LIVE REPORT: Plex / Colony / Machine
, November 9th, 2012 09:49
Rory Gibb and Luke Turner don crampons for a night of bodyshock techno from Ancient Methods, Ugandan Methods, Regis, as three of London's best nights join forces. Pics James Morgan
Forever may London's Corsica Studios be the spiritual home for the dark and heavy in both hue and tone! Because, for as long as the Heygate Estate remains derelict, the inevitable replacement fancy residential housing will be far from this hostile old railway arch, and so lovers of high volume and intense music will have a place to celebrate their congregation. Tonight's union of Plex, Colony and Machine marks the culmination and zenith of a series of parties in celebration of this wonderful venue's tenth birthday. Rest assured it's been a highly anticipated date on The Quietus' calendar since Resident Advisor starter-pistoled the mad scramble for tickets.
Nights at Corsica often feel like a joining of dots between various strands of hard electronic music currently thriving in London. Only two weeks ago, this very room shook to the sounds of Cut Hands, Vatican Shadow, Concrete Fence, Black Rain and Regis, at the Blackest Ever Black label night (see John Calvert's excellent report on that here). Tonight we pick up where we left off, with the arrival of PCM and a set from Raster-Noton's Senking in the Colony Room, a set that marries those murky, fractured sounds to a heavy, bassy tweak.
Later, the Plex room climaxes with Methods Ancient and Ugandan, followed by a solo set from Regis himself: very possibly the most relentless musical performances I've ever experienced. Not merely in the degree of brutalism; it's far more sophisticated and determined than that. Rather for the communal, artistic and hedonistic aspects of their cojoined and evolving sets.
In the same room a few years ago, Sunn O)) played a two-and-a-half-hour set centred around their Grimm Robe Demos. It was challenging yet intimate, a 'join us or leave' gauntlet that, when you finally got your head around it, was able to alter your perception. It's an entirely different musical form, but this is exactly what happens again tonight.
For starters, the geneological similarities between this form of body techno and industrial music becomes even clearer. The atmosphere that these DJs conjure up is a hyper physical, certainly sexual one. There's a sense that the beat and bass can liberate the body from the constraints and reserve of the mind - nothing new in the context of the dancefloor, but this feels ramped up to the nth, irresistible degree. It reminds me of the euphoria generated by Throbbing Gristle live, or recent sets by Chris & Cosey (see our account of that at Incubate here). To delve further into those ideas, the music tonight lends itself to a gender neutral version of how Coil described their How To Destroy Angels LP: "ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy." This is heightened by a gauze screen in front of the DJs, on which are projected various fruity scenes involving the naked human form. Then there's presence of Regis, a handsome, debonair gentleman who looks as if he might know his way around the fiddly clasps of fetishwear. Aptly enough, for me the motto tonight is 'surrender brings the greatest reward', which certainly seems to be the collective maxim of the crowd.
Perhaps it's my short attention span, or the fact that I'm as far from a dancefloor nerd as you can get, but I've never understood the point of dancing to music you can talk over, or music which doesn't take absolute control of your body in order to deliver a flagellation. Why ride the polite groove when you can be swept along in a state of fury? Although time is cauterised and flattened under this unrelenting assault, one of my clear recollections of the night is the sense of shared joy among the Plex crowd; cheers and pure pleasure audible constantly above the din and oof.
It extends, too - after that at the end of the night a more unhinged sense of fun is explored by the Plex Colony Machine All Stars, resident DJs of all three nights combining to send us into a very bright Saturday morning grinning. It's few visceral few hours in which every sense is triggered, every sensual thirst duly quenched, and every musical itch in my body thouroughly scratched. Very probably it is the most sublime night out in 2012. And Amen to that. - Luke Turner
Spending too much time in Room One at once locks my nervous system to a predominant four-to-the-floor throb; not an unpleasant or unwanted sensation by any means, but the looser and broken fare on offer in Colony's second room still exerts a magnetic pull. For much of the night I'm ensconced front left, hugging one of the room's fiercely loud speakers and dancing in an agitated manner that ranges anywhere from on-the-spot vibration to chaotic flurry of limbs and hair.
Long before such an approach became commonplace, as a DJ Miles Whittaker was renowned for his consummate skill at finding points of contact where various genres could meet and interact. A friend once recalled that one of his most memorable club experiences ever involved Whittaker's mixing together of Dave Clarke's 'Red One' with Artwork's 'Red' - a colour-co-ordinated mix of techno and early dubstep after my own (club music geek's) heart. Tonight he appears under the guise of Millie, the alias he used for a series of 12"s in collaboration with Andy Stott that approached techno and dubstep with a ferocious junglist sensibility (he's also been alternately known as Miles, MLZ, and one half of Pendle Coven and Demdike Stare - a techno polyglot if ever there was one).
Appropriately, there's an airing for Stott's 'Up The Box' tonight, a wracked explosion of Amen break slowed and stretched to the point that it nearly snaps. It's a disorienting prospect on a dancefloor; no-one seems quite sure how to move to something this sickly-sounding. But in the context, within a set that switches repeatedly from clustered post-garage rhythms - Martin Kemp's funky-not-funky jacker 'No Charisma' turns up, for what must be the first time I've heard it on a dancefloor in about three years - and hard-nosed techno, it's a strangely graceful curveball and a moment's respite.
Their roots differ but Livity Sound, the Bristol trio who follow Whittaker's set, cherry pick from the same pool of UK club music influences. Dubstep, jungle and techno lie at the heart of their live show, which wriggles gracefully between slow steppers' rhythms, grimey strings, pulsing four-to-the-floor and, in Peverelist's tracks (dubbed out in ensemble), rushing cascades of tom and cymbal that swirl around one another in deadly ritual: half flirtation, half threat.
All three members - Pev, along with Kowton and Asusu - stand in a line behind a table stuffed with drum machines, laptop and effects, subjecting tracks originally written by any of the three members to the whims of the group dynamic. They all cut their teeth in Bristol's dubstep scene before that genre billowed outward and lost focus and momentum, and its traces are still clearly audible here: everything is grounded by thick bulbs of sub-bass and kickdrums that rattle the sternum. But Livity are swiftly maturing into an entity entirely of their own. Kowton's 'More Games' and 'Beneath Radar' fortify the grit and spareness of early Loefah with propulsive techno-leaning rhythms, and Pev's 'Livity', which arrives near the end of the set, is the highlight of the entire night, spitting harmonised shards of glass outward like shrapnel to sting dancers' cheeks. - Rory Gibb