From Iceland — Harlem Shakes

Harlem Shakes

Published November 1, 2013

Harlem Shakes

Building from fizzling feedback, you can feel ThizOne growing in front of your eyes; quite literally it would appear, as an associate is close at hand providing mutually kaleidoscopic visuals.

DJ AnDre
7:30 on Thursday evening of a festival is an unenviable slot for any DJ (let alone if your name conjures up thoughts of rippling abs and ‘Mysterious Girl’ for the less cultural among us…). However, the deep, circling, metallic sounds of DJ AnDre, alongside some fairly impressive early moves from a handful of energetic audience-members, prove otherwise.
Arguably it is the perfect soundtrack to a late night, shouted-in-ear club conversation, but having the time and space to get lost in the hypnotic journeys of his work gives another perspective: warm female vocal samples, building layers of deep sea synth lines and most of all a cold metronomic beat stick in the mind, allowing it to wander and contemplate a first day in the Icelandic capital – its weather as crisp as AnDre’s production.
It is music the Majestic Casual/Eton Messy, ‘chill wave’ followers of this world would, and certainly should, take note of; throw-in some crunchy upbeat, almost Jon Hopkins-esque rhythms and you’re looking at a house DJ with the capacity to satisfy most enthusiasts of this dangerously saturated genre.
Building from fizzling feedback, you can feel ThizOne growing in front of your eyes; quite literally it would appear, as an associate is close at hand providing mutually kaleidoscopic visuals.
As with his genre-buddy and friend playing before him, it is early in the evening for this sound to take hold in its full capacity but it does make sense nevertheless, as complex, intuitive rhythms keep you on your toes and shuddering bass appears as quickly as it is replaced by emptiness.
There is an intense calm and concentration to the performance which matches what we are being subjected to in the small upstairs room: transfixed and busy, he goes to work, introducing mangled melodies that once were genuine above industrial, whirring busyness that pounds below.
“I got nobody to call me baby anymore,” cries out alongside equal cries of underlying crisis in the chaotic, lazer-like activity; it’s a stand-out track from a set than grew in enticement throughout, palpable from the curious, encroaching audience in attendance.

The first thing that hits about Subminimal is the cleanliness of his sound. There’s nothing half-hearted about these beats, and they do hit like a train, but they leave you feeling invigorated rather than flattened, such is their clarity. If one was being kind to the venue, we could put this down to Harlem’s impressive PA set up, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the artist and run with the idea that Subminimal is the real master here.

There’s something of an injustice in the idea that this guy – whose collaborations with Samaris have produced quite fantastic results – is being made to play to a crowd that’s this sober, but it’s testament to his skill behind that laptop that anyone at all is dancing, let alone this vigorously, when it’s only 9 pm.

To be fair, his music has so many elongated gaps that are devoid of rhythm that it isn’t the easiest stuff to shake oneself to, but the lack of huge drops just for the sake of huge drops is part of the appeal. As an aside, a mention must go to the perplexed gentleman at the back, dressed in a banana suit, who stands stoically still the entire set, either paralysed by the complexity of the rhythms, or really wishing his drugs had kicked in by now.

(Words: Thomas Hannan)

Following on, mad-scientist-like duo Quadruplos kept the beats coming and the dance-floor swarming; their bucolic and watery streams of sound is punctuated by genuinely bone shuddering bass drops.
They may be a two-piece but the clue’s in the name here – they make the sound of four. Echoes of ’90s pioneers Chemical Brothers emerge as frantic techno blends with swirling peaks and troughs in this industrial strobe-lit outing. Massive Attack-esque drum beats join the party before arcade game beeps and clicks are drowned and engulfed by that enormous, now unmistakable, dubstep noise; it is exactly what the ever-increasing jumble of onlookers want and Harlem is beginning to feel like the place to be tonight – even a relative novice in this field found myself getting more and more involved in what they were throwing out.
It’s bad form to quote press releases or ‘artist bio’s verbatim, but in this instance I can’t resist; someone compared Skurken’s music to “trippin’ in Moomin Valley”.
This may appear an overly obscure reference, but deep into the Reykjavik-native’s set it starts to (sort of…) make sense: the “trippin'” is a result of aggressive, squirming beats, while Moomin Valley, with it’s sweeping hills and cold but colourful hue, comes to mind thanks to the bucolic, mountainous synth work.
Like much of the music overtaking Harlem tonight, it feels like a soundtrack; the deep, dark and almost cinematic character that begins to emerge would accompany the harshness and bleak outlook of films like Adulthood and moments of relentless Chase & Status-esque drum samples keep the set, and indeed the crowd, moving with Need For Speed-like power.
Perhaps it would be fitting to embellish the quote above: “trippin’ through Moomin Valley in a Japanese Supercar.”
Moving swiftly away from Moomin Valley, this ‘weirdcore’ leader revved up the evening as we moved into the early hours of tomorrow. Unlike those playing before him Árni Grétar (aka Futuregrapher) is a bundle of kinetic energy and gets very quickly and deeply consumed by what he is producing.
The sets opening feels something like those Japanese exercises factory workers partake in at the beginning of the day: eyes closed, breathing deeply, and as though he has no control over his movements, his arms rise, fall and twist, almost like commands to the transfixed audience. From the wash of synths, it is very apparent that these slow warm-ups are about to drop devilishly into something more frenetic.
However, Futuregrapher is not to be that transparent and the drop we get leaves an unsatisfying, but intriguing taste in the mouth. The “saw it coming” drops do come thought and, with all the intensity of the pink ear-muffed, pineapple-wielding leader of this rave, they are huge, wholly satisfying and as chaotic as we need for a penultimate set of the evening.
Tanya & Marlon
If Futuregrapher is a leading light in ‘weirdcore’ these siblings of EDM would fit into the ‘seriouslyweirdcore’. Taking the pineapples and my little pony props from their Harlem predecessor, on step further, Tanya & Marlon add depth to the sound they produce by embracing fully out-there costumes: the former appears as a fairy in this dynamic, trance-fuelled woodland, while her brother is left bounding around the cagey stage, dipping into the audience, in what appears to be a sort of horse head with upside down legs protruding skywards.
At this time of the night/morning the experience is exactly that, an (almost out-of-body) experience: the music is tetchy and mysteriously unaccessible and those jammed in around us appear to be peculiarly static, glancing looks at my (terrible) movements as though I should be enveloped in the noise in a totally different way. No matter, this duo create a lasting, trippy memory and that, it has to be said, is something of a rarity for these types of shows. Check them out.
Photograph: Seb Dehesdin
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