It’s the season for Coachella — and shortly after that, of Lightning in a Bottle, BottleRock, Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, Arroyo Seco, Outside Lands, and others. What these festivals have in common, besides acts with publicists and oceans of people peaking on whatever the hell was even in that pill, is that almost every set consists of approachable music in a pop idiom. They’re fun, no question, but even the strangest undercard performers don’t deviate too far.
So it’s welcome news that a completely different kind of festival — one with way fewer Heineken wristbands or co-branded apparel — makes its U.S. debut here in the Bay Area next month. MUTEK.SF takes over nine venues from May 3-6, including Bimbo’s, Heron Arts, The Midway, Gray Area Grand Theatre, the California Academy of Science, with live electronic music, art and audiovisual installations, and more. The lineup, already announced, includes figures who will be familiar to local fans, such as Bézier and Jackie House — alter egos of two Honey Soundsystem DJs, and Oakland’s Russell E.L. Butler. They’ll perform along with other internationally renowned acts such as Moritz von Oswald of Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound— who’s making his North American solo live premiere — Matias Aguayo, and Aux 88.
Cadie Desbiens, a Montreal artist who performs with Greg Debicki as Woulg & Push 1 Stop, is a creative coder who makes visual and interactive designs, including Interpolate, in which “sound and visuals are super-connected, and all done in real-time.
“It’s really geeky,” she laughs, adding. “I’m also one of the only women.”
That will change. Presented in part through efforts by the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco, and the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco, MUTEK is also a project of Keychange, a British initiative that aims to see gender parity among festival acts by 2022.
To keep things organized, MUTEK.SF has are four separate tracks. Digi Lab comprises panel discussions and technical ed, while A/Visions presents audiovisual works and Nocturne is the clubbier offshoot. Lastly, there’s Experience, the series of “mixed indoor-outdoor programming in a day-into-night setting.”
Desbiens’ work falls under A/Visions, where she and Debicki will have between half an hour and an hour at Gray Area to present their work. The atmosphere will be closer to a standard concert performance than an outdoor tent with a party vibe.
“We deal with the experimental, so it fits well in a theater where you can present the visual and the sound,” she says. “It’s a bit more intellectual, I would say. I’ve always wanted to have nights where it’s techno party nights and nights where it’s more ambient music or drone music and you can really meditate with it, plus other nights with video where you can really sit and appreciate something that’s really grandiose. Some artists have pretty big installations with lasers.
“We need to be in a theater,” she adds. “What I really like about MUTEK is that every night is different, for sure. But there’s always some rules: One is to have these high-standards visual programming and the other is ti have local artists.”
So the Japanese and Mexican iterations had very different lineups, with acts that might not otherwise easily gain international exposure easily.
“It’s very well-curated, you’ll see,” she says.
And if you think, well, this is an entirely different animal than the standard summertime festivals circuit, Desbiens reveals at the end of our phone call that she’s at a certain polo ground in Indio, Calif., where it’s normally very hot — but as a Canadian, she thinks in Celsius.
“It’s wonderful here,” she says. “It’s like 38 degrees at the moment.”
MUTEK.SF, May 3-6, at various venues. $150-$450; mutek.org