On Friday night (June 3), a stellar performance took place with Plastikman Live at Metropolis. The highly revered live show, which returned to MUTEK after six years, exceeded all expectations this time around. Richie Hawtin and his creative team upgraded the show for their MUTEK appearance by increasing the frame rate of the visuals and perfecting each song, down to the millisecond, for the visually stunning, hour-long performance.
Plastikman Live fully consumed the audience as they watched Hawtin standing behind a translucent screen, watching an overlay of hypnotic visuals perfectly synched to a minimal techno soundtrack. The experience was more of a concert and many people took photos and shared remarks about the refined show they had collectively witnessed.
Amon Tobin's world premiere of 'ISAM' Live, an audio-visual show featuring music from his new album was nearly as phenomenal. The 'ISAM' Live show kicked off MUTEK on Wednesday night (June 1), along with performances by sample-based artists Badawi and Gold Panda.
A large crowd at Metropolis in downtown Montreal was treated to Tobin performing his signature experimental deep bass music behind a translucent screen of machine-like visuals that slowly morphed into a spaceship that eventually took off. The audience was then treated to visuals of cosmic figures and shooting stars. Later on in the show, beautiful shapeshifting objects took over before a video of Tobin's enlarged hands swaying from side to side mesmerized the room. Onlookers continued to be enthralled with the music as they moved to Tobin's beats as he transitioned into his DJ set still amidst the 3D stage design.
While other festivals are just starting to book visual artists, MUTEK has always ensured their place on the marquee.
Gold Panda reflected on what attracted him to the festival for the first time this year. "MUTEK has a lot of artists who perform electronic music but who aren't doing dance music," the UK artist told Spinner. "And that's really unique because a lot of music festivals are more focused on going out and getting completely wasted..."
In keeping with the more mature aesthetic sensibility of the festival, MUTEK hosted a sit-down performance at the Salle Pierre-Mercure theatre for the North American premiere of Murcof and Simon Geilfus. Performing together on stage, Murcof, a Mexican producer, and Geilfus from France's AntiVJ collective, opened their cinematic set with two completely transparent screens in front of them. It was there that Geilfus projected moving dark and light lines and shapes to go with Murcof's enchanting sounds. For the audience, the visuals appeared to be floating in space rather than simply projected on a screen.
The AntiVJ team returned to MUTEK 2011 after being invited two years previously to do a projection on a tower in the old port of Montreal. Joanie Lemercier, a member of AntiVJ team, told Spinner she feels fortunate to be back at the Quebec festival. "It's exciting to see the new mix of visuals, architecture and stage design. I think that's going to keep exploding."
Nicolas Boritch, also from AntiVJ, concurred. "A lot of festivals are getting really into visuals," he told Spinner, citing Coachella's main stage design as well as the Creator's Project and United Visual Artists as a turning point for festivals everywhere. He expects more ambitious visual programming at festivals worldwide as a result. But, for MUTEK, the visual component to their programming is nothing new.
In 2009, the exceptional audio-visual performance by Modeselektor, Apparat and visualist Pfanderei as the project Moderat was a good example of MUTEK's consistently stellar audio-visual programming.
This year, too, MUTEK's Modeselektion showcase featured visuals along with the sounds of Modeselektor and their Monkey Town labelmates Siriusmo, Faulty DL and Anstam. Gernot Bronsert of Modeselektor explained: "Since 1998 we have collaborated with a VJ collective and we did audio-visual nights in Berlin and now we have the opportunity to do it at festivals all over the world." The night marked the Berlin duo's fourth time at the festival, and the North American debut of their Modeselektion night.
The Modeselektion visuals included their signature Ape face logo and graphical, brightly coloured 2D images on the screens above them. The atmosphere created was a rowdy party vibe. Meanwhile, in the other room of Metropolis, a Canadian showcase of homegrown talent with Arthur Oskan, Mateo Murphy and Billy Dalessandro brought the headier elements of house and techno to the dancefloor and kept people dancing until the end of the evening.
Other highlights at MUTEK's 12th edition included a showcase of artists from around the world -- Berlin, Buenos Aires and Montreal -- at the SAT on Saturday evening (June 4), with Deadbeat/Lillevan making a world premiere and the Chancha Via Circuito duo performing mashed up South American folk music and reggae-infused sounds to a bouncing crowd. That same night over at Metropolis, old favourites Four Tet and James Holden kept the momentum going.
Boritch summarized the sentiment of many festival-goers on hand this last week in Montreal: "MUTEK is one of the five most interesting festivals in the world for electronic music ... There is Sonar in Spain, and MUTEK in Montreal, and maybe a few in the UK. So it is really on the top of my list."