R.E.G.E.N pres. Tipper (UK) & Spoonbill @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (06/02/10)

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Whether it be the ‘Acid Test’ spectacles of swinging sixties San Francisco, or the hardcore acid-house raves in 1980s Britain, club culture has long shared a symbiotic relationship with the psychedelic. This relates in part to the fuelled-up semi-psychosis of underground dance floors; but the fact that these mystical extravaganzas have always provided radical escapism from the humdrum of nine to five is no less significant.

Saturday night (February 6) at the Oxford Art Factory (presented by R.E.G.E.N and featuring the UK’s nu breaks musical brainwasher Tipper) was an otherworldly, escapist fantasy; a visually stimulating tripped out dreamscape; a kaleidoscope of light and sound.

The regular glitz and glam handbag clubbers of Oxford Art were replaced with dreadlocked hippies, Where’s Wally impersonators (“Found him!”), a 65-year-old femme fatale donning chain-linked facial piercings and a suggestive leather corset, and a seven-foot-tall Marilyn Manson lookalike wearing fluoro-green tights. A diverse constituency that was anything but straight-laced.

This mise-en-scene aroused the senses. A jittery rainbow of lights skittering erratically around the sunken dance floor, oversized oriental ornaments dangling from the rooftop, an obese light-emitting sphere perched precariously beneath the towering DJ booth, and black and white projector screens displaying grainy, unrecognizable images.

And let’s not forget the music. From the bass-heavy intricacies and eccentric wonky beats of Monk Fly; to the queen of off-beat Australian glitch-hop, Ghettafunkt; to the snatch-and-grab musical free-for-all of Sydney’s tribal breakbeat mystic, Bentley. From the nature-influenced, superbly synthesized ethereal creations of bumble; to overt displays of psychedelic euphoria by DJs Deep Cycle and Paul Fraser.

Foggy-brained dancers became increasingly mystified as the night progressed, staring dreamily into space as they melted into the sounds, or frenetically weaving their fingers before their eyes like alien appendages. Their spaced-out, loved-up mood intensified at about midnight, as consumption began to take effect and DJ/producer Spoonbill entered the limelight. His down-tempo dance floor bangers, spooky sound effects, quirky off-centre climaxes and multi-layered electronic experiments elevated him briefly to divine status.

But it was British producer/DJ Tipper who thundered supreme and stole Spoonbill’s mystic throne. For over a decade this prolific musical inventor has been renowned in underground circuits for smashing the claustrophobic boundaries of dance genres and generating devastating nu breaks, electronica and trip hop.

His set was an entirely foreign, yet exhilarating, experience. His frightening sounds were a non-stop barrage of aural effects and electronic mastery. Everything was intensely tweaked, from the consistently distorted vocals, to the classical music rendered unrecognisable by echoes and reverb. But it was his jungle-influenced elements of (literally) bowel-quivering sub-bass that smothered ecstatic dancers, and (probably) caused numerous heart palpitations.

Despite this, his stage presence was hardly remarkable. There was zero crowd interaction, and at times he appeared passive, even bored. However, since everyone seemed intent on exploring their own individual thrill space, this fault seemed to matter little.

On Saturday night, participating time and space travellers were able to escape to a wonderland of fantasy, and they were offered a glimpse at just how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

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