Just recovering from my brief stint at the MUTEK festival in Montreal earlier this week. Thursday night’s Nocturne showcase at the SAT brought together a dream lineup of Shackleton, kode9 & Space Ape, and Rhythm & Sound with Tikiman on the mic. I spent the better part of 6 hours shocking out, eyes-closed, in the breeze of a dozen 18-inch subwoofers that used the hollow stage as a cabinet. When they pushed it, the sound system was properly rude – still not on par with the best in the UK but certainly as good as any I’ve encountered over here. No breathing anomalies but there were wiggling nostrils and pressure changes in the ear canal. One 2-note kode9 bassline had this delightful effect of alternately humming up my esophagus and vibrating my pants.
The performances were full of new energies, displaying a refreshing imperviousness to genre and convention. I’d heard Shackleton play twice already during the week (excellent both times – even keeping his cool when the cops appeared in the middle of one set), but to hear those tunes on a very large, well-tuned system, and to see 200, maybe 300 people responding en masse was wonderful. The experimental context of the festival also freed him up to spend more time with his new 120 BPM material (much of it vocaled by MC
Great Emancipator Tenfold Vengeance) which I hope we’ll be hearing more of in the coming months. kode9 and Space Ape followed with the live act that they’ve only recently begun touring. This was actually when the night’s energy peeked. The set was blindingly good: 9 decomposing, dubbing and combining pieces of old and new material on the fly from a laptop patched through effects and a mixing desk, while a kinetic Space Ape (looser and an octave higher than I’m used to hearing him) took total command of the stage. There was an energy and fluidity about the performance that is utterly foreign to dubstep most of the time. And this seemed to be the point, really: that they, like Shackleton, are moving on.
What to say about a two and half hour Rhythm & Sound* 45 Session with Tikiman? As you’d expect, it was excellent: Tikiman holding forth over stacks of obscure 70s dub as it pulsed through the system with that little bit of extra weight that had been held in reserve the rest of the night (I think kode9 suspected as much during the sound check). But by the end, the hours of exertion and my cumulative bass fatigue were finally beginning to wear me down.
I finally crawled into bed at four – those vibrations still running through my skin, and some new possibilities on my mind. I think an exciting in-between moment is on the horizon.
* PS: Emboldened by my press pass, I put in a request to interview R&S which didn’t pan out. However, the Montreal Hour did manage to get a few words in over the phone.