With nearly 150 artists, though, there was something for everyone. You had French cosmonauts, tubas and tenori-ons on the same stage and even DJ Sneak forlornly looking at the decks while Villalobos and Zip played a seven-hour set. Oh. And there was some experimental music too. (This is Mutek after all.) But far from being schizophrenic, many of the acts that would have seemed unthinkable ten years ago on a Mutek stage all exhibited something that connected them to the ideas of cross-pollination and collaboration that have guided the event since its start.
Alain Mongeau, the founder of the festival, said in our oral history of the event that "Mutek [is] in a specific situation right now. With everyone moving, we need to focus going forward on a new generation of artists, which I don't think we've done quite yet—but I get the sense that it's growing." I'd agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment. In a way, Mutek_10 reminded me a little bit of the dubstep/techno crossover that DJs like Appleblim—not coincidentally a festival performer—are currently exploring: Nobody knows exactly what it is right now, or even where it's going. But it sure sounds exciting. -- Todd L. Burns
The first event at Mutek_10 was one of the biggest. Legendary Kompakt head Wolfgang Voigt performed his highly conceptual GAS project live for the first time in Canada. Voigt implored the crowd to sonically (and visually) traverse the Black Forest of Southern Germany with the heavy ambient (de)compositions of Mahler and Wagner washing over listeners. Sparse moments were anchored by a simple bass drum. Voigt stood at a small table, eclipsed by the stunning visuals, which featured brilliantly manipulated natural landscapes projected onto a screen. Halfway through the performance, a giant black scrim lowered and elevated the visuals to an almost 3D experience. Though Voigt's set lacked some cohesiveness in its transitions, the music was haunting, cinematic, and, at times, almost frightening. Unforgettable. -- Elly Rifkin
After the sober monumentality of Gas, it seemed perfectly appropriate that the next event, Nocturne 1—subtitled "Cosmic Trip to Mutek"—would offer up the chance to wear Mutek-supplied space suits, build paper airplanes on a comically oversized picnic table and play ping-pong on a table built for four separate contestants. Silliness was the order of the day, even if Turzi's droning spacey minimalism didn't give us much to laugh about. Instead, it was Zombie Zombie's live set that got people head-banging to psych rock and Pilooski's predictably populist DJ set—Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" made an appearance early on—that got the crowd amped. And we would've stayed, except Pilooski was unconscionably loud, putting things far past the red. -- Todd L. Burns
I was a bit "meh" on the ambient offerings of last year's Mutek. But in 2009, the festival did well throughout, pairing stunning music with solid visuals. In fact, the only group that I saw that was a disappointment was the highly anticipated reunion of Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman. Coming after The Fun Years' dronetastic performance, I was eager to hear Liebezeit bring the tempo up with his live drumming, only to be met with frustratingly simple patterns that were only rarely broken up by the simplest of fills. Can, of course, made their name on "simple patterns," but these had none of the innate drive found there. Instead, it was left entirely up to Friedman, who unfortunately couldn't save the gig from Liebezeit's limp skins work. -- Todd L. Burns
Nocturne 2 saw the action shift to Metropolis where Applebim started things off with an interesting dubstep-techno hybrid set, slowly propelling the sea of bobbing heads into dancing and cheering during the breakdowns, while Ezekiel Honig treated the folks sitting on the floor upstairs in the Savoy to a set of downtempo and ambient soundscapes. Deadbeat, meanwhile, worked the main stage well. Working in many of the tracks from his Wagon Repair album, he ended triumphantly with some dub and reggae. The highlight of the evening, though, was Moderat. I didn't care for Modselektor's 2008 Mutek set, but their techno-heavy, synth-driven, big-room sound was balanced perfectly by the addition of Apparat's dreamy vocals, keys and guitar, making for a spectacular, refined live performance. -- Elly Rifkin
One of the most unique performances at Mutek this year, the Atom project by Robert Henke and Christopher Bauder comprised of a series of illuminated helium balloons moving up and down assuming several shapes and forms in a beautiful and almost dance-like choreography in conjunction with Henke's ambient soundscapes. Sometimes the balloons would look like intersecting staircases, other times it seemed as though snakes of light were swirling through them. That said, I couldn't concentrate fully throughout, as the push-pull nature of the set ran for a bit too long. Or maybe it was my cramped body going numb sardined amongst the packed house as we sat on the stage floor. Either way, Atom sent me to dreamland through elegant sound and light. -- Gerald Ortiz
I didn't fall asleep during SND's performance at A\Visions 3, but I did close my eyes for a very long time. When I opened them, the screen which had previously been occupied by only a few colored stripes was a rainbow of slightly buzzing stripes that continued to ever so slowly multiply along with the duo's striated grooves and chunky melodies. It was a very good musical performance, I only wish I had been so busy focusing on it. I kept my eyes open for all of nsi.'s set, catching Jimmy Lakatos' tasteful flares of color as Max Loderbauer played delicate piano, Tobias Freund effected him, himself and everything else, swooping, sweeping and swelling the music to minor climaxes that had enormous weight. -- Todd L. Burns
With A\Visions 3 running late, Original Hamster & Nego Moçambique entertained a small but enthusiastic crowd, rapping and singing over reggae and dancehall beats, italo and disco-inspired tunes, and fuzzy electro-influenced boogaloo tracks. The packed Savoy side room, meanwhile, featured an impressive lineup of Cynosure artists. Matt Thibideau kicked things off, performing an all-hardware live set of snappy techno and Adam Marshall followed with a rare live set that started off strong with some jackin' techno and house, but lost focus towards the end. Ernesto Ferreyra picked up the pace, though, and kept the bongos to a minimum, topping his 2008 festival performance. Mike Shannon delivered with a set of housey techno ripe with trippy bass lines and spooky melodies.
Feeling claustrophobic, I moved into the main room to watch perhaps the most unique and exhilarating set of the night from the Tijuana-based Nortec Collective featuring Bostich and Fussible. Imagine a six-piece norteño band (outfitted in cowboy hats and leisure jackets) equipped with Tenori-ons and drum machines. Not at all familiar with this project, I originally thought that Regional Mexican music mixed with electronic funk and techno would come off as ridiculous, but these guys won me over with their swagger and stage presence. -- Elly Rifkin
The debut Piknic of Mutek_10 left me with mixed emotions. Both opening and ending the event, Canada's own The Mole reaffirmed that he truly has blossomed into a world-class DJ and producer. His seamless integration of laptop tinkering and vinyl mixing connected well with the crowd, yet I could only appreciate Brendon Moeller's set while struggling for something to latch onto. Uncanny veteran Thomas Fehlmann, meanwhile, managed to follow with a short but powerful set of undeniably researched house and techno rhythms that wowed the crowd. The biggest disappointment? Trus'me. Though many had been charmed by his solid RA podcast late last year, the young Manchester native missed the mark playing live, failing to create any sense of cohesion from his brilliant tracks until the last twenty minutes of his one hour spot. -- Gerald Ortiz
Atom Heart, AKA Uwe Schmidt, made waves at the festival when he proclaimed that techno died for him in 1993 at a panel discussion with journalist Philip Sherburne, Tobias Freund and Thomas Fehlmann. What Schmidt was saying—while wearing his customary suit and slicked back hair—though was that once the genre had a name and a perceived set of rules, he wasn't interested anymore. It seemed funny, though, when only a few hours later he was back on the exact same stage pounding out 4/4 rhythms that—had it been later in the night and not at 110 BPM—would've probably had people dancing up a storm. For a guy who thought it died in '93, he sure was good that night at faking as though he enjoyed it. -- Todd L. Burns
"The festival's marquee all-night event" is the way that Mutek billed Nocturne 4, and with RA's name attached, who are we to argue? Moonstarr unfortunately played to a largely empty room, as Byetone and Alva Noto finished their sets a few blocks away, so it was up to dOP to warm things up, even if their booze-filled antics seemed to be more appropriate for 5 AM than as a lead-in to Mathew Jonson and Dandy Jack. That duo's live set somehow sounded exactly like you might expect the two teaming up might. Tobias., meanwhile, suffered from some technical problems, but eventually got back on track before handing it off to Carl Craig, who after opening with a portion of his collaboration with Moritz Von Oswald played a classics-heavy set to close out the night. -- Todd L. Burns
Oscillating between percussive old school house, minimal, some acid and even a brief bout of breaks, Ricardo Villalobos and Zip flowed remarkably throughout their seven hour tag-team set. As the rain clouds came in, the umbrellas and bed sheets went up, things got dramatic: With dedicated dance floor maniacs screaming, Villalobos dropped what sounded like an African folk-inspired rain dance vocal. Whether you're a fan or not, keeping people dancing in the cold and rain demonstrates both fan devotion and DJ skills. (The occasional bursts of confetti thrown into the crowd and the inclusion of Ricardo's own "Easy Lee" didn't hurt either.) -- Gerald Ortiz
Nocturne 5, MUTEK's closing party, provided a more intimate setting than the massive Metropolis. I—and many other worn-out festival-goers—gathered post-Piknic to the sounds of Mateo Murphy and Pheek improvising a live set of bubbling house music. This segued smoothly into Stephen Beaupré's live performance of glitchy tech-house, which had a nice balance of danceable melodies and freaky micro-samples. Akufen's highly anticipated live performance (the first in nearly five years) was a fun mix of downtempo grooves, jazzy house and bouncy microhouse. And The Modern Deep Left Quartet—Cobblestone Jazz plus The Mole—ended the evening with a melodic, wonderfully cosmic odyssey. -- Elly Rifkin