The phrase ‘hidden gem’ gets bandied about a lot when discussing avant-garde music festivals, but the term feels truly appropriate when applied to Portugal’s Mucho Flow. This was the 10th edition of the festival, a celebration of an event that has spent the past decade championing future-facing sounds that traverse the heady blend that is pop, electronic and experimental music. With an emphasis on thoughtful, cutting-edge curation, over the years Mucho Flow has been ahead of the game when it comes to picking up on emerging trends. It has previously featured the likes of black midi, Slauson Malone 1, Loraine James, Space Afrika, and sega bodega at key moments in the earlier stages of these artists’ careers.
Mucho Flow takes place each year in Guimarães, a charming historic city situated not far from Porto that is widely known as “the birthplace of Portugal”. Guimarães is dotted with well-preserved medieval buildings, including a 10th century castle perched on the hilltop overlooking the city, and the festival offers the opportunity for international visitors to discover the many delights of the area. The multi-venue event was spread across four of the city’s impressive cultural venues, all located within walking distance of one another. From the brutalist-style art museum CIAJG (Centro Internacional das Artes José de Guimarães), to the nostalgic, faded glamour of the 1970s-built Teatro São Mamede, the intimate settings and friendly, open-minded crowd are as much a part of Mucho Flow as the three-day programme of mind-blowing music and audio-visual entertainment. How Mucho Flow isn’t more widely known is anyone’s guess, but those who have experienced it will attest that it’s akin to alighting on one of the European festival circuit’s best-kept secrets.
It was a festival packed with highlights, and below we’ve rounded up five of the weekend’s best moments that encapsulated the celebratory spirit of 10 years of Mucho Flow.
Thursday night was a taster to the main event, with panel discussions at CIAJG followed by performances at Centro Cultural Vila Flor. A sit-on-the-floor type affair, Atavic Forest was a mesmerising and thought-provoking audiovisual art installation, co-created by Porto-based multidisciplinary artist Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, art collective Lunar Ring and researchers Gonçalo Guiomar and Zach Mainen. On the huge screen in the venue’s sparse auditorium, droning electronics coalesced with motion-sensor driven reactive imagery of dark woodlands, somewhat like a trippy 21st century version of Disney’s Fantasia. Both unsettling and deeply moving, it was a timely comment on climate change, AI and machine learning.
Mysterious, moody and genre-defying, Heith revelled in the darkness on Friday’s CCVF stage. The Milan-based artist and PAN label affiliate sculpted an underworld of hypnotic, electroacoustic weirdness that felt especially fitting as the wild and stormy weather that blew in over the weekend intensified outside. The hour-long performance incorporated live percussion and instrumentation with offbeat electronics, at times downtempo and melodic, at others verging into broken metal territory. Against a backdrop of spooky, murky visuals that gave off haunted house vibes, this was a delight for creatures of the night.
The vivacity that OK Williams brings to her much-loved NTS Radio residency shows was on full display as she turned up the peak-time club heat on Friday night. In the hazy light of Teatro São Mamede (a former movie theatre turned multipurpose performance space) a room full of sweaty, bouncy revellers lapped up the southeast London DJ’s winning selections, from house and techno to big, bass-heavy bangers. OK Williams’ wide-ranging taste means her sets are always one of a kind, and this jubilant hour-and-a-half journey was a prime example of why she’s such a rapid, and continually, rising talent.
Lunch Money Life
How do you endear yourself to an audience? London-based experimental five-piece Lunch Money Life dropped an absolute masterclass on Saturday’s Teatro Jordão garage stage. It’s fair to say most of the crowd weren’t familiar with the groups thrilling, idiosyncratic amalgam of punk, jazz, and fizzing electronics, but as they worked their way through the explosive material from their recent album The God Phone, the mood of the room shifted from curiosity to full-blown devotion. Vocalist Spencer Martin sported a massive grin throughout and trotted out a few well-received phrases in Portuguese. At the end of the show, they generously distributed records and t-shirts, to the delight of their instantly converted new fans.
Porto-based DJ Lynce, a.k.a. Pedro Santos, has been a part of Mucho Flow from the very beginning, a partnership that underscores the festival’s unwavering commitment to supporting the local electronic music scene. DJ Lynce had the honour of closing out this year’s event, and his high voltage performance at Teatro São Mamede in the early hours of Sunday morning felt like one for the ages. He delivered a special live set for the occasion, a fast-paced foray through squiggly acid electro, illuminated by golden strobing lights and packed with old-school rave attitude. It was euphoric, infectious and hugely fun – a fittingly memorable finale for Mucho Flow’s unforgettable 10th edition.