In a city conveyor belting DJs and producers into worldwide underground and mainstream House circuits, it's a mystery why the genre is so rarely done justice in Bristol's clubs. Shapes ranks as one of the most reputable local House nights, starting as a party for friends in 2011 and quickly growing to host heavyweights such as Carl Craig, Sven Vath and Marcel Dettman. So last night, in commemoration of its fourth birthday, the Hypercolour team were called to provide the tunes and Motion's Marble Factory slowly filled.
The label's man in charge – Cedric Maison, was first behind the decks, and supplied the conventional thumping, melodic intro that (intentionally or not) allows you to buy a drink, or small talk in the smoking area, without a sense that you're missing out on anything spectacular. Next on, was production extraordinaire Luke Vibert, who at midnight still hadn't managed to fill the venue anywhere close to it's 550 capacity. After a full two decades in the business, it's hard not to notice the man's overt indifference to performing in front of a crowd, and if it were not for the expert execution in his mixing, it would be easy to let his lack of dynamism damage his performance. However his experience came through strong and provided an eclectic range of styles, each affiliated with different alias's that he makes records under. His set started with heavily jungle and DnB influenced house records, and slowly progressed to much rawer tribal percussion, rarely losing the presence of the 303, pulsing in the back. The rise in tempo and energy in Vibert's selections managed to fill the venue to a level more reflective of his ability, and pushed any motionless observers to the perimeter. The room was still by no means full.
At 0100, the crowd was ready to pass over into the trustworthy hands of Axel Boman for the subsequent 90 minutes. The Swede has been a staple of festival lineups for the past 5 years, and with his breezy magnetism and signature moody, slurring productions, it's not hard to imagine why. Boman takes the bpm back down to the 120s, and brings it back to the melodic house that Maison was playing earlier but with his own slightly melancholic vibe. The set is tight and the room bounces along with the hypnotic flow of the mix. However, contrasting with Vibert's variety, Boman's selection gradually becomes repetitive and lacks any distinctive aspects to it. Quality, well-executed, but forgettable House music.
Special guest Breach takes over at 0230 and until 0400 delivers a stream of constantly building anticipation, with a bass heavy tracklist that baits you into thinking that it's just about to reach it's climax, but never quite gets there. This reminds the crowd of their stamina and the room breaks it's hypnosis. The night is played out by Shapes residents, but by this time numbers have thinned and the night tails off.
For a night noted for it's extraordinary and bizarre, the Shapes 4th Birthday was unambitious. Despite it's strong lineup, the current House scene is following such a distinct direction, led by the likes of Four Tet, Bicep and KiNK, that the DJs chosen felt slightly dated, and provided few impressionable moments.
Words: Julian Caldwell