We Love Sounds @ Hordern Complex, Sydney (10/06/07)

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There’s little doubt that winter can be a miserable time of year. But somehow, every June long weekend the Sounds Group manage to get around 12,000 people to crawl out of their warm, comfortable beds and rock out for twelve straight hours to some of the best acts this city has ever seen. And so it was with great anticipation many attended this year’s edition of the We Love Sounds festival, and (for most of them at least) it certainly didn’t disappoint.

To begin with I’m going to have to apologise as there were several acts that I just didn’t get around to seeing. With such a huge lineup spread across so many arenas, it was always going to be a difficult task to catch everyone.

Before getting stuck in to the music, a few words need to be said about the setting, production and logistics of the festival. The venue and production were both spectacular. From the cavernous Hordern Pavilion to the concrete-floored 3D World Tent, no expense was spared in making the festival a wonder for the eyes and ears. The sound in every room was loud, punchy and crystal clear while the lighting and visuals (in the Forum in particular) were nearly hypnotic. Logistically, some of the problems encountered at last year’s festival still didn’t seem to have been ironed out by the organisers. There were still extensive waits to enter the arenas at times, and there were simply not enough food outlets to cater to 12,000 people. Nonetheless, these were on the whole minor issues that really couldn’t detract from an excellent day of music.

Speaking of music…

The Minimal Fuss DJs and then Robbie Lowe were given the task of kicking off proceedings in The Forum. The Minimal Fuss boys kept it nice and techy with punchy minimal and house-based grooves mixed together sublimely. Robbie then took the music in a slightly more driving direction, laying down some ballsy, melodic progressive before segueing into some loopy techno. Of course his mixing was tight as a duck’s exit hole, but really, I doubt anyone expected anything less from him.

The first international of the day Zoo Brazil then took over the controls and preceded to stick two fingers up in the air to his time slot, banging out music more suitable to 2am rather than 2pm. Kicking off with some deep, driving, punchy progressive, Brazil soon worked his way through some ‘darker than dark’ slamming techno before returning to some slightly more accessible electro house and thumping progressive. Technically he was capable but not mind-blowing, and overall his set seemed to lack any sense of cohesion: individual tracks were excellent, but they didn’t seem to gel together neatly as a whole.

Over in the 3D World Tent, Deepchild was rocking a small but vocal and up-for-it crowd with a wicked selection of bouncy, booty-wobbling tech house including The Martin Brothers’ Stoopit and his own remix of In White Rooms from Booka Shade. Not content just to act the DJ for the day, Deepchild was also laying down some extra synths, loops, squeaks and beeps using a laptop and drum machine, adding an extra bit of spice to his already cracking tune selection.

Next up Jimi Polar & Jamie Lloyd brought their trademark Future Classic sound to the table, and boy was it tasty. Playing on what looked like enough equipment to launch a space shuttle, Polar and Lloyd worked hard behind the laptops, Korg, Moog, mixers and microphone, playing one of the tightest live sets I’ve heard in a very long time. Blending the deep, funky tech house grooves of their own original material with some tougher cuts like Piccadilly Circuits by Williams, the duo quickly filled up the room and kept it packed for their set.

Meanwhile Riton (possibly the nerdiest looking man in dance music) was doing a fine job over in the Royal Hall of Industries, throwing down a great selection of old school rave techno, fidget house and ballsy electro. While portions of the crowd didn’t seem to really ‘get it’, most were lapping up his cheeky nods to the old school, especially when he dropped the old rave classic This Is Acid.

Over in the Forum, Spirit Catcher were in full flight. Displaying enough energy behind the decks to power a small town, the duo laid down exactly what their fans were expecting and a whole lot more. Bouncy, funky, nu-skool disco cuts like Esoterik’s Starwaves sat perfectly alongside brain melting acid house and chunky tech grooves, including the thunderous Shelley’s by Journeyman DJ. Their combination of DJing and live performance was both interesting and flawlessly pulled off, with the extra layers, synths, basslines and sound effects often being impossible to pick up as not originally being part of the tunes being laid down.

Back in the Royal Hall of Industries D Ramirez was playing a set, that although not to this reviewer’s personal taste, was certainly working for the crowd. Mostly full of massive electro house cuts like his own remix of Roger Sanchez’s Lost, it seemed like he was a little afraid of playing more in tune with his recent Ministry of Sound mix compilation, in which he tried to push the boundaries a little with some darker, more groove-based tunes.

After Spirit Catcher, Ben Watt was given the opportunity to show the crowd just exactly what he was capable of. Despite mixing exceptionally well, and laying down a fantastic mix of deep house, tech and even some bouncy minimal-style tunes like Sebo K Dance For Me, Badmouth Anymore and Darkmountaingroup Lose Control, Watt’s sound just seemed far too deep to follow on properly from Spirit Catcher’s energetic performance. That’s rather unfortunate for Ben, because given an earlier set time I’m sure his sound would have been much more appreciated.

While Ben Watt did his thing, Surkin had the Bang Gang tent literally dripping with sweat. Now this reviewer is not the biggest fan of the noisy French electro sound, but I found myself thoroughly impressed by this young ‘un’s taste in tunes. His set seemed to have a depth and polish about it that has been severely lacking amongst the likes of Justice and the rest of the Ed Banger crew.

Back in the Forum Audiofly, complete with what many people mistook for iPod headphones, proceeded to test the limits of the sound system (and the crowd’s digestive systems) with some massive bassline-driven minimal and techno. Dark, rolling and percussive are the best way to describe their sound, and the crowd absolutely lapped it up. Audion’s Mouth To Mouth and Another Man by Oxia went down an absolute treat, as did the final twenty odd minutes of their set which was full of thumping melodic tech house.

Over in the Hordern, festival headliner DJ Shadow was in full flight on decks, CDJs, DVJs, effects units, samplers, and god knows what else. Not being a hip-hop trainspotter I can’t say much of what was played, but I can say that it was outstanding. Shadow’s skills behind the decks have to be seen to be believed while Gift of the Gab provided an excellent vocal accompaniment. And as expected, his trademark trippy visuals were out in force across the massive visual screens, adding immeasurably to the performance and blowing the minds of everybody present in the venue.

Finally, in one of the worst set times clashes I’ve personally had to deal with, Tiga, Hernan Cattaneo and One+One closed out the festival in the Hordern, The Forum and the Royal Hall of Industries respectively. Tiga played a surprisingly dark and twisted set, dispelling a lot of doubts that he’d play a whole lot of derivative electro cheese, and while Cattaneo’s set was a fist pumping prog-a-thon, including the massive bassline driven monster Roadkill from Dubfire.

But it was the duo of One+One who stole the show. The meek, shy geek James Zabiela and his humble, friendly partner in crime Nic Fanciulli played what was possibly the set of the day. Despite meandering through a lot of sounds, the set was focused mainly around stomping, bass-heavy techno grooves. Alexkid’s Afterblaster, Valentino Kanzyani’s remix of Outhouse and a re-edit of Sasha’s Xpander were major highlights of the set, but there was also plenty of unreleased goodness in there too. And technically the boys were jaw-droppingly good. Their mixing was perfect, their set flowed extremely well and James’ effects and scratching left people with stunned looks on their faces.

Yes yes I’m well aware this is a long review, but when there’s so much quality that needs to be discussed and it was always going to be that way. So I’ll leave it there for now, but I’ll finish up by strongly urging anyone who missed out this year to buy their tickets early next year: because you know it’ll be equally as good.

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