MUTEK Montréal 2015: International Veterans & Techno Revisionists
Now entering its 16th year, MUTEK has grown co-continuously with the electronic music and media of the 21st century. Born in Montréal by the opportunity to create a festival focused on digital sound and its many intersections with culture, the festival has become known for impeccably-curated lineups that draw as much on the dance-floor as the academy. Maintaining a strong focus on programming European talent alongside North American (particularly Canadian) acts, MUTEK has grown in scope both geographically and sonically over the past decade and a half. Satellite presences in Bogata and Barcelona continue to flourish; the Mexico City iteration of the festival, active since 2003, has become a premier event in its own right.
While this year’s schedule contains a Eurozone of international talent, there is a substantial presence culled from the disparate tendrils of the North American underground. Pressing many of their releases to cassette and coming to techno out as much from punk as from the conservatory, these artists contribute a lo-fi complement to the well-polished poise of MUTEK’s prior decade and a half.
We’ve selected ten performers from this year’s Montreal iteration — five that embody current operations in European electronic music, and five that best represent the underground mutations among NAFTA nations.
Sherwood & Pinch: Between Sherwood’s role in the post-punk/reggae alliance of Thatcher-era Britain and Pinch’s enfolding of dubstep into the Bristol bass continuum, this partnership rolls the last four decades of Albion dread into a single massive spliff.
Andy Stott: Stott is a MUTEK vet whose back catalogue gathers broken beat, jungle and footwork under the same introspective, industrial-grade sheen. This heaviness has been tempered by integrating human vulnerability into Stott’s relentless clank; the alluring vocals of Stott’s former piano teacher Alison Skidmore, which featured prominently on his last LP, Faith In Strangers, provided a pleasurable detournement towards UK garage.
Mika Vainio: One half of the Finnish duo Pan Sonic, Vainio has been interrogating the prospects of noise-cloaked rhythm music for the past twenty years, presaging the contemporary explosion of danceable rackets. In his solo work, Vainio has dialed back the beats a bit, exploring the spaces between the strata of drone. Now based in Berlin, Vainio marks his return to MUTEK with the presentation of a new program, luridly titled Der Ring Des Monkeylungen.
Ten Walls: Marijus Adomaitis grew up in a household of classical musicians, an influence reflected in the tight structure of his dance music production (as well as the inclusion of his own bassoon playing on a number of tracks). The Lithuanian producer has shifted between numerous personae in his career all tied together by the implementation of jazz and chamber music motifs within techno paradigms.
Basic House: Hailing from northern England, Basic House’s Stephen Bishop maintains the strongest ties to the new North American cassette culture via his label Opal Tapes. As his MUTEK bio describes it, “the genre busting, ultra limited run imprint has put out decaying techno, broken house, dissipating drone experimentations and forays into sound realms that sit somewhere between the chilled gloom of machinery and the warm sheen of nature.”
Rrose: Rrose’s music pulls together the dancefloor templates of Basic Channel and Basic House with the rhythmic interphase and atmospheric drift of contemporary academic composition, releasing them across a spate of 12-inch singles for a number of labels. This indeterminate taxonomy reflects Rrose’s intrigue with Dadaist practice (“Rrose: itself a name lifted from Duchamp), as does an androgynous, media-averse persona and subversive performance practice. Différance dances, indeed.
Strategy: Paul Dickow hails from Portland, Oregon rather than Bristol or Berlin, which might account for the distinctive punk grit bent of his beat music. He’s released records since 1999 on Kranky, Field Hymns and 100% Silk, one of the most recognizable homes of noise gone disco, taking a hands-on, wires-crossed approach to dub, techno and more abstract sound stylings.
Bostich+Fussible: The sole performers making the trans-continental trek to Canada from Mexico, founding Nortec Collective members Ramon Sanchez and Pepe Mogt (Bostich and Fussible respectively) arrive on their final outing under the Tijuana techno banner they first raised fourteen years ago. Fusing the tubas and squeezeboxes of banda and norteño with dance music’s synths and sequencers, Nortec Collective produced a postcolonial party soundtrack that adds another corner to the world of global bass.
CMD: Corina MacDonald is a native of Montreal, active as a DJ and radio host in addition to producing her own buoyant dub techno as CMD. With two EPs under her belt (the latter of which was recently released by Fur Trade Recordings), MacDonald continues to set herself apart as a meticulous and ambitious producer of expansive, immersive music.
Tydonai Braxton performing HIVE: Multi-instrumentalist polymath Tyondai Braxton wrote a profoundly personal recollection in the May issue of WIRE, recollecting the process required for him to allow his multimedia performance project HIVE the freedom of indeterminacy in the midst of complex performance and compositional dynamics. Performed by a five-person ensemble seated atop ovular furniture designed by a Danish architect, HIVE is intended to immerse the performers and audience alike in a transporting sonic environment. Braxton’s MUTEK performance will be the Canadian premiere of the piece.