Therapy Sessions feat. Paul Blackout @ Brown Alley, Sydney (18/07/08)
Mon 4th Aug, 2008 Event Reviews 1442 viewsin
The main drawcard for this reviewer getting to the Therapy Sessions show at Brown Alley was Paul Blackout. Putting Bloodyfist Records next to an artist’s name is always likely to call up a more than usual level of interest for me, and Paul’s releases on Bloodyfist including The Number 12” and his remix of De-Koder’s Knife certainly linger in the memory. The added bonuses – SPL from the US and Nanotek from NZ were random factors, unknown quantities, before the evening began. Nevertheless, it seemed prudent to experience this eclectic night of drum and bass and breakcore in as entire a form as possible. So the review starts with SPL.
A well known name in dark drum n’ bass circles, SPL has recorded on Freak, Lost Soul, Habit and is now about to release his first album on self-run label Hollowpoint Recordings. For Therapy Sessions he threw down a well controlled mixture of dubstep, expera broken beat and definitely some dark up front drum n’ bass. Spinning for 3 hours in total, the reasonably small but tight enthusiastic crowd definitely appreciated the variety in his stylings… While he did a few fade mixes between arguably really different styles and tempos, the majority of his mixing was impressively tight, and he wasn’t afraid of a rewind. The fades did sound incongruous though and for this reviewer didn’t add anything to the flow of the evening’s proceedings – it’s the one part I definitely thought his set could have omitted. But the tunes were definitely strong and the crowd showed their footwork in appreciation.
The only other criticism that could be leveled at his set – and it’s certainly nothing that he personally could have controlled, but the sound itself was seriously lacking punch. Unfortunately, it seems an era of sound restrictions has indeed set in at Brown Alley – whether just management preference or due to neighborly sound complaints, dark drum n’ bass and breakcore have a lot going on sonically – complexity, nuance, lots of heavily processed sound, often a whole shebang of subbass and kicks let alone tricky high end. When the sound is low and has the quality of being emitted from inside a deep sea sponge, you know it’s going to affect the entertainment value. And unfortunately for our appreciation of the evening’s tunage – it did to some extent.
After SPL, Nanotek took to the stage. Of the three artists on show, Nanotek was unfortunately this reviewer’s least favourite. Certainly he didn’t lack competence and the tunes were neither ill chosen or inappropriate, but his set somehow seemed to lack the dynamism of SPL’s or later Paul Blackout’s. He played hard drum n’ bass, and quite a bit of super distorted break-alike stuff without going all the way into breakcore or anything super destructive. Around this time, the entertainment shifted from being purely about the music to being at least partially about a certain Melbourne DJ who shall remain nameless for his own dignity’s sake, parading around a blow up doll dancing with it behind the decks, and another couple of likelies walking around the crowd with a Freddy vs Jason cardboard stand up.
At 4am, Paul Blackout took to the stage. The moment had been long awaited, not least because due to the lock-in there’s no leaving and returning for any punters, and perhaps for that reason alone it meant Paul still had a solid enough crowd to work his magic to. He’s a great DJ for dark and distorted sounds, with the occasional pleasing dose of binlid-down-the-stairs that breakcore alone can bring to the mix. I watched him at work keeping the spirits of the dedicated up as he mixed on point with determination and concentration, until 5am when it sadly seemed these spirits couldn’t be whipped into anything more than a taxi home. If the sound had been able to support the quality of his tunes, perhaps I and a number of other punters who seemed to be bailing around that time – might have stayed a little longer.
All in all, a fantastic night sonically, with special props to Mr Blackout as always and SPL, but the sound so needed sorting in order to give that night the push into overdrive it needed to be truly memorable. Nevertheless, an admirably risky gig on behalf of the promoters, and a welcome dose of darkness for the drum n’ bass faithful of Melbourne. We await the next one.