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Groove Odyssey presents Masters At Work review

We sent Josiah Hartley to Ministry of Sound to spend the first day of the year with Masters At Work.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 8th Jan 2016

Images: Ministry of Sound Club

In recent years, NYD has increasingly become a favourable day for party-goers to welcome in the new year at one of countless club events on offer. For some, it’s the perfect way to avoid the overcrowded mayhem of New Year’s Eve, while for the insatiable hedonist seeking another night of festive fun, it can make for a very tempting second option.

Although when the event happens to be Groove Odyssey - the UK’s leading clubnight for deep, funky and soulful house - with none other than “Little” Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, aka Masters At Work heading the bill at Ministry of Sound, it becomes a little more than tempting. For the discerning fan of underground house music, really it’s a no brainer.

Additionally, the main supporting line-up was of superb quality and featured Detroit Swindle - the hotshot Dutch duo currently on everyone’s lips, Sheffield based producer/DJ ThatmanMonkz, and up-and-coming UK house trio LongPlay.

First in line to kick the party off was Monkz, who did a fine job of setting the tone with some alluring deep afro-tech house, which was well received by the growing mass of punters in the ‘103’ room.

Around midnight the reins were handed over to Detroit Swindle, who had the privilege of a five hour slot to rock the crowd. And that they did throughout the night with a set of bright, energetic, deep house rollers, very representative of their New Jersey flavoured production style.

Since their formation around five years ago the Amsterdam-based production duo have found huge success and widespread admiration with their impressive slew of releases and radiant DJ sets. Judging by the euphoric party vibe they created in the 103 it’s not difficult to see why.

In the main room known as ‘The Box’, veteran DJ partnership, Bobby & Steve came correct with a mix of upfront, sophisticated house grooves that the energetic crowd lapped right up with utmost joy.

As always with Groove Odyssey, the event brought out a mixed bunch of varying ages, from the older heads – a proportion of whom were probably out raving first time round to some of 90’s house tunes that were aired during the night. Through to a new generation of youngsters in their early twenties living those golden moments right now. The key point is everyone here is united by a genuine love for house music, regardless of age, gender or race. 

With the hot seat nicely warmed up by the resident DJs, the legends that are Kenny Dope and Louie Vega took to the decks to the sound of appreciative cheers and applause from the excited attendees. The last time we caught the pair perform together was at last year’s 51st State Festival, where they played an unsurprisingly mind-blowing set.

On that occasion the set was a mere 2 hour stint in comparison to tonight’s gargantuan 5 hour slot. And the obvious difference being that said gig took place outdoors, whereas this time it’s inside the world famous nightclub setting of Ministry of Sound on New Year's Day 2016. A day which marks the beginning of a milestone 25th year anniversary for the superclub. With all that in mind, this set was sure to be the stuff of legend.

The native New Yorkers started off on a deep and funky tip, before steadily working the lively revellers with tracky, house cuts to lead them into the spiritual zone of no return. With that achieved the pair kept up the momentum, dropping tune after tune to maintain the high-spirited vibe of the heaving Box.

As the night progressed into the wee hours, they elevated the dancefloor higher with deep, uplifting, soulful numbers, several of which included their own timeless productions and remixes such as their classy rework of BeBe Winan’s ‘Thank You’ (above).

With the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, the Masters regularly pushed and pulled, teasing them with earworm melodies from choice records like Kerri Chandler’s ‘Rain’, before shifting gears in the mix, then going full throttle with the track to which point everyone on the dancefloor was completely bereft of all inhibitions, and immersed in the hypnotic groove.

Given that Vega and Gonzalez had five hours at their disposal, the production duo were able to take the crowd down a musical rabbit hole full of unpredictable twists and turns. One notable instance came in the shape of an excursion into the nucleus of house music: soul, funk and disco.

At this point the duo dug deep into the crates, not only to entertain, but to musically educate the crowd. For many this was a highlight segment of the set, which saw forgotten gems from the Salsoul archives get a look in, such as ‘Here’s To You’ by Skyy (below).

These skilfully-timed changes of style and pace kept the enthusiastic punters on their toes in both senses of the expression. It also gave some revellers the opportunity to have a good old sing-a-long, slow down the nimble footwork a little, and give their legs a rest from the more intense, up-tempo beats. 

Another particular standout moment later on in the MAW set was when they upped the tempo and dropped a bumpin’ selection of late 90s garage anthems including Tuff Jam’s ‘Tumblin Down’ and Armand Van Helden’s seminal remix of CJ Bolland’s ‘Sugar is Sweeter’ to name a couple. The latter track especially got an enormous reaction, whereby the entire dancefloor erupted with renewed vigour, once the monstrous bassline dropped.

And believe us, you could really FEEL that b-line. Anyone who has previously attended a dance music event at Ministry Of Sound can validate that the club’s award-winning sound-system is absolutely phenomenal.  The atmosphere was electric and felt like a time warp back to a classic UKG rave during the scenes heyday. 

If there was any prior uncertainty from anyone new to the gifted talents of either Kenny Dope or Louie Vega, this exemplary set provided emphatic proof why they truly live up to their self-assured moniker. A perfect start to the new year, courtesy of the veritable Masters of their trade.

Like this? Try Luv Dancin presents Kenny Dope review

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