Hope Works, Sheffield
12 - 14 October
Since opening in 2012, Sheffield’s Hope Works has steadily gained a reputation as one of the UK’s crowning club spaces, renowned for making consistently switched-on bookings. No Bounds – the venue’s annual in-house festival – delivers on the promise of its weekly parties in abundance, bringing together a dazzlingly diverse collection of the most crucial artists at work in electronic music today.
Reminiscent of kindred festivals Simple Things and Dot to Dot, No Bounds is a cross-city festival, making use of a network of venues and creative spaces spread across Sheffield’s city centre. Workshops, lectures and live performances fill the days, before the crowds convene at Hope Works, the festival’s spiritual home, for a unified dance that stretches well into the early hours.
Despite a grizzly forecast, we arrive to find Sheffield dry and in high spirits. We’re eager (and late), so head straight to Hope Works, a warehouse space located at an industrial edge of town, hugged tight against the colossal ring roads that circle the city centre.
Stepping inside, grime veteran Spooky is kicking the evening sharply into gear, playing quick-fire 8-bar instrumentals to a sea of young gun-fingering ravers. Just as he finishes, Timedance boss Batu starts up in the adjoining warehouse space, refracting those same darkside UK sonics into new, sprawling, otherworldly forms. Continuing within that same sonic universe, drum’n’bass legends Dillinja and DJ Storm follow, keeping the broken, industrial rhythms rattling into the early hours. As we leave, Storm drops Adam F’s 1997 classic Metropolis – a track that, despite its age, fits seamlessly alongside everything else that we’ve heard this evening.
In the morning we drag ourselves out of bed and set off towards the city-centre for the day’s activities. The walk takes us through the Sheffield University campus, and an affinity is felt with the students loitering there: also seeking an education with bleary eyes and groggy heads. Arriving at creative hub 99 Mary Street, we sit in on a talk with Ian Anderson, founder of seminal design studio The Designers Republic, who discusses a career working on the iconic aesthetics of brands and artists as diverse as Adidas, Autechre, Coca-Cola and Aphex Twin. Later, the space hosts a series of workshops for aspiring female and non-binary DJs led by unstoppable new wave lecturer and journalist Yewande Adeniran (aka DJ Ifeoluwa). It’s a fitting addition to a festival programme so clearly dedicated to shaping music scenes of tomorrow.
As the day progresses and night falls, Hope Works springs back into life. Due to a last minute rescheduling, Aïsha Devi opens the Saturday night proceedings to a nearly empty room. Her luminous synths and ethereal vocals echo around the venue’s cavernous warehouse space as it slowly fills – a transcendental experience for the few of us lucky enough to catch it. Following on, rRoxymore ups the energy with a seamless stream of off-kilter drum machine rhythms, occupying a sweet spot between old-school Detroit and new-school Bristolian techno.
Outside, the Crack Magazine stage is kicking into gear in the industrial courtyard space linking the scattered warehouse rooms. The warmup is a rare set from Warp Records’ enigmatic co-founder Rob Gordon, who was responsible for pioneering Sheffield’s “bleep and bass” scene in the early 90s before fading into complete obscurity. His set draws on early techno and jacking drum machine house, all underpinned by warm, dubby basslines: a defining feature of the Sheffield sound.
Following on, Ugandan newcomer Kampire brings things quickly up-to-date with an electric set that blends elements of bass music, funky house and hip-hop. Her sound segues perfectly into the night’s total highlight: Errorsmith, who plays a phenomenal live set based on the sounds developed on Superlative Fatigue – his astonishing album for PAN, released last year to universal applause. As on the record, the drums he deploys here are tactile and focused, drawing heavily on UK funky and dancehall rhythms. These familiar beat patterns provide much-needed structure for the cacophony of uncertain synths that circle ahead: constantly crescendoing, pitch-shifting leads warble and warp before collapsing in on themselves, while stuttering alien vocals are pushed to comedic limits. It’s strange and avant garde, but – most importantly – it’s tonnes of fun: a sentiment that perfectly sums up this brilliant little festival throughout.