Your guide to free events at the EM15 festival

MUTEK & Elektra are joining forces to present EM15, a major music & art festival happening at museums, concert halls and beyond. Here’s our round-up of the free programming.

Richie Hawtin
You don’t need a huge disposable income if you’re eager to discover an experimental avant-garde electronic artist you’ve perhaps never heard of at EM15. The festival has packed hours upon hours of free concerts, lectures and screenings into its calendar. On Saturday, May 31, you can actually enjoy 12 hours of free back-to-back shows from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“We want to showcase the freaky side of experimental music. And when you keep it free, it actually allows people to take a risk,” EM15 programmer Patti Schmidt says.

I asked Schmidt to take me through some of the must-see free shows on offer.
The free evening shows are programmed at the Musée d’art contemporain (MAC) in salle BWR — that’s the black box in the basement where the MAC holds its Nocturne concert series. Most of the artists performing are from Montreal.

Schmidt views this free series as an opportunity to expose local artists to the international audience of festival-goers that includes curators and other festival directors, many of whom have plucked local artists out of these sorts of showcases.

“Thursday is the craziest night in terms of being multidisciplinary,” Schmidt says. “This is not just straight-up audio with visuals — there is a real art practice going on.”

For example, the Jean-Sebastien Truchy & Charles Barabé  project called “It’s Blazing Light Invokes the Wisdom Elixir (and They Merge Inseparably)” features two contemporary dancers, Fanny Savoie and Maude Prudhomme. The dancers perform live off-stage, their action visible on screen. Truchy, a former member of Fly Pan Am, creates music full of synthesizer drones and choral voices. Barabé creates large screen visuals and interprets both the music and the movements of the dancers.

PEA is a painter who works a giant screen canvas with contact microphones that sit behind the canvas.

“He mixes the sound live and creates a rhythm base. It’s all incredibly performative. He has a really good time with his body and his brushes,” says Schmidt.
Play 1: Avantage  Electronique

Automatisme,  France Jobin, Alain Lefebvre & Sonya Stefan, Jean-Sebastien Truchy & Charles Barabé,  PEA: Projet Electro-Acrylique

At the MACM (185 Ste-Catherine W., Salle BWR) on Thursday, May 29 from 10 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. 

Marie Davidson
Marie Davidson

Schmidt is reluctant to call the Friday night program “post-punk” but feels the label might best describe this collection of artists working with song composition structures not often found in electronic music. “This is not pop music but it is song,” Schmidt says.

Bataille Solaire is a solo project from Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist Asael Robitaille (also a member of Femminielli and Jef Barbara’s bands). Robitaille uses the guitar as one of his main instruments. His performance will be a mixture of laptop performance, psychedelia and collage.

Montrealer Marie Davidson works with analogue synthesizers and sequencers supplemented with violins and other instruments. She builds layers of sound for her voice to cut through.
Play 2: All Tomorrow Tomorrow’s Parties

With Marie Davidson, Processor,  Leon Louder (Vertigo INC.), Markus Floats, Bataille Solaire, Santoz, Hughes Clément

At the MACM (185 Ste-Catherine W., Salle BWR) on Friday, May 30 from 10 p.m. to 2:15 a.m.
Schmidt describes the last Play on Saturday as “a little dark throughout, with some electro-acoustic improvisation and some a/v work.”

“Woulg in particular is a young composer and video artist to watch out for.”

Woulg is Montreal-based Greg Dibicki. He produces emotive glitch music by combining the dissonance of grunge and the complexity of IDM and jazz. He is an open-source advocate who works with custom hacked hardware.
Play 3: HD Dreamland

With Chat Noir, Millimetrik, Woulg, Fake Electronics, Velvet  Glacier,  Ewerx

At the MAC (185 Ste-Catherine W., Salle BWR) on Saturday, May 31 from 10 p.m. to 2:20 a.m.

The Experience series is held outdoors, just outside the MAC on the Places des Arts Esplanade. There will be a full bar, picnic tables and rotating food trucks. In case of rain, the event will be moved to Foufounes Electriques (87 Ste-Catherine E.).

Most of the artists performing Thursday have some element of World Music.

“Cross-cultural contamination weaves these artists together,” Schmidt says.

Ohm Hourani moved to Montreal from Jordan. His latest project I-On uses folkloric samples: om chants, oud recordings, or a remix of Latin jazz great Ruben Blades, to name a few.

The work of Montrealer Xavier Leon is inspired by his Venezuelan roots, and is strong on percussion.
Experience 1: Tall Tempo Tales

With Xavier Leon, Sapin, Lucrecia Dalt, Ohm Hourani, Xavier Lebuis

At the Esplanade de la Place des Arts (175 Ste-Catherine W.) Thursday, May 29 from 5–9:40 p.m.

Elektro Guzzi
Elektro Guzzi

Schmidt points to two artists performing free outdoor shows on Friday that are not to be missed:

Japan’s Yosi Horikawa is a Red Bull Music Academy alumni who uses everything from kitchen utensils to random birdsong in his music, and Elektro Guzzi is an Austrian trio that plays electronic dance music as a band.

“This is a real coup that this is a free show,” Schmidt says. “They’re a trio that plays live techno, not improvised. The drummer will blow your mind.”
Experience 2: Between the Grooves

With Yosi Horikawa, Magnanime, Elektro Guzzi, Chris Hreno

At the Esplanade de la Place des Arts (175 Ste-Catherine W.) on Friday, May 30 from 5–9:40 p.m.
The program on Saturday caps off the Experience series with everything from techno-cumbia to intergalactic funk. Schmidt says there will also be extra super-surprise artists performing that will be announced the preceding Friday.
Experience 3: Liberation Vibrations

With Savan, Hooll, JTC, Prison Garde

At the Esplanade de la Place des Arts (175 Ste-Catherine W.) on Saturday, May 31 from 2–9:30 p.m.
EM15 will present the Montreal premiere of I Dream of Wires, an independent documentary about the history, demise and resurgence of the modular synthesizer. The film features interviews with the likes of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Gary Numan, Vince Clarke (Erasure), Cevin Key (Skinny Puppy) and many other modular artists, enthusiasts and manufacturers of the modular synthesizer.

There are three free screenings at the Phi Centre (407 St-Pierre, Space B) on Wednesday, May 28 at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m. and on Thursday, May 29, 5:30 p.m.

“I Dream of Wires: Hardcore Edition” 2013 official trailer from I Dream Of Wires on Vimeo.

Ableton Lounge: Live Talks with Trailblazers

The Ableton Lounge Live talk with Richie Hawtin is sure to be full to capacity, so arrive early. Hawtin is Canada’s techno mogul, part of the second wave of Detroit techno and best known by his Plastikman alias. Hawtin will talk about how he integrates studio technology into his live shows. He will be interviewed by journalist, editor and former Minus Records associate Ken Taylor.

The Richie Hawtin talk happens at the Phi Centre (407 St-Pierre, Space A) on Thursday, May 29, 2 p.m.

Check EM15’s website for the full live talk schedule.
Meet FACTOR: Funding your Future
The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR) will provide an overview of the various funding programs on offer for Canadian electronic artists.

Locals artists can even schedule a private one-on-one meeting with the funding agency by sending an email in advance to

Schmidt says electronic artists have not felt included by FACTOR in the past.

“FACTOR was supporting recorded works and albums, but electronic artists tend to put out 12-inch singles,” says Schmidt.

“But FACTOR has taken a lot of steps in recent years to connect more with electronic artists.”

At the Phi Centre (407 St-Pierre Space B) on Wednesday, May 28, 1 p.m.
Also on the program for free is HOLO Encounters, a series of public conversions between artists and HOLO Magazine editor-in-chief Greg J. Smith. The Connecting Cities Symposium kicks off on Tuesday, May 27. Connecting Cities is a worldwide initiative network of groups working to build up a connected network of media facades, urban screens and projection sites for artistic and social content.
The MUTEK edition of Piknic Électronik is not free but it’s $15, which makes it more accessible than some of the bigger EM15 shows.

At Parc Jean-Drapeau with Donato Dozzy (IT), Ernesto Ferreya (CA), Harmonius Thelonious (DE) and Move D (DE) on Sunday, June 1, 2–10 p.m., $15 ■
For more info about the MUTEK/Elektra merger and the conception of EM15, look here. You can also download the EM15 app on iTunes.