MUTEK.MX 2018: 7 highlights of Mexico’s premier electronic music festival
MUTEK.MX is one of the organization’s biggest events yearly and has become a focal point for electronic music in Mexico City. This year, FACT was in attendance to enjoy its most impressive lineup to date.
Now on its 15th year, MUTEK.MX is an important fixture in the Mexican musical calendar. Each edition has explored the relationship between visual art, technology and music, blurring the boundaries between disciplines and inviting a diverse selection of artists from across the world to participate.
This year, the lineup was more impressive than ever, with marquee performances from artists like Actress, Aurora Halal, Avalon Emerson, Prurient, Gas and plenty of others. FACT was on the ground at this year’s event once again to round up some of the festival’s most exciting moments.
This year, A/Visions 2 was held at Museo Anahuacalli, an impressive museum conceived by Diego Rivera that focuses on pre-Hispanic art. The building itself is breathtaking, modeled on the teocalli pyramid and built from volcanic stone, and the surrounding area – reflective pools, ancient cacti and medicinal plants – gives the space an air of meditative serenity.
It’s the ideal setting for Kazuya Nagaya & Florence To’s ritualistic ambience. The first thing I noticed was the sparkling concentric circles of 445 rins (Japanese bowl-shaped instruments), which filled the performance area. Nagaya started slowly, building up his ritual sounds carefully before Florence To’s hypnotic visuals appeared and Nagaya dissolved the rin sounds into clouds of billowing electronic ambience.
Stationed in Room B of FÁBRICA, a gigantic warehouse on the outskirts of Mexico City, Portland’s Visible Cloaks took an engrossed audience into the fourth world, assisted by Brenna Murphy’s colorful visuals. Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile’s gentle, studied compositions were a good fit for the space, coaxing the crowd into a state of meditative bliss with glassy electronic textures and charming live percussion. It served as the perfect introduction to a long, varied night of maximalist excess.
Seeing Smerz perform on the main stage at FÁBRICA was a revelation. It’s hard to explain just how well Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt’s homespun sound – explored on this year’s excellent Have Fun – translated to FÁBRICA’s huge central area. Fuzzy visuals of famous divas flickered behind the duo as they rocked through their slim catalogue, screaming and cooing while harnessing a table full of synthesizers, laptops and drum machines. It was the weekend’s most powerful main-stage set, and Stoltenberg and Motzfeldt managed this without any awkward theatrics or pyrotechnics.
Closing out Friday’s Nocturne 1 program were Los Angeles-based duo Amazondotcom & Siete Catorce. By this point, many revelers had already left the venue or were crowded around the main stage to watch Marcel Dettmann lock into the same rhythm for three hours, but a dedicated crowd made it to Room B and witnessed something spectacular.
I’ve seen Siete Catorce play multiple times in the past and he’s always exciting and unpredictable, but this was different – with Amazondotcom’s added expertise, the duo occasionally touched on a sound that was truly revelatory. Collapsing familiar rhythms into a sprawling mess of stabs, womps and deliciously mischievous samples, this felt like club music beamed from an far future or distant past, where the consumption of psychedelic drugs is a mandatory rite of passage.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this set when I walked into FÁBRICA’s Room B on Saturday night for Nocturne 2. I’ve been an Air fan since the 1990s, but I never followed Jean-Benoît Dunckel’s solo work closely. His set, performed alongside visual artist Jacques Peconte, was engrossing from beginning to end – all wobbly analogue synth and gentle rhythms, met perfectly by Peconte’s gloriously brightly-colored visuals. For much of the set, the crowd was bathed in bright light and watched images slowly disappear as faint breaths of Air – a little ‘Sexy Boy’ here or Virgin Suicides there – faded into the background.
Good things come to those who wait. DEBIT’s debut live performance of Love Discipline, an ambient tape released on Quiet Time earlier this year, was initially marred by severe technical difficulties: there wasn’t any sound. But the dedicated crowd – who filled FÁBRICA’s intimate Room C – waited patiently as anxiety slowly gave way to gentle, calming drones. Delia Beatriz performed with a table full of cassette recorders, controlling sheets of ambient noise expertly and with enviable restraint. It was one of the weekend’s most memorable sets and she commanded the stage like a conductor and producer at once, carving out a space far from the usual ambient live show spectacle. There was no hiding behind laptops here – the stage completely belonged to DEBIT.
Mule Musiq’s Kuniyuki Takahashi helped close out the festival on Sunday with a delicate live set of blissful deep house. The setting was important here – it was outside Museo Tamayo, a large concrete structure that sits in Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s largest park. This provided the ideal festival comedown, giving tired ravers enough time to consider the last few days’ experience and absorb some slinky, expertly-produced house at the same time. Who could ask for more?
John Twells is FACT’s Executive Editor and is on Twitter.