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Hyper-detailed microhouse pioneer Marc Leclair’s meticulous sampling sensibilities aren’t strictly the domain of the chin-strokingly serious. His flamboyant four-on-the-floor glitch funk has been delighting both highbrowed audiophiles and those who instinctively understand groove-ology. Inspired by the Surrealists, automatic writing and a legacy of pre-tech grooves, his exquisite corpse of cut-ups triggers pleasurable buzzing and swooshing in the ears—hence the name Akufen, a play on the French word for tinnitus.
In the late nineties and early aughts, Leclair laid down the blueprint for a different kind of contemporary house sound rooted in fidgety microsamples and offbeat rhythmic experimentation. Ears perked up in 2000 when one of his singles found its way into the hands of Germany’s minimal techno don Thomas Brinkmann. While he’d previously been active under other aliases in the experimental scene of his native Montréal, it was the Akufen project’s prickly melodic syncopations that rapidly brought him international recognition. After releasing acclaimed EPs on German labels such as Perlon, Leclair released his debut album My Way in 2002, later dubbed the 12th best album of the decade by Resident Advisor. Sourced entirely from shortwave radio samples the record still stands as a foundational document. Other aliases popped over the years, such as Horror Inc.—a cinematically-tuned project that explores melancholy and mood through a funk-jazz lens with Leclair playing many of the sampled instruments himself. The Stowaway takes off on a slightly different tangent, but remains profoundly Leclair in its jaunt, shuffle and melodious-ness, teasing sensations that sound like piña coladas and carnivals. Constantly refining his philosophies, Leclair has dipped in and out of the Akufen identity using it alternately as an identifiable DJ moniker and his creative production soul. Over the past year, he’s channeled his knack for atmospheric, jazz-inflected sonics back into solid new EPs My Blue House and Music 2 Wiggle 2.
The playful king of electronic pastiche, who’s famously guarded about releasing the gold building up on his hard drive, returns to the festival with a long-awaited new live set to mark MUTEK and Akufen’s milestone 20th anniversaries.
Montréal-based electronic musician, producer and DJ Marc Leclair, who also operates under aliases Horror Inc. and The Stowaway
Perlon, Musique Risquée, Quartet Series, Telharmonic Texture, Karat Records, Compost Records
Akufen: My Blue House (2019), Music 2 Wiggle 2 (2018); The Stowaway: Future Sounds of Jazz 14 (2018)
Visual artists have hugely impacted Leclair’s craft, particularly surrealists such as Marcel Duchamp and his ready-mades to Jean-Paul Riopelle and Quebec’s Automatists. In a 2002 interview with Exclaim, Leclair chose Riopelle as his ideal dinner guest, adding that he would “order pizza and beer”