Morbidly Obese Midget reports back from a funk filled basement in Brixton..
If you're going to launch a mid tempo or glitch hop night, you can't do much better for your first outing than booking NZ funk-meister Opiuo as your headliner. In terms of popularity and recognition, very few could claim to have spread this style of music further in the last few years, and Whomp was to be his only London date his debut UK tour. Homegrown support came from VENT, Itchy & Skratchy DJs, Colony DJs as well as the promoter himself, Tryptich. Word spread quickly through those in the know, and tickets to the 180 capacity basement at PlanB in Brixton sold out fast.
With 4/5 acts on the bill having released through London's Colony Productions, it was fitting that Colony DJs opened the evening. Mike Wallis serving classics from the pioneering label's 10 year history alongside new and forthcoming releases, while Lone Drum flexed his nimble fingers on the decks. By the time Colony Production's latest signing, Tryptich, took the controls, the room was half full with bobbing heads.
As the rest of the crowd filled the cosy basement, Tryptich teased out a deep, mid-tempo groove that got the whole place rolling. The only act on the bill to use vocal support, MC Intermet left plenty of space for the tunes to flow while doing a good job of gently hyping the dancefloor, leaving hands in the air and smiling faces.
The room read like a roll-call of UK glitch hop and psy breaks with Hedflux, Mouldy Soul, William Breakspear, Neurodriver, Krossbow, Spenghead, Automaton and Terrorbyte just a few of those present.
A trio of Itchy and Scratchy DJs from Devon changed up the pace with old skool beats across four decks, building into chunkier electronic territory that ranged from full-on mid-tempo madness though laid-back to a storming finale. I've not seen these guys before, but if they're playing sets like this across the country they're certainly going to be converting more beat-freaks to the glitch.
Then it was time. Most of us had been waiting to see Opiuo live since first hearing the game-changing squelch-funk of the Physical Symptoms EP in 2009, yet never imagined it would happen in such an intimate venue. Before Oscar had even started playing, the tiny DJ booth was overwhelmed by a sea of arms and grinning faces and as the first beats dropped the place went nuts.
When you meet him, Oscar strikes you as one of those guys who's naturally laid back and positive, but he obviously invests a lot of his energy (and sunny disposition) into his music, conducting proceedings from the tiny booth as if he were beat-herding with his arms.
When we spoke earlier in the evening (tune into Beta Birmingham on Glitch.Fm this Wednesday for the interview) he talked about how he edits every track live on the night, using Ableton to take over sections on drum pads, tablet, keys and midi-controls. His drumming background came into full effect on the staggered pulse beat intro of Robo Booty, while other tracks saw him wiggling his finger around a tablet.
The set journeyed between the deep, staggering off beats of the Butternut Slap series and the jacking bounce of earlier tunes, with a trumpet led remix of Ray Charles having the whole room shuffling ragtime one minute and jumping to the ceiling the next. Vocals on tracks like Load Landfill provided soulful flavour and moments of reflection to counterpoise the face-slapping slabs of funk; the Function One system doing his gorgeous chunky sound justice in the small space. This was about as much fun as you can have dancing with your clothes on and I don't think anyone stopped for the duration.
Ordinary DJs might've been daunted to follow such an act, but Sam Ashwell knows how to rock a crowd. Whilst sticking to the mid-tempo, VENT's set was dirty and dancefloor friendly, showcasing some of the best British bass alongside his own killer tracks, and whipping the room into a sweaty frenzy that climaxed in a filthy mid-tempo remix of the Prodigy.
It says something about the nascent state of the glitch hop scene in the UK that this wasn't taking place at Electric Brixton down the road, where The Glitch Mob played last year at Spectrum; but even then CA's finest were just a curious appetizer for a night of d'n'b. Opiuo's other UK gigs have seen him at dubstep and d'n'b nights playing back-to-back with Koan Sound at the Academy in Bournemouth and on the bill with Chase and Status in Bristol, but it's fantastic to see someone take the risk and program a full mid-tempo line up in London. From here, hopefully great, wobbly, digitally twitching things will grow.
Anyone lucky enough to have been at the first Whomp is going to remember this night for some time to come. You certainly won't get this close to Opiuo next time he plays London!