I haven’t been to Mutek the previous years, but this year it is mainly focused on very lo-fi, minimal, experimental, and IDM type of music. Walking into the venue, I realised that it is not like most electronic music venues. Mutek is being held for the most part at Monument National, which is a huge venue that hosts many mini rooms that I imagine are more meant for orchestras, small theatre, plays, etc etc. I walked into the room and sat amongst everyone else, excited and curious. The huge screen was perfect for the quality of the visuals and the room, for the insulation of the music. I thought to myself after the show today, why don’t we have more of this?!?! We go to films, plays, theatre, and we sit down and we watch, we feel, we experience. We go to shows and we stand, we dance, we chat, we drink, we feel, we experience. Mutek, or at least the A/Visions showcases, combine the best of both. Sitting down comfortably disengaged with a good view and a good ear for all that’s in front. But combined with the music and the visuals, we completely become re-engaged…tripping out on our sensory neurons which are, at least for me, just going crazy!

I mean, most lo-fi, minimal, noise, IDM, and so on do usually have intense visuals because well, otherwise we’d get really bored, fall asleep, or really not get it. However, of the shows I have seen within these genres, they have been in conventional electronic music venues: standing, shitty sound, shitty sight, uncomfortable heat. I propose that all chill out, lounge, ambient, and so forth genres be held at Monument National. Seeing Air there instead of Métropolis would have been so much better. I can only imagine what it would be like seeing Flying Lotus or Fuck Buttons there. Tonight, Mutek has more than ever reiterated the importance of melding visual art together with sound, how integral they really are to each other, especially within these music genres because the creativity is just a different kind when compared with house, jazz, pop, indie, hip-hop, and how the way we experience music can go beyond just the regular…as these artists being showcased throughout the 4 day festival no doubt do.

After the jump for recap, music, and videos!

Bernier + Messier

Tidbit taken from Mutek:

Inspired by the noise intoners first conceptualized and built by futurist Luigi Russolo at the beginning of the 20th century, La Chambre des machines is a performance by Montreal sound artists Nicolas Bernier and Martin Messier, featuring their own custom built sound boxes, also called intonarumori. These machines were designed by Alexandre Landry, but unlike Russolo’s, which concealed the mechanics behind their mysterious utterances, these are open, with the source of the noise laid bare. Hand played, along with a few old analogue alarm clocks, the intonarumori are combined with real time digital processing, producing a desired tension between the realms of organic and digital noise, the tactile and ephemeral, the cerebral and sensual.

At first I was mesmerized by the intonarumori. Pulling on levers, wheels, pulleys, and foozball like handles…they remind me of That 1 Guy, who literally plays with his pipe shaped like a harp that has strings which can be played by hand, or a saw, or whatever. I love when artists are not only creative with the art they choose to depict, but also with the instruments that they play with, going beyond your staple guitar, drums, synthesizers, etc etc, showing that music can literally be made out of ANYTHING and it just takes going outside of the box to see what intelligent music can be. Though the intonarumori’s were captivating…I felt myself mesmerized by the visuals they had. Crazy shapes, lights, and colors superimposed and re-imposed themselves onto one another while flashes of Bernier, Messier, and their intonarumori’s were exposed on the screen. The organized chaos of the sounds and shapes could not have been a better fit.

Matmos

Tidbit from Mutek:

The Baltimore-based duo of Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt, who have been recording together as Matmos since 1997, are electronic collage artists with a unique sense of humour and artistry. Their recording techniques may hearken back to the musique concrète of Steve Reich and Luc Ferrari, but their playfulness of rhythm and selections of field recordings inject a dose of contemporary real-world dynamism into their music. Conceptualists on par with sample guru Matthew Herbert, Matmos have spent eight albums crafting pop abstractions from sources as unlikely as clipped hair and body fat left over from plastic surgery. Arguably breaking through at the start of the decade with their memorable MUTEK 2001 performance, the duo return to festival stages after a decade’s absence to showcase just how far they’ve come since then. In between, they have toured extensively with Bjork – a longtime fan of the group – and even produced portions of her albums “Vespertine” and “Medúlla”, both of which bear significant signs of the duo’s conceptual influence. Always ones to flip the script, their latest album, 2008’s “Supreme Balloon”, abandons microphones and recorded music altogether and opts for purely electronic tones as its source material.

I love the personality of these guys. Being the only group that actually spoke to us and addressed the audience outside of the standard wave, thank you and good-bye bows, they made us laugh and loosen up with their down to earth cheery vibes. Matmos didn’t have no intonarumori but that didn’t stop us from paying attention. Metal sheets, duck sounds, laptops, keyboards, recorders and the like, Matmos used the oddest and most unthought of sounds together to make whopping tracks that took you places…through the mountains, the forest, deep into the ocean, on the streets, in your living room…A lot of the tracks, I feel, had a very tribal almost Indian sound to it…kind of like abstract Bollywood layered with good nonsense and experimental crackles and pops. This was the set that made me move the most in my seat. There were only two sections of their set that had visuals but the they closed off with an incredible 10 minute plus song that pulled us deeper into the adventure we were already having. The visuals and the music made me feel like I was in space. All the shapes were circular, in essence, never ending and timeless. Dots melding in and out, big and small, until eventually triangles join the party with presumably, the master sun in the middle. Glowing ever brighter, more yellow, more bright, bigger and bigger until the sun encompassed us all and then, the moon, the planets, and the water became the motif of the screen. The music complimented this intense track so well because it was progressive, never ending and consistent just like circles, spirals, the tide, the orbit…growth. Then boom. An ambient air kiss and it was over. Easily the best performance of the night and one of the most intense tracks I have ever been a part of. Wow wow wow.

MP3: Matmos – Rainbow Flag

[The User]

Tidbit from Mutek:

A trained architect and a musician, respectively, Thomas Macintosh and Emmanuel Madan have been operating as [The User] since 1997. They have produced a family of acclaimed works that include musical composition, audio-visual performance and sound installation. Their ongoing and open project “Silophone” turns an enormous chamber, inside a disused grain elevator in Montreal, into a supernatural reverb chamber where all sorts of sonic transformations take place. Their recent “Coincidence Engine” is an audio/visual series inspired by György Ligeti and his musical use of metronomes. This talent for sculpting and reconfiguring sound from unexpected sources will be on sonic and visual display when they perform, for the first time in many years, “The Symphony #2 for Dot Matrix Printers”. Networking more than a dozen of these now obsolete machines together and running a ‘score’ of ASCII text files, the printing action produces a remarkably harmonious screech of different frequencies, pitches, and melodies.

Incredible. Incredible. Incredible. There were 10 plus computers or so that were on stage with working printers, desktops, and monitors. Cameras and microphones projected the sound and image of what was happening internally within these old time machines. This was definitely the hardest set to get into but unquestionably the most intriguing and interesting of them all. Who would have thought of using old technological scraps to make music?! The sound is literally so mechanical—noise at it’s most basic—like hearing a print shop working constantly, or a bunch of secretaries typing, or a bunch of papa (papa) razzi, except with the added circumspect attention and programming these guys did to make the sounds appear at the right moments. From what I heard I think they used only the sound created from these machines and manipulated, reversed, or amplified specific notes. I saw several people leave during this set. Tough, but unsurprising since most people aren’t used to the extreme experimental, the noise genre at it’s best, and if it’s not your cup of tea, it definitely and justifiably is a very very acquired taste or for the very open-eared. For me, what I imagine the negative to be for most people during this set was my what kept me so engaged. The time went by ridiculously fast in my mind. I was entranced by the monotony, the repetition of the moving parts, the incessant nature of the sounds. The music did not provoke or persuade movement like Matmos or B&M did but, [The User] really were the perfect closer for this night. We really got to experience the heights of subaltern creativity with this group and for that, it is definitely one of the most unique shows I have seen.

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