A few weeks ago we lived a new edition of the MIRA Festival, the annual gathering that expresses innovative digital arts, experimental music, immersive experiences and more. Known for its unequaled line-ups, MIRA has been growing steadily year after year, and in 2022 they landed in Fira Montjuïc, one of the biggest and most emblematic urban fairgrounds in Barcelona.
We had a blast through 2 days full of concerts, live sessions, 360° projections and dj-sets, and we’ve cherry-picked some of the best of those experiences there.
Kali Malone presents Does Spring Hide Its Joy feat. Lucy Railton & Stephen O’Malley
Can anyone think of a better way to start a festival experience than sitting on the floor and spacing out through non-linear compositions formed of deep layers of sound? Yes, all of that. The American artist Kali Malone performed her new album ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’ together with cellist Lucy Railton and the legendary Stephen O’Malley, lead guitar and founder of Sun O))). ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’ is originally a 3 hour session that is being released in many formats through Ideologic Organ, Stephen O’Malley’s platform.
The work is layered, channeling various sound sources combined with the live juxtaposition of cello and guitar, processed through Malone’s sine waves, took us on a journey that felt both complex in its execution and simple on how directly it would affect listeners. It felt visceral, hypnotic, droney and intense. Through the skilled attunements of Kali Malone, the audience anticipated as the sound structure was built-up to then experience it ‘waved’ in the air. From our position in a growing trance it felt as if it had the power to overwhelm our perception, Kali Malone chose to deconstruct it and remodel it instead. Nika Milano’s visuals were the cherry on top of a transcendental experience that soothingly spoke of an awakening to us. Now we’ve been initiated on our journey and we head to the next stage.
Michael Rother plays NEU! 50th Anniversary Show
One of the highlights of MIRA’s first day was Michael Rother playing NEU! for its 50th anniversary. Member of Kraftwerk’s early days, Rother left his mark in music history forming bands like NEU! (with Klaus Dinger) and Harmonia (with Roedelius and Dieter Moebius). He was in a very good mood while setting up in the Ground stage, which had some industrial-vibe decorations that were quite in sync with what was going on. This is not the first time that MIRA festival books krautrock legends and the good mood soon permeated the crowds.
Playing together with Hans Lumpe (from LA Düsseldorf) on drums and Franz Bargmann on guitar, the trio went through the different phases of NEU!’s discography, and while at the beginning we loved some of their classic compositions with the distinctive motorik percussion (like Neuschnee), they also had some very good moments with an 80’s heavy synth vibe. Of course, they played Hallogallo!
For us, the best transition between concerts was having Alva Noto right after Michael Rother. Though we had to run from one show to the other, it was absolutely worth it. Carsten Nicolai, better known as Alva Noto, has some krautrock influence in his works, and we even felt some (almost) direct references during his set. It was the performance of UNIEQAV, his work from his own platform Noton, accompanied by visuals from Ken Niibori, and we got immersed in his own techno/glitch/ambient universe that had such a big influence through Raster-Noton (active until 2017). Alva Noto played with stretching out the nonexistent limits of techno turned into the ideal closing of this first day for us, but not before some 360 immersive experience, of course.
Onionlab presents PARADOXA (MIRA Dome)
PARADOXA (from the Barcelona based studio Onionlab) was our pick of the day when it comes to the 360º projections that we saw laying on the floor inside their immense dome. Hypnosis with some psychedelic hints in 3D.
Clark: Body Riddle
We are back for day 2 and arrive to the stage in time for Chris Clark, who is no stranger to MIRA Festival. This time he came back with a set inspired by Body Riddle, his iconic album in Warp Records, which also marks his change to recording under the name Clark, remastered and repressed recently after its 15th anniversary. It’s the first time that we see him playing with his early material, and it was quite a ride. Opening with the legendary Herr Barr, Clark did a very personal tour around the album, and we had the pleasure of listening to many gems for the first time, all in perfect synergy with the visuals of Infinite Vibes.
Same as Body Riddle, Clark’s set felt very physical, there’s no one like him to drown you in pure feelings of sound texture, almost as if you could touch wrinkles in sound. Some other highlights of his show (and album) were his characteristic processed drums and his cathartic feels that are quite his own trademark. This was only the beginning of a crazy second journey at MIRA.
Loraine James x Alessandra Leone
One of the best parts of going to a festival curated to the level of MIRA is to find new things, and this was the best of cases with Loraine James. We anticipated this performance having known of James’ earlier work (from first hearing the upload Glitch Bitch several years ago and being instantly fascinated), but never having had the opportunity to experience one of her sets live. If any doubts existed as to why this set directly preceded Squarepusher, she made it clear right after she started. The mood was incredible, the complex rhythms paid off, and James’ vision between drill, breaks and techno was truly contagious. By the end of the set we turned to find a growing cache of attendees transfixed by distinctive dance beats, setting the tone for more raving to come that night.
What else can be said of Tom Jenkinson? He’s a living legend that went back to his roots a few years ago with ‘Be Up A Hello’, and stands in a weird intersection of experimental music, the intensity of the dancefloor and the influence of the jam sessions. What was new this time for those who’ve seen it a few times in the past years? He started the session already playing the bass, and that was a first for us. Translated: he didn’t really build up intensity throughout the set, Squarepusher just flipped everything upside down from the very beginning, and the effects of his music could be felt in the audience’s reactions. Having conquered the crowd in no more than 5 minutes, he next took us on a ride between his most intense, and sometimes even violent soundscapes. Definitely our most euphoric time during MIRA.
It’s been years since we didn’t have such a roll of amazing artists of this calibre, one after the other. Bogdan Raczynski, who we unfortunately don’t see live as often as we’d like, was booked at the dance stage right after Squarepusher. And what’s the best thing you can get right after such tremendous performances, at the peak of a festival that’s been mind-blowing so far? Bogdan has the answer: proper rave techno with a 90’s vibe, braindance, and breaks.
It’s true, he came back after a hiatus, and ADDLE (his last work in Planet Mu) might be a bit slower compared to his most characteristic works, but what we heard that night felt closer to his recent compilation ‘Rave ‘Till You Cry’, and there was a lot of unreleased music. Bogdan Raczynski came back to Barcelona after a decade and a half, and made everyone dance non-stop.
Closing a festival is no easy task, and to manage that in an effective way, nurturing both head and feet, is practically impossible. That’s why we’ve got Djrum, who never disappoints. We only knew him from some of his productions with a darker tone, but in this 3 hour vinyl session we realised why everyone’s been talking about him recently. We got the feeling that we’ll keep talking about him for quite some time, since pleasing the dancefloor in the way he did it is not something that common to witness, considering his focus on the eclectic side of music. Couldn’t think of a better way of ending such a weekend, after witnessing a festival that felt like a big step forward both for MIRA and for the scene in Catalunya.
Article by: A. Sixta / Paranoid
Pictures by: Alba Ruperez & Charlene)