MUTEK MONTREAL 2015 RECAP
This year’s MUTEK Montreal shaped up to be an entertaining time. In addition to stellar acts, top notch sound, and beautiful performance spaces, there were also a ton of interesting workshops and Q&As happening that made for a quite immersive experience. The fact that most of the performances occurred at 4 main venues that were close in proximity to each other made it easy to catch at least a little of each performance.
Because we got in on Wednesday night, our soiree didn’t begin until Thursday. We began with a trip to the Quartier de Spectacles to see CMD play live at an outdoor stage flanked by an open grassy knoll. The rain didn’t stop people from coming out, and gathering under covered areas in the park and even across the street to listen to Corina MacDonald’s set. It was uptempo, dance worthy, and set at an odd time. We feel that she could have gone on later because the material itself was not fit for a rainy afternoon, but more for a prime time club night. That being said, we were glad to see her on the bill and hope to see her again in a more fitting environment where people can really get down to her uncompromising sound. Other highlights of Thursday include Dasha Rush’s Antarctic Takt. It was a hypnotic performance that had us entranced. Constantly shifting rhythmic and visual patterns toppled over one another building into a climax of ecstatic fury that left everyone breathless once it was over. Bravo! It was a great lead in to Richard Devine’s modular wizardry. His entire performance was done using his rig of modular synthesizers, and it was obvious at moments that even he didn’t know exactly what to expect from his beast of an instrument, which made it all the more exciting for the audience.
The festival kept ramping up as it went along, and Friday was the night that the dancers were really looking forward to. Karen Gwyer got her refreshing groove on giving us the A side to the B side of her fascinating Q&A with Wired Magazine’s Jennifer Allan. It was a fascinating conversation where she touched on what it means to wear so many hats (including that of a mother) and the precarious issue of balancing them all at once. Metropolis was the mega club of the festival and saw Steffi take the stage with her new hardware set to countless screaming fans. Let’s just say she brought it, and took no prisoners while she was at it. It was nearly impossible to walk across the dancefloor because bodies were standing their ground moving to the thunderous beats of her well manipulated machines. Lucy closed out the night with modular synthesis techno magic that worked the us into a frenzy in a no holds barred performance easily in my top 10 of all time.
All the female performances were over by the end of Friday night for some odd reason so it was pretty much a dude fest for the rest of the time. Saturday night’s events were pretty good even so. Of the performances we were able to catch that night, Millie and Andrea stood out as pretty amazing despite their questionable choice of moniker. Patricia, another male act, held it down with his acid techno live set that had people mercilessly stomping their feet. It really did seem like more women were performing at Mutek, hmmmm curious. DBX played late on Saturday night and went on just as many were beginning to yawn and look at their watches. He woke us up for sure when he got on the mic doing his pitched down vocals with John Tejada on live drums. It was a super funky performance and the vibes were thick in the crowd. We want to do a special shout out to Music For Lamps, an ambient act that produced the most mystical melodies which were great for stretching out and doing yoga poses before the beat ridden uptempo acts that came later in the evening. The visual component of their act consisted of lamps set up to react to the sounds they are playing via mic triggers. Very innovative and atmospheric!
Sunday nights highlights included Pole and MFO and Strategy. It makes perfect sense that Pole is a sound designer/mastering engineer because the silky sound he produced really stood out as the icing on the cake, as many at the event would concur. Femmecult also got to attend a roundtable discussion at CMD’s radio show Modular Systems on CKUT. Square Root of Evil aka Nancy Dru, Echo Beach, Ylang Ylang (who also performed at MUTEK,) CMD and I, SciFiSol, got a chance to chat about pertinent issues and play some of our tunes which you can listen to online here.
One of our few laments of the festival was that we didn’t have clones of ourselves so that we would be able to attend more of the workshops during the day. Unfortunately, we had to spend some time sleeping, but next year we hope to plan so that we can attend more talks and interactive events, of which their were many. It really is wonderful that many of these events are free and open to the public. The other lament was that there were not more women performing at the festival. In our research over the last 5 years we have personally come into contact online with hundreds of female composers (thanks FemalePressure) who would fit the artistic criteria of many of the performers we saw at MUTEK this year. Therefore, the question of innovation comes to mind. Would it not be more innovative to provide audiences with a broader perspective of electronic music that includes a more balanced representation of all genders, instead of the perspective of a majority of white males? In the end, it comes down to in group dynamics, visibility and access to the conversation in general.
Despite our aforementioned issues, the festival was an absolute blast and very well thought out logistically. It is understandable that it would be counted as one of the preeminent electronic festivals in the world. This summer, be on the lookout for our festival interviews with Dasha Rush as well as Patti Schmidt, who is one of MUTEK’s curators, where we address the topic of more visibility for female composers.