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.”


Sam­ple what Barcelona artists are cre­at­ing when Wooky and Alba G. Cor­ral col­lab­o­rate Fri­day dur­ing the Mutek In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Dig­i­tal Cre­ativ­ity and Elec­tronic Mu­sic.


Jes­sica Smur­phy ex­hibits “a more lo-fi and ex­per­i­men­tal side” as Upgrayedd Smur­phy.


Robert Henke will have a sur­round­sound setup for his Mono­lake per­for­mance as part of Mutek’s Berlin pro­gram.

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