Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mute in Tlaquepaque

Life is full of surprises. Today I spent twelve hours in the company of Mute musicians. Of all the great labels in the world, Mute would have to be in my top 5. My respect for Daniel Miller knows no bounds. Even if he did nothing after his self-released Warm Leatherette (as The Normal) in 1978, his place in the cannon of late 20th Century electronic music would be secure. But the way he then developed Mute into the label that it is now (temporary sell-out to EMI during the difficult noughties to be forgiven) is a model for all record labels. The roster of artists says it all: Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Goldfrapp, Wire, Nick Cave, Fad Gadget, DAF, Simon Fisher Turner, Moby, Diamanda Galas and scores of others... to say nothing of the sub-labels and essential reissues (Can, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire etc). But what really says it all is that they have all stayed with him.
Land Observations
The story behind how Mute ended up in a small outdoor stadium in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara, is too long and complicated to explain here; suffice to say that it was all down to Carlos Becerra and Arturo Saucedo - who are worth a post of their own, and that will surely come later.
So on a seriously hot Saturday afternoon, first up was Land Observations aka James Brooks. I met him last June in Shanghai at an event with Simon Fisher Turner and we've been in touch ever since. His Grand Tour album is one of my faves of 2014. He nearly didn't perform thanks to being separated from his equipment on the flight over. But the latter arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, he plugged in and played half a dozen pieces from said album. Beautiful, rhythmic, motorik guitar loops, reminiscent of Michael Rother at his best.
Irmin Schmidt then kind-of repeated what he did a couple of nights ago. His choice of opener, Mother Sky, was worth the long journey alone. A piece recorded over 45 years ago but still sounding utterly modern. 
Melbourne-born, Reykjavik-based Ben Frost was next. An intense set which tested the afternoon audience (and the back-line) but good and reminds me to check out his recent Aurora album. 
A live set from LA band Liars and a DJ set from Berlin-based Apparat were less to my tastes but they got the crowd going.
Backstage I chatted with James, Irmin & Hildergard, Vince Clarke, and Andy McCluskey & Paul Humphreys of OMD. A really convivial, non-starry atmosphere. 
Vince Clarke
OMD played as a duo, just like the very early days, and put in a great set. "We´re not going to play an arty set, just the hits, OK?" said Andy, possibly a tongue-in-cheek response to the previous acts, and 16 hits duly followed, almost exclusively from the 80s, but still sounding really great. The fact that OMD aren't on Mute but were part of the festival raises interesting questions, not least as New Order recently signed to the label...
Having Vince Clarke close the evening was a smart move. It wasn't so much headlining as finish on a more clubby note, with 'banging' remixes of Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure etc pumping out to a crowd now a few thousand strong... who knew all the words and were bedecked in T-shirts ranging from Violator and English Electric to The Cure and Dead Can Dance. 
An amazing day which somehow managed to be both intensely nostalgic and very much of the moment.

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