Monday, March 5, 2012

Espionage feat. Africa Hitech @ Miss Libertine, 3/3/12

Halfway through the Summer Innit party in February, Scotty cracked the shits , got on his bike and headed southside to a trance party on the beach.

“When I first moved to Melbourne I spent years going out and supporting the bass scene”, he said as he was leaving. “And you know what? No one ever dances. The crew here are just so fucking uptight!”

I looked around. A hundred or so people sat placidly on the grass around us as the DJ dropped an old jungle remix of the Fugees’ ‘Ready Or Not’. Our mate Daniel was doing his best to ignite the dancefloor, chasing a little kid around with the inexplicable energy of a onetime raw vegan drum ‘n’ bass fiend. But apart from that, an energetic frisbee circle was the closest we’d come to getting our collective boogie on.

This scenario is something of a recurring nightmare: the more adventurous electronic music is stuck in its ghetto of pot-smoking chin-strokers, while the rocking parties are soundtracked by house and trance. It’s like I’m 21 again, and either freaking out at the What Is Music? Festival or queueing up with a heavy heart to get into Q (Adelaide Q).

The good news is, Melbourne has a new crew hellbent on making a mess of these age-old distinctions. In the last year a bit, the Operatives have thrown their Espionage parties with the likes of Flying Lotus, Mount Kimbie, Clark, Marcus Intalex, Nosaj Thing, Klute and Martyn. On the same date as my birthday bash last month they put on Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Araabmuzik and Balam Acab at Roxanne – just about the most so-hot-right-now lineup I can recall seeing (even on paper) in Australia.

So when Scotty grooves over to me on Saturday night, with Africa Hitech easing into their 3-hour set at Miss Libertines, gestures despairingly at the crowd and shouts in my ear that “Someone has to shake these people up!”… well, it’s not a good sign. Except that onstage Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek are beginning to do just that, moving from the soulful reggae-infused breakbeats of their opening into Shangaan electro vibes. Happy hardcore party in a South African village, anyone?

As the music heads for the darker climes of grime and dubstep, Scotty starts to shake himself and the dancefloor up with some frenetic moves that raise the bar – and draw looks of bemusement and admiration from the odd chin-stroking bystander. But before long he’s back in my ear about the mixing.

“It’s Jamaican style”, I tell him as one track is wound noisily down and another sprints from the blocks. And when you’re traversing as much territory as Africa Hitech are tonight, Jamaican style seems like a safe bet – fair enough too, Kingston is one of their spiritual homes (along with London, Sheffield, Chicago and the afore-mentioned South African village).

It’s not like they never beat mix, either. With the room already cranking at around 160bpm, they bring in “Out In The Streets” to a roar of approval. We all do our best “Melbourne Shuffle Meets Chicago Footwork Inna Dancehall” before BOOM, they drop that classic dub reggae song we all know but I sadly cannot name and then BOOM straight back to “Out In The Streets VIP” – now with extra jungle!

It’s full ragga style and the perfect climax of their set, and from here on they drop one massive drum ‘n’ bass tune after another until I’m retreating to the toilet to douse my head in cold water. JPS AKA Jerry from the Operatives takes over and plays one of the craziest tunes I’ve ever heard first up, but by now I’ve realised I’m done for the night. I’m not 21 any more, after all.

“Top five all-time best music heard in a club”, I suggest to Scotty, and he tells me he’s always going to trust my musical recommendations from now on.

Well, my next tip is pretty obvious: Espionage featuring Jacques Greene, Machinedrum and Funkineven on Easter Sunday night. Sweet baby Jesus! And tomorrow night Jerry AND Mark Pritchard are back supporting Aphex Twin at the Palace.

I just hope we’re not the only ones dancing.

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