Festivals, Montreal, QC, Mutek

Montreal: Mutek 01 – A/Visions 1 – THE INDUSTRIAL EVOLUTION

June 2, 2011

A/Visions 1 – THE INDUSTRIAL EVOLUTION @ Salle Pierre-Mercure | Weds. 1 June | 8pm

Mika Vianio via Mutek

Note: The A/Visions events at the Salle Pierre-Mercure do not allow photography. Last night’s sets were dark, and the visuals were not as grand as the description implied.

Mika Vainio, half of the pioneering Finnish industrial noise duo Pan Sonic, has stayed busy since that group split up in 2009. Most recently he’s played “laptop and processing” as part of the Vladislav Delay Quartet‘s Debut, alongside fellow Finn Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo). I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an unannounced VD4 appearance at the festival: Ripatti is in between gigs, the Quartet’s debut is just about to drop on Honest Jon’s Records, Vainio has collaborated with their horn player Lucio Capece in other projects, and their bass player is Canadian. Just saying. Check out some VD4 samples here.

Vainio’s set was played in near complete darkness, nothing visible but the lights on his rig and his faint shadow cast against the screen behind. This seems to suit him, and his music, fine. Using mostly a sequencer, mixers, and effects, with a keyboard for the occasional pitched frequency, Vainio built slow, simple constructed soundscapes with an emphasis on the dark and abrasive. He generally manipulated the basic, essential parameters of electronic music, but did so in such a way as to create a very different sort of atmosphere than you’d expect. Closer to Klaus Schulze than Throbbing Gristle.  Beats occasionally crept in, but they were slow and simple, certainly not meant for dancing. One of the great achievements of synthetic sound is the ability to create a sustained low frequency in a way that simply wasn’t possible once.  Only natural occurrences could generate these sub-frequencies, so when Industrial musicians or  DJs with an affinity for deep bass make use of them, it seems to evoke a scale larger than the human, and is awe-inspiring the way a cathedral was meant to be. Which is fitting, seeing as pneumatic sound was the only thing that came close, such as a church organ.

The architectural space deserves special reflection, as certain spaces make different sorts of artist exploration possible, not just as a neutral backdrop against which the “pure” music is experienced, but as an important aspect of the artist decisions being presented. Salle Pierre-Mercure, a fantastic hall at UQAM, has got to be one of the most underutilized spaces of its kind in Montreal. Certainly, Montreal has no shortage of beautiful old theatres, yet what sets Pierre-Mercure apart is that as a more modern space, it has more sophisticated acoustic engineering. In effect it was the perfect space for Mika Vainio to fill with his rumbling bass and overdriven noise.

Scope out the room plan of the Salle Pierre-Mercure here.

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