Programmer's Primers

MUTEK programmers Alain Mongeau, Vincent Lemieux and Patti Schmidt have provided a few personal notes with their recommendations from this years festival.

May 21, 2014
Programmer's Primers

Alain Mongeau

This EM15 special edition delivers some of the very distinct characteristics that have always been features of the MUTEK festival in the past: there’s the usual wide variety in terms of programming, with a range of content split between pure discoveries and famous names — and experimentation and risk taking (17 artists leap into the void with world premieres) to safe bets who are back at the festival this year.

Let's start with some obvious facts. There have been many changes in this year's festival configuration: the partnership with ELEKTRA, new venues like the MAC, the Impérial, the Esplanade de la Place des Arts — but to celebrate MUTEK’s 15 years accordingly, we have preserved the large events at Métropolis. The 3 programs at Métropolis highlight the links that the festival has cultivated over the years with electronic music artists working at the forefront. On Thursday, May 29, RICHIE HAWTIN takes over the venue to present a condensed version of ENTER., an event concept he's been nurturing for the last two years in Ibiza, and a leap with no compromises into the core of the sound universe HAWTIN has defended since his beginnings, but this time with a particularly spectacular audiovisual and immersive touch. Friday, May 30, it's MATTHEW DEAR's turn to assault the stage with his new audiovisual project under his AUDION moniker. It’s a wild incursion into the video mapping world with a special installation developed alongside some of the creators involved with Amon Tobin's ISAM project. And no need to mention the return of RICARDO VILLALOBOS at the Métropolis on Saturday night (May 31) — a special occasion on its own, as his North American appearances have become very rare. These three anchors for each night act as catalysts to discover numerous other intriguing artists among the lineups. Three acts which particularly call out to me: the techno-ambient emotional narratives of VOICES FROM THE LAKE (DONATO DOZZY's duo with NEEL), the epic live from MAX COOPER and the sound and rhythm explorations of STEFAN GOLDMANN.

In the obvious facts section (part two) the new projects from NICOLAS BERNIER & MARTIN MESSIER (Wed, May 28) and HERMAN KOLGEN (Sat, May 31), perfectly embody the conjunction of ELEKTRA and MUTEK, as the trajectory of these artists has intersected with both festivals multiple times, and having similar international careers, they all act as true ambassadors of the Montréal scene all over the world.

Another artist that embodies the fusion spirit of EM15 is ROBERT HENKE (a.k.a Monolake) who will present his most recent project, LUMIÈRE, for which the artist-engineer has created a device composed of several laser beams he controls as a unique and spectacular instrument. The A/VISIONS 3 and 4 programs being sold-out, we've added encore versions of these programs as PARA_VISIONS 3 (re-presenting LUMIÈRE) and PARA_VISIONS 4 (including HERMAN KOLGEN's performance) on Saturday, May 31.

There's another element that we hardly ever mention to people but which is sometimes haunting as curators: it’s the category of “artists who should have been part of the program for many years and for whom we have now finally corrected this.” The opening night at the MAC (Tue, May 27) enables us to strike two birds with one stone, as we are, at last, welcoming ROBERT LIPPOK, who notably became famous as part of the ever-influential trio TO ROCOCO ROT, and KANGDING RAY as it will be his first appearance at a MUTEK event in Montréal. These two are associated with the RASTER NOTON label, which also illustrates in such a nice way, the common ground between ELEKTRA and MUTEK.

In the favourites section, and artists who have previously performed at the festival: BEN FROST (Thu, May 29) for whom it will be his third contribution to MUTEK. Each of his performances have given me goose bumps because of his music’s powerful and gripping effect (one of his records is actually titled "By the Throat" which sums things up perfectly). This time he presents himself as a trio, which will only amplify the results. And of course, ELEKTRO GUZZI, the Austrian trio who were a big discovery at  MUTEK 2011, and an audience favourite, who return this time to perform for free on the Esplanade de la Place des arts, presented in collaboration with the RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY.

And finally, every year I am surprised with the growing quality of projects submitted by local and national artists. There are many troves that we will discover together because most of the world premieres come from them. Of note here: SECRET PYRAMID, PROCESSOR, WOULG, and numerous artists encounters like: JESSE OSBORNE LANTHIER and GRISCHA LICHTENBERGER, METAMETRIC and MAOTIK, and MATT THIBIDEAU and MARKUS HECKMANN.

The nature of this work pushes me to omit too many artists about whom there should be some special mention: ATHEUS, FLUXION, PINCH, NONOTAK, YOSI HORIKAWA, INTERCITY-EXPRESS and SYNICHI YAMAMOTO …
Phew!! Enjoy the festival!!


Patti Schmidt

The programming and artist choices we make every year for MUTEK, and in this year’s extraordinary instance for EM15,   always try to paint a big picture, a panoramic portrait of what’s new, what’s challenging, and what will draw people to the larger adventure of the whole festival experience. Invariably, each of us also present artists to the months long debate that is our programming meetings that we personally advocate for or have a particular affinity with.  Effective persuasion among our little committee I’ve learned, is one part art and argument, and one part relentlessness. And it is in that spirit that I offer a few of my recommendations from this year’s program — a mix of must-sees and completely biased favourites.
Québec artists performing this year that consistently blow my mind are Herman Kolgen and Bernier + Messier. Ingenuity is in excess supply in both cases. Bernier + Messier will present a new fantastical performance contraption built of wood with various pulleys and levers that trigger sounds and signals. As big as a room, both men play the machine like a new music jungle gym. Kolgen’s world premiere of SEISMIK taps into the actual vibrations of the earth to produce real time sound tremours and visual landscapes that connect us to our collective terrestrial present. His penchant for custom designed software and machines, and his synesthetic sense for sound and vision, science and cinema always astound.
Also part of the A/VISIONS program, and like Bernier + Messier a group working between new music and anachronistic tools, Mantra Percussion will perform a stunning work by the composer Michael Gordon, called Timber, on 6 humble wooden 2X4s, that feature contact mics and audio-reactive lighting. Gordon is responsible for the arresting soundtrack to Bill Morrison’s decomposing film, Decasia
A few personal highlights in the NOCTURNE programs at the MAC: Holly Herndon’s vocal saturated electronic compositions and avant-geek command of technology and performance; the casios and quirky cyberculture kind-of-techno made by Heatsick; the Durian Brothers and their mad dervish of turntables, pedals and hypnotic rhythms; Greek dub-techno producer Fluxion has been making music that always moves me and I’m extremely excited to experience it live (joining him on the bill a young Canadian working in the genre, Segue); and from Brooklyn a major recommendation for Archie Pelago, a live jazz/classical and electronics trio whose unique musicianship has been on heavy rotation on my home stereo.
In the big room at Métropolis, don’t sleep on the new project from Andreas Tilliander as TM404 — using the Roland machines responsible for acid flavoured electronic music, he repurposes them to make live, liquid, dubby compositions, remarkable for the sheer musicianship of it all. Producer Move D is a perennial favourite who consistently pours delicious soul into his house music. He’ll DJ the Sunday Piknic, but he’ll also join last years closing duo Juju & Jordash in their longform, live improv project Magic Mountain High. On my list for a couple of years now, I implore you to go and see them at Métropolis on Saturday night.
It seems cruel to underline a program that is already sold-out, but Sunday night’s Ex-pat Discotheque featuring The MoleMike Shannon and Guillaume Coutu-Dumont, represents not only a homecoming for 3 producers who left Montréal for Berlin several years ago, it highlights the deep pool of talent that has grown up with MUTEK from its earliest days to go on to participate at the highest levels of international electronic music culture.
My musts in the free programs - PLAY: Jean-Sébastian Truchy and Charles Barabé with their unruly named vocal, dance and visual performance, Toronto post-industrial punks, Processor; and  outside on the Esplanade of the Place des Arts for EXPÉRIENCE presented by RBMA: local producer Magnanime, another local abroad, Chris Hreno, Spain’s Lucretia Dalt, JTC from Detroit (also known as Dabrye) and Austrian techno trio and live band Elektro Guzzi.
Plus, of course, pretty much everything else. 


Vincent Lemieux

In the world of festivals and the cycles of creation, every five years or so we get the impression that we are crossing into another era that causes us to question ourselves about our programming work, but also to take a look back at the path some of the artists we’ve already worked with have taken. Since my beginnings as a MUTEK curator 14 years ago, and now for EM15, many things have obviously changed. The simple fact of getting in touch with an artist was so much harder in the early days, as there were no websites, no Facebook, no Soundcloud and almost no artist managers. Also, the evolution of technology, and so many other factors, have intensely changed the way performance has evolved. What remains unaffected is that special magic moment when an artist connects with the audience either by their gracefulness, by their shocking creations or through their strength of character. Being a witness and an instigator of this, is what gives us the energy to start all over again — year in, year out.

Among the artists I’ve had the pleasure to admire over the years is Tim Hecker, whose musical evolution has been remarkable. This year he will present the world premier of his new project, Fog Works, which can be counted on to deliver, like his older projects, an unforgettable sensory experience. Another friend of mine that I’ve watched evolve is Ricardo Villalobos. Probably one of the most in-demand DJs in the world, we will make the most of his very rare appearance here — and we will be presenting him as the marquee Saturday night DJ and with his experimental project with Max Loderbauer, where analog synths meet jazz.

Shackleton is a musician in a class of his own. Right from the beginning, I’ve been intrigued by the singularity, the timelessness and the mystical aspects of his music. Performing for the third time at the festival, he's back to present his new work as part of a very special night alongside the audiovisual artist Dinos Chapman. To anyone who's never seen him perform before, also an infrequent visitor to North America, grab the opportunity again — don’t miss him.

I've had the chance to meet Rashad Becker in his mastering studio. To have a conversation with him about music and sound while observing him working is definitely a moment I will never forget. Since the release of his debut album, Traditional Music Of Notional Species Vol. I on Pan last year, he has become internationally renowned as a sound artist.  A label-mate on Pan, and an artist who's made quite a stir since his debut a few short years ago, is Heatsick. A musical U.F.O developing lo-fi soundscapes strengthened by wild rhythms, and equipped with a Casio synth, it is primarily his hypnotizing and mesmerizing performances that lead us to invite him to complete the program alongside Archie Pelago, The Durian Brothers and Citofono.

Donato Dozzy is not only an exceptional musician, he is also an awe inspiring DJ. Be it in Japan where he is totally adulated, or from other festival curators and other DJs (they are very hard to convince, believe me), consensus has it that he is simply one of the very best techno DJs of his generation.

I also need to highlight Iron Galaxy's performance. An artist from Montréal whose reputation is now well established worldwide, we will present his very first live performance this year. And obviously, I can't forget Sunday night with the ex-pat Montréalers, Mike Shannon, The Mole and Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts —  but there’s also some refreshing other local sonic discoveries to take in, like LL (Vertigo inc.), Fake_Electronics, Chat Noir and Bataille Solaire. 

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