19 - 25 November
It would be difficult – and somewhat inappropriate – to recap the 15th edition of Mutek Mx without acknowledging how they were shaped by last year’s 14th edition. In the wake of a deadly 7.1 earthquake that rocked Mexico City last September, 2017’s instalment of the Montreal-exported festival was challenged by the cancellation of several artists, necessitated by a date change from October to November. Though festival programmes are a small concern compared to natural disasters, credit should be given yet again to Mutek Mx organisers, who this weekend were able to pull together a bill highlighted by Aurora Halal and Actress, both of whom returned to the Mexican capital after having to cancel their 2017 appearances.
Besides the festival’s musical bill – which also featured buzzed-about names like Smerz, Lanark Artefax and Avalon Emerson – Mutek Mx offered its visitors a near-360 view of the city’s tentacular geography. Talks ranging from topics like VR to gender diversity were held in posh Condesa, while Wednesday night drove nearly 2000 people to Coyoacán’s Museo Anahuacalli – a Diego Rivera-conceived museum that served as an awe-striking backdrop to the organic smear of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project.
The week’s activities, though, were hinged on the programming of Friday and Saturday, when over 40 artists converged in an industrial space called Fábrica, situated in the city’s northernmost reaches. Fábrica – roughly the size of an airplane hanger, with all the adherent acoustics – lent itself well to Mutek’s programming, which skewed heavily toward ambient and techno sounds. While the main stage saw thumping sets from Halal and Apparat on Friday night, an undeniable early highlight of the weekend bill was a B-room appearance by American duo Visible Cloaks.
Boasting a sound that recalled both Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam and GG Masi’s Wind, the Portland outfit amassed a growing audience before dropping jaws with their horn-dappled stunner Terraza.
The kaleidoscopic graphics accompanying that set helped illuminate something about Mutek that would become clear over the weekend – the production design across all stages here was nothing short of first-class. Earning its self-proclaimed title as an ‘‘international festival of digital creativity”, Mutek Mx encircled the main stage in a ring of LED towers that blistered eyeballs throughout both nights, while side rooms used every inch of space to maximum visual effect. And for those keen on idle distraction between sets, tech installations around the venue ranged from light-refracting robots to entire walls ensconced in strobe light. Adding this level of visual stimulation to an already trippy collection of musical acts, Mutek Mx managed to turn Fábrica into a veritable psychedelic playground.
If much of the weekend was a sensory feast, Sunday’s closing affair at Museo Tamayo was a calming digestivo. Building up to a collaborative performance between Brandt Brauer Frick and the Mexico State Philharmonic Orchestra, the outside terrace of the museum was jam-packed by 5pm, leaving a daunting queue outside the stage.
However, most of those left outside took proactive measure and sought vantage from the park behind the venue. Many young people climbed trees for a better view, as the band and orchestra filled the warm evening air with sounds spanning from jazz to spy noir trip-hop. At the end of a festival which rolled with massive punches over the last 13 months, such an adaptation by the audience was a welcome, and fitting, close.