Posted by: pascoesabido | October 1, 2009


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Written By: PascoeSabido
Minus presents CONTAKT @ O2 Academy Brixton, London – 26th September 2009

Anyone on the M inus roster is pretty much guaranteed to draw a crowd. Daddy Hawtin alone brings a cool million (slight exaggeration?Ed.) – so when the bulk of the labels’ artists get together, it’s clearly going to be a roadblock.

CONTAKT – the rare audio-visual extravaganza that was touring the world throughout 2008 – puts Richie Hawtin, Magda, Troy Pierce, Marc Houle, Gaiser, Heartthrob, JPLS, Ambivalent and Barem onto the same platform, at the same time (sort of), merging talents and fusing technophile tastes. Last year saw the show touch down at London’s SeOne, but a smaller capacity left hundreds without entry. This time – officially the only CONTAKT show of the year and Hawtin’s only London club date until 2010 – the O2 Academy Brixton has risen to the challenge, opening its 4,000 capacity hall to a barrage of bass and enough LEDs to cause blindness (I’m still seeing stars).

Brixton Academy (as it was more simply known before rebranding robbed it of its originality) has a first class degree in holding raves. One Nation and Hard House Academy have both etched their histories on the dance floor, and if you put an ear to the sweat-laden walls, the faint sound of Amens and hoovers can just be made out. Walking through the ornate doors and extravagant entrance hall makes you feel that a sumptuous evening of theatre awaits, not the rollicking techno specifically engineered to alter sanity. Up either side of the hall wind stairways to the Circle (‘balcony’ in layman’s terms) – which is handy when the legs demand a break but actually quite breathtaking, the 1000+ seats providing an aerial view of the light show below.

Back down on the (partially sloping) dance floor, the Minus party takes hold a little past 1AM, calling time on Fabrizio Maurizi – another Minus gem who, despite a few dodgy mixes, kept the standards high. But he’s only a starter and everyone’s there for the main. In full flow, the sound is penetrating – of a volume rarely heard in clubs. Clearly on a mission to improve on the poor performance of SeOne, there are no chances taken. Some grumble of it being too loud, but techno is a genre that befits volume [get some earplugs then – Ed]. The constant basslines, thrown into your face and then snatched right back, rise through the legs. The bleeps, tweets and clicks that are still its mainstay successfully intrude the subconscious. The sound quality might suffer as a result of blaring volume, but the balance is as good as you’ll get with a venue that size. The only thing that could tick all boxes: Funktion Ones. Looking around, most people are more than happy with what they’ve got: smiles and euphoria adorn all faces. The only issue within the comfortably full crowd is balance, the natural result of dancing on a down slope. The front was levelled, but that wasn’t quite enough.

While it’s easy to discern that at any point during the night the music is exemplary, it is less easy to know who’s providing it. Up on stage, massive LED screens frame silhouettes of mystery DJs, both behind the decks and in front, leaving them as if floating in a sky of anti-aircraft fire – or, if we’re to be honest, a pool of swimming sperm. Ali Demirel, the mastermind behind the lighting, does a fine job for most of the night, but at times it looks like a microscopic lens is studying your soldiers (have a look at the videos for vindication). Defining each DJ in their identikit black t-shirt, despite the best squint I can muster, relies on Demirel flashing their name periodically among the bright lights. Look the wrong way and you’ve missed it. But there’s no denying the entire package is a true spectacle: the opening five-ten minute sequence, all on stage, all with laptops, visuals and sound fluctuating and reforming, is spine-tingling.

Gaiser and Magda (names momentarily on screen) continue from the intro, mixing sexy rattles and maracas on top of gently-tapped cow bells. Behind them, sipping coffee and lounging on armchairs, are the rest of the gang, soon to join. Hawtin momentarily steps in to twist proceedings, sending the niceties out the window in favour of crunked-up industrial might. While there is clearly an agreed itinerary between them, I’m now sure how far it is obeyed. More names on stage would be good, as would some crowd interaction, but who’s gonna tell the Minus lot what to do? If given the chance, one word of advice: allowing twats from Essex to text in and have their oh-so-fucking-special message up in lights is a SHIT idea! Bad move.

As expected with a format such as this, a lack of demarcation on stage leads to a lack of demarcation in the minds of the audience, and while it is all appreciated and applauded, there is a distinct distance between the Minus boys and girls and their followers, which wouldn’t exist were there just one or two on stage at a time. Heartthrob is flashed on screen amid muted American vocals, broken snares across the octave providing substance to the eerie backing.

However, despite the numbers on stage ranging from one to nine, the music is still good – if lacking in any subtlety (blame the speakers) – and Richie finishes the night in style. The visuals on their own are special: Edvard Munch’s The Scream gets a look in, as does that weird skeleton face from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and just to top it off on the I-want-to-make-you-feel-a-bit-fucking-weird front, a MASSIVE human eye (if you’re interested, it’s blue – perhaps it was wearing contakts? Ba-boom-tsh) materialises and starts moving to the beat. Not only are the best visuals saved till last, but Mr. Hawtin closing out means the best music is also at the end. Revamping Plastikman (his minimal alter-ego) into a hardcore guise, he rattles along, stomping through Brixton Academy with a wall of accumulating sound – still the daddy of techno build-ups and the god father of minimal.

If you were there then savour it; if not, then lament or convince yourself it wasn’t worth it, because this is rumoured to be the last ever CONTAKT show (although according to one little birdie there may be another, but birdies do tweet a lot of shit). A night to remember – if you can; many in there looked like they chose to live the moment at the expense of lasting memories. But the moment was definitely worth living. I’m glad of a great night but feel I can draw a line under the spectacle and go back to old fashioned one or two DJ sets (how boring).


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