Various Artists

By Richard Wilkes

Warp said the Ocean Club had a most impressive sound system and if they say that, it must be bloody amazing, recalling a night they played in Chelsea at Adrenalin Village some years ago: (there were four rooms, and Warp's room had a quadraphonic rig the size of which one might expect to see in the NEC in Birmingham). At the Bluenote they had a rig set up for an Autechre gig that was so beautiful it made Autechre's metallic rhythms sound like shinny glass spheres bouncing on marble hearths.

When I first arrived at the Ocean Club however, I wasn't so sure that the system lived up to all that. From the bar at the back of the venue, the sound was deceptively normal. I was actually led to believe that Anti-Pop Consortium, the treasure of current hip-hop, were a ropey live band. Surely not. The bar was a considerable distance from the stage however and there was a venue full of people obstructing my ear-sight. Moving inside the huge square arena with its impressive balcony, changed all that. The sound opened out dramatically and the bass was wonderfully tight. The Warp chaps were not lying.

On stage a gentleman was shimmering like a python, his mouth seemingly a waterfall from which words gushed effortlessly in polysyllabic torrents. Its was Beans, and his movements had that effortless funk you associate with Sly and the Family Stone or a true eighties breakdancer. Likewise the language, which, as on vinyl was rather akin to Aldous Huxley or Stephen Fry at their most thesaurus-eating moments. It slid, dribbled, stuttered and attacked. On the other side of the stage, Priest, seemingly the straight man, uses his softer tone to mediate and load before said python's next oral entourage. The parrys were better than Ivanesovich's. Each MC dropping words, like spanners, right in the middle of their partners' diction with not so much as a chink in the flow of words.

Meanwhile engineer E-Blaize, who one might expect to drop breaks and scratch the vinyl, is playing squealing analogue sounds more akin to Sun-Ra. Hip-hop isn't supposed to sound like this. It gets more unlikely when the rapping stops, suddenly the MCs stab at keyboards, the middleman striking rhythms and spook sounds. You could be forgiven for thinking Add-N-To-X had taken over. And so it rolls; from speed belying hip-hop poetry attacks to squealing acid jams and back again. The crowd gets sucked in by the rapping and then thrown out by avantgard analogue improv. Every now and then the straight man says "are you still with us?" to which we all reply with a star struck "yes."

Mark Bell attempts to follow this revelation with a DJ set of quality techno and though many people dance, I find myself still trying to digest what I've just witnessed. Good tunes though. Then its Plaid's turn. Many peoples highlight, but I always find them disappointing live, wishing they would pull things apart and take more risks. Too much like the CD for me.

Any minute now it'll be Luke Vibert, but right now he can't hide his disappointment that Aphex hasn't turned up yet. They were scheduled to be doing a bit of a duet but Luke thinks he might not show. Sure enough he plays the first half hour or so on his own. Not that it matters; when Luke is DJing its impossible to sit still. Tonight he hits us with a barrage of old skool junglist rhythm and the smiles spread across the dance floor. Then suddenly, imperceptibly at first, the mixes come quicker. Alien sounds seem to flit from nowhere, the realisation that Aphex did show up after all. He was just a little bit late. From here in it gets ridiculous and I can't help flailing like a windmill. I know I'm not the only one. Jungle gets fucked with, drum'n'bass drops by, lovely bleepy sounds skitter across the mix, all in a kinetic euphoria. I find myself gasping for air regularly. Two hours later Luke washes it all down with a bit of his syrupy hip-hop and we all die happy. 
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