: I’m a sucker for anthems when done properly, and Ten Walls did not disappoint. He was also totally adorable. Moby once said in an interview:
“electronic musicians are not cool. they are nerds, like me.”
Having only seen press photos of Ten Walls, I was delighted to discover that he was the ‘stay up all night chain smoking’ type of music nerd; a little too skinny, nervously wiping his sweaty palms on his shirt and flashing the occasional modest smile at the audience. I had hoped for his live set to contain some unheard material, but his filler tracks were just that: filler tracks. Hearing ‘dancing with elephants’ live totally made up for it though.
Arriving for the end of Fake_Electronics’s set, I was treated to a sparse display of sonic goodness. An underwater orchestra settled down and started to tune their instruments while an anticipatory crowd talked in hushed tones. The room was rapt, and I wished I had gotten there sooner.
Opening with a barrage of wartime imagery, Dasha Rush used a bit of spoken word to grab everyone’s attention before dissolving into a fractal starfield. It was a good introduction, but as it evened out into a more meditative experience, we headed downstairs.
Pheek is the master of weird noises. His set concept was to provide a deep listening experience, and in this he succeeded spectacularly. However, a lot of his recent productions seem to be focused on sound creation simply for the sake of listening enjoyment, and I would really love to dance to them. Luckily, my thirst for movement was about to be quenched…
Basic House was allllll about the raw beats. With only a few green lamps to pierce the utter darkness, the place was packed full of faceless people and vibed through the roof. Stripped of all pretense and packaging, his particular brand of house and techno was especially welcome and a testament to the power of simplicity. Times were had. I went home to gather energy for the following night.
After catching some competent techno from Andy Stott briefly at Métropolis, I was already warmed up and primed to see Kiasmos. The place was fire! I don’t know what it is about Iceland and dreamy emotional music, but whatever it is, it works. These two dudes tied our feet to our heartstrings and laid down some solid dancefloor action. Too good.
While venue hopping, I happened to bump into Woulg who invited me to come see his show downstairs at MAC. It was awesome, and definitely a highlight. His hip hop-esque, glitch infused beats were paired with fantastic visuals that reminded me of old sega dreamcast games. Nice guy, too. Next up on the menu was Lucy.
Say what you will about Métropolis as a venue (not enough sound to fill the space in my opinion, needed some more speakers up top), it’s certainly a unique experience. Previously a theatre (twice), a cinema (adult), a disco, and a skating rink (!!), this concert hall features a classy top row for viewing, and a big pit for dancing en masse.
Lucy, another adorable Italian music nerd with curly hair and glasses, was our Shakespeare for the night. Only with drum machines instead of actors. Or something. Bad analogies aside, Lucy brought forth an exciting array of forward thinking Berlin-style techno, backed up by a solid eye-barrage from local VJ Diagraf. The end of the night came all too soon.
The results of my sleep deprivation experiment: what happens when you stay up as long as possible? Unsurprisingly, you crash. Hard. It was 3am when I woke up, and technically already Day Five.
Luckily, Fumiya Tanaka was playing until 6 so I grabbed the nearest taxi and got my butt down to Métropolis to shake some. The place was full of sweaty people, and the music was exactly what I wanted. Funky, techy house with swagger. I crammed a whole night’s worth of dancing into those last two hours, and reconvened with the beautiful people I had met over the course of the festival. It was a great end to the experience. Technically, the mixing was a bit sloppy around the edges but the track selection was tight. Glorious.
Mutek is one of the best festivals in the city, attracting people from all over the world. This year was full of solid programming, and coupled with the free ‘expérience’ shows, A/Visions and workshops in the daytime, the value and variety of the experience is rich indeed. Highly recommended.