Fabra i Coats, Barcelona
Now in its seventh year, Mira festival is a gathering of digital artists, curators and a showroom of the most innovative technology put to the service of art right now.
Set at the old textile factory, Fabra i Coats, there’s two stages: a dome for 360º screenings and four rooms dedicated to immersive installations pulling into focus the balance between music and digital arts that forms the heart of the festival. The 3D Sound Room by SON Estrella Galicia, dedicated to multidimensional sound and immersive auditive technology, offered electronic music for those who felt like experiencing their beats coming out of 32 loudspeakers placed all around the room. 3D sound, for real.
Among the artists putting the system through its paces was Kelly Lee Owens, whose DJ set melded atmospheric pop with sensual voices and techno beats. Maybe no one took more advantage of the cutting edge sound than the young Barcelonian Mans O, who seemed to direct his abstract sounds all around the room along with his ally ODD LABU, a masked man shouting to an increasingly astonished crowd. Elsewhere, Fantastic Twins – part of a strong French presence at Mira – dispatched refinement and expertise as she presented her dark debut album Obakodomo. Essaie Pas, the duo from Canada formed by composer Marie Davidson and producer Pierre Guerineau, showed that it’s possible to find a sweet spot between atmospheric textures and convincing rhythms. And finally, it fell to Toulouse Low Trax to keep the crowds dancing until close.
Over on the the main stage, electronic producer turned bandleader James Holden presented his latest album The Animal Spirits, a work that mixes modular synthesis with acoustic instrumentals resulting on a spiritual trip from krautrock to trance and jazz. William Basinski, a master of ambient music, performed his show divided in two parts – For David Robert Jones and A Shadow in Time – an elegy to David Bowie. Shackleton and Anika Henderson came together to create Behind The Glass while Visionist built a narrative set balanced between fragility and grandiloquence. On a more meditative side we had the chance to see Julianna Barwick’s set, an endless and peaceful loop of soft synths and mystical voices that transported the audience to their most quiet and intimate hideouts.
Finally, it’s only fair to say that, at Mira, emphasis was shared between music and visuals. One good example of this was the Chinese producer Tzusing, whose visuals were provided by Onionlab – a striking show of light and reactive lasers.
The great thing about having just two stages is that festival-goers could explore art installations without feeling that stress of missing out on concerts. As you went up the building – an installation per floor – you got the feeling of being transported towards the future. From a room full of drones dancing according to the crowd’s movements to a room turned into an autonomous digital world of light and sound.
There’s no doubt Barcelona is at the forefront of technical advances in electronic music and culture, and festivals like Mira help deliver a refreshing overview. We’ll certainly be returning.