Mutek 2009 marked the electronic-orientated new media and music festival’s tenth consecutive year with too many multi-sensory delights for brain synapses to process in quick succession. Highlights included performances by Nortec Collective’s Bostitch and Fussible, GAS (Wolfgang Voigt, founder of Kompakt), Moderat (a collaboration between Modeselektor and Apparat, founder of Shitkatapult), The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann, and a host of others.
While it can all be a bit overwhelming, turning even the most hardcore clubber into an over-stimulated and joyful zombie, Flavorpill’s Sara Jayne Crow was there in force, cataloging every blip, break, and minimal backbeat. After the jump, her observations and a series of PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS from the festival.
Robert Henke (Monolake) and Christopher Bauder
The illustrious Robert Henke (Monolake) joined Christopher Bauder for “ATOM,” an installation of “compositions played on a matrix of 64 illuminated helium balloons.” Although conceptually divine, the performance was a bit underwhelming for those who had seen Henke’s Mutek performances in past years — especially 2003’s unreal Narod Niki nine-man clusterfunk with Ricardo Villalobos, Ritchie Hawtin, Dimbiman, Akufen, Dandy Jack, Daniel Bell, Cabanne and Luciano. In 2005’s “Studies for Thunder,” Henke replicated thunder through digitalia sequenced in a realtime, multi-channel framework, creating a cyclone of sound so storm-ish that the aural sensation sprung a nearly tactile phantom plop of raindrops.
The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann is still doing it after four decades of twiddling knobs and arranging chords. He sauntered onstage at Piknic èlectronik — an epic event situated on the Île Notre Dame with Montreal’s skyline as backdrop — wearing, appropriately, a blue gingham baseball cap that created the jolly appearance of a picnic on his head. Fehlmann electrified, mastering his characteristic slow, rollicking builds, voluminous arrangements, Orblivion-esque capers and space-age potluck shenanigans while doing the occasional hula dance.
Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai
As Cyclo, for the Mutek A\VISIONS audio/visual series, Raster-Noton luminaries Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai delivered with their usual attention to detail. The duo sampled and interwove strains of feedback together as found sound with corresponding sonic waves morphing on the screen behind them in stark black and white contrast. The performance began with controlled frenetecism and found resolution in gradual percolation of basslines anchoring the mire.
French “Cabaret house” trio dOP slid into a prime (if a wee bit early) time slot at the gorgeous Métropolis venue. The staging-staggered white placards foregrounding LED lights cascading from the ceiling and rising from the floor set an appropos surrounding for the glitzy trinity of Jonathan Illel, Clement Zemtsov and Damien Vandesande. In appearance, they’re kind of like ’80s technicolor meets the “scene” bars of The Bastille. Sunglasses as accessories (we’re talking form over function, as the club was dark) were plentiful. One of the fellows had a scarf wrapped around his forehead and knotted off to the side into a dramatic sash which yo-yo’d, nearly falling into his laptop keys and getting tossed over his shoulder as he swigged Absolut vodka out of the bottle. The singer wore a T-Shirt in this grass green color proclaiming in big white block letters, “WAIT IT GETS BIGGER,” which he eventually stripped off before inviting girls onstage. The two fellows navigating the laptops sort of sashayed the crowd into a frenzy, building their set with layered arrangements, staggered percussion, and off-kilter measures.
Ricardo Villalobos and Zip (Thomas ‘Dimbiman’ Franzmann)
Ricardo Villalobos and Zip (aka Thomas Franzmann, alter-ego Dimbiman) paired off at Piknic èlectronik for a slick seven-hour set. I arrived during the final hour of their outdoor performance as the sun set on a blustery, rainy day. Seagulls wheeled around in the wind, their bellies underlit by stadium lights below glowing clouds no longer pregnant with rain. The wind velocity matched the visceral measures of the spacious, synth-laden tracks Villalobos dropped. It had been a long, cold day, and only those built for endurance in Gore-Tex and weatherproof garb remained in the park. All present were dancing. I ignored the wind on my bare hands as Villalobos sashayed into an epic finale with a spare pendulum swinging Metronome type track. In a 2009 interview on Mutek’s site, Villalobos says he wants to make a perfect club track, but that’s doing a disservice to his music. His music is all tension, torsion and release; it’s about a spareness of sound, about what his tracks don’t say. It’s about how music unifies, once again.