For five days, Montreal’s arts quarter, Place Des Arts, and a number of other venues were witness to a breadth of digital and musical creativity, highlighting exactly what you can do with synthesizers, saxophones, a cornucopia of found instruments and – in the case of locals Mue & Katherine Melançon – vegetables.
There was the more experimental and cerebral side, like Italy’s synth master, Caterina Barbieri and Norway’s saxophone maestro, Bendik Giske. Then full-on rave moments with artists like Nik Colk Void and Luke Slater (who played under a few monikers L.B. Dub Corp and Planetary Assault Systems).
With a wealth of drum samplers, synthesizers, and analog gear, machìna (Yeohee Kim) quietly took to the stage at around 11pm in the basement of SAT. The walls were glowing with bouncing light. We then heard a chimerical concoction of EDM, house and leftfield techno. At times she had us all pacing, waiting for a drop. But it never came and instead she mutated more familiar melodies and manipulated her own voice through layers and layers of hypnotic sound.
There was a light-field installation piece by Max Cooper and the Architecture Social Club that also served as a highlight of the programme. Dubbed ‘Aether’, a giant cube of pulsating lights flashed as oscillating synths filled the room.
The audiovisual attractions with Whatever The Weather’s free-flowing compositions complemented by sublime visuals courtesy of susy.technology. The performance was calming and quietly eye-opening, offering a reprieve from the blasting DJ sets that ran into the early hours.
But it wasn’t all respite. Aquarian delivered a black-tar mass of bass, broken-beat techno and energising, almost post-hardocre melodies.
This is only a brief snapshot of what MUTEK brought to Montreal – emblematic of what a multi-disciplinary festival like this brings to a city and how it impacts shared creativity.
Nothing is too abstract or out of bounds for MUTEK – spontaneity is what it thrives on.