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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

The Wire in Mutek 4 June 2010

Derek Walmsley

Greetings from Montreal, where The Wire is stationed for the next four days or so. We're currently in our hotel room trying to shake off jetlag by watching a selection of YouTube clips of schmaltzy ballads and power rock posted by Leyland James Kirby. It's working.... we think. All these old school Yello, Daryl Pandy and 80s rock clips are taking us back just enough in time so that we sync with where we left our bodyclocks in the UK. Our coffee machine isn't working, sadly, and Nathan Budzinski is behind me reading Cold World: The Aesthetics Of Dejection And The Politics Of Militant Dysphoria, but apart from that everything's rosy, and the festival has been impressive.

The is the first time we've been to Mutek - we're in the middle of a selection of Q&As presented in association with the festival, and after Matmos and King Midas Sound we've got Caretaker and Mouse On Mars today at Monument-National (1pm and 5pm) and they're free to all. Highlights of the first two: Matmos arguing that sound is inherently queer, in it's non-reducible, irrational qualities, and talking about how the Baltimore DIY scene's total skintness and make do and mend ethos has given them a reality check; King Midas Sound's Kevin Martin and Roger Robinson discussed their emotional closeness while making Waiting For You , and Kevin had forceful points to make about how the best music, for him, should scupper the usual cognitive processes and tap into up a more irrational, chaotic, and thus free state of mind - alienation carries with it freedom, essentially.

Today, I'll be hoping to find out why The Caretaker drunk his way through a whisky bottle in a pretty raw performance last night, and later talking to Mouse On Mars.

As I posted on our Twitter feed (@thewiremagazine) The Caretaker's performance ended with him crooning "The Way We Were" through a completely fucked-up sound patch. It was hilarious, and with a certain psychological edge too. I recommend you check out this short clip we did, as words can't really do it justice:

Mutek: The Caretaker from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

So far we've been in and around Monument-National where we have our stall and do the Q&As. Architecturally it's intriguing: a grand old school building with enormous staircases, and balustrades and balconies in the main room. It's dark and welcoming. It was perfect for The Caretaker. We had a fantastic view of Matmos's performance too, where we could see all the millions of gadgets in play. They were great fun, although I can't help feeling sitting stock still and watching them at play is a little unsatisfactory. I would have liked to move in some way, not just observe it like a detached operation.

The studio space downstairs was perfect for Eleh, who played after several sets (way too many, really - four sets, three of which the best part of 45 minutes) of decent but only occasionally impressive electroacoustic and electronic improvisors. The studio is like an underground bunker, with seats on a three-sided, railed balcony overlooking a main performance space. Eleh played in total darkness, his back to the audience and facing a small rack of modern looking modular synths. It sounded fantastic through a PA, loud but soft, and while it rattled the metal fittings of the space, it drew you in rather than pushed you away. It was a patient and unflashy set, with long moments where you waited for the next change, but ultimately it was pretty overwhelming for me. One moment where the repeated low, wobbling bass tone suddenly faded into nothing was almost panic inducing, like a heartbeat abruptly stopping.

The music was less concise and precisely sculpted than his recent recordings, but watching him at work and seeing how the shapes slowly coalesce more than made up for it.

Mutek's a friendly festival, which is a bonus. It's constantly bustling but not too busy, so people always feel they have time to chat. And Montreal itself is unique, arty and proudly individual, but tough and gritty with a certain gnarled seriousness.

Tonight, and the weekend: exploring the other venues, probably catching the likes of Theo Parrish, Actress, Demdike Stare, Tim Hecker, etc etc. The bill is pretty impressive, although I'm slightly wishing I managed to catch Jason Lescallet, playing in the studio on Wednesday - a couple of extra curveballs like him would be really refreshing (and would surely help with this jetlag). More later.