Caterina Barbieri MUTEK, Montreal QC, August 23

Caterina Barbieri MUTEK, Montreal QC, August 23
Photo: Bruno Destombes
For the second round of shows at the SAT, it was Resident Advisor who were curating for the night, although you wouldn't really know it from looking at the line-up — the acts they choose to present were largely in the realm of the ambient and the avant-garde. Esoteric artists like T. Gowdy, Electric Indigo, and Lawrence English tended to either lull the audience into submission or pummel them to the ground with thick walls of sound. A lot of the MUTEK patrons that night were splayed out like cadavers.
One of the more lively parts of the night was burgeoning synth maven Caterina Barbieri. Or at least, she was certainly more energetic than some others that night. She had a routine for her MUTEK set that recurred time and time again: Barbieri would meticulously build towering sonic staircases only to viciously tear them down with a harsh army of sounds. Then it was create, destroy, repeat, over and over. At times this process produced some absolutely beautiful music, while other parts were tough to stomach, sounding akin to giant sheets of metal being beaten by wind and gravel. Barbieri's set had all the euphoric chords of '90s dance music, but without the beats — and even those were smashed to pieces, then left to slowly reform into waves again.
On the whole, her show was perhaps a little too academic for the average listener. She was no doubt a master at wielding her gear, but for anyone who didn't have a deep understanding of modular synthesis, this show likely went over their heads. Overhearing the crowd outside afterwards, you could hear the clear lack of conviction in people's voices when they said "Yeah, it was amazing," clearly scared of being chided for just "not getting it," but the fact is that this was just too abstruse for the masses.