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The Wire at Mutek 6 June

Derek Walmsley

The weather thus far has been warm and humid, so you can wander the city and venue-hop way into the night, but yesterday the heavens opened on and off throughout the afternoon. Mutek's outdoor picnic went ahead just about, we hear, but we were at our stall in Monument-National watching the rain storms come and go.

The music began in earnest at around 7pm at Sat with Vladislav Delay, and the programe (including CM Von Hausswolf) was centred around various takes on tone-experiment/drone/beatless exploration – a somewhat abstract line-up for a Saturday night. I only made it down to the venue a little later when Tim Hecker was on, and the place was completely dark, so Hecker himself was only visible in silhouette, with shards of guitar chords just about sensible through the churn of effects. Hecker was doing this before many others, and moments of it hit home. A melody would be routed through his laptop again and again and when he finally took the effects off, a fragile, shivering, doppleganger of a phrase would emerge. The venue wasn't quite ideal as you weren't close to the music, but I'd way rather be standing in the semi-darkness blasted by the sound than sitting down scrutinising him with detached fascination.

All you could see during Ben Frost was the man himself in a sleeveless vest hunched over his equipment, occasionally strapping on a guitar and dramatically throwing down a powerchord. The cinematic intent is explicit in the howling wolf samples and circling piano clusters, and he strung the set out as long as he possibly could, barely peering up from his machine throughout. Perhaps he was working to a script, because you got the sense the set would have remained pretty similar had the audience been there or not.

We walked up to catch Senor Coconut in a place in Montreal's museum district, where a massive crowd was served by beer and food stalls. Uwe Schmidt stands at the back motionless at his laptop, as much a figurine as a performer, while the horn session, vibe and bass players and vocalist salsa-fy the hits. It went down a storm, with a city crowd as much as a Mutek one, but every cover, whether it was "Showroom Dummies", "Smoke On The Water" or "Smooth Operator", made me want to hear the originals, like orange squash makes you crave orange juice. There's a reason for choosing these songs, of course, they're building blocks of pop and rock's architecture, but if you then break them down into a new style, you tend to lose the structural elegance which made them important in the first place. It's decent family entertainment at least. There was, I think, one or two 'laptop solos', but that was about it for electronics, despite Mutek's electronic motto.

Afterwards, with the weather and a frustrating gap in the programme, we were somewhat in limbo, and ended up wandering lost around the skyscraper district in search of music and refreshment. Getting some poutine (chips/gravy/cheese curds) at an appeallingly greasy Montreal snack place warmed us up, and we wandered down to Metropolis where most of the night programme was being held, but with a large queue outside at midnight marshalled by officious security guards, the rain coming down, and me wearing only a T shirt, tiredness and cold took over and we staggered back to our hotel.

#nowplaying: The Dramatics, "In The Rain". Now heading out in search of salt beef and microbrewed beers.

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