Lost Baggage feat. Alex Smoke and Matthias Tanzmann @ The Cross, Sydney (03/05/08)

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When you dress up for Lost Baggage, you can be sure the club looks the part too. Each monthly theme completely transforms the sleek surrounds of The Cross, from Bollywood trimmings to ‘Aeroplane Anarchy’. This time round, with two stellar producers headlining, it’s fitting that we’ll be getting lost in space.

While John Devecchis consummately warms the main dancefloor, the club buzzes like a David Bowie acid trip. It’s likely tin foil sales in Sydney experienced an upturn this week. Bar girls maneuver beer taps in makeshift spacesuits, the walls resemble an Alien set and everywhere there’s flashing wands, dangling tubes and – naturally – some moon-sized pupils. As with past installments, the visuals are cleverly tailored too: astronauts, planets and garbled transmissions all spliced together.

In the more intimate Bump room, Bjorn Wilke is proving why it’s good to have a German in residence. The man has been sharing himself around since settling in Sydney, and he’s always an asset. Tonight the floor is quick to respond to his streamlined tech-house session, full of clicky grooves and warm pads.

As one am passes and Alex Smoke lingers at the bar, Devecchis puts together the ideal final half hour. Never one to rush the gate, his selections have just the right amount of depth and jack. He’s not one to show the seams either, gliding between tracks with an even hand. A dub remix of Stereotyp’s Keepin’ Me shimmers up to appreciative cheers, before it bleeds back in to another punchy deep houser.

After such a galvanising set, interest seems to dwindle as Smoke opens his laptop. People start chatting and drifting distractedly around the dancefloor, making for an odd detachment. It doesn’t help that the star of the show isn’t big on crowd interaction. Regardless, in this reviewer’s opinion his live set unfurls as grippingly as it did at Minimal Fuss last week or Chinese Laundry a year ago. The sonorous space between the beats, those skittering, stop-start melodies that are so distinctively Alex Smoke, the persistent pulse that pulls it along…there’s no doubt of his prodigious talent.

It’s true, though, that he can meander, and a lubricated club isn’t always receptive to that. And so it goes – certain tracks connect, others flounder, but the artistry is indisputable. Naturally, the Paradolia album still features strongly in his repertoire, with Meany and Persona nicely offsetting the more ambient numbers. There’s something special about a contained two-hour live show sandwiched between DJ sets, and – at least to these ears – Smoke puts together a cohesive narrative. The tail-end comes off the best with the crowd, spearheaded by growling techno weapon Brian’s Lung.

While all this is going on, Matthias Tanzmann is putting the bump in the Bump Lounge. Such a hit when he last played in Sydney at Bread & Butter, the Moon Harbour man is again on-point. The close quarters are a perfect fit for his steadily building barrage of wonky house and deep techno (including a few of his own cuts, most notably Keep On ). There’s probably no more apt description of his DJ style that his album title Restless – but it’s a cohesive kind of restlessness.

The loopier techno business is happening out on the main floor, courtesy of residents Emerson and Murat. They win back those who strayed during Alex Smoke, laying it on with characteristic panache. It’s heads-down till close – just the way it should be. After this space mission, coming back to earth won’t be easy.

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