The 15th edition of the venerable electronic music festival Mutek begins in Montreal Tuesday May 27, running until Junday June 1. Opening night features performances from Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Kangding Ray (and many more), with the programming getting progressively clubbier as the week progresses, including long sets from Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, and Nico Jaar. What began as a small festival to show off Montreal’s best electronic musicians and foster the connections between Europe and North America has become one of the most anticipated and consistently innovative festivals in electronic music, having long since branched out to successful editions in Barcelona and Mexico City.
See the complete festival PROGRAM
This year Mutek have joined forces with (erstwhile rivals) Montreal’s Elektra festival of digital arts to jointly celebrate their crystal anniversaries. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal will serve as their HQ, one of the performance spaces, and the location of C4I, a work by Ryoji Ikeda. A step up from last year’s shameless corporate “Windows lounge,” no doubt. Also: Heatsick, Voices From the Lake, Ben Frost‘s A U R O R A (with Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily, and Thor Harris), and literally dozens more artists. Elektra + Mutek = EM 15.
Associated events include the second International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN)] at over 30 venues around the city, a myriad of contemporary installations and presentations on the theme PHYSICAL/ITÉ. From May 1 to June 19
The Société des arts technologiques (SAT) presents several immerse pieces in their 360-degree projection Satosphère during EM15. This year sees five different works from five different artists, not just one repeated as last year. Though I enjoyed Dromos and it was great to give folks the chance to see it, I’m glad the space will be able to experiment and try new things. Here’s hoping for another amazing Boiler Room set as well.
I’ll be joined by Max Lauter in reporting the festival this year, in particular to help document the various performances,artworks and audio-visual installations. We’ll be putting together a live mix together later this week, so keep an eye on that.
2010 and 2011 were incredibly memorable experiences for me, but 2012 and 2013 left me feeling a bit disappointed. We don’t yet know what the future will hold for Mutek and Elektra, but it seems certainly that anything that comes after this will be the beginning of a new phase. EM15 is exquisitely curated on all levels, and looks primed to be a high point for both organizations.
You’re from out of town and want to see what Montreal has to offer, get on that bandwagon before they relocate to Berlin or Paris? Here are my top picks for local talent:
Nicolas Bernier & Martin Messier – Some readers may be familiar with the work of Bernier, perhaps of his album for Cronica or Home Normal. His recent album on 12k’s LINE imprint is further proof that he is one of the bright lights of the modern electroacoustic scene. Together with Martin Messier, the duo will present MACHINE_VARIATION, a sculptural performance machine utilizing the sound of industrial machines. Messier’s work is guided by a connection to everyday life, manipulating the sound of sewing machines, old film projectors and alarm clocks.
The solo project of multi-instrumentist and composer Asaël Robitaille, Bataille Slairegoes deep into rhythmic retro-future sound collage. He uses various old drum machines and synths, which impart something of an ’80s vibe, but the weird factor keeps it off kilter and modern sounding. His most recent cassette utilizes some tropical rhythms, at times reminiscent of the Sun Araw/M. Geddes Gengras collaboration with the Congos, except more abstract and instead of the Congos there are chopped up samples.
Le Fruit Vert – Psychdelic visual styles from Sabrina Ratté accompany the musical practices of Andrea-Jane Cornell and Marie-Douce- St-Jacques, whose pulsing electronics, melodic ritournelles, and dreamy vocals.
This Guide to Free Shows, is a pretty good list of some of the festival’s most interesting free events.
Rashad Becker – Though he’s made a name as one of the most sought after mastering and cutting engineers in electronic music at Dubplates & Mastering, it wasn’t until last year that Rashad Becker released his debut album Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I, on the PAN label. Certainly one of the most exciting electronic releases of the year, distinctly human in feel despite being totally synthetic. Looking forward to seeing how Becker handles a live situation.
Holly Herndon – Using her laptop to manipulate her voice, Holly Herndon’s music is expressive and complex, drawing on her academic training at the venerable Mills College as much as her experiences in Berlin’s experimental music scene. Her 2012 debut Movement was critically acclaimed, and her recent EP Chorus is garnering increased praise. I suspect this might be a breakout performance. Canadian Premiere.
Secret Pyramid – Vancouver ambient, well-received by this publication last year. Slow, deep, resonate and captivating, visiting the secret pyramid will be some nice hazy downtime away from the dance floor.
Wndfrm is Tim Westcott (also known as cloudburst), occupying the fragile territory between minimal techno and abstract tonal electronic music. Last year’s release on Home Normal certainly demanded a closer listen. Inspired by the vibe of Mutek 2011, WNDFRM made recordings in the geodesic dome of the Biosphere in Montreal’s Parc Jean Drapeau. Those field-recordings were an exercise deep listening, but his live sets straddle the gap between ambient drone and dub techno, with subtle tonal shifts and processed field recordings . In the chill out room at the big Metropolis .
TM-404 – Swedish producer Andreas Tilliander (Mokira, Lowfour, Rechord) has released seminal albums on venerable labels like Mille Plateaux and Raster-Noton. His Kontra-Musik release as TB404 is Tilliander’s ode to classic Roland drum machines and bassline sequencers, recorded in real-time with no post-production. His live performance will utilize the whole line (the 202, 303, 606, 707 and 808) for a set of hypnotic poly-rhythms and unusual structures.
Villalobos & Lauderbauer presents RE ECM – Villalobos and Lauderbauer need no introduction, but this is not a DJ set or even dance floor ready minimal techno. I know many will be stoked for Villalobos’s famous genre-defying DJ sets, but fans of adventurous music should not overlook this one. Given access to the back catalog of the legendary ECM label, including recent work by Arvo Pärt , the duo produced RE ECM, one of my favorite album of 2011. The Canadian premiere of the live RE ECM performance, this A/Vision showcase is all the more appealing as it includes performances by Jason Corder (offthesky) and Todor Todoroff with Laura Colmenares Guerra.