“For twelve weeks this city is ours.” Illuminated annually across the brick walls of Manchester’s Store Street, this slogan is as linguistically commanding as the series is of its city’s nightlife. For the Warehouse Project’s 2016 series, they return once again to their spiritual home under Piccadilly Station with a mammoth roster of artists, pushing the definition of ‘dance music’ even further into abstraction. Seasoned alumni Drumcode, Bugged Out! and Feel My Bicep have brought together some of 4/4’s finest, and heavyweights such as Ricardo Villalobos, Carl Cox, Nina Kraviz and Jeff Mills lie atop line-ups rich in techno’s more underground names. For more bass-ier flavours, Rodigan’s Ram Jam, Kurupt FM’s Champagne Steam Rooms and a DJ EZ-curated Saturday night piece together the likes of garage, jungle, and drum n bass, whilst a new addition Curated By Skepta places us in the hands of grime’s prolific figurehead. Aside from the usual Friday and Saturday night slots, The Old Granada studios hosts DJ Shadow, alongside performances from Moderat, Fatboy Slim and Hot Since 82 at The Albert Hall.
For more information on the 2016 calendar, click here. If you’re overwhelmed with choice, here’s our selection of 5 gems of this Warehouse Project season.
Orlagh Dooley aka OR:LA mixes music to lose yourself to. She’s the co-owner and resident at Meine Nacht, a club night that resides in secret Liverpool locations and has hosted the likes of Florian Kupfer, Mall Grab and Kornel Kovacs. OR:LA’s innovative flair has caught the attention of the likes of Ministry of Sound, Crack Magazine and Thump, who titled her as “one of the most underrated DJs on the UK circuit.” Her mixes are utterly uncategorisable, bravely switching from garage and jungle tempos to smooth jazz breaks, and strung together with deep, dubbed basslines and mesmerising drum patterns.
Mosaic- Sat 26 November // Feel My Bicep- Sat 10 December
Tokyo-born, UK-raised and Berlin-residing TJ Hertz, aka Objekt, possesses a uniquely individual sound. Whilst his production-style remains rooted in the dubstep cuts of his first 2011 release Objekt #1, Hertz’s electronic soundscapes have evolved into glitchy, spliced techno. His forward-thinking and technically brilliant 2014 debut album Flatlands encapsulates this dual tone, presenting a bold, experimental sound palette laden in both his dubstep and techno influences. As for his sets, expect such experimental and intricate productions neatly intertwined with deeply rhythmic techno.
WHP vs The Hydra - Fri 16 December
At only 22 years of age, London-born Amy Becker has achieved a remarkable amount. Now a regular host on Radar Radio and curator of burgeoning club night Acrylic, Becker’s first Daily Dose Mix for BBC 1Xtra’s Mistajam in 2013 seems like a far distant memory. Blending genres such as hip-hop, garage, reggaeton and house, Becker’s sets seamlessly create refreshingly diverse and bold sounds. An indisputable emerging young talent, Amy Becker is sure to bring raw energy to the Store Street warehouse.
The Ape Birthday – Fri 11 Novemeber
Denis Sulta abruptly caught the attention of the UK’s electronic music scene last summer with the release of It’s Only Real. Unleashing a surging techno melody over a stuttering drum loop, the hypnotic Numbers’ release identified Sulta as one of Glasgow’s latest exciting young DJs. With impressive performances at festivals such as Farr and Tramlines this summer, alongside his contribution to Jackmaster’s recent DJ Kicks compilation in the form of the euphoric MSNJ, the young Glaswegian producer has not disappointed. Fusing eclectic house and soul selections with his own infectious beats, Sulta’s sets are as equally unpredictable as they are thrilling.
Jackmaster & Numbers Presents Mastermix – Sat 5 November
Throwing Shade is the awe-inspiringly multitalented DJ, producer and radio host from London. When she's not holding it down on the NTS airwaves - in her meticulously researched show that delves into every musical style on the globe - she's making crisp, chopped up electro productions, with her EP House of Silk finding its home on Ninja Tune. You can be sure to expect the unexpected as she takes to the Warehouse this October.
Ninja Tune - Fri 28 October
1) Unouzbeck & Venturi - Mumbai Disco Sensation
Dekmantel massively expanded their offering of pre-festival activities, with a host of lectures, movie screenings and exclusive sets ushering in the 2017s festivities. For those of us a bit less energetic, a free BBQ at Tolhuistuin across the river in Amsterdam Noord overseen by rising British DJ Palms Trax was perfect. This wonky Indian banger had people rising out of their bean bags and sauntering to the dancefloor to use up what energy they had left.
2) Liem – If Only
Moodymann’s masterful selecting at the Greenhouse (perhaps one of the coolest festival stages ever) set the tone for the weekend. This effortlessly smooth beat fit Moodymann perfectly, who started sharing out his rider with the crowd as the track was tickling the eardrums.
3) Midland - Final Credits
Whilst it can be guaranteed that this track has been played at every single festival on the circuit this summer, hearing the man himself unload it on the main stage was spine-tingling.
4) Andrés - New For U
DJ Koze was one who played this soulful Andrés cut, and at least 3 other DJ’s did the same, firmly trapping this ear worm inside my head in the process… It still hasn’t left.
5) Kerri Chandler – On My Way
Palms Trax perfectly gauged the mood for the slightly fatigued Sunday crowd. He managed to raise the energy back up in what proved to be one of the festival's best sets with his disco soaked sounds drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. This track was one of many highlights.
6) Agua Re – Holy Dance (Large Sound Mix)
Young Marco nearly blew the roof off the Boiler Room stage with this track. Its combination of euphoric melody and light as a feather beats worked the crowd into a serious groove.
7) Zogo – Afrika
Motor City Drum ensemble dropped this gem towards the tail end of phenomenal headline set on Sunday. This was posted so many times on Facebook’s Identification of Music group that the man himself had to respond to identify it. Turns out that it’s such a rare slice of African disco that it’s not even on Youtube. Repress in order?
Words: Matt Staite
Images: Desiré van den Berg
For being one of the most eccentric and genuinely odd rappers alive, Young Thug is somehow also one of the most visible. He’s a perpetual source of musical fascination through his always-on social media presence, constantly teasing new music from a seemingly infinite cache of unclassifiable hits. The ever-looming prospect of his debut album Hy!£UN35 (pronounced “hi-tunes”) paired with the ferocious pace of his output otherwise has slowly begun to appear as an exercise in breaking down traditionally held ideas about what constitutes an official release in an age of Spotify and SoundCloud. His ferocious pace makes it easy to forget that his breakout mixtape, Barter 6, dropped in April of 2015, not even a year and a half ago. His latest, No, My Name is Jeffery, released on August 26th after two weeks of delays, is the next station in Thug’s development towards his proper long-play debut. It’s his boldest post-Barter 6 release yet, showing us the clearest picture to-date of what we can expect from Thug once he begins fashioning albums outside of the mixtape mould.
By the time that day comes Young Thug as we know him may be no more. As he announced on Travis Scott’s Beats 1 “.wav” radio show, he has changed his name to “Jeffery”--his name on his birth certificate--originally only for a week. But now it appears the new name might be here for good. “I never had a street mentality,” Thug explains to Scott, “I always had a Michael Jackson mentality.” It’s an unorthodox move this far along into his career, no doubt, but one that seems to capitalize on his larger mainstream ambitions. “Ain’t no Young Thug songs on here,” Thug comments in the same interview. “The whole album is straight crossover.” With Jeffery Thug is coming more into his own, closer to the place he wants to be at by the time HyTunes arrives, and it shows the extent to which Thug’s massive output since Barter 6 has already altered the mainstream landscape, making his pop ambitions as clear as ever.
During the time Jeffery was postponed due to cover art disagreements Thug released his first proper single from the album, Elton. A week later, when the album finally dropped, the track was revealed as the album closer, but now appearing under a different name, Pop Man. It’s undoubtedly the standout track on the tape and, at six minutes long, one of Thug’s longest and most compositionally diverse tracks to date. It’s a Wheezy and Cassius Jay beat - the former responsible for many of Thug’s biggest hits over the past year - and it sounds like a perfect blend of Barter 6’s moody, atmospheric production and Thug’s more recent pop-oriented work. The bass tones are supersized and fluid, progressing with a range reminiscent of Metro Boomin’s most identifiable Future beats; a touch of marimba introduces the song’s basic chord structure, providing a vaguely Caribbean flavour to the track, certain to bring comfort to anyone who has listened to the radio this past summer and witnessed the sudden dancehall phase infecting the charts; Thug intersperses the background with an array of mouth sounds that are instantly recognizable as his own brand of strange; and Jean parries Thug’s excess-to-the-point-of-incomprehence lyrics with a plea to reconsider his lustful desires before dropping his voice down a whole octave to contribute a couple of stylized bars that float around the stripped-down, bass-heavy beat. It all amounts to somewhat of a pop-rap ballad. But, perhaps most interesting of all, a day after he drops the album, Thug changes the name of the track to Kanye West.
Perhaps the two really are synonymous to Thug. Kanye is a Pop Man for a post-pop generation. It’s just now beginning to become clear how much of recent Ye is taking cues from the Young Thug playbook. Ye’s stated his admiration explicitly over Twitter, invited Thug to be in his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show (where he also debuted Slime Season 3 stand out, With Them), christened Thug a modern day Bob Marley, and expressed a desire to release a Ye x Thug collaborative album. It almost feels tongue-in-cheek then when Thug renames the song Kanye West, in part because it’s so reminiscent of Ye’s appropriation of the mixtape model to cast a net over his ever-increasing erratic behaviour in recent months across all mediums, but also because it serves as a reminder that, as far as captivating an audience through volatile behaviour and unpredictability, no one does it better than Young Thug himself.
The lead-up to the release of Jeffery, still technically the latest “commercial mixtape” in Thug’s seemingly endless run of releases before his ever-in-the-works debut album, gave the impression that it would be his biggest release since Barter 6. And all publicity and self-promotion aside, it sounds like Thug’s most major production since Barter 6 broke him onto the scene. Jeffery plays like logical product to come at the end of three Slime Season albums: it’s nine tracks that together display a cohesion and understanding of form that Thug seemed to be working towards throughout the course of the Slime Season tapes.
The opener Wyclef Jean begins with guitar chords establishing a slow, steady off-beat rhythm. Perhaps it’s a nod to Kanye’s Bob Marley christening, but it sounds uncomfortably close to a pop-rap instrumental, as if there’s an equal chance of Wiz Khalifa hopping on the beat as there is Thug or any of his abrasive ATL brethren--such as Young Scooter, Yak Gotti, or Duke--that have become familiar features on much of his output. It’s nothing like the London on da Track beats that helped cement Thug’s style on Barter 6. But, yet again, somehow Thug’s idiosyncratic understanding of flow belies the banalities of the beat, injecting it with a pulse of intricately positioned ad-libs and swoons, until the track sounds like nothing else in either established camps; not pop, not rap, nor is quite pop-rap, but rather Thug’s projection of how these genres sound to him.
That seems to be Thug’s M.O. guiding him through his transformation to a bona fide pop star on Jeffery: he builds his way through the pre-established conventions of his idols and their respective genres to imagine them recast in his own mold. Future Swag, for example, is a finely crafted Future tribute song that never makes a single reference to Future himself. Everything about the track projects a Future aura, from the Kill Bill sample that has become a Future-Metro Boomin production staple, to the dark-yet-radiant synth use, to Thug’s syrup-soaked flow. Or there’s the track RiRi, a Rihanna tribute with tangential-at-best lyrical relation to Rihanna that so ingeniously pulls emotional resonance out of a chorus through repetition of the word “work” that it becomes clear that Thug’s pop tributes are not directed at communicating lyrically his indebtedness to his idols, but at transforming each of their sonic templates to show the intensity he has to offer while operating in their register.
“Beyonce got an everywhere swag,” Thug comments in the same Beats 1 interview with Scott. “I got an everywhere swag.” If Thug achieves the sort of universal appeal that his comment suggests, he may be among the most aesthetically polarising rappers to ever do so. Since his I Came From Nothing mixtapes Thug has separated himself apart from the milieu of the Billboard-rap-pack through incoherence, unpredictability, and near unintelligibility--a far cry from the paradigms that a tradition of defiant, forthright, and melodic lyricism in hip-hop has taught us to expect from our rap stars. So, it’s no wonder that Jeffery bolsters its appeal to radio play by featuring some of his most polished and manicured beats to date. Far from the dark atmospherics of Barter 6 and much of his Slime Season work, Jeffery is clean and bright, at times to a fault. It seems almost too appropriate to discover that the production behind nearly half of the tracks on Jeffery goes to relative newcomers “Billboard Hitmakers”. According to their website (one of very few sources of information about them) CEO Big John got his start making music with Akon and Wyclef Jean, and given the appearance of the latter on the mixtape perhaps it’s not entirely surprising to see them show up in the production notes. Outside of RiRi, undoubtedly one of the best on the album, their beats can come across as too clean for their own good, almost anodyne at times, which might just be a product of their stated mission to make hits across all genres, capable of appearing underneath the name of any artist in vogue on the Billboard charts. When asked which artist, dead or alive, he would most like to work with Big John responded, to no surprise, Michael Jackson, the king of pop himself.
In November of 2015, directly in the wake of the first two Slime Season tapes, longtime audio engineer Alex Tumay remarked that the work he’s doing with Thug is aimed at bridging the gap between the Thug of “Danny Glover” and Rich Gang and the Thug of mass appeal, radio hits, and Hy!£UN35. Now, nearing a year to the date, “Jeffery”--the artist formerly known as Young Thug--and Jeffery--his most major release since then--beg the question: if Thug joins the ranks of Drake and Kanye West, if he turns his “orphans”, (the word 300 Entertainment boss Lyor Cohen recently used to decry Thug’s mixtape model approach to releasing music) into chart-topping singles played with the regularity of a Panda, Work or One Dance, would it be all that strange? How much of Young Thug will persist under the guise of Jeffery, when newfound stardom forces him to conform to the restrictions of an industry model?
For that, No, My Name is Jeffery provides only a small glimpse. Hy!£UN35 may arrive like a pop-rap messiah on the Billboard charts when it finally drops, but for now, while Thug continues to further refine his image through the mixtape model, the album remains an idea. So, for the time being, we will have to wait and listen to how effectively Thug can persuade the industry of his pop potential through releasing projects with the spectre of a major label debut looming in the near distance and hope that, when the day finally does arrive, Thug will be too intricately formed for the industry to change him.
Words: Andrew Ward
‘Escape’ or ‘escapism’ appears to have much currency within the increasingly saturated British festival market; though ultimately the basis for any festival weekend, the term is easily and often thrown around, attached onto everything from the mighty Glastonbury to Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival. Gottwood, too, has attracted this label. But nestled on an island off another island in North West Wales, this weekend felt so far removed from the rain-drenched and heaving crowds of Parklife and Field Day across the border.
It had immediately promised a lot - a weighty, wide-ranging and at some parts unknown DJ-heavy line-up, curatorial control from labels and collectives such as Stamp the Wax, Tief, and Percolate, and a beautiful woodland setting to get lost into. And, it delivered. Under a canopy of leaves adorned with lights, the decorative assembled stages became wholly embedded into the flesh of the Georgian country house and estate; crowds snaked around art installations and stages and, like a stream opening up into an estuary, poured out into the open lakeside nucleus of the site. Here, daytime truly thrived. Following the throngs of crowds around the liquid centrepiece, Move D’s annually popular Disco Set held things down in the distance, whilst the smooth and soulful jazz-inflected house of lakeside Cassio Kohl bled into a woozy mix of DJ Mujava’s Township Funk.
Perhaps its this constant, collective drifting of people (a clientele with a firm average age of early twenties) which makes Gottwood feel so special, well delivered and cohesive, that when one small stage’s crowd overspilled and forced you out there was something ready to be discovered but a short walk away. Gravitating in and around the lake, peeling off into stages nestled all over the estate, Gottwood is best enjoyed aimlessly. Tumbling into the Trigon on Saturday night - a stage held together by wooden triangular pylons meeting in the middle - you could find yourself in the hands of Newcastle and London based Jaunt> Records. Though initially drawn in by the syncopated techno of Ostgut Ton’s Virginia it was DJ Deep who followed, opening with ghetto house pioneer Parris Mitchel’s Rubber Jazz Band spliced over heavier techno rhythms, that proved a highlight of the weekend.
It was a festival full of - for want of a better word - ‘moments’. Be it Axel Bowman closing with Small Town Boy, or Ben UFO b2b Craig Richards sending off the festival piano-smashes of Four Tet’s Pinnacles, the genuine collective enthusiasm from those in attendance (all with ‘family’ stitched into their wristbands) really and truly contributed to this sense of escapism. And perhaps this is all one can ask for. Aided by the warm weather, the gorgeous faraway surroundings and the carefully balanced size of the crowd, Gottwood stands a cut above the rest in truly removing you from normality.
Words: Josie Roberts