Various Venues, Sheffield
13 - 15 October

Sheffield’s history of envelope-pushing electronic music doesn’t need retelling.

Beyond Warp, bleep and bassline, the city’s musical makeup in a broader sense has always been one which encourages outliers. So No Bounds Festival – a new Arts Council-supported venture from the team behind the much-loved Hope Works Venue – is a natural product of that environment. A three-day programme of art, music, discussion and workshops united by an experimental nature.

Terre Thaemlitz opened proceedings with a new audiovisual work entitled Deproduction. The provocative work was built from distorted, pixelated footage of homosexual porn and incest porn from Japan. On top of the videos, a written work denouncing the nuclear family as a capitalist instrument to accelerate globalisation and thwart true democracy. Sections of the work can be found on Thaemlitz’s website.

While that provocative screening sat alone as the weekend’s most distinctly political – and personal – work, it set a good precedent for the appetite of the No Bounds audience. An open-minded atmosphere radiated from the more subdued audiences right through to the 7am battlers and it’s refreshing to be at an event where the same level of attention seems to be afforded to a sit-down Mr. G Q&A as it is to his live set in the early hours.

Situated at Hope Works, a repurposed WW1 gun barrel factory tucked away behind the city’s centre, sets from Jeff Mills and DJ Stingray delivered a raw, high-impact punky energy to the warehouse space for the final night. While the crowd was thinner on night one for Mr. G, the all-too-clichéd presence of Northern kindness was hard to ignore. Having already built a reputation as one of the best clubs in the country, locals and visitors were clearly keen for No Bounds to triumph as an extension of Hope Works. Perhaps an event this centred around new frontiers could’ve done with a slightly more contemporary headliner but when The Bells blared through the world-class soundsystem we were more than happy to go on a brief nostalgia trip.

That reputation’s been built in no small part by the club’s immersion in the scene of the city, a relationship which was demonstrated in the No Bounds programme. Arts hub Access Space hosted a line-up of Algorave performers – DJs and producers whose work is built live from coding and algorithms which are projected onto a screen behind them. Performances were hosted by the University of Sheffield’s Sound Laboratory – an academic platform for innovative sound production.

Congregating back at Hope Works each night, both live outings and DJ sets flourished in the space. The hazy cold wave tones of Inga Copeland were perfectly suited to the club’s outdoor space. It was here that more off-centre electronics triumphed – Ikonika’s hyper-bassy rhythms, Batu’s twisted sub-bass contortions and a standout set of crisp, diverse, left field selections from Minor Science.

The two night line-ups at Hope Works were a good deal on their own given the cheap ticket price. The addition of cross-disciplinary art and exploration across the city was a welcome bonus. As with any inaugural event juggling numerous venues, an ambitious programming setup and a general desire to offer more – No Bounds didn’t run without a hitch. But it felt like an event which there’s been a space for for some time – something which paired the open-minded nature of Northern crowds with the innately future-focused DNA of Sheffield’s electronic music community.

The concept and the programming was hard to fault. With a few structural tweaks, No Bounds could become essential.