In its 12th installment, the Mexican edition of Mutek successfully proved yet again that it’s an excellent and reliable platform for contemporary digital culture. For four consecutive days, the festival invaded different parts of Mexico City and filled them with a variety of electronic acts, ranging from the weirdest avant-garde artists to the illest party-starters. The shows were tightly intertwined with a carefully curated visual aesthetic, a crucial element of each groundbreaking performance.
Things started last Wednesday at the old Hotel Sevilla, with an overwhelmingly awesome succession of some of our favorite Mexican acts. Grenda sounded so tight we couldn’t believe he’s only 16 years old, delivering his special blend of downtempo beats, hip-hop, and pop like a pro. Tijuana’s Benfika knew exactly how to bring weirdness to the dancefloor, with bitcrushed sounds and unexpected twists and turns. Kampion went old school, with electro beats that swung from a festive and tropical mood to a darker, 80s-inspired atmosphere. Chilango duo And the End of Everything went all in with their diverse set, including the garage-inspired tracks off their 237 EP, among other bangers which involved some guitar playing, something you don’t see that frequently at Mutek. That was the first victory for No Light, one half of the duo, who also performed solo two days later, impressing the audience with a high-octane set that was strongly based on jungle, even daring to drop some reggaeton beats.
Practically all of the festival events were sold out, which is amazing considering the off-kilter nature the lineup’s acts. That speaks volumes about people’s avid curiosity for new, creative sounds, and for some of them, the necessity to dance to whatever remotely resembles a beat. Fotomuseo Cuatro Caminos was the chosen venue for the two main days of the festival, and its three stages were packed with public and audiovisual projects. Up-and-coming producer Erreopeo hypnotized the audience with a mix of gut-busting techno and live visuals performed on video synthesizers by Venezuela-born artist Nika Milano. Similarly, Durant & Eho blended aggressive beats and distorted sounds with a live-coding of the visuals that referenced Mexico’s now-endemic violence, although it was a bit awkward when they had to reboot Eho’s laptop right after the set started.
Two German-Mexican collaborations took place during the festival, with mixed results. Lake People and Lalo Leal opened Friday’s journey at FMCC with a house-infused techno set that was so repetitive in the first half it verged on boring, but things eventually turned up. In the same vein, veteran producer Tin Man and AAAA joined forces as Tin MAAAAN, dancing through the different variations of techno – especially acid – to an ecstatic crowd. The C Stage was the perfect escape for people with more abstract taste, where we were delighted by noisy ambient sets by Latin legends Ricardo Donoso and Manrico Montero, as well as a magnificently minimal show by Colombian artist Lucrecia Dalt, which was deep and delicate. It’s a shame it was constantly interrupted by loud crowd chatter and sexist comments. Blame it on the alcohol, maybe?
As for the international guests, festival-goers are still talking about the demolishing set by Vatican Shadow. Takami Nakamoto and Sebastien Benoits brought their full drum-and-electronic Reflections show, complete with a special light setup that synchronized with the music. Atom™ & Tobias pleased a whole bunch of techno lovers, while Lotic closed the festival with an earth-shattering set that included bangers like Kamixlo‘s “Paleta.” One of Mutek.Mx’s most special moments – and the true realization of the marriage between audio and visual experimentation the festival pursues – took place on Thursday at the Teatro de la Ciudad. British producer Koreless and visualist Emmanuel Biard performed The Wells with lasers, strobe lights, a reflecting surface, and a gigantic parabolic antenna, filling the packed theater with beautiful lights, ethereal sounds, and experimental beats. The 20-minute long Field performance by Martin Messi was also a highlight, as he bended perception with his array of lightning, cables, metallic plaques, and digital processors in a surprisingly energetic spectacle. Then, Robert Henke left an impression on the audience with his Lumière 2.2 show, which combined lasers with techno and ambient music, synchronized to produce an astonishing effect.
Mutek.Mx remains an institution when it comes to electronic music and digital arts, and this year’s edition is further proof of that. They have earned the trust of Mexico’s music lovers, thanks to their ability to host national and international acts that are creative and forward-thinking, even if they’re not well-known at all. That translates into an impressive turnout, which definitely didn’t happen overnight. On the contrary, it’s the result of years and years of taking risks and not underestimating audiences – that’s why each year Mutek.Mx adds another page to their story of success.