MUTEK Montreal is in full swing! Last night, MUTEK’s stage at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal brought us names including ambient soundscaper Tim Hecker, still riding high on the success of his much-acclaimed Virgins LP. This shouldn’t come as a shock, as Hecker is the closest thing MUTEK has to a regular act — this was his third appearance since 2009, with the most recent and memorable being his 2012 collab with Sun O)))’s Stephen O’Malley. All ears were devirginized.
Tonight brings us something completely different (or is it?): Shackleton, the UK innovator-cum-DJ set to fire slow waves of pulse-rifle plasma streams from his Macbook into your brain. Shackleton is a relentlessly interesting artist whose opposition to genre constraints gets him branded with genre labels that crumble at a click of a button. Releasing on his own label, the wonderfully named Woe to the Septic Heart, Shackleton isn’t the most prolific, but then, neither are nuclear attacks.
He’s been releasing since 2007, but it was 2010’s Fabric 55 that burst Shackleton into the mainstream. Ostensibly an EDM release, the album tracked a heartbeat-tempoed journey into dreamy electro-acoustic samples, moaning synths and mellow ‘tribal’ percussion. Creepy and calming in equal measure, it’s a psychedelic trip through a melancholy midnight jungle — music for heads, headphones and drugheads.
But it was 2012’s deceptively titled “Music for the Quiet Hour” that was his quantum leap — abandoning dance music entirely, Shackleton twists beats and noise and lulling calms into teched-out, disturbing soundscapes not far from the droney nightmare realms of Coil’s “Musick” work or, more recently, Atrium Carceri, mixed with the quiet propulsive melody of Tetsu Inoue.
All while using vocal samples to cryptically narrate a dystopian future, of course. But then, I’ve always been a sucker for concept albums.
With strong material and a trust in the mind’s eye of his listeners, we can bet Shackleton’s hacking together some lovely audio-visual treats in his cyberpunk lab. Check out this deep, dark chasm of sound before you dare set foot into MUTEK… and don’t go alone!
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