Mutek’s tenth edition line-up was a reflection of where dance music continues to push the boundaries and maintain its solid foundation. Annually, according to the festival, over 54 per cent of Mutek attendees travel from places outside of Quebec – Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and Europe – for an experience that Time Out New York has called “North America’s leading electronic-music event.” Thus, it should come as no surprise then, that Mutek recently won Quebec’s Tourism Grand Prize for ‘Festivals and Touristic Events’. I was one of many avid techno tourists who attended Mutek’s 10th edition.
Saturday afternoon, after a six-hour drive into Montreal from Toronto, the Strawberry Fields Forever piknic electronique on Île Ste-Hélène was an energizing respite. Partiers reveled under the remnants of Expo 67 in Montreal – the impressively large and expressive sculpture entitled ‘Man’ by the great modern sculptor, Alexander Calder.
Generous in its appeal, the music of Saturday afternoon was full of dub, deeper house, funky disco rhythms and techy hooks. Starting things off was the Canadian premiere of Berlin’s Thomas Fehlmann, an early collaborator with the Orb. His set was groovy and gentle on afternoon ears. He made djing to the crowd look easy, and with so many years in the business (his first work was completed for early UK house labels in the 1980’s) he definitely knows how to get a party started.
The sun shone moderately on those who danced. Up next was the Manchesterite, Trus’Me, whose signature deep house sounds pleased those in attendance and left no one wondering why he is, today, an internationally renowned talent. Finally, former Montrealer and British Colombia born favourite, The Mole was back in town from Berlin, and he closed out the piknic to a fully pumped crowd. As the sun came down, the Mutek crowd looked ready for the evening festivities ahead.
Saturday evening came quickly and Metropolis was the place to be. Upon arrival, Canadian Public Transit Recordings label head, Moonstarr, had a small but growing crowd engaged. He performed with Tony Ezzy, and DJ’d a hip-hop infused set. The beats were deep and the synths, keys and vocals by Ezzy blended well together. Their stage presence was fantastic and the energy between the performers was amicable.
In conversation with Moonstarr prior to his Mutek performance he explained that he would play tracks from his new single called ‘Farfisa 45’, which is named after the organ that Ezzy plays. Moonstarr’s latest full length, Instrumentals Forever, was also showcased in his set. While he’s better known for hip hop and breaks with jazz and funk samples, his set fit in perfectly with the line-up that the festival curators built that night.
Up next, the French trio, dOP, played a great set with very playful lyrics and beats in a collaborative stage show. However, as nearly a full bottle of vodka disappeared from the stage, as it was drunk, the frontman’s verses became sparser and the set lost a bit of its earlier finesse. But after dOP’s very successful I’m Just a Man EP in 2008, the audience looked eager to experience the live incarnation of the recognizable group. The funniest point in their set was when they invited four ladies onto the stage to dance. Although not particularly musical, it was entertaining never-the-less.
After dOP, Mathew Jonson and Dandy Jack came along. Their collaboration has apparently been an item for months behind the scenes, and they unleashed a fairly pounding and experimental techno set on the crowd. It was interesting to speculate how the two artists, both into musical fusion – techno and jazz, and techno and latin – came together. Maybe it was their love for experimentation or the fact that both artists are living in a home away from home, Berlin, and perhaps sharing the expatriate experience. Jonson is from Victoria, Canada, and Dandy Jack is from Santiago de Chile. In any case, their music was enchanting and exciting – with an energy that is unparalleled by other live techno acts.
Next, tobias. from Berlin, performed in an exclusive North American premiere. His set was surprisingly refreshing, not because one could underestimate the aptitude of an artist who put out his first single in 1989 and who collaborated with Ricardo Villalobos (as Odd Machine), but more because after such a hard experimental techno set, tobias. brought the atmosphere back down from its cerebral tones. His set was elegantly constructed and made a nice arch toward a great finale performance by Detroit techno icon, Carl Craig. Craig’s set was danceable and superb, taking festival-goers well into the early morning hours.
Perhaps, nothing better can be said about Mutek’s production than the visuals. They were done to perfection, beautifully crafted with amazing hues on the artists and the crowd in front of them. From almost any vantage point in the multi-level concert venue, the visual spectacle could not be downplayed.
Wrapping up a 24 hour stint in Montreal for Mutek’s tenth year of international experimental sound and digital creativity, we found ourselves back at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Ste-Hélène. A short subway ride away, the island oasis with its view of Montreal, was a pleasure, even in the cooler rainy weather that day. For the final piknic, Zip and Ricardo Villalobos played a marathon set. Starting out with dubby low-key minimal vibes, the energy only grew as more people arrived in the later afternoon to listen to the kind of quality electronic music so rarely found in any abundance in North America. The atmosphere was bohemian and hip without being over-done, making this event a real treat for those in attendance.
The 10th anniversary year of Mutek once again showcased the range of international and domestic talent that can only be expected from a festival that has techno tourists roaming the continent for it.
To see the article on Urb Magazine’s website visit: http://www.urb.com