Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sat 24th August 2013 - The Hydra: Blueprint Feat. Underground Resistance, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood & James Ruskin at Electric Brixton

This blog comes to you direct from my hammock in the sunshine, fully rested at last from last weekends clubbing. One can recover from such things in minimal time if they are allowed to sleep. My cat has unfortunately taken it upon himself to howl at me several times a night all week and wake me up for food and play. Finally I got a solid 8hrs last night just in time to bring my A game for tonight's Colony at Corsica. That will be a blog for next week - This week we talk about the long awaited and much anticipated Hydra event on bank holiday weekend.

Following an afternoon of indoor picnics (the weather was awful!!!) and amusing repertee with friends old and new, we trundled off to Brixton ready for a fine old time. Meeting Hilda and TIR at the door to Brixton Electric I was pleasantly surprised to find no queue, no moodiness from the bouncers and a quick service at the bar. We had arrived relatively early and were off to a good start!

Samuel Kerridge
Simple red lights reminded me of Lost. No Lost this August bank holiday - a first for many years, but who needs Lost when there is a line up like this instead?! The first set was from  Samuel Kerridge whom I had never heard of but will more than happily hear again. All wrong for a first set but amazing none the less. I felt like I was on a giant cavernous alien spaceship listening to various mechanics creaking and moving about. The set progressed to more lively beats and into a lighter more Space Odyssey vibe. The tempo raised and haunting high pitched sounds droned in the background with sonar bleeps a plenty. DSL said it sounded a bit like Empty Set. It really was a storming set and would have been better placed later in the night but, there was no one else on the line up you could really expect to play first, so that was that.

Robert Hood
A totally different mood for the second set. The stage changed from red lights to blue, again reminding me of Lost with it's Red Room and Blue Room. Having seen Robert Hood play at 50 Weapons earlier this year I was hugely looking forward to this. He started hard and fast and keet it that way. Good old Detroit sounds, the odd nanoflash of disco synth, scattered soulful vocals and melody carefully hidden amid bass bass bass bass bass bass. However, I heard a track I knew well coming on. I always think it's Basement Jaxx every time I hear it, and it kept dropping in and out so I could almost have just been hearing things... but it kept coming. And then I knew what it was. Again. Just like at 50 Weapons, he dropped Bucketheads - The Bomb. Again it was fun and stupendous but I felt slightly disappointed that he was pulling the same party trick out the bag. That didn't deter me from jumping about.

Underground Resistance
Next up was the supposed highlight of the night: Timeline from Underground Resistance. All of us were keen to see "The baddest group of sonic electronic warriors in the world" do their thing and give us an education. There have mixed reviews all over the interwebs this week, a bevvy of arguments and opposing opinions but mine is as follows... Worst set of the night. Killed my mood. Massive disappointment. Let me expand:

We have a DJ, one guy on synths, Mike on keys, and a sax player. Initially it was enthralling, the sax player was amazing and we were treated to snippets of The Bells and were easing into a great live set. But after about 15mins I had had enough. You would think that such a stellar ensemble would have their own sound guy but no, they had an in-house tech who had been dealing with DJs up to now and was no good at changing things on the fly. Having flown in from a performance at Dekmantle, via a same day set at Electric Frog in Glasgow there cannot have been a sound check before the event. And it showed. A lot. All we could hear was the sax. He was out the front of the stage doing some call and response with Mike on a Keytar but Mike's sound was lost. The sax player was quite clearly very talented but was also VERY self indulgent and did not know when to stop. The set would have benefited greatly from him shutting the fuck up here and there so that we could hear the beat and actually dance. The more it went on the more exhausting it was and the more my patience wore thin. It was live improvisational jazz sax and nowt else.
Finally, he finally stopped and the beats and synths pushed forward and picked up, only to trail along doing not much for ages, with the occasional build up here and there but with the levels to low for us to hear it clearly so everything sounded monotonous. Often they all sound like they are playing totally different tracks. It wasn't hideous, I didn't mind it (my fave comment used on Masterchef when John doesn't like something but appreciates the effort). Everything bumbled along nicely enough, the room had a generally nice vibe, the dance floor gained some space whilst people took the chance to go to the bar and vanish off to other parties and there were many many smiley people soaking up their heroes. Then the musicians kind of petered out and vanished leaving just the DJ on stage alone playing similar stuff but with the right levels and correct smattering of sax. It was FANTASTIC. I zipped off to the loo and returned to see the full band back but this time the sax player was on a laptop. Again it all plodding along and I could just about make out good things being layered up but the mid levels were still too low all I could hear was bass and top end. All the interesting stuff was lost. Then I got a priceless text from TIR at the back of the room telling me that EVD was so bored that she was listening to PETDuo on her headphones. That was a little much I thought but then jazz is not really EVD's first love. 

The front venue had by this time turned into a sweatbox and we thought we would head outside for a cigarette. Once again I found myself outside on a roof terrace in the pissing rain so I could watch others smoke. It was preferable to staying inside and losing my sanity to sax though and I bumped into Ash and had a good old whinge with him about jazz improvisation. 

We went back into the main room and it was all ending to rapturous applause and then an encore. The encore was the clearest sound I heard since the first track. It was full of energy and a soulful riffs. The keytar level was higher so I could actually hear it. Too little too late though and I was just glad it was over. The crowd were going mental - clearly not everyone shared by opinion. And then there was a brain cleansing silence and the hum of general chit chat as the decks were reinstated for Ruskin.

The votes are in
During this short interlude we wandered to the back to catch up with the rest of the crew and I took a general opinion pole... EVD had her own party in her headphones. Hilda said the relentlessness of the sax actually made her feel a bit sick after a while. GLM said too much jazz and even gave me the jazz hands. The general consensus was that it had not been "the one" we were after. TIR called us heathens, he loves culture and appreciates the history and said we can't possibly have not enjoyed it if we were true techno fans. Well sorry mate but you were hearing what you wanted to hear. Everyone has a bad day, everyone misses a sound check and sometimes even your heroes are just under par. Respect for all they stand for and have brought to the world of Techno but that does not automatically make what just happened any good. You may not believe this but I actually used to manage a jazz band. I've spent a fair amount of time at various London jazz clubs and seen some of the best in the biz in the world of funk and soul. I feel qualified to have an opinion. The best bit was just seeing so many fans old and new gathered from all over the country to pledge their allegiance. I'm glad some of them felt it was worth the trip.

I have never been so pleased to see James Ruskin. The man had one hell of a task on his hands following
James Ruskin
that vibe and he handled it well. The strobes kicked in and so did some much needed tougher, funkier beats. Hands were in the air across the room, everyone shuffling about harder than before. I survey the room from the mezzanine and wonder when it was in club history that people stopped dancing. Was it something to do with a change in drugs? With not wanting to look stupid? With over crowded dance floors maybe? Once upon a time everyone used to bust some proper moves. Two feet came up of the floor, hips swirled and people showed some personality. They didn't just stare at the DJ and shuffle from side to side with their arms just randomly wafting about. Luckily at that precise second Ash appeared and my faith in clubbers returned as he was legs akimbo, arms punching the air, giving the floor a proper seeing to.

Ruskin continued to rock the old school house vibe and move on into his regular energetic pounding techno. Slowly my general enthusiasm and energy levels are returning and I too feel like dancing around. It's now 5am and we must make it through to Jeff Mills. 5hrs to go. It's weird how some nights go past in a flash, but having not been thrilled with all the music and not having sat down for 8 hrs by now, I was struggling. There are many times we've been clubbing for much longer stretches but those clubs had chairs for the odd rest! Determined to enjoy myself I soaked up the high tempo lights and their greens and purples alongside some great serene nature themed screen visuals.  

I spotted Jeff mills soaking it up from the sound booth. Acid synths and bassy vocals, fire cracker rhythms, loads of 303. Technotastic. TIR being his usual jammy self went to say hi to Jeff, who gave him a drinks voucher and had a nice chat. TIR can't drink but couldn't turn down a bevvy from Mr. Mills so we all helped him out with his havana rum on ice. YUM. 

Ruskin's set gets harder as it goes on. I am zapped. Tired. Hot. Sweaty. Need a shower. As the set ends I am just getting tetchy and irritable. Am on the verge of turning into moody troll and ruining everyone's vibe so I carried myself off to sort my contact lenses out and sit down for 5mins on the sofa in the loos.

The names Mills... Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills can famously be a bit hit and miss. Train crashing through some sets and total unadulterated genius through others. I was in no mood for any more let downs so ventured back out into the bar hoping for the kind of experience I had at The Lighthouse watching him play a live soundtrack to Space Odyssey 2001 being screened on the warehouse wall at Lost. I was not disappointed.

After a short experimental intro Jeff slammed away. Very much a danceable set. I was elated, I was relieved and after half pint of Pepsi I was raring to go. Metallic harpsichord downwards sliding scales cascaded over and over. Chugging bass and odd glockenspiel notes like heavy rain drops plopping on a puddle filled my ears. All I could see were mates dancing (to varying degrees depending on the elderliness of their knees).

Bets were put on as to when The Bells would drop. Following a course of dream sequence style riffs and a horrid sustained high pitched drone - like both flat and sharp piano keys being slammed down for fucking ages I was going mental. Too tired to bear it. But as with last the screech ended, doused by a floaty melodic flourish and new beat, which built up and carried me to awakness as The Bells came in 68mins into the set. EVD and GML had just said their Goodbyes but 30 seconds into the Bells they ran over to us. They had almost made it out the doors before hearing The Bells and rushing back in. Even better - The 909 came out in full effect for a little jam session. It gave me wings. Achy legs said Bye Bye. I LOVE LOVE LOVED IT.

I do like to watch this man at work. He is always so poised and focused. He's like a swan, gliding delicately across the water as its legs do mental flapping away underneath. From the chest up Mills is serene but his hands are a blur as he is busy tweaking and perfecting the set.

Sad to say that we didn't make it to the end. We left 30mins before it was all over. Beaten by tiredness and the wish to get ahead of the crowd for the cloakroom and tube.

A mixed bag over all with some definite highlights, bu the flow and set order was all wrong and UR's lack of sound check and over indulgent sax meant what should have been the best techno night ever, was merely an OK night out. 


  1. It's disappointing that the one track you single out as a highlight of the night was "The Bells" from PM02. Overplayed and overrated...but I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion. i loved it too at one point...but after hearing it every time I have seen him play over the last 18 years or so, it gets tiresome.

    I doubt very much also that Hood played "The Bomb" by The Bucketheads.

    Robert Hood has been dropping a Killabite (Ben Sims/Mark Broom) edit of said track in his sets most of this year...and Rob Hood, as great a DJ as he is, has a horrible habit of playing almost the same set in every city he plays. I'm pretty sure it's that version that would have been played. I saw him at The Arches in March and that's the version he dropped then.

    You can almost play Rob Hood Bingo when you go out these days: "Spastik" - check; Rachmad's remix of James Ruskin's "Work" - check; Mark Broom's edit of "French Kiss" - check; "Club MCM" (K.A Happy mix.) - check. Selection of tracks from Floorplan - "Paradise" LP - check; Steve Rachmad - "Tir Na Nog" - check...


    Seriously - check his mixes that are available online and you will see.

    Nice to read a review of the night - thanks.

  2. Cheers Craig. I have no idea of the names of most tracks, even the ones in my own record collection. I go by what the cover looks like at home. I single out The Bells as I know that one! And it was unusual to hear live. As I said, we put bets on how long it would take Mills to play it - mainly because it's a given, not because its the best. Thanks for the info on the Bucketheads remix. It may well have been Killabite but at the end of the day, the riff and vocals are the same (I'll have to google Killabite and check) so when I hear that vocal I think Bucketheads. I love it either way. Just didn't want to hear it AGAIN. Nice to get some feedback on here :) Cheers for reading x