It’s hard to believe that, 15 days ago, Barcelona was experiencing one of its most active, hottest and crucial weeks for its digital, electronic and avant-garde creative scene. MUTEK Barcelona -the Spanish edition and only European edition of the international MUTEK network, with home in Montreal and headquarters also in Mexico City, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Dubai and Tokyo- was celebrating its 11th edition.
An edition distinguished, above all, by its eagerness to discover, both in purely artistic terms and in terms of spaces. MUTEK is a decentralized festival, which intrudes into some of the most avant-garde and symbolic creative spaces in the city. In 2020, MUTEK created Casa MUTEK x Reebok at Bridge_48, the new hub for electronic music in Barcelona. Also, the festival celebrated its Inauguration in the Roca Barcelona Gallery, allowed us to visit the Institut Français and the Fundació Phonos, in the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, let us fall in love with the charms of Abaixadors10 and the Antigua Fábrica Estrella Damm and enabled us to dance until dawn in two of the most interesting alternative clubs in town: Nitsa Club and Laut.
As we were saying, also in the artistic field MUTEK stood out for its eagerness to discover. A line-up without apparent headliners focused its attention on the world premiere of live shows like those of Levon Vincent or the Catalan Ikram Bouloum, in debuts in the city like those of Lotus Eater (union of Lucy and Rrose), the Portuguese Bleid or the Japanese Meitei and YPY. No less remarkable was the performance of the Parisian Molly, who also performed in live format, as did Loraine James and Barker, both presenting their most recent releases.
It has been difficult for us not to give more details of Sherelle’s memorable closing on Friday night at Nitsa, with the room breaking into a sweat with her footwork picks, as well as not giving details either about the exciting premiere of the Pianorig Sessions by Francesco Tristano, discovering the most intimate and close facet of the pianist and composer. But we wanted to keep five names. And these are. Five performances that will make us not forget MUTEK Barcelona 2020 in a very long time. With them, we enjoyed one of the last dances before the major quarantine caused by the coronavirus.
5. Lucinda Chua
The FKA twigs cellist was one of the big stars on the line-up. Lucinda Chua arrived in Barcelona with Antidotes 1 under her arm. After her parallel collaborations also with GAIKA, KÁRYYN or Ben Vince, this release is the first solo work of the British composer. Lucinda Chua performed on Thursday evening at X/Visions, creating atmospheres from other worlds in the auditorium of the Institut Français. Her heavenly voice interacted with the different sound layers of her cello, superimposed one on the other creating hypnotic harmonies close to experimental pop and r&b. Lucinda even surprised people by coming down to sing between the audience, although it was her greatest hit, “Feel Something”, that made MUTEK’s audience fly.
4. ISAbella b2b Vlada
Is it possible to throw disc after disc for two hours without making a tiny mistake and without loosening the level even for a second? The Colombian ISAbella and the Russian Vlada proved that it is. MUTEK bet on the local scene by handing over the festival’s closing set, on Saturday night at Nitsa, to one of the most active selectors in Barcelona: the Colombian ISAbella, the main promoter of the Maricas collective. She was offered a b2b and ISAbella chose Vlada as her ally. The result was of a superlative level. For two hours, Nitsa didn’t stop shaking in front of a combination of electro, techno, groove and breaks, an amalgamation of styles that hardly sounds today in the city’s big clubs. In a festival where dj sets are not abundant, this one took a place among the best acts of its 11th edition.
3. Mainline Magic Orchestra
They were a big question at the festival. Another local bet. This one, no doubt, was risky, at least beforehand. Until now, Mainline was a humble collective of Barcelona-based selectors. At MUTEK, they performed as a live house band. And they got it right. Using synthesizers, drum machines, keyboards and their own voices, Nile Fee, John Heaven, JP Sunshine and Daniel 2000, along with many more members of the show (bodybuilders included), left Nitsa, also on Saturday, in a daze, stunned and in love. Mainline Magic Orchestra offered one of the most epic concerts of the last years in Barcelona’s club scene. In our minds still reverberates that singing “los niños del parque fuman cigarrillos”. Moments as magical as Mainline are. This was their first conquest of many. Their career has just taken off. Don’t let them out of your sight.
2. Grand River
When we left the Universitat Pompeu Fabra on Friday evening, we were all sure: Grand River had been the best performance of the festival so far. Half Italian, half Dutch, the Berlin-based composer, musician and producer showed why an eminent figure like Donato Dozzy has taken her under his umbrella. Grand River drew an abrupt and experimental path at the beginning of her live performance and let everything go smoothly through high impact melodies. The darkness in the Sala Aranyó and the absence of visuals invited us to close our eyes, stretch out on the floor and let ourselves go. And that’s what most people did.
What until now was Experience, mutated in 2020 to Play. We are talking about the most popular event of MUTEK Barcelona: Saturday afternoon in the Antigua Fábrica Estrella Damm. The festival decided to reduce the space to the Sala Máquinas, where five performances concentrated all the attention of the audience, inviting to a higher concentration on the purely artistic facet, leaving aside the more social side of the event. Play concluded with the stellar performance of Aquarian. The Canadian, also based in Berlin, arrived with The Snake That Eats Itself under his arm, an album that was released earlier this year on Bedouin. Aquarian sailed between downtempo, breaks and rave, always moving away from the standards and offering a master class of what we can now classify as advanced, futuristic and highly sophisticated rave music. This was Aquarian’s first live in his career. Many will be able to try it out a million times and will be at his heels. Aquarian was the big winner of this 11th edition of MUTEK Barcelona.