As in previous years, the range of artists and genres represented at Mutek 2003 was considerable. With over 70 artists from around the world appearing, one had the opportunity to see ‘marquee’ acts like Pole, Coil, and Richie Hawtin, as well as uncompromising artists like Pita, Kevin Drumm, and T. Raumschmiere. Unlike past Muteks, DJ sets were almost entirely absent at this year’s festival (although, for the record, past DJ sets had often been used to bridge the gaps between non-DJ performances). And, in comparison to last year’s ambitious potpourri of concerts, panel discussions, films, and design displays, the 2003 incarnation limited itself to concerts and panel discussions, with seven of the latter. In short, this year felt like a satisfying consolidation of past festivals’ strengths instead of grandiose risk-taking.
There were label showcases by Mego, No Type, and Minus/Plus 8, and sets of dubby microhouse from EGG (Julien Roy and Guillaume Coutu-Dumont), smooth minimal techhouse from Robin Judge and Jeff Milligan (aka Algorithm and Revolver label head), hard-hitting minimal techno by Ototo (Dimitri and Filip), Jeremy Caulfield, and Matthew Dear (aka False), the latter’s music evoking classic Chain Reaction stylings in its treble and bass detailing. Drone and ambient musics were presented, the most notable instance being the appearance by Thomas Köner and Asmus Tietchens (performing as Kontakt Der Jünglinge) who sculpted a slowly unfurling glacial soundscape. Other artists in this genre included Gary Joynes (aka Clinker), who built a singular drone-like piece of slowly metamorphosing waves, and [sic] (Jen Morris), who created ghostly dronescapes against a diptych backdrop of enigmatic photographs. Electroacoustic sets were offered by the nuanced Coin Gutter (Graeme Scott and Michael Hendrix) and sampling artist Diane Labrosse and Aimé Dontigny, whose collaboration resulted in a tactile, improvisatory dialogue. Set Fire to Flames’ member Christof Migone generated a 45-minute stream of body-generated scraping and whirring sounds accompanied by a video triptych that showed a gaping mouth at left, what appeared in the middle to be a tomato encased within a block of ice lodged within a salivating mouth, and, at right, the nighttime silhouette of a cityscape and bridge. There were infectious jazz-inflected funkhouse from Cobblestone Jazz and celebratory Latin techhouse by Mambotur. Chicago-based Telefon Tel Aviv (Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper) presented a heavy microdub funk of chiming synths and massive bass drum and snare patterns. But, overall, the most memorable performances were turned in by veterans like Pole, Coil, Richie Hawtin, Monolake, and Señor Coconut.
In a Saturday afternoon performance that paid tribute to turntable pioneer Raymond Gervais, four turntable titans — Philip Jeck, Marina Rosenfeld, Martin Tétreault, and Martin Ng — provided an hypnotic set that included extended group collaboration as well as individual spotlights. Ostensibly, the proceedings were directed by Tétreault but his was certainly a benign dictatorship; if anything, the pieces often evolved with the others responding to Jeck’s looping grounds. They began by constructing a beautifully measured collage of scraping and scratching sounds amidst ghostly strains of melody. Immediately following this auspicious beginning, they created an equally effective second piece of whistling tones and bell-like percussion effects. While the concert predominantly featured the four playing together, there were brief duos, trios, and solos. Naturally, as is to be expected in an improvisatory setting, some tentative moments emerged when it seemed as if each of the four was waiting for someone to take the lead, but these registered as not unwelcome moments of brief stillness. Each took solo turns: Jeck, using two turntables, one for 12 inch lps and the other for 45s, drowned the sitar from Stoked in showers of surface noise; Rosenfeld’s solo offered a turntable adagio of sorts filled with treble glissandoes, looped crackling patterns, and phantom melodies; Tétreault’s initial musical quotation was gradually buried under huge slabs of static and hiss, his turn ending with furious scratching and a physical attack on his lps; finally, Ng’s solo impressed less as an exercise in musicality and more as one of physical athleticism. To close, the four collaborated upon a carefully sculpted elegiac piece. In sum, this session was engrossing and nuanced—a demonstration of sensitive listening and collaboration by its participants.