[Mutek 2003] :  : Navigating Noise & Nausea
4:34pm. Friday, May 30, 2003
.. Ok, coffee time .. heading into day three .. on three hours sleep .. my feet are beginning to kill me .. time to hunt out chairs .. drink .. drugs of all kinds & sorts .. this year is a cold Mutek: the first in which sudden, 30 degree heat waves have not dominated the atmosphere, lending to increased drinking and all around heat exhaustion. Although the cooler temperatures make for increased energy, the colder weather has also detracted, it seems, from event attendance of the cinq-a-sept, and from the drive of the festival in general .. there is something about Montréal heat the puts the city IN heat, adss a life to the terasse, the sweat, the discomfort, the brain turns mush and the sound sets in ..
--. Yesterday began with missing both panels; as usual, attempting to do anything during the day while attempting to write and sleep has quickly become impossible... I am currently missing the panel on digital distribution, featuring, among others, his Eminence Richie Hawtin and the No Type crew, but I am satisfied in the fact that the panels are being recorded & archived. Nonetheless, panels beginning at 11am -- and this after being shifted from 10! -- are all but impossible to make on a regular basis when one is out until 4am the evening previous... By far it would have made more sense to put this panel--probably one of the most fascinating of the festival, as well as pertinent in so many ways, political, economic, and by lieu of the panelists involved--on in the afternoon.
Speaking of the No Type-ers ... After what has been some public critique of Mutek, even on this list, No Type presented a label showcase at the Studio yesterday that enraptured the crowd, sucking them into a vortex of noise and improv electronic performances. Again, the venue did not have that special touch that has made the SAT label showcases the highlight of a few festivals, given the street-level access, windows, and monster sound of that demised space [RIP] -- I am thinking especially of the Orthlorng Musork showcase last year & AGF/Dlay's surreal invocations... And what is with the sound? At both Studio and Ex-Centris it did not reach nearly sufficient levels.. we are hear to listen, to hear and be absorbed. If I can hear myself breathing, if a neighbor opening his backpack overrides the noise emanating from the speakers, then shit needs to be turned up.
No Type held attention despite the soundsystem's relatively quiet range, with Sambiland traveling a wealth of minimalist and dub territories, from sparse and deep broken beats to ambience, leading into the madness that was to follow: two sets of collaborative & improvised performances featuring A_Dontigny, first with the precise workings of veteran improvisational artist Diane Labrosse--on what appeared to be a theramin device, at times; this performance was intricate, yet harsh in its metallic clamoring of sound-events.
[ Click here for a Diane Labrosse and A_Dontigny video]
Then came Morceaux_de_Machines who, after an enthusiastic shout-out from Aimé, did not disappoint with his collaboration: vitriolic improvised noise from strange devices, high-pitched and jagged waves, from this real beast of a man, getting down and into it-- Morceaux grabbed the crowd and spun them round degree by degree. To end was Vancouver's coin gutter, the enigmatic duo of Graeme and Emma carving out one of their more delicate and restrained sets, and, although improvised, moving through a taste of their sound, from experimental electro-acoustic to noise, field recordings, media samples, and dark soundscapes.
From there it was on to Ex-Centris, which I probably should note e|I mag was sponsoring -- hopefully a few of you received a copy of the mag ... The Ex-Centris performances were far more tailored to a particular sound this year; in previous years the juxtaposition of rhythms, beats and experimental work resulted in crowd confusion which, although the diversity provided counterpoint, often left the show as a discontinuous experience. This year the Ex-Centris programming has been well-rounded and tailored to a deep listening experience. Starting the night--which was once again packed and sold out--was Montréal's Mylena Bergeron ... who began with a whistling refrain into electro-acoustic soundscapes that played off overtly representational video (a wreck of car in a desert landscape played off her whistling cowboy ambient ... ambient-acoustic-country?). Long pauses between tracks, a few of which were captivating, set the stage for short listening spans; I would have liked to have heard the work more intertwined. Moreover, the guy who simply pressed "play" on the video component insisted on standing for the entire performance, direct stage left, thereby blocking a good 40 paying customer's view of the screen. One word: idiot. If 242.pilots could crouch down at the same angled-table full of laptops while actually doing something, this guy could have had the brains. An "interesting" performance, but one that left me wondering as to why Bergeron was picked for Mutek.
Next was the Reconnaissance trio of Australians Martin Ng and Oren Ambarchi and Austrian Tina Frank, who began before beginnings were realized, with acute and small tones that slowly, with a restraint rarely heard in improvisation, collided into a careful tinkering of line noise from stock turntables, effected and prepared guitar, and other forms of delicate feedback. A treat that brought back fine memories of Janek Schaefer's stand-out performance last year. A few surprising and shocking, if not violent feedback spikes shook the audience out of quietude; a few tittered and laughed, genuinely unsettled ... at the same time, a madly psychedelic generative-video of geometric lines, cubes, holes and sprawling grids flipped representational schemas from 2d to 3d, interpreting the sounds as they were processed ... hands down one of the better performances of the day, which was perhaps only matched by the anticipation for Tim Hecker's return. Since Tim's performance at Mutek 2001, much has happened--namely, out of a few Montréal-based artists, Tim has perhaps, along with Akufen, reached into the farthest depths to plunder his own sound, and walk the creative wire... unabashedly romantic (it's his eyelashes..), in both demeanor and sound, Tim Hecker's performances are lush and evocative explorations ... and this was not a disappointment .. to warm up the audience, a few audio experiments from the 242.pilots vid collective (including Kurt Ralske) warmed up the crowd, mainly abrasive lines, colors, and biting, cutting hard-edged sounds. But the main course, if not dessert, was Hecker and the Pilots. While I drifted off from the video--which was colour-toned and soft, generated and delicate, with broad swatches of colour occluding swathes of source photo + video, lost in a haze, or a fog, yet perhaps too bright, not blue enough for what I imagine in terms of Hecker's soundscapes--I was rapt in a deep slumber with Tim Hecker's improvisations through chunks recognizable from _Radio Amor_ and (I think) _Haunt Me Haunt Me_ ... I had a dream, while lying down and listening, and feeling the floor rumble from tones that we could not hear, so deep they were, of creating a deep listening show where Tim would play for a good 2 hours ... and at volumes much higher than Ex-Centris seemed capable of that evening .. who knows: it may indeed happen .
Rush, rush: yes, this day is a long one, for from here it was off to the mega-theatre-hall Metropolis to see COIL. Some had been waiting 10, 20 years for this moment. The show was rammed, a large section of the crowd comprised of young, fat and LSD trippin' goth kids, replete with eyeliner, boots, GAP-black-pants, the whole fucking works. A trio of them insisted on talking through a good 20 mins of Coil's set, even trying to phone someone, direct stage left. I almost gave these goth kids their self-desired suicides... eventually a few of us told them to shut the fuck up, and they couldn't take the heat under the pressure of LSD so they bolted with their inflatable, blue alien doll. Sweet mother. If you're going to do LSD .. take the ticket, take the ride... deal with it ... embrace it .. quit whining, dump the cellphone, lose some weight, and wash off the wanna-be makeup. If you want to get weird, get WEIRD. And for chrissakes, if you came for Coil, LISTEN TO COIL.
.. alright ..
[ Click here for a Coil video]
Coil came out in white fur suits reminiscent of a Yeti version of Sun Ra .. slowly they walked out .. the relationship was evident: the one on the left played the keyboards with dramatic pause and aggressive execution--he was the master [perhaps even the Top .. if you know Coil .. ]; the other sequenced tracks in Live on a Powerbook, and he grooved a bit .. responding with warmth to the darker and colder Coil, and his gaping eyes .. once the hoods came off, we saw their age; both had shaved heads, although grey could be seen .. mohawks at age .. 50 ? .. impressive: hardcore and fucked until the end, Coil I think only communicated with those who knew their history or who know something of the genesis of industrial music in the heyday of the '70s performance-art scene .. in any case: Coil played the beginnings to a few tracks, although only once dropping an industrial broken beat, and refraining from any 4/4 (although at one point it seemed they were building to it), spending much time in their ambient excursions before tapping into rhythms, playing three distinct tracks with pauses that melded into others... the tension generated by Coil was immense, and by the end the entirety of Metropolis was one way or another captivated. Detroit technoheads speak of "educating" the crowd: this was such a performance, with Coil demonstrating the direction of rhythm, the importance of repetition, the ways in which sounds need not be busy, but need be relational, to speak to each other. Later, the response was mixed .. those who knew Coil were blown away, picking up on the references, the gestures; those who knew nothing of Coil thought their performance irrelevant. Regardless of their relevancy today in terms of an innovative force, seeing Coil, in all their weirdness, their dark industrial tinge, their refusal to accede to contemporary performance schemas, even, served as a historical reminder of a past that is perhaps even less-known and appreciated than Detroit techno: '70s industrial, the whole nexus of Throbbing Gristle, Genesis P-Orridge, Chris & Cosey, etc... right down through Skinny Puppy, Thrill Kill Kult, Front 242... the goth kids don't get it either, although they are, to an extent, attempting to rebel in a teenage way that shows some hatred for society--in fact I was speaking to someone last night: what can kids do today to rebel? what counterculture is there that hasn't already been consigned to the trash? isn't 'counterculture' or 'subculture' or DIY even a cynical joke? is there hope?--where was I: yes, Coil, Coil, Coil. Time to go back and listen all over again. There is much to learn.
Next was Philip Quehenberger, who sang little shitty ditties over noise records. Kind of so-lame it was cool, but it wore thin. As Dj Fishead noted, he played an entire set of noise that should have been cut for 30 seconds worth. The noise became boring and overdetermined. With so many excellent noise practitioners--and DJs.. Aleph Empire.. Fishead.. Doormouse--why Quehenberger?
Finally .. yes near the end, was the "Iggy Pop" antics of T. Raumschmiere. Well, hardly Iggy Pop -- the rhetoric of the Mutek flyer being a little overzealous. I mean Iggy Pop ate chickens and shit. Live chickens. This tattooed guy just rolled around with his mouth open, stood on the table, jumped up and down, all to his post-retro-new-wave-industrial-techno that kicked some serious ass, Shitkatapult in tha house and all that, had us all bangin' and jumping around and waving, kicking out the booze, smokin' the spliffs, as Metropolis emptied into the night .. but please: the antics of Felix Kubin and Nova Huta last year bested this dude hands down. Let's see some real shit. I wanna see someone smash their Powerbook. Throw their Nord Modular into the audience. Fucking light, at least, a shitty MIDI controller keyboard on fire, pick it to bits, put keys in your mouth, singe your teeth, sing with electricity, go into spasms .. that would be some Iggy Pop shit .. lick a 96 degree processor and scream from the burns .. hell ..
Click here for part 3 of tobias c van Veen's Mutek diary
By tobias c. van Veen