I made it just in time to Mr Wolf in Canberra on Friday night to let MUTO ease my frustrations (caused mainly by the door girl at the venue), as the Sydney artist performed his live show on the back of his debut EP Arcane.
With his velvety, moody electronic tones being unsuited to resident DJ gigs at local clubs, I was thrilled to see MUTO finally performing headline shows around the country, which kicked off with his electrifying set at Splendour in the Grass, drawing in a full tent of punters. A small but excited crowd of about 80 gathered in the midst of an otherwise dead Friday night in Canberra with tall, fashionable and easy going (could have been the tequila he was drinking straight from the bottle like water) Miles Davidson aka MUTO commanding our attention.
Overly genuine and grateful the entire set, the simple set up of his decks in the centre and the keys on his left side allowed him to confidently interact with the crowd, unlike some DJs remaining a mysterious figure behind the decks. Still clearly shocked at his growing fan base round the country, MUTO was constantly thanking fans, high-fiving and hugging the front row, with one girl reacting to her hug like it was a marriage proposal, bouncing around in excitement for the next 10 minutes.
MUTO is the latest to prove there is something in the waters of the Sydney Northern Beaches which just keeps pumping out Australia’s most talented, loveable and good-looking artists; like Gang of Youths lead singer Dave Le’aupepe and Harley Stretton (Flume).
While we are talking about it… its impossible to fully understand MUTO without addressing his childhood friendship with Flume. Flume’s experimental, electronic sound was undeniably a breakthrough in the electronic music scene back in 2012 and thousands of young producers still grapple to create anything that sounds remotely “Flume like”. During my over the top Flume appreciation (obsession) phase I followed MUTO on social media (with whom who Flume was hanging out) to try and locate Flume, conveniently bump in to him and confess my love.
Luckily, I did follow him, discovering later a new love for all things MUTO; and not just as another Flume imitator. Arcane captures MUTO’s diverse range of influences and really solidifies his own haunting, electro pop sound in songs “Tessellating” and “Lost.” Introduced to electronic music by Harley, naturally he takes influence from the industry leader but is progressively finding his own niche like all good artists with career longevity. MUTO says the industry is largely about who you know and while being grateful for the leg up in the industry he doesn’t want to be defined by Flume (so I should probably stop talking about him now, sorry Miles.)
In a small club venue like Mr Wolf, MUTO had cleverly curated the best possible live show with his simple circular logo lighting up in different colours and formations throughout the night. This was similar to that of early Odesza who now has the best live show in the electronic game, and for whom MUTO was lucky enough to open for on their 2017 European tour. Fanning synths and blending organic and synthetic sounds, MUTO brings familiar spacey future bass sounds and backs it with his quirky bass lines.
In true electronic fashion, he opened with a compelling extended intro, slowly building before diving straight into some of his more deep, experimental tracks from Arcane like “Rogue”. These were welcomed by excited grins as the forceful bass pulsated through the room. The crowd was receptive to the middle of his set, bringing in more upbeat groovy tracks and even throwing in an unreleased remix of Australian electronic trio, Crooked Colours. Effortless transitions and intricate, hypnotic accents, not even a fool would question his clean production skills.
A special moment of nostalgia occurred as MUTO threw it out to his day one fans, playing his 2014 unofficial remix of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around…Comes Around.” This song kicked off his surge to popularity and forced him to get producing quickly as he now had a sizeable following and no music to share.
The energy certainly lifted in dynamic singalongs “Wildfire” and an extended instrumental version of “Say Nothing.” Feeling so wrong and so right at the same time, the front row somehow found themselves head banging to these clean, classy songs that couldn’t be more unsuited to these aggressive movements.
As expected, he closed with recent hit “Tessellating” which had the crowd homogeneously grooving and applauding this melodic sing along, all in agreement that we were just seeing the begining of this young Sydney producer. As applause kept trickling in MUTO hesitantly said over the microphone – that was causing minor technical difficulties all night. “I’ve never really played this before,” he said, “but it’s the kind of stuff I used to make when I first started making electronic music.” Ears perked up as MUTO slapped us right in the face with a thumping future bass track out of nowhere, similar to that of Enschway or Slumberjack. Raised eyebrows and subtle head nods of approval circulated the room revealing his versatility and confirming that track most definitely SHOULD have been released.
Is it Christmas? Is MUTO Santa? Because everyone’s favourite gift of new unreleased music was piling up under the tree in Canberra last Friday. At the end of his set he asked to take a photo with the crowd in the least obnoxious way possible, while the resident DJ started played a Mura Masa track for about the 500th time that night.
After taking one photo, MUTO ran over and dug through his laptop (which must contain so many treasures that will never see the light of day) saying “actually I want to play one more unreleased track for you,” pressing play on a broken down remix of Lorde’s “Green Light” which had a a strong beat and futuristic element, maintaining the uplifting feel of the original track. Unlike most planned encores (fooling no one), MUTO genuinely seemed as though he just wanted to share his love of music with as many people as possible and hopefully as he continues to climb the music industry ladder he doesn’t lose this passion and humility.
Beware though, MUTO’s shows are not for everyone. Some people (often including myself) want to enter a club to hear mechanical mind numbing trap drops and have death pits thrown at us from all angles. Rather than smashing each other from one wall to another MUTO sets the pace for a humble side step and boogie with your friends. If you don’t normally listen to this type music, clear your mind before you come in, stop looking for the drops and just appreciate the emotive, endearing atmosphere he composes.
These small club environments simply don’t do MUTO’s music justice. His powerful depth of sound and ambient live sets are dying to be seen on huge festival stages and won’t reach their potential until he is headlining festivals around the world. Captivating, professional and all levels of cool, MUTO is here for the long run, so you might as well dance on over to the MUTO train now because it’s going worldwide.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
As his tour comes to a close, you can catch MUTO at Proud Mary’s in Erina (NSW) on 15th September and at TBC Club in Brisbane on 21st September. For more information, visit his facebook page HERE.
The reviewer attended the show at Mr Wolf in Canberra on Friday 7th September 2018.
Photo Source: Holly Williams