The Warehouse Project, Manchester
The Warehouse Project’s new home, the Depot at Mayfield is impressive, not just in size but in space as well. There’s Depot, its humongous, festival-worthy centre stage, Archive, the smallest of the three main areas, and the visually striking Concourse stage akin to that of a boxing ring; where friends of the DJs circle the edges of the large booth, their silhouettes blurry against the smoke and low lighting.
A gem in this year’s programme, Four Tet’s curated event offered an atmospheric evening of diverse sounds on the Manchester institution’s new turf, boasting a roster split evenly both in terms of status and gender. The real eyebrow-raiser though was a b2b set from Kieran Hebden and Skrillex – a controversial proposition despite the success of their debut together back in 2015.
Before the evening’s main event though, WHP played host to a bill made almost exclusively of headline-worthy selectors. Daphni’s set midway through the day was unexpectedly energetic, switching between 130 BPM and house that wouldn’t feel out of place pulsating from Glitterbox in Ibiza. Crowd-pleasing moments littered Snaith’s set – which included a full-throttle run through Jeff Mills’ The Bells into classic UKG – ending on the ever-reliable Hyph Mngo before Peggy Gou charged on with the same vigour.
Back over in Concourse, Hessle Audio enticed the heads with a hypnotic, roving journey of breakbeat and techno. As the set got deeper, the faceless figures surrounding the stage multiplied, and the roar of the crowd echoed as different members of Hessle rotated and took turns at the helm. You could sense the glee from the fans as the tension built and rave-mania set in for the night.
As the evening’s curator, Four Tet took his rightful headline spot, reeling things back to a slow, almost agonising start. Atmospheric and slow-building, Hebden initially withheld his bigger tracks, instead offering experimental cuts. WHP is the perfect location for a DJ that often plays in complete blackness aside from a dimly lit booth, but as his set progressed, so did the dramatic, geometric lighting display behind him. As he propelled the set forward with Daughter, the lights burst and suddenly the audience was freed from their previously reserved state.
Four Tet is well known for his ability to read and understand a crowd and loved for his ability to balance coherent sets with unexpected moments. That’s why it seemed slightly odd when Skrillex joined him on stage and served exactly what you would expect: macho EDM and trap, a contrast to the subtleties of Hebden’s last two hours.
The evening’s much-anticipated back-to-back between the pair saw Hebden deflecting Sonny Moore’s more outlandish offerings. Though the set had its moments, with so much talent on the bill it did seem strange at times that it was Skrillex Hebden chose to go head to head with. This might have been an opportunity for Hebden to collaborate with some of the more buzzing talent on the bill – and indeed whether Peggy Gou, Saoirse, Sherelle or Flava D joined him on his last hour, it may well have been a better match. Though this final spectacle wasn’t quite the icing on the cake some may have hoped for, the adventurous spirit of the set did epitomise the eclectic feel of Four Tet’s curation throughout the night. A suitably genre-defying end to a programme that aimed to showcase as much of dance music’s current crop as possible.