Everyone enters the concert hall and immediately takes a panorama shot of the space. It is pretty spectacular. Subtly strobing lights trace across the very spaceship-like interior of the Maison Symphonique. A gargantuan pipe organ peeks out from behind the stage, which, with its pianos, marimbas, and chimes, looks to be the very antithesis to MUTEK. Nils Frahm enters to a low drone and proceeds to play his third (!) set of the weekend. He genuflects after the first song and humbly explains that he wasn’t quite sure what to do after his previous two sets. The crowd cheers him on. “Do whatever!” An hour later, after delicate piano suites, bombastic synth chargers, propulsive and rhythmic playing on–and in–a grand piano, Nils Frahm receives a standing ovation. The most poignant set of the weekend, by far.
Though charged with headlining duties, Pantha Du Prince and The Bell Laboratory had a tough act to follow. Taking full advantage of the number of performers and the size of their instruments, the sextet spent much of their time bringing the audience into a head-space of swirling bells. Rolling chime patterns played by austere men in gray aprons carries a certain monastic quality to it, but by the time Pantha Du Prince got behind his computer setup, the show launched full force into a cross between minimalist composition and minimal techno. Think big. Two marimba players doubling a pattern of bright stabs, augmented by percussion of all sorts, bowed, tapped, and resonating. Add a huge, but tasteful, kick drum. It felt theatrical and beautiful to see such rich soundscapes play out over Pantha Du Prince’s restrained electronic grooves. Then there was the part where the audience literally lept to its feet for the finale. “I know this sounds nerdy to say, but I think concert halls do better with a bit of dancing,” mused one concert-goer as we left the huge space. Agreed.