The Hydra: Leisure System x Houndstooth

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  • In the two years they've been putting on parties, The Hydra have earned a reputation for booking dead-on lineups. This year they've found a permanent home in Studio Spaces, a mid-sized venue that doubles as a photography studio and has an open-plan layout to match. For a recent event, Houndstooth and Leisure System, two flag-flyers for an open-minded approach to dance music, were given full curatorial control. Their choices nodded to '90s Warp and Rephlex, as well as some of the most staunchly unique artists of the moment. It was a refreshing perspective on a scene that often finds itself overly beholden to the four-four kick. Second Storey, for example, opened the night with an atmospheric broken beat sound that was equal parts bass music and electro, before moving into more hard-edged sounds like Drexciya's "Lardossen Funk." Speaking of Drexciya, founding member Heinrich Mueller was present alongside To Nhan as Dopplereffekt. Their unique, conceptual live set had the two facing each other in white masks, with blueprints of CERN rotating on the screen behind. The music was dark and dystopian, with deep percussive bass and climactic arpeggios, and was more beat-driven than when I'd previously seen them. Though usually a peak-time act, the early slot suited the pair well. Shortly afterwards, Luke Vibert dropped a flanged edit of Aphex Twin's "Digeridoo"—the second time I'd heard an Aphex track that evening—followed closely by Plaid's masterful live set. Deeply imbued with their beautiful and terrifying sound, it was great to see a packed room raving to the leftfield duo. One of the defining characteristics of the night was how individual a persona each artist displayed. Clark, in the Warehouse room, was the most remarkable live act I saw, switching nimbly between styles like he was the master of them all. What glued it all together was hard to pin down, but it was something to do with his composed, orchestral approach. Akkord's sounds felt like they had been precisely engineered for the room, with the tight kicks and rhythmic patterns resonating crisply. In fact, the sound across the venue was excellent overall. Objekt opened with rushing, hi-tech electro ("Ganzfeld"), which he tweaked in his sound design-heavy style. He then moved gradually into straight-up octane-fuelled techno, but for my money the first half was better, showcasing the most funk and motion out of anyone all night. Call Super and Perc wrapped things up in the Houndstooth and Leisure System rooms respectively. The former kept things moving with a groovy, musical, and diverse techno set, while the latter was, unsurprisingly, pummelling, but with plenty of character. Rarely do dance music events feel so fresh and engaging from start to finish.