“How was Bristol last night?” I ask Opiuo just before he plays. “It was incredible, one of the best shows I've played in ages” he enthuses. A home town return show for Koan Sound after two successive tours to the US and Canada, the after party was apparently pretty good by all accounts too. "Lots of our friends were out" Will from Koan tells me, grinning. London has a lot to live up to, but with a line up like tonight's it shouldn't have much trouble.
When we arrive with the UK Glitch Hop crew, Inspected Records’ Asa and Sorrow are playing to a dark, half-filled tunnel. We can only make out their silhouettes bobbing against minimal smoky purple back lighting. The music is deep and rhythmic, like everything dubstep used to be before it got angry and abused. Riddims keep building and layering throughout the rest of set. It’s impossible not to dance. I’d expected something more mellow, but am entirely satisfied with the energetic intricacy of what I get served. The tunnel fills up.
Next up is ARP101, someone I’ve been hoping to see since around this time last year when he released a few 80s infused synth-funk mid-tempo tracks. A bit like Bobby Tank a year ago, the first half of the set sounds distinctly West Coast. Lots of head nodding, popping, sluggish beats and Joker-esque purple sounds and washing synths. Heaven. The second part of the set falls into a bit of a trap, and I am ever so slightly disappointed not to hear more of last year’s boogified funk, but then that’s always the trouble with bringing expectations to the party. Tastes change.
“This is all a 100% original material” (or something to that effect) announces Opiuo as he takes the stage, and the energy switches straight up the minute the first stacks of bouncing funk jack in. You quickly get the feeling that this is the most fun dance music being played in any club in the world right now. So fat you need a machete to slice it. The place goes nuts to Ray Charles re-funked. Opiuo dances around behind the controls like a kid on a mini trampoline, drumsticks in hand. He uses them to effect on the pads in the build-up for ‘Robo Booty’. Some of the crowd may have discovered Opiuo for the first time through his Sly Fox remix for Koan Sound and there’s certainly a big cheer of recognition in the room when it comes in; the first sniff of the headliners to follow.
“Are you ready to slow it down now?” he asks about two thirds of the way through. This is where the soul flavour really comes in, with all the vocal tracks from the recent Butternut Slap series. At some point there’s an ipad making noises. The climax comes with a Slurp and Giggle album track as the crowd lose their shit to the squelching skank of ‘Lost Moinal’. “Keep it moving like libation”. Then the jokes humour of Pharcyde’s ‘Yo Mamma’s So Fat’ rounds off the set with some good times 90s hip hop flavour.
The room's got almost as much raw, wall-busting, sweatbox energy as Oscar’s first London appearance at Whomp in October, but the bigger crowd is more reflective of his talent and he’s loving every minute of it as much as we are.
Jim and Will from Koan Sound haven’t left the stage all this time, enjoying the spectacle as much as anyone else. I’d heard that they tend to DJ sets rather than live, but that's often the case for acts just a few EPs in. I’m expecting them to be brilliant, ranging from from dubstep to d’n’b, but I’m still surprised and delighted by the variety, speed and effortless flow that follows. Staring off in mid-tempo territory, it’s not long before we hit classics by Habstrakt and Tipper, then change down into trap, the two step of Culprate’s ‘Two’, his remix of Freq Nasty’s ‘Dread at the Controls’, up into Reso, Snoop and Dre, ‘Funkblaster’, Foreign Beggars, Teknian, Om Unit’s ‘Kramphaft’ refix, ‘Meanwhile’, Beasties, ‘80s Fitness’.
This might sound like a now familiar list of classics, but the set constantly shifts, comfortably skipping around tempos and style, never standing still. The impression is of impeccable wide-ranging taste and tight skills honed over the recent months on the road. In the middle of all this Opiuo launches himself off the stage into the waiting hands below and crowd-surfs to the middle of the room.
The last 20 minutes has everyone dancing their socks off to shakin’ d’n’b and neurofunk. Never boring, always interesting. Right on point.
You can’t help but be excited by whatever’s next for Koan Sound (An album? Live show? A cross genre EP?) They've certainly proved that they've got the talent to join their heroes Opiuo and Noisia on the world stage and enough fans already to be able to showcase their friends to new audiences in the UK and overseas. Here’s hoping that they continue to get the support which has seen the likes of OSWLA label boss Skrillex take it interstellar. “This one is about to drop.”