There’s space in the front at Metropolis. Pale lime press necklaces are everywhere. It must be half full but it feels loud with talk. Empty Set take the stage behind huge monolithic chunks of metal spewing wires. Take a bright white triangle and dip it in tar–this is Empty Set’s music. A lot of it is made by pitting the acoustic resonance of natural spaces against bursts of static and sub oscillators. Live, the crowd becomes resonator. Syncopated low end turns your nose into a kick drum, the cartilage into the drum head. Shrapnels of white noise ricochet off illuminated bodies. The whole thing is visceral to the umpteenth degree. “Welcome to MUTEK” it spells out in the charged air.
By comparison, Jon Hopkins’ set was cozy. Warm bass squiggles and distended piano figures over rolling, interlocking rhythms made for a whole lot of head bobbing. Jon himself doesn’t appear to stop moving on stage, bouncing across his set-up, firing off percussive taps on his Kaoss Pads. When I spoke with him last month, he talked about trying to make “infectious grooves” on his new album, Immunity. Seeing him carry an audience through an hour or so of unbroken rise and fall certainly felt like a proof of concept. Amplified microscopy filled the wall behind him, and it felt good hearing small sounds on a big system.
Take a listen to a tune from Jon Hopkins here and stay tuned for more coverage of MUTEK!