The last weekend of January 2016 saw the 10th anniversary of Leeds’ most esteemed basement, Wire. The club used the weekend to throw a double header of birthday celebrations, with the Friday paying respects to their heritage of house, techno and less easily definable mutations of the two, and the Saturday seeing a nod to their drum and bass roots. The Friday night was the big draw for us, due to a lineup that saw two thirds of Hessle Audio, Pearson Sound & Pangaea, billed to play back to back with Midland, with support coming from the club’s booker Hamish Cole.
The three headlining were not picked simply because of their lofty reputations, but instead because they have all spent the formative years of their clubbing life in Leeds and particularly Wire. They were all involved in the excellent Ruffage night at the club in days gone by, and although the music has changed from their off-kilter dubstep to similarly left-field interpretations of house and techno, it is clear that time spent at Wire has influenced their career massively. The Hessle Audio boys’ Leeds roots are well advertised, with the label and collective taking its name from the Hessle streets in Hyde Park where the group met at University. On the other hand, Midland’s Leeds connections are less overt, but he actually spent time working behind the bar at Wire when at University, and his strong emotional connection to the club was displayed by this Facebook post the day of the gig.
Instead of an all-night back to back, the three artists were billed for 90 minutes each, before a free for all at the end. The night began with Hamish warming up, playing some of the irresistibly smooth selections that keen-eared Leeds clubbers will recognise him for, including a very welcome spin out of Pépé Bradock’s ‘Vermeille’. Midland followed at 1am, taking things in a tougher and more rhythmically complex direction, mixing between afrobeat-inspired oddities and more linear house music. Midland’s inspired selection of The Maghreban’s ‘Wonder Woman’ showed that the Versatile Records release was almost built with Wire’s Funktion One system in mind, leading to the glorious sight of elated dancers slapping the front panel in front of the DJ booth. Following from Midland was Pearson Sound, Pearson took things in a percussive direction, playing from a collection of largely unidentifiable wall-shaking drum tracks. Pearson’s set was so wonderfully syncopated that he managed to turn a reasonably textbook 4/4 tech-house tune into a curveball, playing Sebo K’s UK rave inspired ‘Restless (Darkness Mix)’ to offer the dancefloor a release through linearity. For the final solo set of the night, Pangaea stepped up to the booth.
While his Hessle counterparts Ben UFO & Pearson have reputations for a rhythmically anarchical approach to DJing, Pangaea’s sets have been characterised by his linear and recursive approach to playing 4/4 techno. Similarly to Pearson’s selection of the Sebo K track, it was interesting how this loopy, European approach to techno acts as an outlier alongside his UK colleagues. Pangaea’s selections didn’t disappoint in this regard, upping the tempo to something approaching the mid 130 mark to eliminate any fair weather elements left in the crowd when his set began at 4am. The music was also fantastic, with the punishing acid tones of James Ruskin’s ‘No Trace’ being a particular highlight. After Pangaea’s set the three headliners traded off in back-to-back till the early hours, inviting Hamish to join in the fun, solidifying the family atmosphere that epitomises the club’s approach.