Day 1 at Montreal’s MUTEK

Ten Walls, James Holden, Boundary, Billy Dalessandro & Ombossa and Waveshaper at the Musee D'Art Contemporain de Montreal

TEN WALLS, JAMES HOLDEN, BOUNDARY, BILLY DALESSANDRO & OMBOSSA, WAVESHAPER and others, as part of MUTEK at the Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Wednesday, May 27. Rating: NNNN

Coming from Toronto, it’s striking to see how much support MUTEK gets from the city of Montreal. Even though it focuses on the relatively small niche of live experimental electronic music, the festival seems to get an impressive amount of funding, not to mention an incredible main venue in the sprawling Musée D’Art Contemporain complex.

Visiting journalists are welcomed to such a degree that I’m almost starting to feel guilty about how well I’m being taken care of. That’s in stark contrast to how Toronto tends to treat music festivals that cater to anything other than pop and rock, and shows just how much needs to be done to integrate our own music scene into how we sell our city to the world.

Even though it was only the first evening, there was a great turnout at MAC for the two-room opening night event. Downstairs featured more ambient audio/visual performers, while the larger room upstairs hosted a range of uptempo live electronic musicians. Both were immersive experiences, with the video components gracefully integrated with the musical performances, and the sound impressively crisp.

Toronto’s Waveshaper provided a gentle beginning to the evening in the downstairs hall, patiently unfurling complex pulsing drones and subtly evolving rhythms. Upstairs in the main hall, Cabaal flirted with house-music-influenced rhythms and quirky melodies, although the crowd wasn’t quite ready to dance yet.

For the next few hours the main room veered further away from conventional club beats, with Mini & Nelly-Eve Rajotte combining industrial electro sounds with live video manipulation, and both James Holden and Boundary working with drummers and electronics. Holden’s set in particular was impressive, and his modular synth setup really gave the sound system a workout.

The most memorable performance was back downstairs in the ambient room, where Montreal producer Billy Dalessandro performed material from his album Boomers while Ombossa manipulated video projections behind the pair. Dalessandro’s classical music influences made for an engrossing contrast between beautiful impressionist melodies and gurgling ambient techno that managed to feel both improvised and carefully composed.

While most of the acts on night one didn’t have the dance floor in mind, the main room finally erupted into a full-on party once Lithuania’s Ten Walls took the stage. Raw, driving minimal techno, but with an ear for subtly catchy melodies, and a taste for big warm synth tones. | @benjaminboles

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