Underland is the setting tonight for the joining of forces of two of Manchester’s best loved promoters. With their collective might they’ve pulled in a very strong line up, stacked with four headline acts.
On my first visit I was eager to see what the “brand new art club and venue experience” had to offer. The top room is fairly unorthodox: the dance floor is located on a raised platform; this left half the room below, stretching from the bar at one end to the back wall, in an odd no man’s land state in which no one appeared comfortable to dance. A bit gimmicky. As I ascended the platform stairs however, the atmosphere was vibrant and Palms Trax was kicking off the night in style.
As the man behind one of the best releases of 2013, Palm Trax’s position as the lowest headline name on the bill really highlighted the quality of the bookings. His set impressively had a peak time feel early on with the whole room – well, platform – responding enthusiastically to the prime selection of techno classics such as Larry Heard’s ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ and newer tracks such as his own infectiously euphoric ‘Equation’.
Moving downstairs to the basement provided a more familiar dance space, dark and level – perfect for some techno which Alex Coulton duly provided. Seeing the resident Mancunian had been a long time coming after my first attempt in May of 2013 ended dismally with just 4 people turning up to Joshua Brooks for the night. Consequently the bouncers sensing an early night kicked everyone out and shut up shop before he even got to the decks. Thankfully the sell-out crowd tonight stopped a repeat and Coulton delivered a strong set showcasing the influence of his local upbringing sliced with that of his Bristolian label mates by dropping tracks from the likes of Akkord and Beneath.
Next on upstairs was the latest hyped Detroit talent Jay Daniel. It’s easy to forget that Daniel is a relative newcomer with only two releases under his belt with all the attention he’s received of late. If the pressure of expectation is being felt, he certainly doesn’t show it. Indeed, his often arrogant social media updates display he has the character to take this all in his stride. Admittedly it must be said, his confidence is certainly well placed: his set resembles that of established Detroit stars, namely his chief-championer Theo Parrish and frequent collaborator Kyle Hall. The forefront of his sound remains percussion heavy and pounding, and the penetration of acidic undertones adds immersive depth and danceability.
Closing the night downstairs is techno duo Dense & Pika. They prove worthy of their headline status and, for me, are the highlight of the night. If you’re familiar with their ‘hit’ – ‘Colt’ – then this track serves as a perfect example of their sets. The emotive piano chords punctuating the uncompromising percussion reflects the dark techno that dominates their set being spliced with moments of vivid clarity. One such example provides me with a defining club moment: the airing of one of my all-time favourite tracks, Oni Ayhun’s ‘OAR003-B’. The soaring, blissful masterpiece slots in seamlessly amongst the more aggressive cuts. Achieving this blend evenly and effectively proves the adeptness of the duos mixing capabilities.
The teaming up of Selective Hearing and Hi Ku was highly successful with all acts impressing and the night retaining a consistent feel with no loss of either promoter’s identity. Let’s hope they maintain this relationship.