Mike Warburton joined in the Meat Free festivities at Blueprint's star-studded 20th anniversary party at Mantra Warehouse on Saturday. Read his review here.
Last updated: 19th Apr 2016. Originally published: 18th Apr 2016
Photo: Helena Hauff at Meat Free Credit: Meat Free
Launched way back in 1996 by James Ruskin and then collaborator Richard Polson, Blueprint Records has repeatedly proven itself be one of the most vital components of techno in the UK, providing a platform for producers on the outskirts of electronic music to explore their edgier sides whilst keeping the dancefloor in mind.
20 years is one hell of a milestone in dance music, even more so for a record label that’s managed to maintain its high quality throughout, so upon clamping eyes on Meat Free’s star-studded line up, anyone with even the slightest of affections for British techno institution knew they had to be at Mantra Warehouse on Saturday April 16th.
Winding through the dusty, bare bricked warehouse corridors and big open concrete spaces, the heavyset beats of the main room beckoned. As we entered, Downwards boss Regis was laying down a banquet of pure heft. Filled with beautifully tuned bass drums and that incessant crunchy hihat that often pervades his DJ sets - the UK techno monarch kept things on a pulverising but hypnotic keel.
Whilst his more delicate side, the kind that’s recently given remixes toRaime, The KVB and Ike Yard was missing, and with obvious reasons, the Sandwell District co-founder was displaying his formidable skills in appeasing a huge room of hungry ravers, something he’s still as much a master of now as he was in the beginning alongside fellow Brummy bad boy Surgeon.
Over in the second room, Objekt was delivering a frankly monumental DJ set, veering between the knackered house of the likes of Annanan (above) and chunky broken techno, Detroit electro and smatterings of experimental bass music. The PAN signed producer kept things exciting and unexpected throughout, bringing whoops and cheers with each switch up of styles.
The main focus of the night, James Ruskin, much like Regis was punishing from the off. He made superb use of the main room sound system which really was one of the stars of the evening. Ruskin’s love of a seismic low end beneath finely crafted, sharp percussion shone as he deftly journeyed through classic Blueprint territory. That and the odd Robert Hood joint brought big, knowing grins throughout a crowd of clearly clued up ravers.
He brought his two hour journey of heavyweight techno to an end with his euphoric, IDM flavoured track ‘Wisdom of Youth’ (above) - the epic saga we’d enjoyed through heads down techno, left of field bass and spine-tingling moments of beauty being the perfect addendum to his label’s singular vision.
However back in the second room, the undisputed set of the night was beginning. Werkdiscs and Lux Rec favourite Helena Hauff took over from Objekt and from the second she stepped up, commanded the floor, delivering an absolute monster of a set that showed us exactly why she’s been on the receiving end of so much widespread praise recently.
Grubby, distorted techno, dark and dingy EBM, knackered, brutal electro and rancid acid were all stitched together with impeccable skill as she kept us moving like a crowd possessed. The Hamburg native was constantly grafting, digging records out of her bag and meshing together fresh new records with dusty hidden gems with the skill of a master selector.
One of many stand out moments arrived early when her track 'Furthermost' from 2014's Shatter Cone EP (above) dropped and frankly destroyed the room. Her set’s frequent shifts an unusual changes, as summed up perfectly in that track, were a joy to witness.
The room was filled with fans, one reveller telling us how he’d come up from Stoke specially to see her after being blown away by her set at Bloc a few weeks previous. The crowd’s mixture of laid back techno fans and real obsessives created a superb blend on the night, and was another of the evening’s success stories.
Whilst there were some teething issues to Meat Free's first event of this size, the lengthy toilet and cloakroom queues were the only missteps of the bash (Meat Free have since addressed this on their Facebook page), and it was nowhere near enough of an issue to take the shine off what was a supreme night.
Berlin based techno veteranLuke Slater arrived to helm the final two hours in the main room, capping off one of the most impressive line ups Manchester has seen in quite some time.
Successful club nights don't hinge entirely on who headlines, but a host of other factors too - the crowd, the vibe, the sound, the venue production, the security staff to punter ratio - the complete package, and its in all these avenues that Meat Free also excelled. It was impeccable stuff, and one hopes the start of many more equally ambitious parties from the Manchester promoters.