The best shows in the first six years of legendary experimental music festival Communikey

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Communikey Festival starts this Thursday, April 10, and runs through Sunday, April 13. Though Communikey is in its tenth year as an organization, this will be the seventh time it has hosted the festival, bringing in some of the most innovative and visionary artists in the realm of electronic music to Boulder.

The organizers of the festival have proven canny in their selection of talent over the years -- Communikey has frequently been a place to see artists on their way to wider acclaim, such as Nicolas Jaar of Darkside, MEN and The Books. The festival has also been selective about their choices in workshops and installation art. For more information on passes (there are also free events), visit the Communikey web site. We spoke with one of the organizers, Matthew Krall, who gave us a rundown of what he considers the best performances in the festival's history as what he's most excited about for the 2014 fest.


That first year I saw Bruno Pronsato. He's one of my all-time favorites. He's an American from Seattle and he was in Austin but he's been in Berlin for years. We also had an artist named Caro from Seattle. That was also one of the things the first year I was really interested in.

They're very different types of artists. Caro plays a lot of homemade instruments and devices as well as using electronics from the computer. So he processes vocals and small toy flutes and things like that. It's a different type of electronic music that isn't the mainstream thing that is going on, which is what made me interested.

Bruno plays and makes very weird, dark, psychedelic techno. But still danceable and groovy. He's been around for a while but Communikey 2008 I think was in the beginning of his blossoming and I think Communkey has always emphasized bringing and wanting to bring artists that are on the forefront of using new technology and methods and ideas coming together in unexpected ways.


2009 was the year that we had the Modern Love crew out here. They're from Manchester UK. We had Andy Stott and Claro Intelecto and MLZ. The three of those guys that are the [flagship artists] of Modern Love Records, which has been one of my favorite techno records for a long time. So that was a very special treat for me to have those guys out here. Andy Stott has been back to Denver a couple of times, I think, since then but not at Communikey.

I started liking [Modern Love Records] because of Claro Intelecto's music. It always reminded me of just being a dark, sweaty warehouse at four in the morning. The sound of that is what I picture. That's the aesthetic I've felt from their label. Andy Stott's album this past year was huge.


We had The Books that year and that was the second time...It was at the Fox Theater and it was one of the best shows I had ever seen. I think it was just that they're so animated in their shows and the video that they used was incredible. I think it hit home with the audience, and it brought that feeling out in everyone.


Monolake. He played the Fox that year with Atom TM or Atom Heart. That was a good show. That year we also had an artist from New York that does a project called Gamelatron, which was an electronic gamelan orchestra all run by Ableton Live. He programmed robotic pieces to play traditional instruments and then ran it all through Ableton Live to create a full-on performance. It was pretty incredible.


The Tim Hecker show [that March] was awesome. The festival proper was our big year. We had Laurie Anderson as the headliner. We also had DJ Sprinkles. Nils Frahm stole the show. He's a German pianist and he's really blowing up right now. Modern classical and he stole the show, bringing people to tears with his piano playing. He played the Odd Fellow's Lodge and everyone was pretty speechless. I've had the pleasure of seeing him seven times since then. We kind of went on tour with him last summer. We went from Mutek to Chicago and Iowa and back to Boulder and saw him again in Seattle this past year and he's become a close friend of Communikey's. That was a huge year for us.


Last year we had some pretty big artists as well. We had Nicolas Jaar and obviously he's all over the news in the festival circuits now. He actually played two performances. He had a performance called From Scratch and it was his second time to ever do that. It was a four-hour long improv set. He's doing it again at Mutek next month. We also had Safety Scissors and Mountains. Mountains was probably my highlight last year. I've always liked them. They're a duo from Brooklyn, I believe. They make kind of ambient soundscapes. I think sometimes for me it's being able to get off of the dance floor and into a place where everyone is just silent, sitting and watching . I love the dance floor aspect of music and parties but I also like the individuality of being able to sit there and be submersed in sound.

Westword: Nicolas Jaar didn't play any of the Darkside stuff?

Matthew Krall: That performance I was telling you about, From Scratch, was with the guitarist from Darkside, Dave Harrington, so it wasn't a Darkside show and I don't know if they played any material, as it was improvised, but it was the two members of Darkside. He had him as well as some dancers and a saxophone player.

Best Bets For 2014

I'm very excited to see Deadbeat. I've seen him quite a few times but he's never been here before. He's playing Friday night at the APEX show late night. I'm also excited to see Naka Naka. He's a Mexican artist living in New York. Pretty awesome minimal techno. The next night at Apex is going to be great with KiNK and Ben UFO.

Communikey Festival, runs 12 p.m., Thursday, April 10 and through Sunday, April 13, info@communikey.us, $129 festival pass, $68 weekend pass, All Ages for most events

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is https://twitter.com/simianthinker>@simianthinker.

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