Nocturne and A/Visions in review [MUTEK 2019]

MUTEK20_août 24 2019_TM404 _©VivienGaumand_02

A/Visions 1 – Ryoichi Kurokawa,

Set inside the pleasantly air-conditioned atmosphere of Théåtre Maisonneuve, the A/Visions series got off to an auspicious start with two mind-bending world premiere performances by Japan’s Ryoichi Kurokawa and the Russian duo, the former artist’s pre-rendered approach creating an interesting contrast to the generative processes later employed by Kristina Karpysheva and Aleksandr Letsius.

MUTEK20_210822_A-VISION-1_Ryoichi Kurokawa_BrunoDestombes_006
MUTEK20_210822_A-VISION-1_Ryoichi Kurokawa_BrunoDestombes_007
The first piece,
subassemblies, was nothing short of mesmerizing. Standing on stage behind his laptop, a blank projection looming large in the background, Kurokawa slowly introduced his first audio element. A dry crackle of static came through the speakers, followed a short time later by a slowly-meandering shot through a 3D-rendered forest at night, giving the viewer the impression of passing like a wraith through an ethereal, digital ecosystem.The gentle, exploratory quality of this opening sequence was not to last, however, as sound and image both ramped up in intensity. Rhythmic percussive elements expressed as frenetic jump cuts in point of view (or vice versa) created the dizzying sensation of being out-of-body and toggling through a myriad of perspectives, the viewer loping through the woods at fox-level one millisecond and crashing up through the tree canopy like a soul in flight the very next.

As the piece progressed, this forest imagery was interspersed with renderings of concrete ruins and abandoned interior spaces, the natural and man-made colliding together, morphing, and becoming deconstructed against sporadically revealed 3D grids. Sonic elements were so enmeshed with the seemingly random and endless novelty generated onscreen that, even when the visuals faded to black at one point, it felt as if one’s mind’s eye continued to fill in the blanks based on information still coming in through the ears. All in all, it was about as powerful a synaesthetic experience as this reviewer has undergone without the aid of something ingestible.

MUTEK20_210822_A-VISION-1_404Zero_BrunoDestombes_021 were no slouches either when it came to commingling the senses. Eschewing a standard cinematic aspect ratio for a tall, narrow screen resembling the looming monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the duo explored an eerie, psychedelic universe of generative sight and sound using modular equipment. 

Opening with cloud imagery and fugue-like synthesizer drones, the main visual component was then introduced, what appeared to be a single enormous eye staring back at the audience and mutating in just about every conceivable way imaginable to the sound. Was this some kind of synthetic one-eye symbol for the digital age? Something to repel evil, or the eye of evil itself? One thing was certain: the atmosphere created was forbidding and oppressive. Like a bad mushroom trip which concerns itself primarily with endless dreary hallucinations, each one a dreadful spin on the last, the performance, entitled Jetlag, was a kind of meditation on terrible beauty. I’m just glad I was sober. 

Nocturne 4 – CMD, Lotus Eater (Lucy and Rrose), TM404, Veronica Vasicka

Unable to catch the warm up set of local techno luminary CMD, Nocturne 4 began for this reviewer with the low rumbling sounds of Lucy and Rrose, who, together, form the live act Lotus Eater. Impressive sounding from the get go, the duo made ample use of Metropolis’s powerful sound system, beginning with bass-heavy, throbbing ambient and working their way up to full-on analog techno of the highest order. Sweeping white spots, which illuminated the dance floor at the peak of their performance, seemed to encage the many dancers under their spell.

MUTEK20_août 23 2019_Lotus-Eater _©VivienGaumand_01

TM404 was the next to take the stage. Coming on all swagger, he hip-swayed his way through a brilliant set, stepping up the energy in all the right places with crowd-pleasing organ parts and rubbery acid lines. The background visuals, a mixture of projection mapping and LED lighting designed around cube structures, looked variously at times like Japanese screens, night time skyscrapers, and smoke-filled stripper cages.

MUTEK20_août 24 2019_TM404 _©VivienGaumand_08
MUTEK20_août 24 2019_TM404 _©VivienGaumand_05
Last but not least, Veronica Vasicka closed the night out, stepping in, last minute, for Blawan who had to cancel. Wonderful as always, Vasicka introduced some welcome vocals into the mix, alternating between EBM, industrial techno, some wavy numbers, and even a couple of Chicago jack tracks. What could have been seen as a disappointment was, in actuality,  the perfect cap to a great party. 

MUTEK20_août 24 2019_Veronica-Vasicka _©VivienGaumand_06 

Review by Erik Faulkner.
Photo Nocturne 4: Vivien Gaumand.
Photo A/Vision 1: Bruno Destombes.