The cultural offerings in Barcelona just don’t take a break, and this fall gave us many surprises. In the middle of it all, we’ve submerged in an established Autumn tradition: Mira Digital Arts Festival, gathering 8000 people between Friday and Saturday in Fira Montjuïc, this year being the 12th edition.
Host to many of our musical heroes throughout its history, the festival came to please this year, covering various genres while not losing its focus on unique experiences in digital arts. It’s a balance between live sessions and installations, where you always win. This year we’ve chosen some visual works that caught our attention due to the use of their mediums as a vehicle for the proposed experience.
Weidi Zhan’s ‘Astro’ and its hypnotic kinetic effect, and ‘Black Hole’, and all its wormhole madness from the Ouchhh studio -two of the 360° shows in the Mira Dome-; together with Quiet Ensemble’s ‘Solar Dust’ and its change of patterns over a cloud-like structure, and ‘Inflorescences’ and its post-human demoscene nostalgia feel in 3D, by Sabrina Ratté.
Our dose of music was definitely higher on Saturday, yet one of our most memorable sets was James Holden in full band mode on Friday, together with Camilo Tirado on tabla and percussion, Waclaw Zimpel on sax, clarinet and flutes and live visuals by Innerstrings. Six months after presenting ‘Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities’ in Barcelona, Holden returned to go over it again, this time spreading its wings to its full potential.
Now behind his modular synth and custom-built hardware, James Holden had many notable turns in his direction throughout more than 2 decades of music, but perhaps the most liberating of them all was his full focus on making music and live sessions. Regarded by many, during his time as a high profile dj he opened doors to different music outings for the curious and restless ravers, and so now he’s composing and digging even deeper into sonic voyages that merge and transcend genres.
Holden and Zimpel worked together in the Long Weekend EP, and Camilo Tirado took part of the recording sessions of the album that they’re now touring. We could feel the synergy of the three during their set, and it was one of the few occasions in the festival where we saw a true live collaboration, with even some jam session elements during ‘You Can Never Go Back’. Trippy and hypnotic, the set had peaks of cosmic krautrock vibes, fused with ritualistic and gentle organic elements and their juxtaposition with shamanic digital sorceries. This time James Holden’s set had all the right balances between acoustic and electronics, and reached a higher dimensional space.
Johnny Jewel was the synth pop rush that we didn’t know we needed. Opening with the iconic Windswept -from Twin Peaks: The Return-, the head behind Italians Do It Better also played tracks from some of his groups: Chromatics, Glass Candy and Desire. The overall cinematic aesthetics in the presentation and the intense alternative and industrial vibes during the second half just felt on point.
Our well known Oren Ambarchi provided a transcendental performance around his distinctive approach to guitar and it felt like a distortion dissected in slow motion. The physical effect in sound of his Leslie cabinet worked in our heads like a meditation. This sonic waltz, sometimes calm, and sometimes lacerating, had moments of texture and intensity that were remarkable.
Julia Reidy, another Australian talent with releases in Ambarchi’s Black Truffle, opened the second stage and built up an atmospheric soundscape of guitar dialogues with sparks of fading melodies, and motifs that would momentarily glimpse into different music genres and cultures, all in cohesive harmony.
Nihvek, also known as Grouper, was in charge of starting the main stage on Saturday, still in daylight and for a reduced group sitting at the beginning of her set. Accompanied by a film from the Japanese director Takashi Makino, she presented Engine, her new album based in recordings of different engines and machinery, with her own added synth twists and turns, and this conceptual idea felt perfect to begin the day with.
But how to end such an extensive and loaded journey that had all sorts of sonic stimuli? Easy: with Alli Logout shouting ‘stop being a coloniser and dance!’ and ‘sodomy on LSD’ in your face to start the party. Special Interest’s live set was fast and sharp, without giving a break. Electric and irreverent, Alli Logout is a notable lead singer and surely knows how to fuel a concert and turn it into a celebration. Truth is that they started the dancefloor and it came the closest that we’ve been to a mosh-pit in this festival.
Article by A. Sixta & Paranoid
Pictures by Xarlene, Leafhopper, Alba Ruperez