Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mutek 2009

I took the train to Montreal for Mutek on Thursday morning and went to my first show that night. It was my first time to the festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. First was Appleblim, who dj'ed quite well with CDs and vinyl. He was on for 1.5 hours - the first 30 minutes was dubbed out techno, then some melodic dubstep for another 30 minutes, and finally some high energy wonky. Following him was Deadbeat, who performed his own material with a laptop for about an hour. He was good, with lots of bass and percussion. There were a few vocal tracks. Finally (for me), was Moderat, a trio from Germany. The group is Modeselektor + Apparat = Moderat. They have a new album out on bpitchcontrol. I thought they were excellent. They did most of the tracks from their album. The Modeselektor guys had laptops, and Apparat had plenty of effects boxes, a guitar, and also sang. The sound quality was excellent, with very clear drums and bass. I think they were my favourite act of the whole festival.

(Friday, I didn't have much to do, so I went to the Fine Arts Museum. They had an exhibit for John and Yoko's 40th anniversary bed-in for peace. Staying in bed for a week was the least wacky thing they did. Then I went to the Redpath Museum at McGill. Mostly fossils, including some truly ancient stromatolites, and an amazing shell collection, some were quite beautiful. Friday night, the only show I was interested in was sold out, so I went to my hotel room to relax.)

Saturday was my big day. First up was Piknic on the island, where I saw The Mole, Brendan Moeller and Thomas Fehlmann. The Mole laid down some slower jazz and house, it was good stuff for the first hour, as people I arrived. Brendan Moeller followed with his macbook and pumped out some dubby techno which got people dancing. Thomas Fehlma
nn also used a macbook and went through dubby techno to progressive house sounds and some electro house sounding material. He played his own tracks and remixes, and maybe other people's music, I am not sure. But I am sure the crowd and I enjoyed it a lot. As he finished I had to leave for Atom, a collaboration between Monolake (Robert Henke) and Christopher Bauder.

They had 64 large helium balloons on individually controllable strings, with music and lights for each balloon. We sat on the floor of the opera house stage for it. We were behind the front curtain and couldn't see the seats, and all the walls and floors were black. The ambient lighting was red, to prepare our night vision for the balloon performance. The music was good, and certainly sounded like Monolake usually does, with crisp techno and ambient sounds. See the clip below. It has a good interview and shows the balloons move.

Then came a Raster-Noton record label showcase. Might have been too noisy and experimental for many listeners, but they got a good response from the crowd. Earplugs were essential. First up was Cyclo, a collaboration between Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai. For the first ten minutes it sounded a lot like a hearing test. Then they added some beats made of fuzzier textures and sounds. People really enjoyed their visuals. Next was AtomTM, one of the many pseudonyms of Uwe Schmidt. He used an Akai MPC3000 and some sort of controller to kick out some seriously twisted funk. It was very good. (He was also the only performer to wear a suit and tie.) The display of his Akai was projected on a screen. I wasn't sure it was live until he slowed one track from 130 bpm to 48. There was no mistaking that. AtomTM was followed by Alva Noto and Byetone, who put out similar, nearly industrial beats. Of the four performers, I liked AtomTM the best.

After that I went back to Metropolis for a techno night. I caught the end of dOP mixing techno with Hava Nagila. Not normal, but it seemed to work. Mathew Jonson and Dandy Jack were up next, continuing a collaboration they have done previously. It was straight up techno. I recognized a few of Jonson's tracks. Dandy Jack danced more than 95% of the audience, because he was enjoying himself, and he had much more room. Tobias. followed with more techno, fed out of a macbook and controllers. It wasn't very melodic, but definitely groovy. I left before Carl Craig came on. I was worried I was missing something great, but judging by Phonaut's report below, I don't think I did.

Sunday was another Piknic on the island, this time with a 7 hour set by Ricardo Villalobos and Zip. They played more house than techno. During the four and a half hours I was there, I recognized one old house track from Prescription. Unfortunately, the day was quite cool, and there was rain too. I went back to my hotel room after I got too cold, even though it wasn't done.

Finally, Sunday night I went to the all-Canadian showcase finale. Macbooks ruled this night. Mateo and Pheek started the night with some tech-house grooves. Stephen Beaupre followed them with slightly punchier sounds. Then came Akufen, who apparently hadn't performed live in a long time. He clearly had new material, since I've never heard him so jazzy or breakbeat driven before. Finally, there was the Modern Deep Left Quartet, a collaboration between Cobblestone Jazz and The Mole. They were good, but perhaps needed a little practice time to get their groove together.

So, it was a fun festival with great music. If I lived closer I would have gone a long time. Maybe the next time they have a lineup like this, I will go again.

Other links:

Galleries at 33mag
Nocturne 1 and Nocturne 2 by evablue
Gallery and report from phonaut
Galleries from ra.re.ly
Moderat live video
Moderat again

Atom by Robert Henke and Christopher Gaudet

Atom by Robert Henke & Christopher Bauder from Anne-Marie Bergeron on Vimeo.

Pezzner at Nocturne 4

Ricardo Villalobos and Zip at Piknic 2