Friday, 14 February 2014

Abbi's Adventures 1st Birthday: Oval Space Music 1st February 2014 @ Oval Space

A year ago to the day I had been to the first club event that I ever reviewed. A year on, I was out with the same people and a load more friends and techno acquaintances I've met along the way to enjoy an anniversary night out. After a month of the usual staying in for January being sensible and skint, it was time to get my stomp on.

I hadn’t been to Oval Space before but heard good things about it last year, with the only grumble being it that it was a sweat box, so I was relieved to arrive to a pretty chilly main room at midnight. I’d not been out for nearly a month and had really been looking forward to hearing the spectacular line up of residents Jozif & Fritz Zander with Shifted, Luke Slater, Jerome Sydenham and legend Robert Hood.

The UK’s very own Shifted was on the decks when I arrived and the place was about half full. Us Londoners are slowly catching onto the European way of things and heading out much later, pushing on well into Sundays. There was plenty of room to dance down at the front so, I grabbed myself the first very reasonably priced vodka and lemonade of the night, and got down to business.

Soaking up the venue; it was spacious, with a sofa
Outside at Oval Space
area, bright clean toilets, decent lighting, posh crisps and popcorn available at the bar, a great undercover fairy light lit outdoor bar and smoking area outside and a great balcony outside the length of the building. Added to this are floor to ceiling  windows right down one side of the entire main room, with raised platforms down each side of the dance floor, the back and behind the DJ booth – which creates a great feeling of togetherness amongst the crowd from wherever you stand. The layout works really well, aside from the fact that the ladies loos are right near the front of the dance floor so if you are anywhere else in the room, they are a total battle to get to. On the upside at least you can dance as you queue. 

I had a vague sense of de ja vu. The last time I saw Shifted was at a venue called Undercurrent in Amsterdam. That too was really open with floor to ceiling windows down one side. And that also had a sound system that did not exactly knock my socks off.

Shifted’s set built nicely. It was spacious, industrial and relatively chilled to start, building in intensity as the crowd grew larger and by the end of his set the place was heaving and the tunes were doing the same. It was a well crafted warm up set that totally responded to the crowd and grew with it. Hats off. However, the volume was too quiet. I was right at the front and there was barely any bass and whilst the tunes were awesome, they weren’t loud enough to get under my skin. One of these days I will get to see him play somewhere with a kick arse sound system and will no doubt be blown away.

Next up was Luke Slater… 
Although I own a few of his records from over the
Luke Slater
years, I’d somehow not seen Luke DJ before and was looking forward his set. The sound was still too quiet, although at least at the front it was better than the back.

The sound system at this venue is what let down this night. I have a distinct lack of much to say about the music because it was incidental to the rest of night. I know that there are noise restrictions that have to be observed, but there are ways to make a bigger impact without breaking those restrictions. The speakers here are virtually all at one end of the room, flown high so that the sound carries across the entire venue, with one small speaker hung either side of the room two thirds back. What is there is good – it’s just not enough. The bass is shockingly low. I am sure that if there were a lot more speakers spread out around the venue, then the sound would appear louder without the volume needing to be turned up too high. It needs addressing. It’s not the worst I have ever encountered but when everything else at the venue is above average, to have a sound system that is not integral to the design of the dance floor – well you may as well have just not bothered with the rest of it in my view. There is a great video on YouTube of Luke’s set and you can hear entire conversations happening, witness the shuffles and the energy:

Luke played a blend of clean laptop mixes and raw vinyl. You could hear the difference between the two and the more pumping engaging parts of his set were played on vinyl... everyone was just shuffling about and then every now and then came alive and danced to some slamming techno. The energy came in waves from shuffley background techno to some filthy dirty lift the roof off shenanigans, with the biggest crowd pleasers having that trademark tinge of electro. It’s just a shame that these amazing chunks of the set were only brief spurts and the set didn’t build or have any flow. There were also plenty of skips and mistakes in the beat matching – and when you look at the fact he was mixing vinyl with no headphones on sometimes, you can see why. Overall, I prefer his production to his DJing.

James Ruskin
Robert Hood cancelled this gig due to snow preventing take off from America. This put a bit of a dampener on the anticipation that had been building pre-event but James Ruskin stepped in to make up the numbers. Personally we’d had enough of being near the front by now. We appeared to be fighting for space with three verrrrrry drunk girls who had no idea how to stand up straight or in one place. And then there was another one with a rucksack – it’s just as well they check bags for knives as its always tempting to just cut the straps on dance floor rucksacks. They should be banned. We traded volume for sanity and the chance to chat and get to the bar.

The vibe of the place was really nice. Everyone in a good mood, good tunes, for many a first night out since New Year. I’d not seen my mates in weeks and it was wonderful to stomp about a bit and
natter. So that is exactly what we did for the next hour. I heard some 80s old school rave, a touch of rap and 80s synth pop from Ruskin but I really wasn’t paying attention, or dancing. From a distance he appeared to be playing what he assumed the Robert Hood fans wanted to hear. It’s certainly not a set like I’ve ever heard him play before. I’m not sure how well it was received as I was being that annoying wanker that won’t shut up whilst you try and dance. To be fair, everyone around us was doing the same. It was pointless to keep complaining that it wasn’t loud enough and we were never going to get swept away by it, so we just had a great social instead. What we could hear provided a great audio backdrop.

We decided to leave half way through Ruskin’s set to continue our nattering at home and get some sleep so that we were fresh to head back out for some Sunday dance floor action. So, we missed the final set from what I hear was an allegedly very wasted Jerome Sydenham. Ah DJing: the only job where you can turn up for work quite obviously twatted off your face and nobody seems to care. I can’t comment as I wasn’t there but I am told we didn’t miss much.

Nothing about this night offended me. Nothing about this night made it particularly stand out. I will be going back to Oval Space at the end of this month to see Ame on the 28th Feb. I shall reserve my venue judgment until then. I gave Fire a bad review for a Kompakt night being way too quite a while ago and then, on New Year’s Day the sound there was great and I had the best night ever. So, watch this space… Oval Space ticks many many boxes and may well win my heart yet.

This is not a photo from this event, just the venue in general.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Happy New Year

Sorry guys, was far too busy enjoying the holidays to bother with this on NYE or NYD. As always, better late than never. In 2013, I started a little blog in order to have a hobby outside of work and try and rekindle some kind of writing talent I displayed when I was younger and somehow forgot.

I chose to write about Techno parties because I am both a techno fan and an event producer and so was at least interested enough in the subject to make an effort. This blog was for me.

However, this year my blog has become more than a hobby. It's become a network of friends, an education in new music, a serious look at the state of clubbing in London, an assessment of what I am doing with my life and a dream realised. I was asked to write reviews and features for Data Transmission in October so I've not been blogging as much - I've been sending it all to DT instead. I am a journalist. That was what I wanted to be when I was 16. And 16 years later I've done it. Go me.

I am not a total anorak. I can't do you a top ten tracks or albums of the year, as I don't buy much music and have very little idea what any of the tracks are I love when I am out. I can't name you the best club in the world without having gone to them all first. I can't even profess to have been out all that much compared to other bloggers out there. But I can tell you my favourite things from 2013, and what I look forward to in 2014. And if you like my blog, then you may well like my choices too.

Bear in mind that these are only taken from my experiences this year. There are many nights I didn’t go to, many clubs I never set foot in. There may be better, there may be worse. It's all subjective.

Anywhere you see words in dark pink - its a link to the original review.

AA Awards 2013 - The best and worst in review

Best Event: ADE. My first and only non UK festival. As an event producer for a living I was in awe of the meticulous organisation and planning that went into making this event a huge success.

My reviews from ADE can be read on Data Transmission here: Adept / Electric Delux. I went to more but forgot to publish the blog. It's still sat here as a draft but months later I doubt anyone will care to read it!

Best Club: The Hydra. Promoters Broken and Uneven brought a fabulous series of nights to 2013. I have already enjoyed their start to 2014 and look forward to many more. 

Favourite DJ: No surprise here. ROD. Not just for his techno and the best set of the year, but for being an all round nice guy. I got to meet him at ADE and if you didn't read the interview already you can catch it by clicking here.

Best set: So many! I can't get it down to one. So here are a few... ROD @ Machine, Svreca and Lee Holman at Colony and Ashley Borg at VOID. Also notable are Laurent Garnier, Karotte and Matthew Jonson Vs Minologue all at ADE and no reviews published (Naughty me!), and Octave One at Off-Sonar

Best loos: The Studio Space. Glorious.

Best venue: IR Club in Barcelona. Small, great sound, great layout, great loos. And the outdoor El Monastario in the same complex was also lovely. 

Services to London Nightlife:

Here there are 2 awards:


I think this goes without saying but we all loved this place and it's closure was a huge kick in the balls to London Nightlife. 


No more dodgy mini cabs, no more expensive Addison Lee. Just the cheapest local taxi, ordered on an app so can be done from the dance floor with no need to talk to anyone. Ideal for those not in a state to talk on a phone.

Worst Event: RAM records. OK it's not techno, but as an event it sucked regardless of the music.

Worst Set: 
Underground Resistance at Brixton Electric. Yes I just dared to write that. I take nothing away from them in terms of their legendary contribution to techno but on that night, that set, was not the one. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. 

Worst loos: 
Crucifix Lane and Great Suffolk Street

Worst venue: 
Great Suffolk Street. Hosts many a great event but only those promoters with enough cash and care make it great. It's hard to heat, hard to cool, hard to get the sound right, has no plumbing or soft furnishings. It's like paying £25 to go to a squat party.

Fave Track:  
Am a sucker for a good vocal track.

Things on my wish list so far for 2014:

  • Trouw
  • Awakenings in June
  • Karotte
  • Marcel Dettman
  • Shifted
  • Benny Rodriguez
  • Luke Slater
  • Planetary Assault Systems
  • House of God
  • Braving Fabric
  • Festival in Croatia (which one is tbc). 

Friday, 13 December 2013

22nd November 2013: Love Amplified: Portsmouth with Adam Beyer

It was always going to be very different to going out in London, but clubbing in Portsmouth was a bit of a culture shock. To begin with, it took me back to my days of being 15 years old and clubbing in Zeus in Chelmsford - only worse. Thankfully though, it got much better so bear with this review…

First we drove to Portsmouth: A great taz down the pitch dark A3, post rush hour, with Techno blaring and my mate Hilda regaling me with her tales of Drumcode Total at Berghain last month got the evening off to a flying start. Had I not been accompanied by the worlds biggest Drumcode fan, I may never have made the trip in the first place but, this woman was on a mission and I was the one to get her there.

We parked at our mate’s house, downed a vodka and walked to Envy. The event page had warned that everyone would need ID and yet Hilda came with none. It took a lot of pleading to get us in which was a bit annoying seeing as none of our group would pass for under 25 and IDs were not being scanned or recorded, so it seemed a bit harsh to be so thoroughly questioned just to get through the door. But then we were in: No pat-down. No bag search. Whatsoever. So if you are under 18 you can’t get in. But if you are over 25 with a knife or your own vodka or a coat full of drugs, it appears that is OK?! I should perhaps state for the record that we had none of these things, I’m #justsaying.

We entered the club at 11:35pm and were smacked straight in the face by a wall of sound. I complain in London about things being too quiet quite a lot. Well this time I was totally abused between the ears. I could not think. I couldn’t even shout loud enough to be heard. The same guy who put this rig together also provided one for our mates wedding this summer. I am told he uttered the words “it may be too big for the job” earlier in the day. Well yes. Yes it was. But it looked great and it sounded immense. Glasses rattled on tables. The floor shook within 3 ft of a speaker. Nice.

The place was packed and the fun began.

11:45pm: As we queued for the cloakroom we saw a guy, all of 5ft 3, being held against a wall by way of a forearm to the neck by a security guard, as 4 other security guards stood by “just in case”. I can’t say what the guy in question had done but this heavy-handed treatment seemed totally out of order to me. I was not in Kansas anymore and things work differently in other places, so I gave it all the benefit of the doubt.

Having gotten our drinks (The bar bill outside the M25 is a joyus thing) we played it safe and stood behind the rig as the dance floor was in the center of the room. Here we could just about chat.

11:57pm A topless guy runs past me. Stops. Turns and holds his hands out, palms upturned and gives the bouncer behind me a “come on then” gesture. I step aside as a bouncer bounds past me like a bowling ball. Topless man is grabbed with his arms behind his back and is taken out of the nearest double doors faster than you can say “get yer coat love you’ve pulled.” I wonder if he ever got his t-shirt back.

12.07am as I return from the loo, I see two police in full high vis uniform walking through the middle of the dance floor with security. Is this normal? Should I be worried? Is something dangerous going on? I have no idea, it seems they are just out for a stroll.

I was trying to imagine what it must be like in the adjoining venue next door – “Liquid” – which offers drinks packages that can only spell a weekend long hangover for anyone who takes them up. It must have been carnage in there!

Venues in Portsmouth do not close late. They usually shut at 2am. This place has a 3am license. When you don’t have to stay up all night and you start drinking straight after work, this chaotic, unclassy, rabble of drunkards is the result. Welcome to Portsmouth. I’m sure it’s much the same at Tiger Tiger on a Friday night but I can’t handle huge crowds of drunk people – it’s maybe why I hang out in nightclubs and not bars. That, and the music is usually better.

Yes, I had not forgotten, this review is about a techno night. I just hadn’t actually really been concentrating on the music as I dodged fights and the slightly inebriated.

I missed Chris Vaux warm up set and had entered the building whilst Jon Gurd was playing. The dance
Jon Gurd
floor was packed and from up behind the rig I took stock of the venue. The central dance floor was surrounded by booths and seating. You could be as engaged with the tunes whilst you sat down with a drink as you could on the dance floor. I liked this – clubbing is a social thing so being able to take five and chat is a good thing. The dance floor, I noticed, was made up of 80% men. At first I could see only one girl – and she was only noticeable as she was front center with a glow stick. Jon Gurd’s set was fine. Actually, it was better than that. The crowd were loving it. It may not have been my kind of techno but this was not my usual crowd and he delivered exactly what they wanted so kudos for a great job.

Reset Robot was the penultimate DJ of the evening. By this time the crowd was thinning significantly. The dance floor itself was heaving but the heavy drinkers were mostly leaving/being ejected from the building. I was a little dubious as to exactly how many people would be left by the time Adam Beyer hit the decks. I’d guess that the dance floor could hold 150 people max.

Reset Robot’s set, in my opinion, was on this occasion quite beige over alI. It was light, safe, fun, good party music. As the crowd allowed, the tunes would get more intense and the beats tougher but even then, a safe housey vibe underpinned the whole set. This is no bad thing if you want a house night, but it was too safe for my liking so far as techno goes. But what do I know? Everyone on the dance floor was truly having a fine old time and it’s at about this point that I started having fun. Security had left with all the heavy drinkers and what was left behind after their clear up operation was a spacious venue, with an epic rig and a dance floor full of people just loving the music. 

There was not a shuffler in sight. EVERYONE had their hands in the air. EVERYONE was smiley. Everyone was very merrily drunk but in a good way. I was surrounded by sunglasses and backwards baseball caps (one was even trimmed in LEDs) and I felt like I was about 15 at an old school rave. Good times all round.

The luxurious carpets, the flocked wallpaper and the booths are a tad more luxury in a club that I am used to these days. The toilets… well… there were at least 15 cubicles in there and only ever 4 girls wanting to use them. It was a purpose built venue rather than one being used as a club because there was no where else to put a club. Warehouses may be cool, they may be a nod to the days of illegal parties, but lets face it, they are cold, uncomfortable and dirty. This was quite lovely in comparison. They say a change is as good as a holiday after all.

The last 15 minutes of Reset Robot’s set picked up dramatically, revving the engines for Mr. Beyer. A tough funky vibe played out and I felt he was finally playing what he wanted to be playing. The crowd level had stayed steady and the dance floor was full, even if the rest of the place was virtually empty as Reset Robot ended to rapturous applause and Adam Beyer started his set.

The dance floor was an absolute joy to be on! More girls had surfaced, there were a few Drumcode T-shirts in the crowd and the whole place held a really friendly vibe, with no attitude and some serious fun and dancing happening. This is the kind of atmosphere I wish for in London clubs but barely ever find as everyone is rammed in, has no space and are all too cool to really let loose and let those limbs get a work out (not everyone of course, but the majority at most techno nights). Whilst Hilda lives for the front of the dance floor I am usually found at the back, but I made an exception for this night and I loved it.

Adam Beyer delivered a set par excellence; as per usual. I am a big fan. Whether it’s a house set with
his Mrs or an earth shattering and rare trip into the dark side of techno at Berghain, Beyer’s knack for reading a crowd and delivering just what they want to hear is uncanny. Love him or hate him you have to admit that the man has skills. One of my friends is a big dance music fan but hates techno. He just doesn’t get it at all but he saw Beyer (at Gashouder at ADE) and said that his set was one of the best sets across any genre that he has ever seen.

I see many people making comments on Facebook when we are off to a Drumcode party or to see Adam play. So many of them dissing him for the fact his style has weakened, or that he is selling out by playing party techno to the masses. But where else do you go in your career if not upwards and outwards? Why is it a bad thing to appeal to more people and further yourself in life? It’s possible to get too precious about staying underground and earning fuck all. Take some notes… If you want pounding industrial arse kicking death marches, go see Speedy J. If you want some soundscapes and bleeps and squeaks and thunderous bass to stroke your beard to then go see Diamond Version. If you want to be guaranteed a night where you dance your tush off and feel good and smile and enjoy a party with a great bunch of people - you should go to Drumcode night. The reason that Beyer and Drumcode have such a big following is that it has been worked for. Beyer has learned what people want and with his carefully selected label of artists he delivers great parties, and great sets. 

Admittedly this was not an all out techno onslaught of a set but that is not what the crowd desired. The tough and edgy side of things we like in London is an acquired taste that we are lucky enough to be subjected to a lot. But if you don’t know what’s coming, a set like that could just as easily put you off a genre as make you love it. Go hard or go home was not the theme of this event. This was a party rather than a club night; A celebration. 

Sadly now that everything was going well the party came to an early end. The extended 4am license appears to have been a bit of a myth. I think we only got left until 3:30am to avoid a clash with next door emptying out at 3am. As the applause erupted for Beyer’s set, we exited asap to avoid any “crowds vs bouncer” action outside and headed towards a comfy sofa for a cup of tea good nights sleep.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

19th Sept '13: Diamond Version & Ninos Du Brasil @ Village Underground / 20th Sept '13: ELM Calls Berlin with Margaret Dygas + Sammy Dee @ Crucifix Lane

Mid week techno is a rare occurrence, but who could resist a live show from Diamond Version? We hauled our arses to Village Underground on a school night, knowing that the night finished at 2am and arriving early at 9:30pm hoping that the main act would be on in time to grab last tubes.

The venue was laid out slightly differently to usual, with the archway from the reception to the bar room blocked and the bar brought forward to make the bar area half its usual size. The event was a preview for Italian festival Club2Club sponsored by Alfa Romeo who (by way of a sign up process at a desk)  were offering the chance to win a set of headphones - what the hell that has to do with their brand I have no idea. Seems a very tenuous link in as much as the car is Italian and the festival is in Italy. Not sure how many techno lovers really equate to Alpha Romeo sales?! There were banners across the ceiling for the festival as well as constant promo images on the large stage screens. The line up for the festival in November includes Moderat, Fourtet, Fuckbuttons, Jon Hopkins and a lot more. Worth a look if you happen to be in Torino at the time.

In the main room a stage had been constructed, brought forward a lot to make the main space much smaller
than usual - this was not going to be a huge capacity audience it would seem. The stage had been set up with 2 huge screens and projectors but the warm up DJ was positioned down on floor level against the far side wall whic was a bit strange. He was playing a nice selection of electro. Towards 10pm the tunage got far more experimental and stark and edgy art-house horror filmy. We were stood right at the front for a rare change. I turned around to survey the sparse crowd and there was a higher percentage of big bushy beards than usual, and a generally older crowd than is out at the weekends.

At 10pm Ninos Du Brasil took to the stage. At first, a lone DJ played experimental tribal beats. He was soon joined by 3 live drummers sporting tinsel hats who accompanied the DJ then over powered him with drum rolls, shouting "hum ha hum ha" like an aggressive Noel Fielding sketch. It was Techno meets Mighty Boosh complete with jungle animal sounds. I felt like Balloo might come out wearing coconuts and a grass skirt doing big fish little fish cardboard box at any moment.

Ninos Du Brasil
The next track suddenly transported me to the middle of Mardi Gras. The energy of Ninos Du Brasil was awesome. I could feel the atmosphere of a street festival, imagine the colours, see the booty shaking. However, when I turned around, the audience is mostly still, nodding slightly. I was also not outwardly dancing, in fact very few people were moving at all. Inside I was doing the samba. We must all be dead inside not to have been going bananas. Or maybe we just very English and in Shoreditch on a Thursday. This track flowed into a more jazzy vibe combined with very minimal techno - like Lucy meets Buena Vista Social Club. I loved it, loved them. I 100% recommend you see them if you have the chance. Ninos Du Brasil are something a bit different and a lot of fun.

After this stream of energetic brilliance the set got on an oriental Zen tip with deep plodding bass drum and tinkering chimes. This track went on for a verrrrrry long time and didn't really go anywhere. It was quite meditative edging on dull. Thankfully after that brief reflective interlude the guys regained their upbeat & percussive feel and a few more people in the crowd were now warmed up and dancing. We had a group of girls in front of us dressed up for a Saturday night and dancing around a pile of coats and handbags - something I've not seen in a long time! Ninos ended their show with an unexpected grungy metal tip.

Alessio Natalizia
The DJ started up again for a short time with some Kompakt style house tracks whilst the stage hands cleared the Ninos kit and set up a bank of thigh high screens front of stage. I had no idea until afterwards that the DJ was in fact Alessio Natalizia|, half of Kompakt duo Walls who was (according to Resident Advisor) presenting a "a retrospective collection focused on the Italian electronic and new wave underground scene of the ’80s."

It became apparent from the stage set up that Diamond Version would not be performing with Japanese artist Atsuhiro Ito. He was not billed on the line up but DSL was really hoping he may make a guest appearance as this clip shows, their work together is pretty amazing.

Mute records Diamond Version is a collaboration between Byetone and Alva Noto. I saw Alva Noto deliver a live set at Berghain last year and still remember feeling like I was listening to musical fireworks. I was looking forward to this performance very much. The duo started with ear crunching white noise, massive pounding stomach churning bass and a strobe light facing directly at us. My senses were assaulted. My head hurt, my brain ached, and yet it was brilliant. The sound quality was great. I was being physically affected by the depth of the subs and yet could still talk to DSL without shouting even though my ears were tickling. It felt way too loud but clearly was not.

As my ears adjusted I looked up and enjoyed the visual stream of projections perfectly timed to the music, lighting the screens up in patches of colour like heat sensors.

My favourite track of the show showed racing cars on the visuals and was an onslaught of crisp clean engine revs. I my head I was making "neeeeoooowwwwws" like a 6 year old pretending to drive throughout. Call me a child but I like cars and I like techno - fuse the two together and I am likely to pretend I am car racing whilst I am listening.

The hour long performance was short but very sweet; blending distortion, beats and excellent video. I had a great time and just wish I had the balls to dance like a loom even when no one else will. There is nothing worse than a banging set and a dead crowd. Stupid thing is this that whilst they all stood about stroking their beards I expect they all felt exactly the same as me.

The following night we trotted off to Crucifix Lane for a night of Berlin influences with ELM. We arrived at 12:30am to a half full main room, which reached its maximum influx of people by 1:30am to see it maybe two thirds full. The tunes being played were mediocre uninspiring tech house. Nice enough but not grabbing anyone's attention, especially with the sound level pretty low. The main room was smaller than usual as the DJ set up had been brought forward and the ceiling draped at the front with a parachute which looked a bit naff if in my opinion but, made the small crowd feel more intimate. The volume of people chatting was annoyingly equal to the music and I felt really old. 95% of the crowd were in their early 20s.

We ended up sat down chatting on some stools. Joking we are old, I suddenly realise that when I was 20 and people in their 30s were out with us moaning how much better it was back in the day, I thought they should be at home and leave us young'uns to it. And now that is me - but I am sat down because actually,  we have been out a lot in life and we have seen and heard it all and need a certain level of quality and entertainment to get us dancing. We are not easily impressed these days. This party does have a nice vibe, good energy, a friendly crowd and my head and foot have been nodding along the whole time but its not ground breaking. It's fine. That is all.

We had come to see Sammy Dee and Margaret Dygas so I thought I'd best check the set times online. At this point I discover that Sammy Dee was on 2 til 4 then Margaret til close. However, the venue had been granted an extended license til 8am at the last minute so that would now change. I was quite mortified we would have to stay all night if we wanted to hear Dygas, although admittedly the tunes are building pace and were now a little  louder and contained more passion and character.

A quick 3am cigarette break in the packed fenced off corridor on the pavement outside was short lived for once. Due to local residents you have to be quiet so every 2mins a loud shhhhh spread down from the bouncers for us all to shut up. It was like being in a school assembly. Going back indoors we were greeted by full on feel good banging house tracks. No vocals being played but the general sound reminded me of old Cassius tracks.

Sammy Dee was on about 3am in the end I think. The house is deeper and more varied in his set. We get to hear Latin rhythms, tech house some tracks with a 90s soulful beat that reminded me of the Brand New Heavies. I had fun during this set and in a conscious effort to get ourselves moving, we went to the front to get involved. After half an hour of it I was getting a bit bored and a few clashy vocal mixes of chanting and shouting and pianos made the set a bit messy in places. There seems to be something wrong with one of the decks that a needle change didn't fix. We were losing the will to live by 5am and sat down. The night was just not good enough to dance to again. Tracks picked up with an acid house vibe but I was beginning to think Dygas just wan't going to be playing! Sammy Dee's set slowed in pace to get deeper and more fluid but the mixes and levels had not been fab - he kept bringing tracks in as if he didn't know the level was up and taking it out again quickly as it is out of time. I wonder if the monitor levels were right? All the DJs have had some issues and I have to assume that there is an issue with the sound set up.

By now the club is less than half full, peak time was 2 til 4. Why on earth would you play the headliner last Margaret Dygas - please dear God make this have been worth waiting for.
on an 8am finish? Finally there were signs of a DJ change at 6am as tiny lady takes to the decks much to everyone's happiness. Welcome

It was a shaky start. The high end was very prominent but the bass was really muffled and fuzzy. Something somewhere in a speaker had blown and that is just not fixable. Margaret's mixes are not flawless. They are just a smidge off time here and there and downright clunky on occasion - a fact only made more noticeable by the uneven sound levels. It took her half an hour to get into her stride and sort the levels out, then it was a good solid innings played to a room now only a third full at best. We danced about to some nice smooth, well paced techno that reminded me a bit of Hawtin's Ibiza Boiler Room Set. The set built well and a heaving dance floor would probably have been going nuts - but all that was left at 7am were space cadets and others too tired by now to give it some. Just as I am thinking this, another clunky mix hits my ears and the levels go all over the show again. It's a shame as the tune selection is fantastic but speakers are popping and I admit defeat, use the horribly lit and grim toilets and depart.

That's the second time I've been to Crucifix Lane (the first was was Speedy J earlier his year) and both times the sound has been awful. Personally I'll need some convincing to bother going there again. Many of my mates love the place and I have not a clue why. It's a black painted brick arch like every other arch venue available in the city, with nasty loos and a crap sound system. The only stand out point is the lighting rig in the center of the ceiling, but when that is covered up by a parachute then it's really not anything special at all.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

14th Sept '13: Machine feat. Ben Sims & Kirk Degiorgio with Special Guests RØDHÅD & ROD @ Corsica Studios

New girly dilema this week... What to wear when you have to go to a wedding in the afternoon and a techno night later on? I went to a wedding looking very trendy and a club looking pretty overdressed for me. I was in a dress anyhow. Turns out heels make it wedding wear and DM's make it clubbing attire. Crisis averted. During a hilarious"last  tube" ride across London to Corsica Studios, we encountered many a victim of too much booze - and the boyfriends having to carry them home. Entertainment for all the family. Better than watching Eastenders at least. Their nights were over and ours was just begun!
 We arrived about 1am I think and the place was pumping. We'd been listening to ROD a fair bit at home the previous 2 weeks and I was really looking forward to hearing him play. I'd also been told that RØDHÅD would be awesome and I've not seen Ben Sims play in ages so I was prepared for a most excellent evening. I was not disappointed. After the usual bar, coat check, natter we stepped into Room 2 and into the sounds of ROD.

Otherwise known as Benny Rodriguez, ROD is on the CLR label. He dances as he DJs his set this evening. He is fun to watch. Within minutes I was shoulders in, grin on: lost in happiness.
The genre crossed from bouncy to minimal but it all shared the same easy flow and feel. It's a big old umbrella the genre of techno. It doesn't marry up in my head how this set and an Adam Beyer set are both techno and yet so different. I guess that's why we need sub genre labels. DSL says its all "just techno" but to you, the person who is reading about it and was not there, it's not that easy. You want to know what style a set is and how it sounds. I get lost in all the sub genre names so forgive me but I may well just make up my own, in which case ROD is now "Bounce'n' Grin."

The usual Room 2 slamming, nose tickling bass accompanied Latin riffs and a banging dancefloor. The room
did empty a little and I realised that signalled the start of RØDHÅD in Room One. We were having too much fun with ROD so we stayed and thought we would pop into Room One in a bit. Hilda, Jammy and the rest of the techno possy were all in there awaiting the deliverance of a much anticipate set - but I had no clue who I was missing out on and was happy to live in the moment and get down to some ROD loving. In tandem with the shrinking audience, the energy waned slightly for all of five minutes so I decided to stick my head in room one and it sounded quite brilliant in there, but as RØDHÅD was on for 4hrs there was plenty of time! I did notice however that it was not quite 4am yet - 5mins to go - so those lush warm melodic beautiful layers and thudding passive bass can only have actually been resident and Machine co-founder Kirk DeGeorgio.

Corsica was a hotbed of trendy young things this evening. It's interesting, to me, to watch how a younger clubbing generation react to techno. Some clearly do not get it. Some love it. It will be interesting when things get to the point where new DJs come through who were not even born when techno emerged, and when our old faves retire. Will that be the point when the genre goes the way of Drum'n'Bass and gets more mainstream, morphs into something new and spawns 56 separate commercial sub genres that all share the one sound sample? Then a fair few of it's producers jump ship to the next up and coming underground genre (SO many ex D'n'B prodcers in technoland these days!).

Techno has so much variety and longevity I hope it develops and stays as interesting for the next 20 years as it did the first. There are changes of course - virtually no-one just DJs anymore. Everyone is a producer. Maybe more live sets will set the genre apart and keep it fresh. The scene needs new fans as well as music to keep the club scene going so its nice to see so many people out. In stark contrast to many of the bigger clubs and events on the calendar, Corsica always attracts a true fan based crowd.

Chris Liebing recently described ROD's style on his CLR Podcast as "soulful techno." Soul would in most musical cases indicate a James Brown type of vibe and a certain sound but I think he just means that ROD's sets have depth of emotion. When listening to a Liebing set for example, I just zone out into some techno soldier trance. Standing there on ROD's dance floor I was smiley, bouncy & floaty in places, I was carried through an emotional spectrum.

The journey of the set is somewhat awesome organised chaos. Travelling all over the show in sub genre and style, but it works. There is acid and machine gunning brilliance, hand claps etc, old school, latin vibes, minimal, a tinge of funk etc. We left the room at 2:45am for a stinky horrid fag break but I welcomed the cold of outside. What with my lovely dress and my dislike of handbags I was keeping my phone in my boot - every time I bent down to take it out or put it away I got dizzy I was so hot. I got bored watching people smoke (it's never just the one cigarette and there was good music inside so why hang about???). I decided to do a recce of Room 1.

Room 1 for RØDHÅD was packed and sounded bland as I walked in. SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM and nowt else so I went back to the garden and tried again in ten mins. With the stage used for dancing there was a deceptive amount of space available to dance in but to me, it sounded like so many sets I heard before. Paint by numbers Berghain dance floor Techno. Not that that is a bad thing but I was not here for that today. I didn't want the emotion drummed out of me, I wanted to FEEL, so I went back to ROD. I guess others felt the same at the time as Room 2 was rammed. I am admittedly judging RØDHÅD on short 5 min snippets so for a rounded view of the overall journey you'll need to read someone else's blog.

I went to the famously bass driven toilets and could hear RØDHÅD slamming it hard, but to me, it had no soul. Some nights I am in the mood to get nutted and stomp and soldier it up. Some nights I want some personality and pizzazz and fun. ROD is just where I was at. Sometimes hard is oppressive. March or else. Go hard or go home. In the loos everything shook with the duff duff duff and I heard a girl say... "That is my room every day. I love it." I could not do that every day. I prefer more bounce per ounce.

The last half hr of ROD's set Ben Sims joined him for some B2B. I remember hearing a track with either a
bassoon or clarinet riff. I've never heard that in techno before and it sounded great. Ben Sims was providing some tougher sounds now but the room kept an air of fun. Ben Sims kept raising the bar in terms of hardness with each track until we were all in a frenzy. As he played his last track we'd almost reached a level that was just too much ROD had to take it right back down to a dull roar in order to bring it in a bit and refunkify it all. And boy did he. He whipped us up and commandeered the final ten to fifteen mins and it was pure magic. I "Ashley Borged" about that dance floor. I (for want of a better phrase) lost my shit. Totally let go and fucking loved it. I am not one for applause and whooping (they are playing tunes, not delivering world peace after all) but I went mental at the end. I wanted to hug and kiss that man. Massive big love and respect. ROD you are awesomes. I may love you more than Hula Hoops. You are on a par with cats. And I love cats. A lot.

The final track ended and I needed a big fat break to recover and think on what just happened. Again I joined the smokers for some very unfresh air. Do we think if I complain enough they will eventually take a hint? I went to loo as they finished smoking and when I came back they sparked up again. Yuk. Stinks. So again I ventured alone into Room 1. RØDHÅD was still pounding 4/4 bass but was now more palatable and driving rather than oppressive. The dance floor was a little thinned out and everyone was shuffling happily apart from one guy on the stage with a fan full on voguing with boundless energy.

Ben Sims
I popped back in to see Ben Sims and ROD was on! I felt deprived I had missed 20mins! The B2B set had carried on past the end of his set and on into Ben Sims. The dance floor was writhing. Every build up brought people jumping in the air, both feet off the floor, and the energy was unparalleled on any dance floor I've seen in long time. It was a techno mosh pit. It was off the scale in there!!!

It was really interesting to see the contrast between ROD and Ben Sims. Ben was playing far tougher tracks then ROD would reply in contrast with something sassy and fun. Both DJs were in the booth grinning and dancing to each other's tunes and just having the best time together. The most exciting sounds were created when Ben Sims mixed into ROD's tracks. You felt tantalizingly close to something amazing but, once ROD's tune mixes out Sims track choices sounded dull in comparison. They worked really well back to back and it was really fabulous to see two very different styles merging and working together, and for each DJ to be reacting to each other and the crowd on the fly - rather than a pre-planned set. It's that kind of interaction that I find lacking a lot in many sets these days. To see some people behind the decks just oozing joy and enthusiasm and bouncing off the crowd was utterly the best night out I've had in ages.

Next blog will be in a week, reviews of Diamond Version and Margaret Dygas before we head off to celebrate my birthday at ADE. I cannot bloody wait.

Monday, 23 September 2013

29th Aug: Actress @ St Johns Sessions / 30th Aug: Plex @ The Waiting Rooms / 31st Aug Colony @ Corsica Studio

Welcome. You can follow adventures on twitter here and Soundcloud here but not on FB coz that is for the inner circle of initialled ones only. There is also a Google calendar on the top right of this blog detailing events worth taking a look at.

Well I was going to review Actress @ St. Johns Sessions but it's not even worth my time. The music was actually fine but the rest of it was poorly executed and I can't be bothered to discuss the most boring 2hrs of my life that I will never claw back.

And so swiftly we move on to Plex Basement Sessions, a small night with a secret line up held at The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington - a timber clad basement bar with cheery promoter and resident Luke Handsfree on the door. I keep missing Plex, much to my own detriment and disappointment. Twice I have planned to go and twice I have fallen asleep at home and missed it after a hard week at work. The last time we missed Rrose and I was mortified. So this time, we had mates over beforehand to ensure no sleepytimes and we drove there so when I got sleepy we could just zip home. That's how us grown ups roll.

We arrived to see that the line up was the Clairvoyants and Cristian Vogel. Me, the uneducated among us, had no idea who either of these names were, but I was assured that Vogel was going to be special and, from what I was hearing when I walked in, Clairvoyants are also rather good.

There was a delightful bounce in the airwaves when we hit the dance floor. It was the kind of techno you could take your non-techno loving mates to and they would love it and ask you "what's this?" and you'd say "techno" and they would look stunned. Lotts and NH were dancing about like crazy little animated Duracell bunnies at the front with the rest of us trying to keep up. The tunes got deeper and more banging and finished with a track full of carnival drums. And I was in a happy clappy cheery mood and off to the bar to await Vogel. 

PA had a quick word with Cristian Vogel before he went on and was told that the man would be treating is too a 20yr retrospective of all the tunes he loves from then to now. A journey through time and techno. Lovely. 

I found the tunes at the start a bit all over the show but NH said she loved it, that it was playful and she made gestures of squashing and squelching things with her hands as she danced. This made me think of how to explain the tunes... The music was like watching balloon modelling. Squeaks and twists and random big breaths and colourful things expanding and being twisted into fun stuff. It was exciting but it made no sense.

Barely noticeable but a frequent occurrence - it sounded like tunes did keep skipping a beat here and there. I imagine very old damaged vinyl if it's from 20 years ago! Tempos changed up and down with ease. It was all quite disjointed but not without focus, sounding to me like something robots would break dance too - superfast, frenetic and unpredictable. When everything did sound like it was about to train crash at full speed Vogel styled it out with ultra coolness like that was exactly what he was going for. Who knows, maybe he was.

Suddenly TIR, Lotts, NH and PA all vanished upstairs for smokes and air, most of them a bit put off by the very niche line in techno hitting our ears. Bearing in mind the crowd was small to start off with, we half emptied the dance floor in one fell swoop. My triple esspresso started wearing off and our ears next to the speakers were in danger of getting temporary tinnitus near the front and so we went to the back and I had a sit down. 1:30am and I was tired. Observing the dance floor, it really wasn't very busy. The advance tickets had all sold out so I was expecting it to be a heaving sweat box but there was only about 50 people in the room. It was by no means empty and the dance floor was still kinda busy. I expect that many people were taking a break after the Bank Holiday weekend before.

The set gradually got more cohesive and began to make sense and truck along in a nice direction through time and tunes. Not without its jarring mixes but all in Vogel style... Nothing was an accident. Moving into the era of 909s and synths Vogel hit the acid tracks at full on high BPMs. TIR popped back down from upstairs to tell me it was bad techno and he hates acid. Then he vanished. He and all the others all left with no goodbye! Bastards. Not so much as an air kiss. Humphf.

The dance floor thinned out a bit more. It was hard to get into any kind of groove and exhausting to keep up with the changes and pace. Although the overall pace gradually slowed, a few dancers were really going for it but many were just standing about undecided as the tracks got more intricate and atmospheric, sounding like a race of space age F1 engines. Then things turned to the kind of techno that I hate. That people who hate techno imagine it all sounds like. Almost hard house. Relentless drums at high speed  almost tripping 
Cristian Vogel
over themselves, with sweeping elongated mid range noises and the odd staccato synthy break. No charisma here. The kind of stuff best coped with on drugs - so you have the energy to keep up with it and the happiness to believe it sounds great.

Then fast thud thud thud thud thud thud thud thud with tinny high hats over the top. Proper mid 90s stuff. At that time I was at still at school and listening to Blur and Boyzone in my bedroom. And right at that moment all I wanted was peanut butter on toast and my PJs. At 2am the place suddenly filled up and dance floor was banging but I had switched off and needed my bed. 10 minute drive home. Amazeballs.

After a darn good nights sleep and a most excellent lasagna cooked by DSL came round 2 of the weekend. Colony Vs Scand at Corsica Studios. The last one of these I reviewed was a totally awesome night out and I was really looking forward to it - not least because our mate Simon Heartfield was on the line up with a live AV set. We arrived to no queue, polite security and a virtually empty club at 11:45pm. Simon was on at midnight. 

Now Simon may be a mate so you may see me as bias, but I don't know him that well at all. Trust me that if I can badmouth legends of techno on here, then I have no qualms telling my mates when they are crap. Let's face it - if I big them up for a bad job I am helping no one, least of all them. So I hope that you see that I really mean it when I say I was gutted for the techno community of London that they did not haul their arses out for this set as it was immense.

We've heard Simon play before and seen his AV sets but this was Simon Heartfield on an unusually angry day it seems! There was a march of bass drumming. Rhythms led by the lower end of octavial spectrum, which made for warm, tribal, strong, purposeful beats that got you marching, with lots of mid range riffs and very feint high end warm smooth rippling melody just on the fringes.

The visuals were interesting. I saw cabbages at one point, a london bus, hazard signage, led panels, binary
Simon Heartfield
code, buildings, machinery, numbers, more codes, it all felt like the music was telling a story and the visuals were a manila folder for a crime case being emptied out on the desk and pinned up on boards for us to string together all the clues. As each track became a new one we were getting ever closer to solving the case and the tension and energy built. I was on tenterhooks wondering who dunnit! That was the first half. I went for a loo break. It was a bit calmer and less angry when I got back, like whatever had happened had blown over and there was time for contemplation. The visuals slowed in pace too and I was more wobbling about on the spot than dancing to this bit.

15mins from the end the big purposeful march began again and pushed on and surged you forward. Kaboom. Home stretch. Mad dash to catch the culprit and solve the crime. A military operation. March! Bouncy bass lines, marching mid range this time with the odd vocal sample and a slightly more euphoric edge than at the start of the set. Layer built on layer upon layer til you felt like you were spinning, feeling totally focused but spinning in slow mo with the world blurring around you as you just... let... go. Music to get lost and immersed in. I loved it. It was like being in Inception rushing through story after story and then suddenly it ends and you just... wake up.

At this point The Wife (my bezzie mate who had come out with us) left for half an hour to go and eat. This brings me to an important whinge... Why is there no food in clubs? For those of us staying sober and eating our dinner at about 8pm, dancing is hungry work. And for those people drinking until they fall over, a plate of chips at 1am might save them. The psy trance nights I used to go to in my teens and early twenties always had hot drinks and some kind of hippie organic cake and snack stall. They were always packed and it is SO nice to have a tea and a munch then carry on dancing til the sun comes up. I can't think of one club in London that serves so much as a packet of crisps.

Venturing in to Scand's room 2 for Morphology live it was a definite breakbeat tip. The two of them were
Morphology Electronic
set up on a table in front of the DJ booth and the volume was pretty low for the earth shattering subs that we usually hear in there. It was weird being in there and hearing chatter and the walls not shaking.

The tunes were nice but a bit lackluster. The set kind of just pootled along with no real builds or breaks for ages. When a break did come, there was one the girl in front of me who totally went for it but she had more energy than the break required. Good to see some enthusiasm though as the tracks just glided onto the next thing. The production was nice & crisp. The room filled up a little more, with both people and smoke from the over exuberant smoke machine. Towards the end of the set things ramped up and we finally got some massive bass and the DJs looked like they were having a great time.

Szare was next up in Room 1. The crowd levels were low all over the club - again down to the big weekend before I expect. The place was a third full and needed a hefty injection of pizzazz. I went back into Room 2 Sync 24 & Innume. This wasn't grabbing me either but had more uplifting energy in its acid breaks than room 1. Al, DSL & RSK were stood about like the three stooges against the side wall looking shady. Personally I was in there not for the tunes but because it was mildly more party like and entertaining than room 1 with Szare. We went outside for chat and smokes, talking about beach holidays and how all holidays turn into rave ups for us lot. I am hankering after an actual beach and some quality cocktail and sunbathing time!

Oliver Ho
The only other set I was looking forward to was Raudive: aka Oliver Ho. Simon had tweeted earlier that his sound check had been amazing. I was excited.

He was good. Lots of different ideas and sounds and moved well from one to the other. Definite feel good energy. The girl from room 2 was in here. The one who had been dancing to the beat of her own drum and going mental at mediocre break downs earlier. Blue hair and blue all in one holographic outfit... Looked ready for taking to the stage at Cirque du Soleil. I was part gobsmacked and part mesmerised. She was full on body thrusting dancing at the drop of anything vaguely exciting. I was jealous of her enthusiasm. Wish I had a bit more. I was getting there. The set was moving me into a party mood and was overall highly enjoyable. DSL had his eyes shut shuffling about for ages. And that was how I felt, it sounded great and I just wanted to listen. Not dance really. Like a Boiler Room set in my living room - for appreciating but not participating.

The final DJ we saw was Truss. We went to get our coats and came back to full on machine gun techno. Quite often I can be found loving such sounds, but I need to a) build up to that and b) be surrounded by a crowd full of as much energy as the music. The room was empty, the crowd was hollow. And that is how I felt.

Overall I think this night just suffered from being the weekend after most people had been out two or three nights in a row and spent most of their wages already. And it's rare these days to find a DJ that caters their set to the crowd that is there and not what they pre-planned. More's the pity.

The Wife gave us a lovely lift home. I was starving. Time for more of DSL's lasagne!