Culture & Conversation

MUTEK, from Montreal to the world

Sascha Funke and wife Julienne Dessagne are Saschienne. Photo by Miguel Legault

Sascha Funke and wife Julienne Dessagne are Saschienne. Photo by Miguel Legault

The launch of MUTEK on Wednesday signalled the start of the one week every year when the cream of the crop of the global electronic music community is headquartered right here in Montreal.

Almost as if to remind us of the fact, MUTEK’s 14th edition was opened in high style at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) with a tribute to the 20th anniversary of iconic German record label Kompakt, featuring powerhouse performances by some of the label’s – and of electronic and techno music’s – most foundational and influential figures.

The story of Kompakt is virtually indissociable from the story of techno music itself, and from its European forms which emerged in the wake of Germany’s (and Berlin’s) reunification in the early 1990s. Pioneers of the “Cologne sound” known for its emotive blending of techno minimalism and melody, the label has continually expanded into new areas and established itself as a central pillar of the global techno community.

Wednesday night’s artists lived up to the hype, with label co-founder Michael Mayer on hand to headline a whirlwind evening of mostly danceable deep techno beats, featuring West Coast minimalist John Tejada, ambient favourites The Field, and Berlin minimal techno stalwart Sascha Funke offering a stunning new collaboration with wife Julienne Dessagne.

All in all, it was a potent reminder of MUTEK’s central role in the harnessing and showcasing of some of the world’s most creative and influential minds in electronic music. If that weren’t enough, the program reads like a who’s who of the industry’s crucial actors: global electronic music webzine and community resource Resident Advisor is broadcasting its RA Live Exchange interview series from MUTEK this week, as is Britain’s avant-gardist music mag The Wire, the American XLR8R (“accelerator”) music and culture mag, and the travelling Red Bull Music Academy, with origins in Berlin.

The daytime component of the festival also highlights the international linkages between MUTEK and the international electronic music scenes, with a film screening yesterday about MUTEK Mexico – MUTEK has also expanded to Barcelona, with lesser forays into Buenos Aires and Santiago – and an exhibition Saturday at the Centre PHI will be presented by MUTEK’s so-called “European soul sister,” Berlin’s CTM Festival.

The international prestige of MUTEK within the domain is a crucial factor behind Montréal’s growing presence on the world electronic music circuit, a reality further reinforced by Piknic Electronik’s mounting global cachet, with the latter festival also expanding to Barcelona, now for its second consecutive season. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that either is not every bit, both by birth and at heart, a creature of Montréal: MUTEK is ours, and from us to the world.

MUTEK runs from May 29 to June 2 in the Quartier des Spectacles. You can view the whole program here.

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