when i ask montrealer jesse morrisson if he’s a dreamer or a realist, there’s a long pause before he answers, “both. i tend to keep things grounded but i’m definitely a dreamer, too.” the same can, i think, be said for his music. the first time i heard jesse play live as fake_electronics, it was a journey. in the basement of the mac in montreal during the 2014 mutek under low lights, jesse delivered a hand-crafted set built entirely around the randomness of the modular synths he works with. such a tactile approach lends his music an honest edge; there’s something genuine in his sound. that’s not to say that it’s straightforward, though — jesse’s right when he calls himself a dreamer, too.
let diego “pior” martin tell you something about the birds and the bees. playing live as birdsmakingmachine, he gets intimate with his gear; leaning in close, hips swaying, feet pounding on the stage, twisting knobs with a certain kind of sensuality reserved for the release, the ecstasy that comes with performance. he dances wildly on stage, completely giving in to the sounds he’s created, cracking faces that are a mix of concentration and climax, entirely lost in the music.
by the time pior sits down with me at the convent st agusti in barcelona, he has been working for hours already, setting up the stage at club nitsa. during mutek spain, he lends his time to the team as a stage hand and production assistant, expertly balancing his self-proclaimed handyman status with his work as birdsmakingmachine. a music project that began as an anonymous artist collective, pior represents the crew when playing live — an embodiment that pior takes very seriously. music, as far as he’s concerned, is not just for the birds, so to speak. he would later tell me that he feels like his most true self when he’s on stage, playing music, a fact that his live set at mutek spain made clear. in person, though, it’s not all that austere: pior laughs loud, taking care to note that our talk was the most fun he’d had in an interview in ages. herewith, pior and i talk barcelona, the power of anonymity, and the magic of performance.
it’s just past 5 pm on a saturday in february, and georgie fisher and i are on a hunt for plastic cups. wandering down marianenstrasse in kreuzberg, carrying multiple bags of ice, it would probably have been smarter to look for the cups first. i’m helping her set up for the travelling music event that she and her boyfriend, writer/poet wolf arand have brought to berlin. originally run by georgie’s sister and fellow musician stephanie grace in sydney, australia, the muso next door is a small-scale concert series that takes place in a different living room every month. february’s is their second. “we thought that after the first one, we’d have gotten the hang of it,” georgie says, balancing the bags of ice with one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other, “but you know… the second time around has taken even more organizing.” wolf has already had to rush back to friedrichshain to pick up the hand-painted signs their friend peer made especially for the night.
that’s the thing about putting up an event in someone’s living room. no matter how prepared you are, you’re never quite prepared enough. all things considered, georgie and wolf have done something really special. sometimes it seems like there’s an entire other world in berlin of which i’ve only just scratched the surface.
mutek has always been the kind of festival you experience with your whole self. you don’t go to mutek to simply hear music, you go to mutek to listen. you don’t go to mutek to watch visuals or art installations, you go to mutek to see. mutek is an anomaly in that way; one of the few festivals where you’re acutely aware that everyone is present for the same reasons, and it all boils down to a love of music. when the opportunity to attend the 6th annual mutek es in barcelona, spain, arose, i couldn’t pass it up. needless to say, mutek es was an experience for all five senses — being in a new city often does that to a person. the music was absolutely stand-out incredible, the visuals were captivating, and the people were warm, grounded, and welcoming. a good analogy for the festival as a whole. here are the ways i experienced mutek barcelona.
i expect to hear the creak of floorboards at the berliner luft-und badeparadies (BLUB) in the southern edge of berlin’s neukölln kiez. i expect to feel slightly unsettled, haunted even, by an uninvited presence. i expect to hear the snap of a twig, only to turn around and spot a wisp of some unholy spirit. but the only ghosts here are the ones that hang in the air as my breath freezes.
it is just past noon on a grey monday in january. there’s a light frost so that the whole experience is cloaked in a kind of moodiness. i’m waiting on the arrival of ciaran, an expat who has become something of a berlin legend for his website, abandoned berlin; a social community where ciaran details his trips to the city’s many derelict sites and ruins. it turns out i had been waiting in the wrong spot earlier — i’m now standing on frozen grass at edge of a sparsely wooded area. and even though the trees are bare, you’d never glimpse this spot from the street. it’s a few minutes before ciaran arrives on bicycle, shaking my hand before shackling his bike to a rusted sign. we enter through what could pass for a door cut out of the chain-link fence, ducking under branches as BLUB looms into view, a stack of wood beams and shattered glass.