2015 was another amazing year for Montreal’s MUTEK festival. I’m a devoted full-pass-holder now, which means I get to check out a bit of everything, whether I know what to expect or not.
This state of affairs certainly worked in my favour this year, as I was unfamiliar with even more of the lineup than usual. I knew I could get excited to hear Sherwood & Pinch, I had a good feeling about the Atom™ sets with Robin Fox and Tobias, and I was cautiously optimistic about the Tyondai Braxton A/Visions set – but I was othwerwise wading into completely unchartered waters.
Well, it turns out there is still lots of incredible electronic music and audio-visual art out there that I haven’t heard of yet. (I suppose this is good news).
My first big highlight was Lumisokea, a duo based in Berlin. In a performance augmented by the subtle laser light show by Yannick Jacquet (Legoman), the duo performed an intense, rhythmically complex set of music that I could only describe as “like Shackleton 2.0”. Basically, this was some of the most advanced and serious bass music I have ever heard, and I just happened to be in the right room at the right time to hear it. Lucky me.
I later learned that Lumisokea release music on the Opal Tapes label, which had a strong presence at the festival this year. Unfortunately I missed labelmates Basic House and Patricia (because I was checking out other wonderful stuff) but I’m happy to have a new favourite label to check out in depth. (I’m listening to some Basic House as I write this).
The next big highlight was at the first A/Visions performance, where the Japanese multidisciplinary artist and choreographer Hiroaki Umeda presented two works of contemporary dance / electronic music / visuals of what I would dare to characterize as astounding beauty.
Saturday’s A/Visions was also really great, especially Tyondai Braxton‘s performance of his Hive project. I was a bit skeptical at first, with the relatively ostentatious stage and lighting design, but as the music developed, with its ultra-intricate live percussion and hypnotic techno / experimental beats, I was converted. It was challenging music, really quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and ultimately very rewarding.
Later that night, “the Big Saturday at the Metropolis,” is when things got really crazy. Sherwood & Pinch managed to exceed my expectations and delivered an incredible set which, in the tradition of true soundsystem culture, proved the duo are some of the best in the game when it comes to UK Bass.
After that, Millie & Andrea played my favourite set of the entire festival. I had never heard of these guys, but found out just before they went on that they are actually Andy Stott (who I’m just starting to discover presently, but have had recommended to me many times by reliable sources) and Miles Whittaker (who is also half of Demdike Stare, a favourite from a few editions of Mutek ago). It’s pretty hard to describe the music they played, but the term “jungle-techno deluge” is pretty good. Anyway, it was some of the most exciting and cutting-edge electronic music I’ve ever heard. I pretty much lost it.
Next, Atom™ and Tobias played an interesting set that to me was, paradoxically, equally captivating and boring. It was like a great huge buildup that never really quite paid off in a big way, but rather had a series of smaller payoffs. Weirdly, this was somehow the perfect thing for this moment in the night, as a lot of the crowd (I think) needed some time to recuperate from the mind-blowing set before.
Next, DBX featuring John Tejada got the party really going at last with some incredibly funky live house music.
To top off the night, Japanese DJ Fumiya Tanaka played a hypnotic set of some kind of minimal funky techno business (which was awesome). All in all, it was one of the best all-nighters at the Metropolis Mutek has ever done.
To top off the weekend, there was a program of free outdoor acts on Sunday afternoon, with DJ sets by Adrian Sherwood, Daniel Bell and Kode9. This event turned out to be even more fun than expected, and I danced hard. So hard, in fact, that afterwards I was pretty much done, and decided to wrap things up.
Thanks to all the friends who made the dancefloors extra fun, to Alain Mongeau and the whole Mutek team for putting together an incredible festival, and to Boustan for keeping me energized with Lebanese deliciousness. I’m already looking forward to next year.