Tuesday, June 04, 2013

MUTEK Montreal: Day 3

On Friday I said goodbye to Cosmin and his housemates and lugged my stuff through the ever increasing heat and humidity to my second host Graeme's place, conveniently located less than a mile away. Graeme is self employed, making his livelihood writing and publishing LSAT solution guides and doing one-on-one tutoring for recent grads preparing to take the test. We had a nice hour-long chat before I was on my way downtown for the day's Mutek events.

My first stop was the Balustrade at the Monument National for an XLR8R hosted interview with Jon Hopkins, the artist whose work I was most familiar with before arriving in Montreal. I showed up at the tiny interview space a few minutes early, pulling up a second row seat to wait while the interviewer chatted casually with an associate. As people slowly began filtering in, said interviewer casually directed each to take a seat while we waited for the scheduled time. One of these people just happened to be Mr. Hopkins himself, who somewhat shyly informed the interviewer that he was there to participate instead of to observe. A few hasty apologies later, he took a temporary seat in the front row to wait out the remaining time with the rest of us. Seeing that he was just sitting quietly by himself, I gathered my courage and asked him if he'd seen any particularly compelling performances while he'd been in town. He responded that he'd only just arrived the night before so hadn't have a chance to do much but sleep (that made one of us), but asked who I'd enjoyed so far. We chatted for a little while about how awesome Nils Frahm's work is before the clock hit 13:00ish and the interviewer called him to the small stage to start the session. This little exchange proved to be a hallmark of the Mutek vibe: the usual divide between audience and artist more or less disappears, and there is an easy, casual exchange between the two as people who played to capacity crowds one night show up in the audience the next. The interview was good, and I enjoyed learning about his writing process and the evolution of his live set, though I felt my heart sink a bit when he casually mentioned having first collaborated with Brian Eno at age 23.

The hour passed quickly, and after a brief thanks and goodbye, I headed downstairs to catch the 1024 Architecture presentation on MadMapper, their projection mapping / external device control software. The presentation ended up being presented in French, and included more historical than technical information (from what I gathered), but it was fun nonetheless.

Stepping into the midday heat yet again, I went in search of a birthday gift for Cosmin, whose birthday was that day, and whose celebration in a local park I had been invited to. I found a nursery and picked up a nice hanging houseplant for his budding suspended garden, then took a long meandering walk in the direction of the park, stopping for some really excellent homemade ice cream along the way. 

In uncharacteristic fashion I ended up at the park about half an hour early, so spent the time hanging out with a really odd and entirely adorable squirrel and working on my meditation practice. I'd only intended to to stop by for a few minutes to drop off the plant, but once things got started I got sucked into conversation and made a conscious decision to miss that night's A/Visions session in favor of connecting with the people I was with in that moment. This was a powerful decision for me, as I'd noticed myself starting to succumb to the anxiety that came from my inability to witness everything that Mutek had to offer. Choosing my surroundings in the moment was a great move, and I felt lighter and significantly more present once I'd discarded the constant mental accounting of places I could be for the place that I was. I ended up sticking around the party for a couple of hours before saying goodbye to my new friends and making my way to the Metro to head to the evening's Nocturne sessions.

Friday was the first day that both SAT and Metropolis (a large theater space around the corner) were open simultaneously for Nocturne events. I met up with Emma and a few friends she'd made (coincidentally also from San Francisco), and we headed to Metropolis to catch Emptyset. I hadn't heard of them before, and found myself pretty blown away by their sound: super raw and minimal, intentionally off-kilter, distorted, bassy, rhythmic intensity. Their music was paired perfectly with hugely stripped down visuals that I soon learned were generated by using their audio output to manipulate the CRT control circuitry of an analog television set. The effect was just right, and the nonexistent latency inherent in analog processing tied the imagery perfectly to the sound.

Immediately after was Jon Hopkins, whose sound was very different from what I expected. He's definitely embraced the techno/house aesthetic, but with the attention to detail and careful sound design I've come to expect from the less dance-oriented material I know best from him. As soon as I accepted that it was going to be a dance set I was able to settle into the groove, and ended up really enjoying the whole thing.

After a killer finale from J.H., Robert Hood came up for an old-school Detroit techno set. I'm not familiar with his work at all, and after giving him about twenty minutes, decided that I just wasn't very interested in the music, and headed out to check the scene at SAT. I don't remember who was playing, but I gave them a fair shot before deciding that I was similarly uninspired by their sound. I decided to take the opportunity to mildly recharge, and wandered back to Graeme's place to catch a full seven hours of sleep!

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