28th October at Warehouse Project, Store Street
In the 1973 classic horror film The Wicker Man starring Christoper Lee, a conservative Christian policeman investigates an isolated pagan island called Summerisle. Much like Warehouse Project, Summerisle is beset by ritualistic singing and atavistic mating rituals. A desolate area controlled by pervasive forces that are beyond normal comprehension. Central Manchester is an odd place to be sometimes, especially for a night out. You are forced to run the gauntlet of high-vis ‘matey’ bouncers who learnt their manners from Donald Trump and prod and probe you all over. This hard exterior melts away once you get in to the bleary heat and swaying drunks of Store Street.
Ninja Tune is home to some of the biggest names in music right now, with acts such as Roots Manuva, Kate Tempest, Run the Jewels, and Manchester’s own Mr. Scruff all signed to the label. Their line up for the night was phenomenal as it included Bonobo, Jon Hopkins, Giles Peterson, and Romare.
Jon Hopkins opened the night in the cavernous main room, weirdly starting by playing ‘This Charming Man’ at full blast as a quick nod to Manchester, but then straight into Hopkin’s idiosyncratic blend of minimalist ebbs and flows. This is accompanied by a psychedelic combination of red and pink hues to match his electronica. His performance of ‘Every Open Eye’ stands out, although I was left with the feeling that he had somewhat limited himself to his sound, although that might be the point.
The crowd at this point were in that sort of bumbling but pushy phase so I snuck out to explore Room 2. Having never listened to Fakear before I was pleasantly surprised. In contrast to the crushing heat of Jon Hopkins, Room 2 is pleasantly draughty with tasteful living room lighting. After Fakear came Romare’s DJ set.
One of the things about Ninja Tune is that many of their acts are unafraid to be fun. Too many nights seem to involve someone playing obtuse minimalist beats, or just taking themselves too seriously. But go to a Mr. Scruff night, or listen to a Romare Boiler Room and it’s just easy, unpretentious fun, which speaks volumes about the skill of the acts.
Bonobo nailed this with a tropicalia-themed set that went on until the early hours, until the warehouse got stickier and slowly empties out. As the sweat condensed on the ceiling it dripped down, adding another unassuming thin layer to the calcified walls. Although this isn’t too different from any other layer it stands as a monument to all those who were there.
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