It was 1997 when Manchester's legendary nightclub - the Hacienda - closed its doors for good. Yet the city’s electronic sounds, largely ignored and unknown to the mainstream, are as vibrant today as 20 years ago. To experience the untiring Manchester’s rave magic, I have travelled to EXE Label night on the 4th of March.
Ten names, known for a fine-tuned ear, keep our feet moving until the dawn: Andy Black Forest, Ruckuz, Nian Dub, Gore Tech, Imaginary Forces, Aaron Spectre, JK Flesh, Krafty PK vs Meecha, Tink and Babylon Broken.
The first one on my bucket list is Gore Tech. George, the backbone of EXE label, presents us with a highly eclectic and dynamic set. His music is described as “dystopian anxiety fuelled sounds” and I could not word it better. George unapologetically breaks genre boundaries fluctuating somewhere between industrial and drum & bass. His set is littered with unexpected elements of rap, breakcore and dub. Unerringly reflecting the chaotic pace of modern existence, the godfather of the night certainly makes some waves and keeps the crowd dancing frantically.
Imaginary Forces drowns us in the mist of smoke machine. Minimalistic and abstract but also dirty and raw, Anthoney puts leftfield and avant-garde on our plate. Imaginary Forces plays considerably slower and the crowd seems somewhat frozen in the visceral cloud of slow motion soundscapes. BPMs and broken beats resonate well with my arrhythmic heart rate. I nod my head in agreement to syncopation. Dark, disciplined set is a pleasant prelude for Aaron Spectre.
Best known for his Drumcorps project, Aaron Spectre is a true virtuoso of manipulating sounds and creating music live. Aaron is playing instruments since the age of 13 and has been inspired by metal-hardcore bands such as Converge, Bane and Cave In. Armed with 2 Gameboys and CDJs, tonight Spectre’s style is DJ-as-human-dynamite. His channelled dynamism and fast hands movements are striking! Robotic electronica is interspersed with jungle, breakcore, drum & bass, punk and I-don’t-even-know-what. ‘Next one is called my attitude’ – a track begins. Yes, Aaron certainly has an attitude!
Justin Broadrick’s legacy for metal and electronic music scenes has been acknowledged for more three decades now, yet the Birmingham artist doesn’t seem to slow down. Justin is known for industrial metal band Godflesh, post-rock/metal-gaze band Jesu, experimental metal outfit Greymachine, electronic ambient project Pale Sketcher, for remixing tracks of post-metal bands such as Isis and Cult of Luna, for industrial hip hop duo Techno Animal (by the way, post Techno-Animal project, by Justin and Kevin Martin, ZONAL is on the line-up of Supersonic festival, Birmingham!!!) and the list is not exhaustive. There is so much more about his music career (like playing in Napalm Death!)… Anyway, I am pleased to see the legendary metaller performing here in The White Hotel tonight. It’s actually the first time for me to see JK FLESH not in a metal gig and Justin seems to fit the rave spirit of the night perfectly! Harsh beats, dense bass – the tracks from ‘Nothing is free’ sound particularly brutal and industrial tonight. Hypnotised by raw soundscapes, overpowered by JK FLESH’ aggression, we let our inner beasts out!
When sun rises in the east, noise and beats are faraway, I find myself in the throes of withdrawal. Prescribtion drugs are future trips to Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere, just to feel those beats in my chest again. Huge thanks to Gore Tech, Exe Label and The White Hotel for making this happen.
photo: Nick Wolstencroft