Warehouse Project (WHP) and Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, have been enjoying a successful relationship for a few years now. The renowned Manchester party series is the only night in town to catch a world famous artist like Hebden, especially after his recent transition from subdued ‘folktronica’ productions to 4/4 techno room fillers. The first WHP x Four Tet event I ever attended was in November 2013, in my first year at university. I was mainly excited to see MF Doom, but when the elusive rapper predictably didn’t show up (he was rumoured to be in the building but couldn’t be bothered to perform), the consolation prize of seeing Hebden DJ for the first time more than made up for my disappointment. As I left that night I was certain of two things; Four Tet had played the best set I had ever seen; and Warehouse Project was the best night I had ever been to. Three years and four Warehouse Projects later; I’m still in awe of that Four Tet set.
Before I vent some frustrations, let me put the disclaimer that I had a great time at Four Tet Presents. In fact, this event was probably the best iteration of WHP that I’ve been to. However, the last entry for WHP is set inexplicably early at 22:30, and when I arrived at around 22:15 the queue stretched out from the Store Street venue and onto London Road, peppered throughout with police and private security. This is dance music on an industrial scale, right down to the clear strip curtains that separate the music rooms from the bars. Touches like these are put in place to further the warehouse aesthetic. The location at Store Street has gone some way to alleviating the overcrowding that was a serious problem at the previous Victoria Warehouse venue, and by all accounts the waiting time in the main queue was relatively short considering the number of people. The line-ups this year also seem to be some of the most carefully considered, and Four Tet Presents offered an impressive mix of techno’s established names and artists on the rise, instead of simply picking out names from a hat of Resident Advisor’s Top 100 DJs.
The first act I caught was Ben UFO, bringing his usual eclecticism and inspired selections to a packed Room Two. He closed with a rendition of Bileo’s joyous You Can Win, attaching a smile on everyone’s face and capping a set that proved exactly why he is the source of so much adulation within a community that all too often only rates DJs who produce. Faced with a choice between Leon Vynehall and Avalon Emerson, my previous experience with WHP told me to pick the lesser-known name to avoid the crowds, and I wasn’t disappointed. Emerson has been having a huge 2016, releasing one of the records of the year so far on the Whities label, and the American justified the hype on Saturday. She brought a beautifully, pulsating, melodic collection of techno, including her own production from Whities 006, The Frontier, one of my favourite songs released this year. Towards the end of her set, in a perfect touch that solidified my growing respect for her and proved that unlike a lot of techno DJs she doesn’t take herself too seriously, she dropped the 90’s classic Groove Is In The Heart, eliciting a huge reaction from the crowd.
The night could have ended after Avalon Emerson and I would’ve left happy, but the main event was now on in Room One. I’m sure I’m not alone in crediting Four Tet as the first artist who exposed me to electronic music, bridging the gap between alternative and dance with seminal albums like Rounds and There Is Love In You. He’s an incredibly important artist to me personally, but in the years since however he seems to have settled on a set list that he rarely diverges from. I will always praise him for incredible track selection that expertly spans a huge variety of genres, playing both his own productions and a selection of iconic songs from the last few years. All the usual suspects were thrown out: Skeng, Functions On The Low, his remix of Eric Prydz’s Opus. From his own productions; Pyramids, and as Percussions, KLHL, Blatant Water Cannon. These are all brilliant songs and were mixed expertly. Yet having heard a similar set almost track for track three times in the past year however, it was a case of enjoyable but diminishing returns. Having said that there were a few unexpected highlights, above all Young Thug’s Best Friend, which sounded monumental on WHP’s massive soundsystem. We closed out the night by opting for Black Madonna over Nina Kraviz, who served as an ideal light-hearted end to the night, dancing along behind the decks to her own selections and dropping crowd-pleasers like New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle.
Despite Four Tet not living up to the image he created in 2013, I saw a group of DJs at the top of their game playing the music I love on a brilliant soundsystem. What’s not to like about that?
Words: Nick Bedingfield
Photography: Gemma Parker Photography