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This. was. the. best. year. EVER. The 14th installment of MUTEK was pure inspiration. Everything from the curation, art installations and projections, venue visuals, education, sound, free events, the organisation, the crowd, the weather, and the vibezzz were awesome. All the other years I never got to experience as much as I did this year (financial reasons) and having built a community of friends (some outta town friends came!) who are in the scene over the last few years definitely were factors in this year being my personal favorite.
Every time I saw a show and didn’t think it could be topped, MUTEK surprises me and proves me wrong. Day after day, night after night, there were sooo many incredible performances where the energy kept rising and didn’t slow down. Artists/performances I didn’t know anything about blew me out of the water. You just couldn’t go wrong picking which event to go to. The hardest thing about MUTEK this year was trying to alleviate FOMO (fear of missing out). So much talent in so many different genres some at the same time. A good sign.
Live performances dominated over DJ acts. Visuals were thoughtful, geometric, textured, and a show in itself. Shows outside of A/Visions and Nocturne showcases were free to the public. This included great day time parties in Lounge Windows showcasing local talent with music ranging from experimental, techno, house, to minimal. Workshops/panels/interviews all throughout the day catering to those who are more curious about behind the scenes, production, visualizations etc. MUTEK is truly one of the best electronic creative culture and digital arts festivals in the world. MUTEK contradicts the mainstream archetype of electronic culture and instead expresses the Life, creativity, complexities, and diversity that is overlooked in most festivals when it comes to electronic music. MUTEK provides this experience in a super accessible, encouraging, and healthy way. As RA says, “MUTEK is a place where electronic music is treated like the true art form it is”.
My Top Experiences:
A/Visions 2: Having done a preview of him in my last post, I had some knowledge and had heard some of his tracks off his label Erased Tapes which impressed me greatly and I was super lookin’ forward to seeing Nils Frahm live. I had no idea that for the next 90 minutes my mind would be blow and that I would cry from being utterly inspired by how much talent one single person can have. It was a reaffirmation that creative instrumental heart opening music will never die. Innovation, creation and expression from the heart, curiosity to push traditional instrumental boundaries, three pianos (grand, upright, and a Rhodes keyboard), and the most epic sound track to stark moments in Life, made the crowd fall in love with this man immediately. The compositions were sooo long and intense. I had the constant feeling of being in a soundtrack of an anti-hero…about to redeem himself or about to fall even harder, a place we’ve all experienced to some extent. As his fingers blurred playing so fast so deeply, the melancholy washed over all of us. I was filled with gratitude, happy sad and weird memories came into my vision as I felt the intention behind the silences so well timed and executed through Frahm’s tuned ear. So humble and so honest, Frahm confessed he was mad tired. That it was 2am for him currently and he just wanted to sleep…but he wanted to play for us…obviously jajja. He was disappointed at the few errors he made that were inconsequential to us as we rose to our feet and applauded with a secret hope that he’d play more and more. His endurance and drive to share his art knows no bounds as he played at Boiler Room and opened for Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Laboratory after the original artists’ cancellation. Best show I have seen all year.
A/Visions 1: Matthew Herbert and his team for the “One Pig” performance was the show that intially made me think, “omfg it’s only the first day and already something that cannot be topped!”. (That was before Nils Frahm came along). One on the keyboard. Another on percussion/drum/touchpad. Another colleague and Herbert on the hardware and midi controllers. And the pig himself (wearing a laboratory jacket too), set in the centre of what seems to be a vibrational music making boxing ring of strings. What impressed me the most about this performance was this boxing ring. Four levels of four strings coiled into a resistor that when pulled would make a distorted sound. On each level the distortion made a different sound. Each string affected the resistance (it seemed) of other strings which then would affect the sound once again. It was an musically innovative using a beautiful and bizarre way of making sound and capturing the figurative essence and story of a pig inside of a cage. From Sep-Jan the music reflected its birth, its confusion, the chaos, at times its moments of joy, and its intuitive sense of its near death. The bass was drawn so hard and I thought to myself for more than half of this concert people could be dancing in the isles it was beaty, catchy, and intense. The smell of bacon (it was being cooked in the background) filled the theatre as all the members went into the cage for a last chaotic string jam, showing just how violent and consuming the process of an animals life from farm to plate can be for oblivious or blind eye turning humans. Loved the politics. Loved the compositions. Loved the innovation. An absolutely triumphant North American premiere!
Dromos, inspired by “Dromology”–the science of speed according to Paul Virilio)–was the most visually stunning project I’ve seen at MUTEK. Having never been to Satosphere before, my utter awe surfaced with ease in this incredible spherical dome perfect for 360° projections. Lying down and next to the homies, I relaxed in anticipation. For me, having absolutely no expectation or knowledge of their set intention (according to MUTEK, the DROMOS experience explores the concept of integral inertia in a live performance that questions our relationship to progress), DROMOS was a psychedelic experience. Different textures, rhythms, speeds, and flowing dynamic symmetry gave me an experience that really challenged my perception of space, how easily and quickly it can change, how I feel within those spaces and how I feel between the spacial shifts. Live production from the creators themselves, Maotik and Fraction, along with a live violinist, aided our eyes into seeing the bigger picture a bit more clearly. What’s nice about this audiovisual experience is that it is super subjective, everyone has a different experience. I found after chatting with a bunch of peeps after, though what we perceived differed from each other, we all felt that pull of having no space no time. It was drawing us all in this constant change of spatial awareness. Truly an incredible show that made blew my eyes and my my mind. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was 5D. Fifth dimensional. After it was over I immediately thought, whoa…this is visualization of the future. This is how we’re going to be seeing movies/videos/shows/etc in maybe ten years…maybe less? Wow!
Nocturne 2: Andy Stott is the man. In my previous post, I was curious as to how his show would play out…and trusting in his Manchester bad-assery I should have had no doubts from the beginning that he was going to play a ridiculous set. Hard distortions and bass, techno lines and still some of his signature atmospheric flare…this show got everyone dancing until sweat dripped all over one another in the well packed fanless SAT. He played some more “upbeat” tracks off his LP Luxury Problems like “Hatch the Plan”. Some of my hardest dancing of the weekend was due to this man. Wahooo!
Nocturne 3: ONRA. I’ve seen him once before and I was so excited to see him again. I knew he would bring his A-game for MUTEK. Ask and you shall receiiiiiive! Incredible set playing many tracks from his repetoire of LPs. No shortages of Chinoiseries tracks and no shortages of his well known productions like “Rock On”, “The Anthem”, “L.O.V.E.” and “Long Distance”. When the latter track came on, I went crazy!!! Beautiful beats sometimes almost poppy hip-hoppy tracks to keep the groove on. Most importantly, it was ALL sexy and r’n’b homie vibes. MMhmmm. The only criticism of ONRA I have though, is that he played another show for Boiler Room at the Satosphere…and his set was 90% the same set. I didn’t mind dancing to the same set again ’cause he’s just that awesome. But saying in saying that, it should have been an equally awesome set without having to recycle what he used for Nocturne 2. Ya know?
GRAZE sure is something special. The world premiere of this duo (Adam Marshall and Christian Andersen) put on a ridiculous set powered by the rhythm and flow of percussion and drums. It was catchy and pulled our feet and hearts to move forward with the vibration. There were elements of drum and bass and breakbeats and garage that I really enjoyed. Atmospheric elements that brought us closer through familiarity. Wonderful set that’ll undoubtedly catapult this Canadian duo into a growing number of people looking for something fresh in the scene.
Nocturne 4: NOSAJ THING is my hero. MUTEK put this LA-ite at the same time as John Talabot. I went to check out John Talabot at Metropolis for a bit and though the music was good and it was LIVE! (awesome), I was unimpressed at the homogenous sound between his live set and studio album. As a producer I like to see that you can mix it up, be creative, and not perform tracks exactly as we’ve heard them a million times, ye? Like James Blake. But it’s all good ’cause it gave me a quicker escape to check out one of my most anticipated shows of the festival, NOSAJ THING. He played an incredibly well rounded set with tracks sampled from his two previous albums (Drift and Home) mixed in with various tracks from well known beat makers like Flying Lotus and the Brainfeeder crew. You can tell from his body language and humble demeanor that he is just the nicest dude with a gnarly taste in music. My favorite! Jajajaja. He initially closed off his set with a LUNICE track (YEE montreal reppin’) then decided to rep his hometown of LA with an equally gully track, one of my favorites actually of last year, Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Hook, line, and sinker. Bomb show.
Nocturne 5: DICTAPHONE (top) and JUAN ATKINS & MORITZ VON OSWALD (bottom) are officially my favorite new discoveries of MUTEK. After four days, our bodies, perspectives, and minds were worn but our hearts still had that fire to keep going and experiencing the talent this wonderful festival brings. It was soooo nice to have a break from the grinding hard (Detroit) techno and experimental and louuuud big bang distorted noises. This night outside of JUJU & JORDASH was filled with the most beaaautiful melancholic and liquid minimal techno. I never thought I’d use those words together but that’s what it was. Like putting on a great liquid drum and bass mix to relax to or chill out too…this minimal techno expressed some atmospheric sunset sunrise landscape painted heart warming vibrations. What made me so incredibly happy was that it was truly heart opening music. So many people were dancing from their hearts. It didn’t have that push like techno or house does sometimes where the beat just informs you how to move where you’re just moving but not being moved, you know? Dictaphone’s talented multi instrumentalists (Oliver Doerell and Roger Doring–Sax and Keyboard?, with violinist Alex Stolze) did exactly the opposite in their North American premiere. Moving in all ways…the jazzy, ambiguous fuzziness oozed familiarity into all our heart spaces and we couldn’t help but close our eyes and dance the way we felt. Their most recent release Poems from a Rooftop has been on repeat ever since. Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald continued this vibe with their vast expertise in techno, minimalism, and sensibility. This was the perfect way to end MUTEK, on a suuuuper high note dancing and feeling to the more simpler things in music, life, and electronic creativity.
P.S. I’m sure if I went to the last A/VISIONS with Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory I would say that this was the most epic show of all…maybe ever. I already feel that way through hearing what people have to say and knowing just how incredible the venue and compositions would have been. And also seeing a snippet through this video. But alas, trying to work through the regret of not going to this show and instead remembering how awesome this festival has been to me otherwise!
Thanks/MERCI MUTEK for another incredible year of electronic music, art, creativity, and vision. I cannot wait for the 15th installment! Please check out my previous posts for more music from MUTEK artists!