Various venues, Leeds
inner city electronic returned this month, amassing crowds of informed party-goers across Leeds for a city-wide celebration of electronic music. Once again, Leeds lifer and 2020 Vision label boss Ralph Lawson paired up with promoter Ben Thompson to help curate the one-dayer, and this year’s festival boasted a revised and inventive programme that welcomed a plethora of artists, incorporating panels and showcases as well as parties across the event’s 24 hours.
One of the more intimate venues, Sheaf Street – an unassuming outdoor space between the Tetley Gallery and a disused car park – played host to a standout masterclass from Manchester-based composer Afrodeutsche. The NTS resident provided insight into her creative mindset and unpicking her eccentric production style, one that’s profoundly influenced by film, documentary and theatre composition. This was followed by an intimate chat with George Evelyn – aka Nightmares on Wax – who described his upbringing in the city as a “mesh of sounds and electronic exploration” – in many ways, a fitting reflection of the festival itself.
A quick walk away, past Kirkgate Market and the Corn Exchange, brought you to another venue, Hope House. Hidden away in a former red light district, this two-storey building is home to Cosmic Slop, a night that helps fund creative courses for young people at risk of exclusion. The venue neighbours a new multimillion-pound shopping centre, a looming reminder of the threat gentrification poses to the city’s bustling community of creatives. Here, producers showcased their beats on Cosmic Slop’s state-of-the-art sound-system and received feedback from established label heads and peers. Those that stayed were treated to a surprise set by Josey Rebelle, who masterfully navigated her way through a forest of sub-genres to a reverent Leeds crowd.
Another highlight came courtesy of the festival’s central hub, an ambitious outdoor space that was, circuitously, the primary school playground of Nightmares on Wax. It was here that Motor City Drum Ensemble took the crowd on a musical journey of jazz, soul and – of course – disco. It was left to Nina Kraviz to round off proceedings at Church, where sunlight shone through stained-glass windows directly onto her very own congregation. Kraviz delivered a suitably rapturous set of high impact techno.
Despite this being the festival’s second outing, you could sense that inner city electronic is fast establishing a reputation for being more than just a rave. It manages to both celebrate the city’s own electronic music history and strengthen the city’s homegrown scene of conscious clubbing, DIY parties and inclusive venues. In the 90s, Back to Basics – Europe’s longest running weekly club night – helped put Leeds on the dance music map. Festivals like inner city electronic serve to contribute to a new chapter in the city’s legacy.