Take a free trip around the world with Señor Coconut at this year's edition of Mutek
Señor Coconut shakes coconut-sized cojones at formulaic pop. His now infamous 2000 album, El baile alemán, infused classic Kraftwerk singles with Latin rhythms, releasing their inner cha-cha-cha, cumbia and merengue with the help of a full-piece orchestra and his own special beat magic. Ever since, Señor Coconut and His Orchestra has been a crowd-pleasing live act that features a dozen musicians and an ever-expanding collection of genre-bending electro-Latino songs. On 2008′s Around the World, Señor Coconut again served up a saucy cocktail of infectious, otherworldly mambo, perverting international electro-pop hits like Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, Trio’s Da Da Da and Prince’s Kiss into irony-doused lounge numbers with intoxicating sway.
Around the World might be dismissed as a kitschy one-off pop album if it weren’t for the man behind the coconut, known as Atom(tm) (and a thousand other aliases), legendary German producer Uwe Schmidt, one of the more prolific producers in avant-garde electronic music today.
"Very basically, I’m attracted to all musical ideas that pop up," says Schmidt, who made techno in Frankfurt in the ’90s before settling in Chile, where he began fathering genres like electro-Latin, electro-gospel and aciton (acid-reggaeton) music. Mild-mannered on the outside, you wouldn’t believe acid-reggaeton could live within him. But for a timeless dandy with a German passport and Latin flair, creative musical combinations are everywhere. "I was walking down a street in Tokyo and there was music coming out of all the shops. I stopped between two shops, one on the left and one on the right, and suddenly I heard acid-reggaeton, which was a mix of what was coming out of the speakers."
If it weren’t for Montreal’s Mutek, aciton may well have remained filed away in what he calls "boxes" (an assortment of ever-mutating "drawers, labels and aliases" he uses to order his countless musical projects and file his diverse sources of inspiration and whimsy). "I was invited to speak at a Mutek panel in 2005, but when [headliner] Ricardo Villalobos didn’t show, they asked me if I wanted to fill his spot. I didn’t have any of my music or equipment with me, but had been speaking to a Chilean friend about this reggaeton idea. So I made a ridiculous list of what I would need, thinking it couldn’t possibly happen. A few hours later they had gathered everything, so I had to do it!"
The impromptu concert was one of Mutek’s most memorable. "It was so effortlessly, ecstatically groovy. He’s just so cool," says Patti Schmidt, former host of CBC’s Brave New Waves and newest member of the Mutek curatorial group. "There’s never sweat on his lip. Not a lot of men can pull off a brown suit, you know. You have to be a very tidy man!"
Along with Schmidt, long-time founder/artistic director Alain Mongeau, DJ and Musique Risquée label owner Vincent Lemieux and experimental guru Eric Mattson, Mutek’s curatorial team has the combined experience of over 100 years of listening deeply and nurturing leading-edge international electronic music and artists. The result is a lineup that’s eclectic, sensual and hybridized, from legends of industrial noise like Nurse With Wound to the live improvised jazzy-dub of the Moritz Von Oswald Trio to the widely informed house stylings of the latest solo project by local percussionist Guillaume Coutu Dumont. Up-and-coming acts also have their place: Germany’s Brandt Brauer Frick, who mix contemporary classical and nouveau house with a restrained, dry sense of humour, as well as the charming bloobtastic musical animations of Sweden’s Minilogue. There will be unique pop-rock-electronic crossovers too, with Jon Hopkins, Nathan Fake, Mossa and Mouse On Mars and plenty more techno dragged through the steamy humidity of South American genres, thanks to Matias Aguayo’s Cómeme collective.
Guest panelist for Beyond the Sequence: Finishing It Off
Free at Monument-National (1182 St-Laurent), June 3, 3-4 p.m.
Señor Coconut and His Orchestra
w/ Argenis Brito
Free at Place des Festivals, June 5, 9 p.m.