Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recent Gigs: Micro Mutek 2012 - Party like its the end of the world

My official round up of the action at this year’s Micro Mutek festival can be found here at Resident Advisor, but to complement it a little, some extra ideas and some audio-visual cues.

First up is the last: the end of the world. Something in the air lately has given me this overwhelming Armageddon feeling. A lot has to do with global politics, economics and unemployment, but there is something else. I am sure there is some fall out from seeing Lars von Trier's confusing film ”Melancholia” last year and its extraordinary climax (warning: spoiler in video).

And I know 2012 is supposed to bring the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar and Roland Emmerich’s film, but I don’t believe that (though it might be nice to think it will be the end for some people in particular).

Coincidentally, days before the festival I saw for the first time one of Emmerich’s other films, the environmental disaster blockbuster “The Day After Tomorrow” which also left an impression. Perhaps this was more to do with having spent the previous two days in the south of France where the Mistral of Marseille and the Provence region drove deep the chill of temperatures that were maxing out at midday around -1ºC. Flurries of hail engulfed the car at certain points of the Pyrenees mountains on the way there and by Sunday afternoon the south west corner was engulfed in snowfall. Arriving back at home in time for the movie, I found the flat which had been left unheated for two days was impossible to warm again. In this atmosphere I watched Emmerich’s film and went to and from the Mutek festival and it wasn’t until after Theo Parrish closed proceedings that I found it possible to get warm again.

Apart from the weather, it was funny how this theme seemed to pass through the festival . The first night we had two eco-disaster movies with more than a hint of the end of the world about them. The first was Werner Herzog’s “Lessons in darkness”, a 1992 poetic documentary about the Iraqi’s setting fire to the oil wells to prevent the Americans getting them in the First Gulf War.

The film mythologises the workers attempts to extinguish the flames and their lust for fire. Lucrecia Dalt’s live soundtrack performance was one of the best of the festival, being unexpected, sympathetic to the movie, dramatic and technically proficient. Apparently an album is coming out soon and maybe an interview if I am lucky. The post punk sprawl of her music was in marked contrast to the films classical and operatic drama.

Vladislav Delay also played against the backdrop of Michael Madsen’s “Into Eternity” about the vain attempt to build a labyrinth of tunnels and sinkholes to store and hide radioactive waste for 100 000 years, away from nature, people and those who might exploit it.

One of the themes of the film was again work, at least in the sense of showing the miners digging the tunnels, just like Herzog’s film gets in close to the oil tanned faces of the fire-fighters. Ripatti gave the interviewees of the film, usually the “decision makers”, a hard time with abrasive patterns and machine noise, but allowed the workers to do their thing in more peaceful tones. The class stratification is noticeable visually too, with the actions of work often slowed to a dream, just as the forest, the tunnels and the diagrams are rendered in slow motion. It is only people who react and communicate in real (immediate) time as if rushing to eternity.

The last day saw two other groups of artists extend the theme. Argentinian ambient/IDM producer Why with VJ AV-K mixed lights and geometric patterns with newsreel images of war, skulls, conflict and faces, whereas the last group Ragul and Blowshe presented a work called “Frio” (cold) which was a kind of live edited fairy tale set to an icy backdrop. Later that evening it snowed, a rarity for Barcelona. It’s a shame there is no media for some of these shows, especially Ragul and Blowshe as their show really was charming. The combination of youth and curiosity was simply over whelming and it was great to see them get a chance to do such a big show.

Regardless, here is a little footage of Ragul playing in the Miscelanea gallery last year:

Some more on some of the other acts: on Thursday night I caught Argentinian DJ Dilo at Moog. He only played for an hour, but he crammed a lot into a short set, singing over the top of some tracks and generally playing at break neck speed with a decadent air. This track is a little minimal (he has also worked with M-nus’s Argentinian producer Barem) and there is some other live footage of him playing a slower, housier set, but nothing quite like the Mutek show.

I hate giving negative reviews, but Venezuelan DJ Moreon got a little stick from me in the above RA review. I think to be fair it just wasn’t his night in the end, maybe two and a half hours was just too long for him with the wrong crowd as he was playing some nice tech-house at the beginning. His summer image was also maybe somehow against the grain of the unexpected theme.

I was looking forward to Shackelton a lot on Friday night, but in the end he didn’t quite do it for me. Last year at Sonar it had been a buzzing and tribal performance, but at Mutek he had troubles with the sound system which didn’t help create intimacy or immersion, whereas he also seems to have verged a little bit towards noise over spaciousness and atomic details. Perhaps it is a consequence of his collaboration with Pinch from last year or an artefact of the sound system? In any case, maybe Shackleton is at a certain cross roads now as he sound is so distinct (just look how he dominated the collaboration last year) and has been for so long it is harder to evolve?

Falty DL had given a live interview earlier in the day on Friday where he had demonstrated a lot of eccentricity and charisma, but buried within all this was a really clear headed ambition. A snippet of interview:

But he almost blew his gig a little, train wrecking the start of his set amid the bad sound of the system, but he pulled it together nicely. In a kind of contrast with Moreon above, he had a really clear set design he wanted to follow that worked well, giving a lot of variation, different beat styles as well as a chance to show off some skills during the slightly hasty IDM finish. Indeed, one of the things that surprised me about the whole festival was how IDM a lot of it was. Part of the surprise was that I should be surprised, but sometimes it does seem that IDM is a past music, rather than a present one, though there are many labels and release who would disagree, like Planet Mu and particularly Stroboscopic Artefacts from last year. Ragul for instance was wearing an Aphex Twin shirt while Falty DL also name dropped him during the interview.

In the live interview with Deadbeat I asked him about the Reggae sample he used in several recent tracks (see also this previous post). Even though I said it was not necessarily fitting in his track to put the whole quote as it would have undermined the vampire impression of the “speaker”, he nonetheless seemed a little annoyed when I suggested there should be more politics in dance music. Sure, as he refuted, the crowd is drug addled revellers and not thinking people, at least in the club, but this is also not the point. Is there not a dangerous decadence at play here with longer-than-ever parties in the rich enclaves of Berlin and Germany while the rest of Europe sinks into financial oblivion, slowly unable to afford a night out at the disco or a new album? I am reminded of David Bowie’s track “Aladdin Sane” based on the 1930 Evelyn Waugh novel “Vile Bodies” about the “passionate bright young things” who live a decadent life despite a realization of the oncoming threat of war. It is important to point out the obvious which is that night club shows are not called “concerts”, but “parties” just as say, the Communist Party or the Tea Party. Not many have seemed interested in these issues since Achim Szepanski’s (as opposed to the recreated) Mille Plateau label folded:

“The point is that music or sound design not only takes place on the level of symbolisation and signification, but that significant material, i.e. non-coded forms of expression and elements, as well play a role in the production of sound. Then, ´Machinisation´ means that, in the production process, in the combination of music and composition, things have to be considered, circumstances which concern the artist but also exceed him, e.g. all the social-political implications in which music and electricity are made available.”

To download full article by Andreas Busche click here.

Brandt Brauer Frick tread a fine line between artistry and thievery. Dressed in Kraftwerk-esque salaryman clothes and jamming out fast minimal house based on Steve Reich patterns you could be excused for dismissing them as derivative. But results in the end speak louder than images and the group can pull it off with energy, enthusiasm and craft, with special praise for the drummer for commitment and endurance.

Theo Parrish’s musical philosophy can best be described by a line from the following track:

“Black music: when yesterday becomes tomorrow”

Parrish’s set, and by extension his music and elegant edits, continues a tradition of Afrofuturism in 20th Century music, from Sun Ra and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in jazz to Drexciya and Underground Resistance in electronica, and more. Perhaps the principle difference is Parrish’s lesser reliance on technology to represent the future. Instead, his music conjures up the image of the future and hope as seen from the past and that has sustained in the music throughout generations. There is a real sense that Parrish is telling a story, bringing the past into the present and using the moment to launch into an unknown future. What was particularly impressive about his performance was the amount of design and thought behind it and yet the natural, spontaneous unravelling of the pieces. Parrish used volume control, long overlays and a winding road through black musical styles to reach the end. But more than anything else, he maintained the music with a continuous flow of vocals and breath-based instruments as if the literal voice was speaking through the music.

Finally, as mentioned,  there were also a couple of live interviews with the Luomo/Vladislav Delay, Deadbeat, Falty DL, Guillamino and San Proper at the local Bar 33/45 run by the guys at Struments Radios that can be seen in video format by clicking here.

Thanks again to Nerone, Carles, Bianca de Vilar for photos (take more next year please!), Laura, the Struments guys for the carajillo at 33/45.

Party like its the end of the world!!!

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