The dark and gloomy backroom of the Shacklewell Arms is possibly kept that way because, were there any more light, revelers would be able to see the garishly blue and yellow walls, pink painted clouds on the ceiling, and murals of Jamaican trumpeters urging you to “live it up”.
Into this charmingly unreconstructed Dalston corner steps tonight’s instalment of East Not East, a soundclash of Bristol-based acts including audio collective Young Echo, home of Vessel, Left_Blank records boss Throwing Snow – for whom tonight is something of a label showcase – and Hyetal, purveyor of fine, spacy, melodic weirdness. Topping off the bill is part-time black metaller James Kelly aka WIFE, and the globe-trotting house sounds of new arrival DJ and producer Guy Andrews. ]
Up first, Young Echo confuse and amuse in equal measures by opening with a extended beatless bass earquake that leaves bowels trembling and features what sounds like the crystal notes of glass rims being played. Out of this aural landscape emerges splintered breakbeats, but it’s left to the live set from WIFE to move the crowd. Playing his first UK performance, Kelley leaves the sample-rich black metal of his band Altar of Plagues to WIFE’s emo-bass: tracks like ‘Trials‘ and ‘Bodies‘ blend dark, uncharacteristically human sounds including his own voice sung live through filters and effects with syncopated beats and aggressive cymbal patterns. Reminiscent of early Burial, while not up-for-it beats in an obvious Skrillex way there is an urgency to WIFE’s set that is compelling.
Throwing Snow steps up for the night’s second live set, blending breakbeats, bass thick enough to coat the walls like paint, and delicious chunks of melodic techno with more than a whiff of ’90s stalwarts – think Harthouse, Force Inc and Tresor – but with the 4-4 beat chewed up and spat out as something altogether more interesting.
Hyetal slows down the pace a touch, mixing some of his crystalline productions such as ‘Beach Scene‘ and single ‘Phoenix‘ – chip-tune saw-waves, bedroom Casio sounds and breathy vocals over precision percussion – into a DJ set whose sound seems to channel Boards of Canada via Jan Hammer. Always atmospheric, always interesting.
Rounding off the night on a different note is Guy Andrews, lifting the tone with some chunky house music vibes that stray into percussive techno and breakbeat, but always upbeat, for the mind and feet. With recent releases on Hemlock and Hotflush and plaudits from old heads like Soma mainstay Funk D Void, taste-maker Mary Anne Hobbs and up and comers Benji B and Scuba, Brighton-based Andrews is one to watch.
Bloke behind a desk, two dim red lights in a dark room: I wouldn’t hire their interior decorator, but the ears have it even if the eyes don’t.
[Originally published in Clash magazine.]