Mutek Montreal, QC - May 31 to June 4, 2006

By Amanda Connon-Unda, Dimitri Nasrallah, Joshua Ostroff and Matthew Hiscock Stephen Beaupré Montreal producer Stephen Beaupré’s performance at Friday night’s Nocturne 3 party doubled as a fitting launch for his impressive debut album, Foe Destroyer, which was being released by the festival’s label. Beaupré, who also serves as one half of Crackhaus, brought the most variation to a night that was staunchly minimal, riffing off his duo’s quirky micro-house as he commandeered a hypnotic, trance-tinged journey through the dark underbelly of leftfield techno. DN Thomas Brinkmann A festival veteran, Brinkmann has been a benevolent ambassador for the fest since their first year. This year, he DJed the Saturday headlining spot at the Metropolis. An unapologetic conceptual artist at heart, Brinkmann has been without a readily unidentifiable focus for his work in his last few outings. This has made his appearances all that more intriguing, as he freewheels through techno history, grabbing at whatever strikes his fancy. His set, although minimal, put on display the influences he projected into his latest album, Lucky Hands. The only drawback was that the evening’s momentum had already been lost to the Detroit Grand Pubahs and the frankly awful French duo Noze. DN Chris Clark If you’ve ever pined to see Richard D. James play his Analord acid tracks live, then you wouldn’t be too far off attending a Chris Clark gig instead. The young Warp acolyte doesn’t hide his indebtedness to James, but uses it to his advantage. Cushioned in between the frazzled IDM of Hrdvsion and the brutalist electro of Jackson & his Computer Band on the festival’s opening night, Clark culled tracks mostly from his latest album, all of which were interesting but by no means captivating. DN Detroit Grand Pubahs The Detroit Grand Pubahs were a raunchy taste of Detroit that nobody has come to expect at Mutek. Being received in a mixed manner, some festival goers loved the Pubah’s electro-clash, ghetto tech and booty beats, with Paris the Black Fu’s vocalisations. Other attendees stared unmoved from the sidelines and recalled the Pubah’s saucy lyrics. The performance itself was fuelled by a three-piece band that exhibited tight showmanship with a formidable stage presence. The Pubahs did the trick only for those who liked their silliness, but by the end of their set when they played the popular "Sandwiches” song, they had won over most of their audience. ACU Richie Hawtin vs. Ricardo Villalobos Beneath a towering 20-meter steel sculpture and cloud-swept sky, Richie Hawtin erased any bad taste lingering from his last Mutek appearance when his techno ambitions foundered on technical difficulties. His M_nus label cohorts Magda and Marc Houle launched the afternoon with relatively relaxing deep beats before Hawtin laid waste to nearly three thousand followers with a myth-making tag-team set alongside his equally tweaked friend-in-techno Ricardo Villalobos who, surprisingly, showed up this year. Egging each other on, Ricardo and Richie whipped up a frenzied batch of darkly crystalline tech-funk that was just as likely to lurch into house-based beats and Detroit classic "Good Life” as drop Latin horns or endless air raid sirens into the mix. Their "minimal” set only got madder — the beat only lightened long enough to create impact when it slammed back in — keeping everyone stomping even as darkness descended and their musical undercurrent went mind-meltingly psychedelic. JO Modeselektor Headlining Thursday were German duo Modeselektor, who, by taking over from the blatantly condescending 1-Speed Bike, couldn’t help but win over the packed house with their charming stage presence and tongue-in-cheek tech-y beats, running the gamut from the glitchy hip-hop of "Dancingbox,” their excellent collaboration with French rappers TTC, to straight up party techno and even including as an encore, after audience consultation, another TTC collaboration that was so new they could just press play and tweak knobs, having not had time to prepare it for their stage show. MH Pheek The opening set on Friday night was supposed to be by Lawrence (co-founder of the Dial label) from Germany but due to unforeseen circumstances he was replaced on the bill by Montrealer Pheek (founder of Archipel label). Pheek played a glitchy and very minimal opener to the night but then got into more interesting intricate beat-driven tunes, with more funk and less shuffling of beats. The lush and creative visuals by Steffi and Steffi complemented the bass-y and full sound during Pheek’s atmospheric set. Pheek’s set took the audience on a sonic journey and was rounded out nicely. ACU Alex Under In their unending quest for the best venues ever, the MUTEK collective have unearthed a real gem in the big brick Darling Foundry, which this night played host to a blinding set by Alex Under. The slim Spaniard dished out some filthy techno from behind a Powerbook and oversized midi controller. Heavy on random changes in direction from quiet to loud, it was purely dance floor, with no think-y chin-stroking minimalism allowed. The more bass line-heavy first half of the set was the point where MUTEK officially got on its dancing shoes for the weekend. MH