Live Review: Tief & NTS present Beats in Space

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People generally pay attention when Tim Sweeney comes to town. Under normal circumstances, the Beats In Space founder is more than enough to entice people along, but NTS Radio and Tief really pulled out the stops when they took over three floors of Peckham’s Bussey Building. Accompanied by DJ Sprinkles, Matt Karmil, Mount Liberation Unlimited, Palmbomen II, Mr Tophat and Kasra V, the label owner and radio host descended on the South London venue for a special evening last Friday.

Despite the impressive lineup, I had some doubts about the location. Considering the incredible array of artists I’ve seen play Bussey over the last few years, it has often provided quite an underwhelming setting. But that wasn’t the case this time around. What seemed like a change in the lighting created quite an immersive environment in the main room and Kasra V warmed things up as the crowd mingled at the bar. Gradually enticing people over to the dance floor with an inviting, downtempo selection, the NTS host finished oiling up the crowd with Dude Energy’s ‘Renee Running’. One of those you have to hear over a proper system to fully appreciate, it was near on impossible not to lose myself in the swells of bass and expansive, resonant synth washes that abruptly engulfed the room at its most dramatic moment. Considering the recent debate about the role of the warmup DJ, here was a lesson in how to do it properly.

Hunched over a mass of hardware and wires with a mess of long hair obscuring his face, Palmbomen II looked like he was giving us his best Legowelt impression. I tried to get a look at the setup, but a combination of flashing lights and enthusiastic dancers meant I could only pick out his Roland TR-707 and a Pittsburgh Modular 10.1. Regardless, it was an impressive array of machines and if you’d listened to his eponymous album release on Beats In Space Records, you knew what to expect. His ability to maintain the momentum of the dance with an expansive live set of chugging, half-tempo acid is something to be admired and the dazzling electronics of ‘Mary Louise Lefante’ were a definite highlight.

Upstairs, the second room had been beefed up with a rig from TPI Sound. A towering stack of loudspeakers, it added some serious weight to the sets from Tophat, Sprinkles and Mount Liberation Unlimited. It was a shame that hardly anyone was there to catch Mr Tophat with most of the crowd stilling milling around on the first floor, but I did sneak a peak of what sounded like a typically tight selection from the Swede.

Mount Liberation Unlimited burst onto the scene after some glowing endorsement from Gerd Janson and the hype surrounding their first UK live show was almost palpable. Again, an imposing setup of gear cluttered the table while the duo buzzed around, playing tried-and-tested productions like overnight classic, ‘Clinton Space Funk’, while also testing out some of their newer productions. Forthcoming on Superconscious Records, ‘Glow On’ sounded fantastic over the TPI system, bewitching the crowd with absorbing synth textures before a boisterous crescendo sent the room into raptures.

Split over three floors, it was always going to be a struggle to see everyone. I elected to give Matt Karmil a miss in favour of MLU and DJ Sprinkles (although I did hear him playing Kowton’s ‘Glock and Roll’ for a moment). Despite my unwavering admiration for the latter, I couldn’t get into what was playing. She seemed quite disengaged with the crowd – some of whom had specifically come all the way from Scotland – a quality rarely associated with the remarkable talent that is Sprinkles.

Always the consummate selector, Tim Sweeney closed the main room with a set that meandered between the various corners of the musical tapestry that is Beats In Space. Alongside MLU, the New York native stood out with a selection packed full of peak time ordnance, primed for the dance floor. Occasionally reaching for the obscure, he wasn’t shy to playing tracks that have been in heavy rotation of late either (including Bicep’s Dyone edit and MCDE’s famed Bassline Dub of ‘Grand Central Part I’). Despite a dwindling crowd, he maintained full control of the dance floor and the hardy souls that danced to the end were rewarded for their loyalty with some of Sweeney’s finest. A fitting end to an evening that saw Tief really flex their muscles and by the looks of their Autumn/Winter programming, they won’t be slowing down any time soon.

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