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Minimalism, Noise And Attitude - A Manuscript For Mutek 2004

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Dusted's tobais c. van Veen reports back with more than enough from this year's Mutek festival.

Minimalism, Noise And Attitude - A Manuscript For Mutek 2004

I have been writing about Mutek since the 2001 edition, every year publishing reports that have delved from the gonzo to the critical, often splicing both in a mix that has seemingly left the reader infuriated and confused. At points I have written without the usual filters of scenesterism that dominate the constitutive boundaries of backscratching “music journalism” (a point somewhat raised at this year’s panel). This has both won me nothing and gained me little. I came from Vancouver to Montreal for Mutek, however, and have loved every second of it—perhaps enough to masochistically critique it. After writing more than an estimated 60,000 words on Mutek, I find myself narrating fragments, interested more in tendencies, social situations and sonic contexts than descriptive analysis. If this leads to some flippancy on behalf of the reader, it is because I hope that you will visit the Mutek archives and the Capital-ZeD coverage of this year’s festival. The sound, video and texts in these locations complement this sketch:

2004 audio
2004 video, text, photos

“In setting aside the illusions of closure, completion, stasis, perfection—the ideals of a patriarchal society…we enter the possibility of the open text, the so-called ‘fragment,’ the writing which exists not to valorize its author/it (Foucault) but to be activated in the process of reading/making/collaborating.”

–Lorraine Weir

Responses to this year’s Mutek are oddly mixed like an absinthe martini. Never have the mumblings of opinion resounded with such sharpness of difference. Love it or hate it, Mutek 2004 held together an organizational structure that surpassed its predecessors on nary every account: the quality of sound and presentation exceeded previous years in their clarity and volume; the visuals were uniformly complex and engaged; the new Ex-Centris and SAT venues provided conducive and intensive atmospheres; Metropolis was made to feel as comfortable and loud as possible. The acts too displayed degrees of professionalism which were almost unbecoming to the dispersed roots of this global techno scene. In other words, the whole thing ran slick on its appearance (the festival, like all festivals, is a nightmare behind the scenes, but as everyone knows this, I won’t bother delving into what everyone should know by now who has ever organized anything anyway). There’s some impossible task to be set when attempting to build on past magic. 2003 was the peak year, the entrance of Mutek into the global arena where it asserted its nodal status in a network of festival cultures (Transmediale, Ars Electronica, Sonar, Sound Summit, Sonic Acts, Movement, etc). And Mutek reached back, fingers touching out to South America and Europe...

Realizing its emerging status, Mutek has raised its production quality. Yet, in some ways, new and unsettling questions are being asked at the same time that the whole becomes the juggernaut. Whether through the panels —- which were insightful, thoughtful and articulate, blending questions of culture, the arts and industry —- or in the talk that pervades the rounds of drinks and sleep deprivation, a sense of angst drifted alongside the slick. Distributors and labels have gone bankrupt; the digitization of music and its dissemination remains unresolved; sampling and property law are hazy for both labels and artists (Stefan Betke of ~scape recounted his tale of being sued this past year); overall costs are rising; and the unspoken question -— is there still an audience? —- haunted every utterance. And outside of the genre—more artists than ever expressed, whether overtly or covertly, their opinion (often rage) against the current United States administration (Rob Theakston’s Powerpoint visuals in particular —- to paraphrase: “This administration will go down as one of the worst in history;” the sudden and surprise appearance of Grey Filastine, ex-!Tchkung! band member, in an orange, Guantanamo Bay jumpsuit and black anarchist bandana, playing Arab rhythms and beats, police samples and fatwas, outside SAT, via his shopping cart and metal loudspeaker hooked to his Powerbook, his “noiz-kart”). Responding to some questions on the subject, critic Phillip Sherburne noted that perhaps the connection between the rise in acidic and harder strains of techno and worldwide pressures were tapping into this angst. Where is this globalizing, “digital culture” heading? Can the hand-wringing over distribution and pressing costs be translated into a broader cultural recognition of economic and political issues that far exceed the music biz? Can, in other words, experimental electronic music finally take on its force as an art? Can this self-proscribed cutting-edge unsheathe its knives, address these issues through its art and moreover, remove the “slick” veil that has circumscribed, for the most part, almost all self-critique and reflection on these issues in the “electronic music journalism” press? Will there be more than “press”? Or will this little piece of the larger earthly pie forever remain wrapped in its nibbling efforts, its back-scratching, its self-glorification of musicians to little transaction with the world-at-large and the history of art in general....

(Globally reinscribe the previous: Mutek inside North America – will it encounter the anger coursing through Eastern Europe? The history of Detroit, “that other festival”?)

Resurgent anger leads to immediate reflection—punk, DIY, the madness of Acieeed -— that catalyzes acts beyond festivals. Digital culture is adrift. It has no strict tie to a cultural moment. It is dispersed. It is not underground. In other words, it operates according to the laws of exchange prevalent in a world undergoing rapid change that is far from hegemonic (despite intentions of ruling ideologies in the most basic of senses). Yet it seeks a grouping. It dabbles with modernism and the history of the European avant-garde—often without even unmasking its silent partner in the dance. It makes claims while acting without sustained inquiry into the methods of its operation. It doesn’t fully realize it is operating, nor upon which body—the dead body of art, the future body about to give birth to this stillborn circuit. Technology is its addiction, its fetish, its craving, its need, its lover. It dances on graves, but without much thought nor even wild abandon. It is aging. It is not young nor is it particularly in touch with the youth of the 21C (as it once was with the young of the ‘80s and ‘90s). It is far from “new” while the moniker of the “new” still prevails across rhetoric. It is perhaps only reinventing itself for itself, while making sure its next move is still something recognizable. It is becoming violent and self-destructive. Self-loathing. It is self-referentially mocking itself. It pines for histories it never lived through -— the ‘80s. Its temporality is short—things must pass and happen quickly, projects must not go on too long. A hypocritical stance to the pervasiveness of genetic modifications of genre (the eternal loop). Soundbytes, even while its music is often prolonged, difficult, complex. If it thinks it is through sound, and it is through soundprojects that encounter time. Time where digital culture is able to ponder its own death. It is deeply afraid of poetry, and of the word.


Weather Report
Mutek always hits with the heat, but this year it has dropped with thunder and drizzled the downpour. It's been a slow creep into a week that has snuck up with more punch than expected. What would Mutek be like this year? How many corps into the 'esprit Mutek'? With the late line-up announcement, where are we at with digeratti, the mountain of avant-garde electronic music and culture at 4 dots into the 21c?

(At the panel, Philip Sherburne, XLR8R journalist, is questioning .. 'does anyone read? I don't even read music magazines .. I just pick up and flip through ...')

Last night @ SAT, tripping over bodies. Schneider TM rocks out the floor in three suits of white, lab-rats in a cage. Singin', sputterin', shootin' from the hip and chanting songs about the soundman: "The LEFT SPEAKER IS NOT WORKING!" -- in a mass fucked up Vocoder, the drummer slammin' down the MIDI pads, squelch and squelch. The Germans know how to rock the techno-pop. (And to send out the cliché: non-stop).

Earlier, Junior Boys on the geek-tip: is this the incoming of vocal emo techno? (All the reasons we fled indie so many years ago - and here the journalists, hear them now, singing the popification of techno. Hail the song genre, the loop of the moment has faded. But is it really pop? What is pop when sent to the genetic strain of techno?).

Another fragment of the night, the very end of the night, 3am -- and then there was Smith 'n Hack: boing beats slammin' down but without sticking to the 4. Interesting? These undanceable skipping samplers. Played song style. Is Smith n' Hack brilliant or just goofing off with gear, stripping work that any other producer would name the beta and not the final release? All these questions that are more or less aimlessly circling the question of aesthetic judgment. But also something else: a stench of death in numbers. (Self-critique: perhaps I have missed the point with Smith ‘n’ Hack? After listening to their remix/parody of Ricardo Villalobos’ “Easy Lee,” I still don’t get it. Cookie-cutter ‘80s beats with chipmunk vocals does not a remix make. If this is parody, to what end are we making fun? Ha ha.)

So forget the numbers. Follow the eyes to the trip-out of Skoltz_Kolgen’s “[Flüux: /Terminal]” presentation of integrated animation, post-industrial soundscape audio, and visual imagery that exceeded all previous expectations of the “visual” etiquette... Ah, Skoltz_Kolgen, at the new salle in Ex-Centris. No longer do we cramp on the cement floor. Mutek has gone upscale, to the theatre (and sweet surround theatre sound of precisely alienating frequencies). And to the beautiful world of Flüux, the incredible and sustained animation, of gravity and wireframe models swimming in pools of physics. Hands-down, Skoltz_Kolgen’s performance constituted the most spectacular moment in visual and music production that has graced Mutek's stage (and yes that includes Bola) -— if not the world’s. (And so nice to see the duo forever reinventing software instruments for their desires—memories of their ice line performance from Mutek 2002).

Chessmachine: Richard Chartier and COH (Ivan Pavlov). The game: pink vs. blue. Sonic chess. Microscopic to noise. Moves and parries. At this point, sound has become conceptual: the entirety of the performance mimes Duchamp's chess game in New York, on the arch above the park.


'Chess is a sport. A violent sport. This detracts from its artistic connections. One intriguing aspect of the game that does imply artistic connotations is the geometrical patterns and variations of the actual set up of the pieces in the combinative, tactical, strategic and positional sense. It is a sad means of expression though - somewhat like religious art- it is not very gay. If anything, it is a struggle.' - Marcel Duchamp

And a struggle it was, producing through its conflict of moves an intricate back-and-forth. Low rumbles and hard hits from Pavlov; complex rhythms and strategies from Chartier. Increasing frustration as Pavlov gets up from his chair. Deadpan, in his blue. Chartier, in his pink. Each with a colored flag, hitting the chess timer with a mark of combat and a gentleman's agreement.

Again, another move in electronic music's development: toward the larger concept of the generation (Beyond laptop, the laptop as a piece in a much larger structure. The homology of the laptop to the chess game; the binary moves of the dot and the dash, retreat, encapture, en passant.)

[ fragments arriving // ]

Raster-Noton Sound-System: Sampling Thr Samplers

How many times have you gone out to a ‘show’ only to find it’s a masochistic bow-down to the ancient gods of sonus? Roll that again, ‘cause we’re trying to find words for what passed last night with Byetone, Frank Bretschneider and Carsten Nicolai on a sound-system. A sound-system: a black skyscraper, a speaker grilled to the target of immolation. Where sound becomes physical input to genetic remixing (move the body in impossible formats). When the hairs on your arms stand on end, when the sound destroys all that remains of your head, your heart, your body. When the muscles flutter involuntarily. When sine waves coarse direct the techno conduit opens the bodymind.

Unfortunately, it’s too bad most of the crowd could only view it as a spectacle, mouths agape, arms crossed. As the saying goes, stunned like sheep, knee-deep. But there were a few getting freaky. Moving arms and legs to the static, the bleep, the bass drop. Those cold Germans... what is it that unraveled the sharp ice that cuts from silence to submission....

It’s hot here now. The heat is out in the sun. Crammed into the SAT yesterday, for the Thinkbox Collective from Windsor/Detroit, unwinding to the melodic loops of techno in the breaking afternoon. From thunder to sun. Ah, techno. Forget pop—all that pop has to offer is exciting only insofar as its horizon is clear. The direction of pop offers all the possibilities we can imagine within the sphere of pop. And pop will and can mutate. But pop’s strain is a horizon that says: here I am, singing that same ol’ song.

“It’s that what people in the Civil Rights movement died for.. to dance around in malls..?” – Herbert on Fat Boy Slim’s sampling of a Civil Rights song, with the accompanying “humorous” video from Spike Jonze, @ Mutek's packed sampling panel.

“The Bush administration will go down as the worst in history.” –Rob Theakston, Powerpoint-style visual presentation during his ThinkBox performance, SAT

Ah the debates are stirring here on the sampling panel. John Oswald, of Plunderphonics, throwing down the history and correcting Tomas Palermo’s narrative of sampling (Palermo—Editor of XLR8R). Jason Forrest, aka Donna Summer, with the straight-up take-no-prisoners aesthetic, but moving through the perspective of semiotics—the symbol of sound, the sampling of the emotive force in a personal context. Herbert, arguing for the sampling-of-the-world, with a political edge that slices into sampling the works of others—why sample other music when we can sample anything? Mark Quail, sound lawyer, instructing all on how it works (and offering the free advice—laying down the law, and isn’t it good to know that there is a sympathetic ear on this side of the fence). Stefan Betke (aka Pole), with the European mood: let the artist do what the artist does—and let the industry and the world worry about the rest.

And really, the question is: are aesthetics and ethics inseparable? (Jason Forrest thinks the two can be distinct -— Herbert doesn’t). It’s all about, as one member of the audience asserts, the marginalization of the few in favor of the name of the one.

“Jesus was basically telling these old stories, and putting a nasty twist on the end of it... he was punished a little more than we are now” – a certain member of the Canadian Music Centre, on the historically infinite of “sampling”

“The records are made to be used in a context... some people don’t get their piece along the way... those who fight for it are going to be able to get paid” – Mark Quail

But what about those who can’t afford it? [paraphrase]

“But there are lawyers who work for free...” – Mark [a lawyer who probably is better than most, pro bono]

“...we wouldn’t be having this discussion if we didn’t have people pushing the envelope...” – Tomas Palermo, XLR8R

Mutek Moments: End to End, Techno Again
“... the creativity of the lawyers is stifling the creativity of the artists .. the world is turning upside down... ” – Mark Quail, lawyer, Toronto .

“... this ugly lawyer bullshit is fucking boring..” – Jason Forrest, aka Donna Summer.

“So let’s talk about something else.” – John Oswald

“Yah, like ‘70s rock!” – Jason Forrest, aka Donna Summer.

That was the end of the sampling panel. From here the usual amounts of sleep deprivation that stick to Mutek like vinyl to a hot ass begin to strip everyone of their mental capacity to comprehend basic logic. Set theory diminished with a rapid advance in all areas as passes ran amok in Burger Kings rampant with disjointed, singing men... what the fuck am I rambling about... here before Plastikman.., ears ringing still from the pounding hard techno. I must tell you of this: this pounding hard techno. Just yesterday I was saying: Mutek needs some pounding hard techno as well as pop. And they did it. The division was apparent and the response was immediate at this free cinq-a-sept. Lead on, brother, into the world of Mike Shannon and Jay Hunsberger, and the reappearance of Montreal’s oldskool Marc Dumais. But also the incredibly energetic house of Daniel Gardner, aka Frivolous, who in a chef hat, rocked the piano chords—live—in a set that damn deserves the title—live. Yah, people playing music, all over again, here at SAT. And people outside, well one at least, dressed in an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit, with the noiz-kart, playing the protest beats. Shopping cart, laptop and metal loudspeaker, why not? None other than Greyg Filastine of Post-World Industries and ex-!Tchkung! bandmate. Good to see some spontaneous noise, art and political force arriving in the staid Mutek crowd (and the response was good from all quarters).

Tonight is Plastikman in this moderate weather and the expectations are high for the sound to eclipse our past deafness and to enter the sublime world of the meltdown. I desire it, I want it, I beg for it -— and if we don’t get it, it will be a disappointed moment. But no doubt we will enjoy it. We will love it. It’s all about losing it all over again. A few might be already tired of the acieed revival—as the Editor of De:Bug tells me -— but here it hasn’t hit yet and we are all seeking it. Why? Because no other genre has the alien 303. Bring it on.

These notes should not be considered verbatim... there’s more than one of us writing them now... falling apart at the seams...


Recycled Plastik
Rewind nine years, to a different time and era, a different location, when the event moved through monikers of a social mode. Plastikman Live, 1995, Transcendance.


Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1995 08:16:12 -0500 (EST)

From: Graydon Hoare

Plastikman live:

Been dancing up a storm all evening, trippin’ like crazy, looking into the eyes of everyone and seeing outrageous things, suddenly the music grows more intense, more intense, like these thick syrupy thuds and smacks growing faster and faster, it's the sound of the insides of a body making love, it's the sounds of a heartbeat roaring in my chest as I am jerked about by powers beyond my control, a gut feeling of all living things all over the world that only we humans have forgotten, it's strong, pounding, incredible with this slowly rising roaring howling sound, getting louder and louder and we stare into the lights which flash at us, seeing their intent, it overwhelms us, there is only the deafening sound and energy now, every centimeter of skin in my body electrocuted in a state of insane radiant LIVING, each cell screaming at the top of it's lungs I DON'T WANT TO DIE I AM ALIVE and the roar grows louder and louder, I look at her face and say "WHAT IS HAPPENING?" and tears are running down my cheeks and hers too, we're holding on to one another for dear life, the music isn't even recognizable anymore and our bodies are buzzing too strong and loose to know what we're doing, suddenly we realize there is a jet aircraft in the room flying over us! it is here, pointing in our faces, it is the head of a monster dragon roaring at us how DARE we forget what we are? We are all, thousands of us, howling with it in recognition and our insides are coming out and everyone sees. The passion is so intense there is no room for identity or time or memory, it lasts forever and in all directions in an indescribable manner! everything is so visceral it's horrifying and ecstatic at the same time. And then the jet washes past and the noise screeches forwards and the crowd of all of us tear after it as the fastest drums the world have ever seen come back to kick us back into action, all holding hands and locking eyes now, all dancing and crying and smiling smiles which never occur in the normal world - smiles so alive and hungry that we know then it is all just beginning forever! It is so draining that occasionally our legs give way and we have to hold on to one another to stay up, catch our breaths a little or go to a room where water can be got, hard to find our way in the electric emotion of the place but we do. We are lighter than air, energy radiated from the hidden reactors modern life keeps on chill-mode all day. Hours later I am finding myself on a floor still awake with all of them lying down now and what world are we in? The sun is coming up, a fresh new day and my muscles are tingling, my head buzzing, my body draped over hers and hers over mine.... Richie is such a fuckin' good musician.


9 years past,=:

On the right hand side, in front of the black speaker mass, a crew dropping the tabs for the 9 year reunion. They were there last time, in 1995, in a warehouse of sound, that Transcendence moment. Where were they now? (Trying to raise the dead memories of a time long passed into oblivion—the specter that perhaps should be nailed shut in the coffin, as one ex-raver from Ottawa put it).

Space return a year, to a DJ set of Richie Hawtin at Mutek that caught us all by surprise. I wrote of the return of Plastikman with the fervor of the religious follower who so desires to believe. Enthused by the energy that Mutek has managed to coalesce, Hawtin jumped to the fray of the performance scene a year later by setting the expectations as high as he could: Plastikman Live. As expectations were astronomical it follows that disappointment became impossible to defer in this tensile situation if not inevitable. For the record, Hawtin had two technical difficulties—his earphones kept bugging out (which were fixed), and his visuals were not operating properly (or absent). Yet one felt that this new technological beast he had created, this jet plane of gear surrounding his wire frame identity on three sides, was not the agile bird of grace he so desired. A jumbo jet perhaps -— and one that could crash or land. Talking with Hawtin later, he mused on the metaphor of the experience of flying the music, a hand on the new controls of something almost foreign yet sounding so near, so close. It must be understood that Hawtin was playing an entirely new instrument, not only for the world’s air traffic control, but for him. No autopilot in this [CTRL].

And taken into consideration, the task which Hawtin set himself—of using a completely new system of technological devices, and of learning to pilot these devices in a live situation—was nigh destined to encounter its own limitations. And it did. While the minimalist intensity of Hawtin’s compositions were as strict as to be expected, the flight plan was unclear. Where were we going in this stratosphere of rumbled bass? Where had we been? And why?

Beginning with a cut from Sheet One, moving through Concept material and Consumed, “Are Friends Electric?” from Artifakts (BC), and a good dose of the tightness of kick drum and percussion that began with DE9 and Closer to the Edit and that recently peaked in the Closer album, Hawtin served a sampling of in-flight snacks that never quite added up to a full meal. The kicker never kicked in on the Spastik close-out. It was close, closer, but not close enough. But was this not because we had already flown with stomachs expecting a 5 course repast past the burning twin towers of memory and loss?

I have waited before writing on Plastikman’s performance. For many it was the centerpiece of this year’s Mutek if not a travel destination for entire contingents from the Midwest, the West Coast, Central Canada, the world at large... And although originally left feeling empty—and confirming this sense of loss with others around me who were relieved to find a sympathy of opinion—I now feel that Hawtin’s performance was an attempt, or as Philip Sherburne puts it in the Mutek catalogue, a “proposition.” What Hawtin put forth was a vision of live performance that encompassed total art. While it did not approach the social context and element of fear and danger that were sustained with the series of events he aided in organizing 10 years ago (Jak, Sickness/Recovery, etc.), it opened a vision of something to-come. It might not be continued by Hawtin, but it will be sampled and programmed, in another mode or moment, to reoccur with a new force—and by necessity, through the rediscovery of anamolous context. For Hawtin’s moment was tied to a historical force that has left the building, leaving only its echoes.

Hawtin to the machine. His identity as the recast of the Thin White Duke leads to the question: Is Hawtin the new Bowie with his identity sequences or a cult of personality? Does the look speak louder than the sound? Either way, it is only with the deepest of bows and respect that any questions are posed, and it is only in light of the proposition set forth by Hawtin that we join him on his aerial journeys, head bent forward in the crash position, speaker-worshipping until the wheels touch on planets alien.


Fast-Forward to Sunday
The last night always delivers the unexpected in a tangent always related to the syncopation of steps yet never in a mind frame that is to be anticipated. In the “early years,” SAT closed the curtains on the “old” Ste. Catherines space and we crawled onto the low-riser central stage, spreading the sense via the smoke. And twisted it became. In 2003 Narod Niki exploded onto the stage, the collective confusion of technology overwhelmed by the perseverance of sweat as a multitude of laptop musicians sent into submission the synergy. Tonight, 2004 it is the return in a move to a decade long-lost. A search for origins 21C style (mime, not only the ‘70s, but all sonic writing). Extrapolate like Terre Thaemlitz in the mirror—out past the edges of close objects. Don’t anticipate more than you can handle. This is Montreal. “This reminds me of late ‘80s acid house, incorporating soundbytes, scratches, like a submerged versioning, bubbling up under water.... the echoes and the effects” -— Fishead. Strip time to rewind. Not the tape but the digital conduit. Tonight we discovered another glitch: the sudden violence of the proprietary tape change that produces the most natural of mistakes rendered beauty. Here we deliver all content as the disseminated form of the ‘Net itself. Real-time in transaction with the sound. Digital culture? Breathe your byte.

[ // piloting with auto-pilot removed – recorded and projected live, sunday ]

Reflection: the above paragraph should never have been published. I grant it the equivalence to either Donna Summer or Smith ‘n Hack: in process sound.


Saturday – one noise, one rave
The genrefication of Mutek has become apparent. While a few lineup choices were confusing for their placement (something which was to become emphasized upon reflection), the block programming of Mutek had solidified from last year’s beta-testing of the model. The Ex-Centris events comprised the audio-visual artists and those working with microsound and conceptual performance of a studious nature requiring intensive listening in a controlled environment. The early SAT nights were devoted to pounding minimalism (Raster-Noton) and pop incorporation (Junior Boys, Schneider TM, etc.). While the Friday SAT show incorporated Montreal’s techno and house beats, the Saturday spun out the noise. Last year, the Mego showcase highlighted the limits of violence and physical effect of sound at loud volumes. This year, the volume itself was attenuated at a level far beyond what was previously possible, allowing mind-shattering exploration of unheard tones and resonant frequencies.

In this respect, I8U and Magali Babin made good use of SAT’s supplement system to open the Saturday showcase. The same could be said for the more acoustic incorporations of KPT Michigan. But after sinking into hallucination-inducing wall of drones and constant noise, the programming shift once again revealed the old inattention Mutek used to display to a concept known as “flow”... In 2002 especially the flow of Mutek was so perpendicular that entire nights emptied out early because of such sudden shifts in musical direction. An audience that has lost their patience is the nature of misdirection. Flow is about curating context. Flow is about being attentive to context in the presentation of music and performance (something that became more than apparent with Donna Summer and Jamie Lidell). Almost anything can fly given the ingenuity of the artist—but without a context to wrap around and envelope, the music is barebone (witness Plastikman, almost naked without his warehouse).

Such was the movement of I8U and Magali Babin to KPT Michigan to Errorsmith, the latter who was pleasant enough in his techno self but begged the question of direction, followed as he was by the reintroduction of the devilish noise of Angel. It would have been incredibly more floor-relaxing to have I8U and Babin open to Angel, the Ilpo Väisänen and Dirk Dresselhaus duo (the former of Pan Sonic, the latter from Schneider TM), finished by the acoustic treatments of KPT Michigan, the beats reintroduced with Errorsmith, leading into the genre-smashing Original Hamster (presenting Trendsetter + The Followers). Original Hamster somewhat stole the footshow, laying down pounding, sampled acid house over complexified rhythm, demonstrating the potential of the hook in mash-up by blowing-out the encapsulated weary, moving bodies and minds that nonetheless emptied themselves of breath in their screams. But not before Angel led out the spine-tingling washes of pure feedback and analogue, box-driven filter noise. There’s something about Ilpo’s demeanour that calls for deference in matters of argument.

Metropolis all night, all night, all night, WHAT THE FUCK, all night all night all—
As was apparent only after the festival, the Saturday was the new Sunday, the time for movement and body gyrations for an extended period. Translation: time for ingestion. A stunning, all-night arrangement of visuals in bright colors and 2-dimensional overlays, projected onto multiple screens, reintroduced an intimacy to this otherwise overbearing space. Unfortunately the process of getting into the venue was made altogether unpleasant by the ridiculous harangues of security. Because yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was a “rave”—mandated to go all night—which also meant apparently dumping everything out of your pockets. Despite a press pass it took some convincing to even bring in my small handheld digital camera -— a ridiculous conversation given that this is festival is about digital culture and that security should stick to its job: looking for weapons (this is Canada -— can we please recognize that our legislation on marijuana has been struck down, meaning that security should be ignoring infractions of the mild-mannered green—for they are no longer infractions). Also ridiculous given the number of non-press who had no issue in bringing in entire camcorders. Ah, it must be my moustache that attracts the most goonish of security.

Saturday night was a good night. Fax was playing as we entered, unfortunately a bit lost in a venue this size (he would have been better paired with Loscil in SAT). Egg launched into their cartoonish beats. Egg’s latest work has moved significantly past their earlier beats that were, for me, stuck in a humorous reference to things I couldn’t always find funny. Sometimes, however, I just feel that it’s a lot of boingy-boingy and I’m just not sure how I can get down to Bugs Bunny. But Egg have their own thing that for me, as a native West Coaster, still sounds distinctly, somehow, Quebecois. Kind of like Cirque du Soleil: there is something about Quebec that screams “only in Quebec”—men in red leotards leaping around with weird wings on their back is one thing, and Egg is another.

The Rip Off Artist provided a set that was to stun. While beginning on the cut-up, Mr. Artist relaxed enough to settle into his Californian groove, lending a perspective on glitch, sampledelia, microsampling and microhouse that gestured toward the future of the art. The Rip Off Artist picks up where Akufen left off, where house ended, where glitch glitched-out, and the result is admirable, danceable, invigorating and surprising. Unlike the ha-ha of Egg, the Rip Off Artist reminds us why we got down into the dirt in the first place. Much the same in a positive fashion can be said of Krikor and Isolée. Isolée’s set was an acid revival rewind, a debt to acid house that also saw a remix of Ricardo Villalobo’s “Easy Lee.” Isolée’s journey was less weird than I expected, but intensive in its complexity and layering. Krikor was all rewind too, on the analogue gear, with MIDI boxes cracking out mid-performance, calling for inventive stop/start techniques (for the most part that went unnoticed). At one point, sitting up on the balcony, and turning to my friends, I said: “Krikor has done what Plastikman failed to do.” They agreed. Whatever it was -— the stripped down simplicity of the analogue gear, the restrictive limitations of equipment failure that necessitated techno minimalism, the in-tune movements of the gear to the feet and the floo -— Krikor tapped in, and let it flow. In a way the set reminded me of Copacabannark from Mutek 2002 at Metropolis (check it here: mutek.ca/ref/2002/Copacabana_192k_ref.mov ). Straight up and kicking, with noise designed to spatialize the sound, and mistakes galore. The mistake as the authenticity of the “live” is a parameter I can live with, insofar as it catalyzes a sense of connection. It’s not always necessary—one can present completed work—but in the context of performance, the mistake is that which turns the frown to the smile in the complicity of the collective creation that activates musical sensation.

If only the same could be said for Donna Summer -— sorry, Jason Forrest. Or, is it Jason Forrest, aka, Donna Summer? One or the other, Forrest/Summer needs both names to pull together his loud, noisy ramshackle mash-ups stolen from ‘70s and ‘80s pop and rock music. And what he gets here he deserves. Or truly, he asks for it. When a performer comes on and says “FUCK YOU” to the audience, throwing water bottles and attitude, almost knocking over other performer’s gear in his/her onstage flailings and antics, then a similar response is only to be expected from the audience, which booed the McComboMan steadily toward the end. Some said the context was wrong, the timing. True. Donnar Summer vs. Jamie Lidell on a Thursday night would have been far preferable. Or, get the “motherfucker” to close or open the show. But at 2:14am .. with us all raring for the sweatgroove .. to have some balding, slightly chubby ex-visual artist who couldn’t cut it in NYC (partly his own description) tell us to FUCK OFF is hardly a pleasant experience. Neither a particularly interesting unpleasant one. The punk aesthetic is long and old, somewhat tired. Forrest is not T. Raumschmiere -— because Raumschmiere’s beats are in all aspects brilliant and he doesn’t bore us with his banality by insisting on yelling what we already know (although given his facial expressions, sometimes I wish he would). Forrest needs to supplement the lacking interest in his shtick-beats with his own personality -— while at the same time, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. “I’m really Jason Forrest,” he says, half-way into his far-too long set. Why tell us, “Donna Summer”? If the dude was really the motherfucker he claims we are, he wouldn’t need to resort to attempting to overly conceptualize his fuck-off attitude. Or, if he really was the conceptual semiotician / sound-anarchist he thinks he is, he wouldn’t need to resort to the worn-out stage play of male arrogance. In other words, Forrest is a shtick. He has all the potential to turn either direction or remix both, but in the meantime, don’t expect much. The crowd reaction told the story better than I can anyway: he cleared the dance floor, leaving only a few drugged direhards, with the rest of the festival-goers booing from the balconies. It almost killed the night. Poor programming—unless the curatorial intent was the ultimate destruction of the festival, a nagging feeling I couldn’t shake by the end of Sunday night’s disappointing letdown.

To finish -— because the rest of the night was dreaming. Crackhaus, the Steve Beaupré + Mike Shannon duo, simply rocked the house. I can’t wax on it, they just did. Crackhaus steals humor in a fashion that exceeds simplicity through the construction of complicated sequences of percussion amidst loopy samples. Yelling “MORE FARM SOUNDS,” most of us cracked a rib and pulled a groin dancing to this barnyard techno jig. Wearing coveralls and red bandanas, the back-and-forth mixer moves of Shannon spoke to his skills as an incredible techno DJ that energized the entire room, bringing us back to life and on into the morning, into Herbert’s lowriser house and funk set, gospel and 2/4 beats encountering violent alterations from the Chisel label that messed with the head as well as the body.**

**I’m 97% positive he dropped a Chicago-style, minimal hard house track from Chisel, perhaps Hidden Agenda, but I can’t be entirely positive.

Return to Sunday Proper
Temporalities askew—I write reflectively looking back alongside notes taken at the time.

On Sunday afternoon, we all went to Piknik Electronic on the island and proceeded to drink and smoke the pain away as the giant modernist sculpture splayed the sun above our heads. On the soundsystem, m_nus label cohorts and Herbert jammed down the house and techno while sangria (snuck in) fought its way down our throats. By now I’m at the level of most vegetation on the island: murky, fighting for breath, crawling...

It’s good to see little kids running around to techno.

Sunday night is the big come-down. Has Mutek sampled Sonar’s strategy? Make Saturday night the all-nighter; reserve Sunday for the cool ramblings of the dispossessed. The suspect anticipation of last year, held in the gonads for laptop supergroup Narod Niki, is this year dissipated into a sinksession. Which isn’t to say it isn’t busy and packed at SAT. In fact it’s welcome. The atmosphere is chill and relaxed. It feels like the festival has matured to a comfortable chic, where alcoholic hobnobbing sustains the myth of community. However it also feels like the intimacy promised and delivered at every edition to this point, the let loose of the Sunday, is this year somehow absent. Is it because it has simply been incorporated into other aspects of the festival (such as the Saturday)? The program promises another special surprise this year—but questions inquired leave mute faces on the subject for those who should know.

No matter. For now, Loscil is playing sonar to the depths of dub techno. With a twist—the themeatic of tonight seems to be the incorporation of instrumentation, be it sampled in Loscil’s case, or played as live electronic jazz (Friedman et al). Either way it’s the perfect re-entry into the atmosphere of the black box. Burnt Friedman with Jaki Liebezeit (ex-Can drummer) is a lounge spectacular with the brush of indie fame. In the presence of wired history, a sampling of time as the rhythms unwind. Beauty in the 21C for those with memories stretching beyond the televised.

AEROC—Geoff White’s alter-ego project from the minimal techno converges with the talents of Ben Kamen to resample guitar into dronescapes and harmony. Attempts in this area have been hit and miss, but like vitaminsforyou, AEROC is thoughtful, and it shows. Aeroc’s music displays a depth that most indie and techno, taken separately, lack; combined, the soundscape that moves from the dark to the emotive forges new areas of exploration in territories that also conjure new responses from the listener.

The Mole surprises. Since his addiction to disco came to light a few years ago, we’ve been trying to keep the Octa-Mole underground with his dark desires. Yet the Molar Mole insisted, he crawled to the surface brandishing records none of us had ever heard. He dug and dug his finds and arose with a Frankenstein entirely foreign: disco, the sacred origin. The Mole has reinvented the four funk, remixing his loops and samples from the laptop alongside hip-hop scratch techniques performed on gospel, funk and disco records from the ‘70s. To restate: the Militant Mole rocked the house, the pre-house, the disco era, via laptop manipulation and talented scratch techniques. Mista Mole provided the funked out relief, the tradition of the Sunday hoe-down.

After much weirdness—hanging out with this strange man, he offered me mosquito netting for my 3CCD DV cam—came on Jamie Lidell, the connector of the human beatbox machine, anti-Christ, apocalyptic harbinger, and mad genius. Follow the genre generations: a cappella, gospel, disco, house, IDM, techno, breakbeat, jungle. With his mouth. His head. His video camera strapped to his head. Jamie Lidell studied philosophy, aided in the founding of infamous techno label Subhead, formed Super_Collider with Cristian Vogel. According to impressions from interviews, he works only under pressure, critique himself relentlessly, tells the world to fuck off when he wants. Standing up onstage—his mouth and resampling techniques sending speakers into frequencies approaching the heart-attack level. Violent bass. SAT’s cement pillars vibrate. The building achieves resonant tones. The windows are flexing and I cover my ears, dive under our desk in the back and prepare for the worst. It gets worse. It gets so better it is worse, which is to say, it gets louder. We are inside Jamie Lidell’s body. His spleen, innards, colon, liver. We are expelled along with his shit into the world. If ever the word has been abused, Jamie Lidell can claim it now. Deconstruction. There is not nothing left after Lidell. This is not the end of music—although I thought similar thoughts—this is the phoenix, the fire, the ashes, all at once, in no particular order. This is the remake. Pure, unfettered, unfiltered expression. Expression. Violence. The machinic aesthetic fed back into the head of a certain human, and this human stretching his guts to accommodate the entire room, the SAT, the street, the park, Montreal, Quebec, North America, the world. Vomit. Taking it all back in through all the wrong orifices that feel all so right. I am in love with Jamie Lidell’s fist.

Mutek is over.

Repeat: Mutek is over.

(No afterparty? No surprise? No jam session? Sudden confusion... everyone looks pale and sick... extra security hired becomes pushy and rude—GET OUT GET OUT—they yell—everyone is in a sudden rush for no apparent reason—artists and journalists split in different directions—everyone is flying out early all of a sudden—it’s over—the flyer promised more but none more was to be had—Jamie Lidell destroyed us all—is it over already? It’s over?)

By tobias c. van Veen

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