Last year’s FutureEverything festival was a great highlight for me. The festival organisers curate something special and, although I went to every gig with almost no clue about the artists, I managed to leave every one without disappointment.
This year I took a similar view to the situation, I knew a few of the names, especially one Amon Tobin (more on him later), but I trusted the organisers would come up with the same levels of quality as in previous years. In fact they surpassed them.
Everything kicked off on the Wednesday evening with two shows in a row at the Islington Mill, just on the edge of Salford. This was my first trip to the venue and I have to say I was impressed. Good sound quality and reasonably priced ‘Estrella’ on tap, there’s not much more I’d ask for in a venue! The opening show was from ‘Shabazz Palaces’, a hip hop duo from Seattle. They produced a blend of the 808 beats and Southern US drawl which seems to be the flavour of the month in US hip hop but combined it with unusual tribal and syncopated percussions and vocal layers to give them a unique sound. I’d draw the inevitable comparision to Outkast ie, good tunes & slightly unusual.
The venue then took a darker turn down more electronic avenues with a show from the elusive Andy Stott and Deadbeat. Andy Stott played out an hour of evolving warped electronica, commencing with about 10 minutes of drones and tones, but then building up with relentless beats and melody. It was an impressive listen but unfortunately, a boring spectacle, watching a stoic, expressionless face hunched over a laptop just doesn’t appeal. I’ll go into the bar-raising of ‘live’ shows later though. Deadbeat took things up a notch with some decent visuals and a bit more energy, it may have been a less ‘chinstroking’ set musically but my chin had had enough by then anyway.
On day two of the festival the same venue saw a showcase from Tri Angle Records – a New York based label with a distinct sound which is growing in popularity. Their releases, although varied, have a tendency to nod towards a hip-hop/R&B influenced electronic style, some with a more experimental and ambient twist. The Haxan Cloak took things way off in to the left field by building soundscapes and atmosphere over a half hour journey whilst Evian Christ and Holy Other shook the building’s foundations with bouncing, slow-paced bass. It was similar to dubstep but fresh sounding enough that I will probably offend some people by saying that.
Friday saw a big shift in styles as the New Sounds of the North showcase hit an empty office block in Spinningfields. Put together by hipster magnets Now Wave, we got a bill featuring bands from debutants ‘No Ceremony’ to current next big things ‘Money’ and ‘Alt-J’ but, although the venue was an intriguing and well used space, its infancy shone through in the sound quality. Unless you were right at the front (and why wouldn’t you be) a muddiness and lack of clarity became apparent.
‘No Ceremony’ gave me visions of new romantic bands of the 80s, their first tracks being electro-disco influenced and energetic, unfortunately it wasn’t kept up throughout and the set descended to some fine shoegazing which seemed a let down. ‘Money’, described by Mary Anne Hobbs as her new favourite band, were next up and took their show beyond the standard with superbly projected visuals. The images echoed the music wonderfully conjuring thoughts of space, life and our universal insignificance. They’re taking a hiatus to work on a debut LP now but keep an eye out for their return, I have a feeling it’ll be a bit special. Topping off this line-up were ‘Alt-J’ (aka, that little triangle symbol that Akkord use), a band about to surf a debut album through the waves of hype surrounding them. They we’re full of energy and it showed through the crowd, the music was rapture-esque with a more electronic twist and it was a great finish.
A quick taxi back to Islington Mill brought me back into the arms of Mind On Fire and the act was most excited to see that evening – DJ Cheeba. After concerns about the previous venues sound it was a relief to see Jonny from Neuron Pro Audio manning the sound desk at the Mill, bass and clarity were top notch all night! DJ Cheeba’s high reputation lie in his A/V sets, he seamlessly blends music and video clips to create a truly multimedia experience. Full of energy and transcending from Hip Hop to House to Jungle he made the job of juggling both beats and visuals look easy; truly an inspiration to DJs and a demonstration of where DJ skill can go in the 21st century – step away from the laptop! The Solid Steel selector finished his set with a fitting tribute to the late Adam Yauch and Donna Summer which was very well received.
As the final day of the festival came around it was still building to a fitting finale. This year’s headliner was Ninja Tune’s ‘Amon Tobin’ who had brought his ‘ISAM: Live’ show up to the Manchester Academy. Anybody with an interest in electronic music, especially any DJ who’s ‘live’ show is standing in front of a laptop for an hour, needs to see this show. The stage appears like a game of Tetris going horribly wrong, a series of oddly stacked cubes, but when the show starts the visuals are projected up in perfect time with the weighty mechanical beats. It seems as the stage changes and becomes a living entity, moving twisting cubes, volcanic rocks, turning into a spaceship and flying through the cosmos. No words are going to describe it well enough, no pictures could portray it effectively and even videos don’t convey the immersiveness of this show. It simply has to be experienced. This truly raised the bar for music as a whole and the next FutureEverything will struggle to match it!
Before the door closed on the festival for another year it was time for Selective Hearing to close the proceedings once again. Their show last year with Daedalus and Martyn was my highlight and this year they approached it with even more ambition, bringing Berghain legend Marcel Dettman to the Academy 3, along with stellar support from the likes of Levon Vincent, Pinch and John Talabot. Vincent kicked things off and was really good but everyone was there to see the German in a rare Mancunian appearance and it really showed once he got going. There was a three hour journey which went to some dark and wonderful places. I felt a little bad for the lack of a crowd Pinch had to play to, especially as he was bringing some Swamp81 and Tectonic fire, but its not often you get to witness techno on the scale Marcel Dettman brings it.
After 6 gigs in 4 days I had seen so much brilliant music and that is why FutureEverything is so good. Their choices can always be trusted to demonstrate the true scope of modern music and bring artists to Manchester who are truly pushing the boundaries of what we expect in a performance. I hope they go one better next year, but with Amon Tobin I think they’ve hit a very high pinnacle!