All too often nights we build up in our minds in the weeks beforehand are complete disappointments. We talk about them for weeks, listen to old mixes of the headliners and imagine what it’s going to be like at it’s peak in the main room. As a self-confessed techno obsessive, the arrival of Ostgut Ton in Bristol definitely didn’t slip under my radar. The Shapes boys had invited the biggest techno label in the world from arguably the best club in the world and showcased them in Bristol’s infamous skate park warehouse. Needless to say I wasn’t going to stay at home for this one.
Even from queuing outside, that familiar slow, thumping beat could be heard from the end of Shapes resident Fuzzbuzz’s set (check out his mix below for the Shapes Bristol Spotlight). Straight into The Tunnel for Nick Höppner’s colourful set, I was greeted by speakers twice the size of the ones normally used – Shapes had warned us they’d be upping their game on the sound front. Mixing between techno, tribal drum rhythms and some slightly dubby-leaning numbers, he set the scene perfectly for the rest of the night. Tracks like Awanto 3’s Su What? sounded so crisp on the system and had the crowd bouncing along right from the start.
Moving to the main room, I caught the last hour of Anthony Parasole, who went for a more Berghain-leaning sound peppered with some nods to the UK with a remix of Midland’s Trace. Having been slightly thinner when we arrived, the crowd was in full force now, awaiting the arrival of Tobias. One of the beauties of a live set is that it doesn’t afford you the temptation to spend two hours Shazamming til the cows come home. Whatever the equivalent is of putting your feet up in a club, we did it, and just enjoyed it to the maximum; it was perfect from start to finish. After asking him how long he’d had his Roland 808, Tobias simply answered ‘I bought it new, in 1982’. Was silly to expect anything less.
My only minor annoyance in watching Tobias was that I was completely and blissfully unaware that I was missing a masterclass from Ryan Elliot in The Tunnel. I’m told that very little sleep – if any at all – was involved between his Mulletover and Bristol appearances, but I heard someone describe it as a teacher taking a vinyl workshop in a Berlin basement.
Meanwhile, back in the mainroom, I was rooted to the spot, waiting for Marcel Dettmann. Having been a little disappointed by his last Bristol appearance at Simple Things Festival, I was really expecting, nay hoping, for big things. Starting with Ohara from Efdemin’s recently released Decay LP, Dettmann ploughed through in his own inimitable style of techno. His set was uncompromising and kick-drum heavy, but the crowd loved every second of it. Unlike his friend and other Berghain juggernaut Ben Klock, Dettmann hardly lifts his head while mixing, focussing intently on the turntables in front of him. This made for a compelling set, and one that called for the utmost respect to its originator. The only time I saw him lift his eye-line was to give a nod to a few of us standing at the front as he finished with his remix of Moderat’s Bad Kingdom. It was an incredibly moving final track, rounding off what had musically been the best night in Bristol for a long while.
Two side observations about the night are worth pointing out. First, was the flawless mixing from every Ostgut member on the bill. Usually you’d expect to hear the odd lapse and some out of sync panic from the DJ trying to bring it back at least once, but not on Friday. It was a testament to the class of DJs that were providing the soundtrack to the night.
Second, was how seamless the collaboration was between Ostgut and Shapes. Both are supremely dedicated to their craft and work tirelessly to ensure their visions are made a reality. The sound in the main room really was something to behold, a project which took much of the day to tune to perfection, and something that very few other nights in Bristol would bother with. That alone makes Shapes a top force to be reckoned with in Bristol and much further afield. The quiet assurance they brought to the night was coupled perfectly with the feeling of Ostgut Ton as a whole, and the two worlds of Berlin and Bristol collided with precision.