Renowned for a rich expanse of genre-smashing sounds, there’s rarely a Warehouse Project season where Ninja Tune’s roster of artists haven’t made their mark. In the season’s latest edition - with full curatorial control - the label married the likes of Bonobo, Romare and Throwing Shade with guests like Gilles Peterson and Lone and brought some much needed warmth to the burgeoining winter.
Though at times it felt like sets were being played more on the safer side of things, what defined the experience was this sense of each act ever so slightly trying to tug on your heartstrings. Jon Hopkins certainly set the tone for this, kicking things off with stirring and ambient selections perhaps better suited to the wind down of the night than in that crucial opening slot. But then this isn’t your average Eats-Everything-at-3-am arrangement - perhaps Hopkins deserved a bit more patience.
Gilles Peterson swiftly turned things around and into heavier territory. With ‘Worldwide’ plastered commandingly across the screen, Peterson guided the floor through colourful cuts such as Round Table Night’s Calypso into the likes of jungle and footwork, delving into the somewhat darker side of his record collection. The same could be said for Romare; though his debut Projections was constructed with jazz-inflected, African-American styles, Romare too narrowed his evening’s repertoire into lowlight, four-to-the-floor cuts layered with shrieking vocal samples like Loleatta Holloway’s Hit & Run. Though there was a twinge of disappointment at not hearing the percussive and oozing vocal mutations of Roots, it was evidently a performance engaging enough to hold us in room two for almost the entire time Bonobo was playing next door.
Surprisingly it was Maribou State - otherwise pioneers of that distinctively vocal and emotive production style - who brought the most muscle to the warehouse. Aside from more typical midtempo cuts one would expect from a Maribou State DJ set, it ended up at points being an invigorated showreel of heated, house-heavy highlights, with Louis Benedetti’s Stomp and the Doc Daneeka remix of Tito Wun’s The Way U Do It adding fuel to room two's fire, and track of the summer Midland’s Final Credits thrown in for good (though likely) measure.
A solidly and cohesively curated night where each act flowed gently into the next, the warm and receptive crowd - applauding and arms-raising at any moment they could - is a testament to Ninja Tune's sincerity and genuineness as a creative and innovative label. It may not have been the most vociferous push against musical boundaries, but with the dancefloor always as the focus, the crew and their guests peeled back electronic music's sometimes cold and serious exterior to showcase moving, tugging melodies and rich, deep basslines. Perhaps we all need a little emotion in our nights out from time to time.
Words: Josie Roberts