Mutek showcases cultural capitals
Montreal’s late-summer cultural landscape is changing. As the Festival des films du monde slowly implodes, an institution of our city’s spring calendar moves to August.
For its 18th edition, the Mutek International Festival of Digital Creativity and Electronic Music uproots itself from its longstanding late-May slot, landing this week at the same time as the troubled FFM, and only a stone’s throw away — at and around Place des Arts.
“We have zero regrets,” said festival director and co-founder Alain Mongeau of his event, which began Tuesday and continues to Sunday. “In spring, the average Montrealer is solicited by all kinds of events; it’s almost a losing battle. So far, things are looking good.”
Very good, in fact. Advance ticket sales have doubled compared to last year, and there is buzz surrounding one of the central programming themes of this year’s edition. In a sort of inverted tribute to Montreal’s 375th anniversary, Mutek sheds a light on four other hubs of electronic music: London, Mexico City, Barcelona and Berlin.
“It’s our way of contributing to the festivities for Montreal,” Mongeau said. “Montreal aspires to become a renowned cultural metropolis, so we said, ‘Why not activate our international network … by bringing home the dialogue between Montreal and these cities?’ ”
Mutek is not your typical electronic music event. While its lineup features some DJs who will bring big beats to move the dance floor, the festival does not generally aspire to help people get their rave on.
The “digital creativity” component of its title is key. Mutek seeks out artists with a sense of adventure who use the tools of electronic music and digital art as a means to push boundaries and try new things.
And so, perusing the Mutek program involves some degree of curiosity. It’s a festival of discovery, according to Mongeau. In that spirit, the Montreal Gazette asked for his help in breaking down the remainder of this year’s globe-trotting lineup (the London spotlight took place Wednesday), which includes free lunchtime and evening events on the esplanade of Place des Arts and ticketed nighttime concerts at the SAT.
“We put this program together with the Mutek Mexico team,” Mongeau said. “In the daytime, there are artists with different styles. At night, we did something radical, dedicating the show to the N.A.A.F.I. (No Ambition and F--k-All Interest) collective. The night is dubbed La nuit des rhythmes périphériques, because it’s the Mexican sound on the periphery of the international scene. The show will capture the street vibe of events there that are more underground.”
Upgrayedd Smurphy (Thursday at 8 p.m. on the Place des Arts esplanade as part of Experience Mexico, 5 to 11 p.m., free): Jessica Smurphy, formerly known as DJ Smurphy, mixes murky techno with abstract R&B. “She had some success a few years ago,” Mongeau said. “She recently reinvented herself as Upgrayedd Smurphy, exhibiting a more lo-fi and experimental side. It’s hard to say what it will be like.”
Borchi (Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. on the Place des Arts esplanade for Audio Lunch Mexico, free; Thursday at 9 p.m. on the Place des Arts esplanade as part of Experience Mexico): “Of all the artists in this program, Borchi is maybe the one presenting what people most commonly expect in terms of the integration of Mexican and Latin sounds with electronics.”
Mexican Jihad (Thursday night at 1:45 a.m. at the SAT as part of Inter_Connect Mexico, 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., $27): “He’s one of the founders of the N.A.A.F.I. collective. His style combines underground techno and trappy hip-hop-style production. This night plunges into the dark, sweaty side of Mexico City.”
“I don’t think this selection gives an idea of the sound of Barcelona, per se,” Mongeau said. “There are many artists at different places in their career. It’s more a sample of what these different artists are doing. All together, they provide an eclectic vision of things.”
Wooky and Alba G. Corral (Friday at 9:45 p.m. at the SAT as part of Inter_Connect Barcelona, 9 p.m. to 2:45 a.m., $27): “Wooky does more of the music — melodic electronica with an organic feel. Alba G. Corral is a visual artist who has worked with Ricardo Villalobos and Jon Hopkins and performed at Primavera Sound.” Filastine and Nova (Friday at 11:30 p.m. at the SAT as part of Inter_Connect Barcelona): “Filastine is an American who has been living in Barcelona for a long time. He works in the world-music sphere, integrating sounds from the global future of pop music. He’s coming with an Indonesian singer (Nova). Together, they create a borderless, polyphonic world.”
“Berlin is like a year-round festival, happening all the time. We worked with our sister event there, the CTM Festival.”
N.M.O. (Saturday at 6:45 p.m. on the Place des Arts esplanade as part of Experience Berlin, 3 p.m. to midnight, free): “They’re a Norwegian-Spanish duo, living in Berlin. They perform in the crowd. Their show is almost like performance art, with lots of interaction with the audience. Musically, it’s very raw. Patti (Schmidt, Mutek co-programmer) described it in our program as ‘fluxus interventionist techno, avant-acid house, post-punk electronics, computerized aerobics.’ ”
Monolake (Saturday night at 1:20 a.m. at the SAT as part of Inter_Connect Berlin, 9 p.m. to 2:20 a.m., $27): “Robert Henke incarnates the sound of Berlin, as people referred to it in the ’90s and ’00s. He does classic, minimal dub-techno using refined rhythms. His sound is hypnotic, with atmospheric builds and peaks. It’s like surfing a techno wave.
“He’s the co-creator of (electronic performance software) Ableton Live, so there’s an attention to detail in his sound. For his set, he asked for a surroundsound setup, so we equipped the SAT with a surround-sound system for the night.”