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.

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