Here’s What Went Down at Mutek.MX, Mexico’s Most Avant-Garde Music & Digital Culture Festival

Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX

The September earthquake that struck Mexico brought uncertainty to the 2017 edition of Mutek.MX, the country’s primary platform for electronic experimentation. After schedule and lineup changes, the organizers were able to ensure the festival continued with a spectacular week of mind-bending concerts.

The Auditorio Blackberry hosted the first two live events of the week, A/Visions 2 and Ambience. The sterile concert venue called for creative thinking to fit the showcase mood, and organizers brought special lighting to help the cause. Festivalgoers were in awe of Ava Noto’s audiovisual assault, Lorenzo Senni and his trance deconstructions, and the highly anticipated The Orb concert, whose diverse performance included recorded speeches played on CD and on-stage hugs.

After exhausting the possibilities offered by the Foto Museo Cuatro Caminos, the venue that the festival called home for four years, Nocturno, Mutek.MX’s main event, took place in an old steel factory in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Estado de México, aptly christened Fábrica. The venue provided more space in each of the three rooms (we missed Murcof last year because tiny Room C was packed). Warehouse rave aesthetics were in full force; even the sponsors’ logos felt like they were part of the many digital art installations populating the 18,000 square-meter space, which were true selfie magnets.

Upgrayyed Smurphy. Photo by Feli Gutiérres. Courtesy of Mutek.MX

During Friday’s Nocturno 1, three women ruled the enormous stage in Room A: Chloé, Kelly Lee Owens, and headliner Nina Kraviz. In a separate building, locals were in charge of Room C. Mondragón played in a one-man arrangement in a more introspective mood; synth maker Jadir Zárate sounded more club-oriented than he usually does in his original works; and Isaac Soto shut it down with his elegant mix of piano keys and deep techno beats.

Meanwhile, in Room B, the performance that won the entire night was No Light and Mexican interactive studio /*pac‘s live collaboration Arise. It was a tightly synchronized performance featuring lighting, lasers, visuals, and the producer’s broken post-techno compositions created especially for the evening. The end result was a truly immersive experience where spectators had to actively look around the room to enjoy the full show. Even though it was a scaled-down version of the performance they originally prepared with Teatro de la Ciudad in mind, it still exceeded our expectations. “I haven’t slept in a month,” joked No Light minutes before hopping on stage.

Squarepusher. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX

Those who arrived early on Saturday eager to dance the cold away were challenged by a string of experimental acts who took over the three rooms, including audiovisual performances by Egroj and noted rock producer Yamil Rezc’s Transgressorcorruptor, both of whom share a penchant for ambient noise. In Room B, Mexican-German project Camila Fuchs haunted the crowd with stunning vocals and raw textures, while Sol del Rio went into party mode from the jump, like his fellow Argentine Lucas Gutierrez later did on the main stage. What people will remember from Nocturno 2, and probably the whole festival, was Squarepusher’s long-awaited performance. It was an exhilarating assault on the senses, and we couldn’t get enough of it.

Due to health problems, LCC’s Ana Quiroga couldn’t perform, but her bandmate Uge Pañeda still shook the Room C audience singlehandedly with an almost industrial set. She was followed by CNDSD, who created impossible rhythms on the fly through live coding. Later, Upgrayyed Smurphy ditched visual projections in favor of a trio of dancers who vogued to her percussion-heavy bangers, making her show one of the festival highlights.

The week-long series of events closed outside of Museo Tamayo, where Chancha Via Circuito, Klik & Frik, and Jamaica’s Equiknoxx – not only the sole West Indian act at the festival, but also the sole artists of African descent performing – brought a refreshingly experimental take on dancehall. It’s worth mentioning that delays and overall logistical issues during the closing event tainted Ensamble Translaciones‘ performances; the group of aspiring producers, led by producer AAAA, worked for a month on the pieces they presented on Sunday, but their sets were unfortunately cut short.

This year, Mutek.MX took us out of our comfort zone – music-wise, like they always do, but also location-wise – and the gamble paid off. We’re thrilled they managed to pull through the challenges and gift us another edition for the ages.

Mutek.MX. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Nocturne 1. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
A/V Visions. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Mondragón. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
No Light. Photo by Oscar Villanueva. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Klik & Frik. Photo by Feli Gutierres. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Closing. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX
Closing. Photo by Monica Garrido. Courtesy of Mutek.MX