It was surprising, then, to arrive at West Central Street to a virtually empty queue near to opening time. Perhaps the perception that this was to be a road block, packed out, heaver of a night was a bit wayward. Beat factor soon strolled into AKA, solicited the cloakroom, boogied it into the end and ordered a depressingly expensive drink. Then, rather quickly, the place became decidedly busier.
A palpable buzz began circuiting the lounge area as Kieran Hebden filled the airwaves with a slick platter of warm leftfield beats, funk-flecked electronica and stripped down, spiky house grooves. The shadows of shimmying bodies darted across the wall beside him, lit up by the projection of the labels eerie logo. Border community has always been a label which explores the more melodic, sometimes uneasy fringes of dance music, and this idiosyncrasy was reflected by a colourful crowd. Scruffy yet chic Shoreditch types, beautiful cosmopolitan hipsters, bearded techno anoraks and rustic ravers swarmed between The Ends twin tunnels and the lounge to check out both musical vibes. As originally predicted, clubbers were out in force for this one. A heady range of miscellaneous European languages and accents emanated from the masses, indicative that The End had also drawn an international crowd to its doors. Ultimately, a seriously inviting atmosphere took shape in the early stages.
One key design flaw of the venue has always been the passage between the main club and sister bar AKA. With the cloakroom smack bang in the middle of the narrow staircase joining the two, congestion can become strong in the early hours. So, although eager to nip up to AKA for a bit of nu-disco peddler Mark E and company, the human traffic involved with that journey instead led Beat Factor into the main room for young Border upstart Avus. The fuzzy, party friendly vibe of the lounge was reflected in the tunnels, but with a more tech-minded undercurrent. This invariably got the main room moving and unleashing a bit of adrenaline. After a brief revisit to the laid back, intimate buzz that we started with during Hebdens set, Beat Factor headed for label boss James Holden's modestly scheduled 12:30am slot; and it was certainly an interesting one.
Holden joined the glitterati of underground DJs through his imaginative disposition at the controls. His approach of structuring deep, abstract house and techno sounds laced with spine tingling crescendos, melodic touches and lofty electronica curveballs has given him a unique aura as both a DJ and producer. Detractors, however, would site that sometimes ugly and disjointed transitions can occur in his mixing due to his consistently challenging selection of music. On this night, his beat mixing, use of effects and loops, EQ manipulation, and general craftsmanship within the set was all pretty well delivered. What was a tad off touch was his ability to match what the dance floor seemed hungrier for.
Some great analogue synth excursions and slippery electronic gems such as his production '10101' were present throughout, and if sat on the sofa with a cheeky spliff and an open mind in action, it would provide smooth listening. With a full metal jacket of dance floor energy locked and loaded inside us, however, the set never quite pushed our buttons in the right way. Given Holden's well known disregard for the predictable and conventional, and his choice to provide the warm up set for the evening, though, it was hard to feel any real disappointment: It was still interesting stuff.
The man-of-the-moment on Border Community, Nathan Fake, was up next for a live set, so there was a good chance that the dance bug would spread. It proved to be a great spectacle. The Englishman undulated zealously over his laptop as he pushed out a peak time destruction spree of techno and twisted electronic arrangements. After Holden's more challenging outing, Nathan Fake chose to drop everything with the floor firmly in mind. It certainly more high octane than would be expected from his latest album's more shoe-gazing material. The End really felt like it was starting to peak at this point, and the crowd became a heaving mass of raised hands and juddering bodies. Dancing in certain areas, however, proved very difficult due to the constant need to get-the-fuck out of the way for other people (and sometimes wasted, staggering ones) sprawling past you. This was unfortunately a location that Beat Factor ended up in the final stretch of Fake's set. To escape this madness before Ellen Alien's headliner, a breather was taken in the now packed but still comforting atmosphere of the good old lounge again. With Hebden still manning the decks with authority, he was proving to be one of the evening's highlights.
A two and a half hour slot was allocated to arch Berlin techno mistress Ellen Alien, and the musical template was given a heightened dose of power. The bpitch control First Lady treated revellers to a searing collection of electro-tinged carnage and deep, driving house which fully embraced the sonic sparkle and detachment from reality cultivated on Bpitch and Border respectively. A picture of both concentration and vigour throughout, Alien seductively guided the crowd through the clubs witching hour with tight crowd control, laying the foundations for the entire cast of the evening to take to the decks for a back to back marathon. Kieran 'Four Tet' Hebden, Avus, James Holden, Nathan Fake and Ellen Alien were on rotation; Belter. Reverb soaked flickers, glitchy rhythms and a myriad of individualist techno hip swingers resonated through the tunnels as each artist took their turn to see off Border Community at The End. Despite only having a mere two years residency at the venue, this label party rapidly established itself as a mainstay of the clubs attractions. It certainly wasn't hard to see why. The eclecticism and forward thinking nature of the imprint was done justice by the night's players and Beat Factor feels safe to say that nobody will have left disappointed.
With an array of farewell bashes in the pipeline; including more nutty Ibiza hedonism at Circo Loco, the clubs 13th birthday and Minus with Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice; The End is giving a 21 gun salute to its musical past right up to January. This consummate drawing of the final curtain on one of the venues most popular shindigs was a great taste of what's to come as dance heads across the board get the last mileage out of those legendary tunnels.
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December 2, 2008 at 8:11 PM CET