Electronic Blanket: Week 1

Sophie Ahmed discusses club culture in Newcastle and beyond in her very first column.

22nd October 2015

Nobody can deny that we live in a city dominated by dance music. “Digi events” and DJ sets at Cosmic Ballroom blend into one and a monotonous house beat loops my mind. We all enter Newcastle as interesting individuals with varied music taste prone to belting out ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ from the sticky floors of Throwback, and somehow, most of us will leave in a pair of Nikes having been to more Module events than the number of modules we’ve taken at uni. Before you can call me a hypocrite, I’ll do it myself. Yes, at the time witnessing Julio Bashmore drop ‘Au Seve’ was the greatest moment of my life. So was hearing Blonde’s ‘I Loved You More’ and Friend Within’s classic ‘The Renegade’ – all at Digital. See a pattern? In all these scenerios I was experiencing the exact same feeling, in the same place, in front of an elevated silhouette in the distance, behind some decks. It’s hardly a spectacle. To me, decent “dance” music should stimulate an electrifying physical response, so allow me to educate those who “bob” to house in some of the finest visual/dance harmonies I’ve come across.

In recent music news, trip-hop duo Massive Attack announced a UK tour which has been a huge talking point as they rarely gig. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to see Massive Attack perform at Manchester International Festival in 2013. This wasn’t any ordinary show, as their soundtrack contemplated an unsettling film by documentary-maker Adam Curtis, which criticised “the rise of the managed state” with images of Vladimir Putin and Afghanistan. The event was held at a derelict train depot with the film projected on a box of four screens surrounding the audience. Let’s just say the view was more profound than a DJ interacting with the crowd through a pointed finger.

More recently, this summer has offered me vibrantly visual electronic music in the best scenarios. For fear of namedropping too much, I won’t go into detail about the fact I saw Bjork in July, but will instead dwell on her support act, Arca and Jesse Kanda. Producer Arca is a sight to behold himself with his leather outfits and platform shoes, but the man we’re supposed to be looking at is Jesse, his filmmaker partner in crime. Images of distorted human bodies and creepy babies playing the piano imbued the music with a whole new dimension.

Finally, the highlight of summer was FKA Twigs’ performance at FYF festival in LA. I don’t use the word “performance” lightly, because Twigs is a performer in every sense - a musician, a dancer, an artist. It could be said that Tahliah puts on a persona as she just snapped out of it to thank the audience at the end, but surely it’s better to work hard to craft a unique identity than get sucked into the generic house scene which is so prominent today. I can’t lie – I enjoy Twigs’ ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘9Ts’ Baby’ by Redlight equally. But the experience of being crammed between sweaty students when I “saw” the latter “perform”, was less than inspiring. Modern house can’t be about the music because, well, it doesn’t really involve any. So please, give us something to look at.

Sophie Ahmed

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