Friday at MUTEK: Sweet relief


“Bon weekend!” Don’t mind if I do, mister bus driver man. My MUTEK kicked off in fine fashion on Friday, after a quiet bus journey to Montreal punctuated only by extreme hunger when the fine people at Coach Canada refused to let us off at Kingston to get food, asking us instead to purchase their sandwiches from the smiling man kindly blocking the rear doors. Somehow this struck me as distinctly Ontarian. On to Quebec.

A/Visions 02: Sutekh, Comaduster, Murcof + AntiVJ

Since I came here expecting to dance, I was amused to note that the first gig I’d be taking in was a sit-down affair. Even more uncharacteristically, there was a piano at centre stage. When Sutekh a.k.a. glitchy experimental vet Seth Horvitz came out in vest and tie and stood next to the piano, I assumed this was the prelude. No, it was one of Yamaha’s digital player pianos, and after he left, we never saw him again. It wasn’t hard to imagine why — if the crowd had tomatoes, he would have been a target once we realized we were being subjected to an interminable piano suite that consisted of cascading patterns that clearly weren’t being played by a human. Unfortunately it was clearly written by a human, one who failed to exploit the possibilities, or present a more edited version of the few successes, of what was a pretty nifty idea to start with. As I said to my friend, I preferred the single edit.

After a generic set from Comaduster � seriously, if you wanted to put ‘minimal experimental tech/glitch’ in the dictionary, get a sample of this guy’s set, complete with a visual backing of still photos of globs of stuff going in and out of focus � we got Murcof, whose album Cosmos made quite a thing in recent years. Of that, we got a short but powerful blast, namely some astonishing orchestral drone that I would have loved to hear more of. Not being hugely familiar with Murcof, I enjoyed his recent stuff rather than a sampling of his older material, which sounded dated to my ears. But major praise is due for improving with time, a rare and valuable thing. What he could do with a cello sample, twisted and distended but still recognizably alive, is remarkable. And an even huger bit of praise is due for AntiVJ, whose computer-generated latticeworks and bubbles leaped handily over the screen-saver-wank of novice VJs and into genuinely interesting, arresting, moving art that I would pay to see on its own, even.

Nocturne 02: FaltyDL, Anstam, Modeselektor

We had to miss Siriusmo and Jacques Greene in order to see Murcof, but a balance is important. And we definitely caught the other side of MUTEK when we turned up at Metropolis to see FaltyDL taking the stage and dropping some seriously swishy garage (and here I don’t mean the UK version), complete with some rave-y breaks and… yes… bongos. The crowd generally ate it up, being of a more Euro disposition than you might get in Toronto at, say, Wrongbar; in fact it was when the man born Drew Lustman threw in some more characteristically dubstep and heavy stuff that the dance machine ground to a halt. I think he was pissed off, in fact, since he ended his set on Squarepusher’s fun but aggressive “My Red Hot Car.” Whatever, guy — I liked it.

I did not like Anstam, however, at all. “Industrial dubstep” is not a genre that needed to exist, in my opinion, not when you have Benga pushing out stuff that’s both speaker-chewing and funky; taking away the groove and making it harder and more painful is like taking a cupcake and replacing the icing with toothpaste. Too loud and painfully dry.

I knew Modeselektor would provide everything Anstam didn’t, but even I was shocked by just how fun and populist they would be, even here at MUTEK. They dropped french rappers TTC in an obvious sop to the crowd; they threw in some dancehall; hell, I was surprised they didn’t break out the beach balls and confetti cannons. But quickly they got into some rubbery bass business that hit like the first warm breeze of summer, and all the tension of sitting in a desk chair for months, as well as sitting on a bus all day, melted into air. The duo cockily rewinded their tunes until they were satisfied; no complaints here, either.

Tomorrow: reviewing Plastikman, hopefully catching some of Tomas Jirku, and telling you how much I like sleeping in. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.