I don’t know why I thought that going to Montreal for the MUTEK Festival would be a good idea.
I don’t care. It was worth the trip.
Technically its the International Festival of Digital Creativity and Electronic Music. Actually its a lot of fun. Warning: you have to have a high tolerance for watching guys stand on a stage, twiddling knobs of electronic gear that you don’t recognize, while screen-saver images are projected behind them. If you can get past that, you’re half way there.
Also, I had to get used to being the old guy in the room. Except for the Ernstalbrecht Stiebler performance – he’s 78!
. . .
What I saw and liked
Nils Frahm easily gave the best performance of the weekend, perhaps of the whole year. Just brilliant IMHO.
Jon Hopkins on Friday and John Talabot on Saturday, both gave L-O-U-D feel good performances. And the sound system at Metropolis: holy crap! my legs were shaking.
Matthew Herbert’s composition, built around a 5 second clip of a bomb explosion in Afghanastan, and supplemented with live street sounds from mikes placed outside the building, was definitely intriguing and engaging. Thanks to the rythmn section, a guy controlling drum pads, there were sections that definitely grooved.
An afternoon performance of 5 pieces by Ernstalbrecht Stiebler was challenging but worth it. The theme of this session was “Minimalism ≠ Minimalism”. By which he means that his type of minimalism is different from the way more popular Steve Reich/Philip Glass type of minimalism. His type? The first piece was performed without musicians: a 10 minute recording of (Stiebler?) breathing, either into a long tube or through a variety of digital filters that made it sound like he was breathing into a tube. Other performances involved actual instruments (piano, cello) but each piece consists of very few notes, played very slowly. You become very aware of the technique, and start to hear ever so slight variations in the notes as they are repeated. I think that might be the point.
What I saw but wasn’t so keen on
I was disappointed by the performances by Andy Stott and Deadbeat. Both released records that I liked last year, but their live performances didn’t add anything. No, actually lost something in the performance. In both cases, they didn’t acknowledge that they were performing, ignored the audience, and kind of acted like they were alone in their studios. Didn’t really work for me.
Same with Laurel Halo, but I hadn’t heard her music before. Its definitely weird (and I think I have a high tolerance for weird – see Ernstalbrectht Stiebler above), but it doesn’t go anywhere, and it isn’t “nice”, and the rythmns are kindof but not really complex. Again, didn’t work
What I didn’t see and regret
Nils Frahm did 2 more shows on the Sunday after we left. I would have stayed if I could’ve.
Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory. Hadn’t really listened to this collaboration before I went, and it was on Sunday night and we were back in Toronto by then. Apparently it was amazing.
Moritz von Oswalt – again, performing on Sunday night after we had left.