Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Why do DJ’s allow MC’s onto the stage? This was the question that I had drilled into my head by whoever was behind the mic next to Hudson Mohawke – “…Hudson Mo’, Hudson Mo’… can you feel the fire? Is that fire? Make some noise?” Mohawke makes music that is like a more blissful Prefuse 73, wonderful stuff, creative – energetic… but then there’s some bloke talking over it in an American accent which makes the whole affair feel like an Outkast set. To be fair, I may have been the only person in the room who took issue with it, and an MC serves a useful purpose at times and at times he was welcome but this was way too much.
Let me get this straight, Hudson Mohawke’s music really is exciting and that was put across wonderfully by the set and the longer, altered mixes he put out – the highlight of it all was probably the extended take of Star Crackout, with a sample of what I think was Pentangle looped over until it disappears into high-pitch – stunning. What I most enjoyed was the fact that the rest of the crowd stopped dancing, possibly in confusion or perhaps in awe as they groggily realised that the beat had been replaced with a harpsichord. At this point, a girl behind me in the crowd decided to run her finger along the top of my ear – which was fairly bizarre. Maybe the visceral energy of this spectacle put her in some sort of nonsensical trance or maybe she just liked the look of the back of my head.
I realised soon after that not a small portion of the crowd had absolutely no qualms with spending Auntie’s Christmas money on some beans to flick down their throat (which put the previous incident into newfound context) and I realised that, like Andre 3000, that everyone felt like a millionaire. At some point the MC left the stage for the young Glaswegian to wipe the floor with the crowd and a little celtic synth-whistle called FUSE, which was the reason I came here and was thoroughly splendid.
I’m impressed, not least because I have spent the last few years watching in slight disappointment as Warp watered down their legendary stable of genuinely interesting synthesizer-based electronic explorers (Autechre, Aphex, BoC) with murky forays into several things that can only be really described as thinly veiled indiefolktronica (I’m already not making any friends here – that includes you… Gravenhurst, Broadcast, Grizzly Bear, Maximo Park) whose main effect was to make Warp look like it had lost its way a bit. Even their new more ‘experimental’ artists like Leila just seemed a little bit lackluster. Okay, there were Battles, Gang Gang Dance and (possibly, lets wait and see) Babe Rainbow who pushed the boat out in their own perfect ways, but this HudMo guy’s fantastic, and Warp have got themselves their most interesting signing in years. There is a definite comparison to be drawn with Boards of Canada, who were one of the most interesting producers to come out of Scotland for 15 years, putting out a similar format of wonky-hiphop beats with driving, psychedelic synths. Elsewhere there’s lashings of Prefuse 73. The thing I like the most about all of this is that while somehow recalling the great works Warp put out all through the ’90s, it’s brought smack up to date and still seems as invigorating as any of the most complex things done over the last few years. You can see he’s riding the zeitgeist – and his visuals included a synched-up Keyboard Cat… And what’s cooler than being cool?