- Elysia Crampton's music always has something to say, even if you're not sure what that is. One message that resonated with me during her set at The Art School on Friday night was "the future is our domain," announced in a newsreader's baritone. Crampton performed alongside boychild and Juliana Huxtable at a fundraiser for We Will Rise, a group "working to end immigration detention in the UK." The club night was a hedonistic outlier in a three-day series of events programmed by the arts organisation Arika, designed to interrogate societal constraints imposed on gay, trans, feminist, anti-racist and prison abolitionist communities. In many ways, the activism that underpinned the fundraiser felt inseparable from the club experience—a union that's increasingly central to experimental club scenes.
Crampton's set was a ruptured patchwork of sounds and moods with an autobiographical feel. Dense, folded layers of Spanish-language radio chatter, film rushes and the Looney Tunes theme portrayed a domestic scene. It was as if she was showing us an old photo, rendered in sound, from her childhood. "Do you hear how they beg for realities," she pleaded during a spoken word section. There were gunshots, shattered glass, thunder, screams; there were moments of near-calm. At the front of the 200-strong crowd, which stood in a horseshoe shape, one woman tried to dance along. It was hard to gauge the appropriate physical response to music that sounded like a shaking subconscious. boychild's short performance, an electric shock of distressed butoh postures, came closest to offering one. Giving physical form to the contorted R&B on the system, boychild trembled, wearing full bodypaint and a strobe light in her mouth, as if struck by fever.
During Huxtable's DJ set at The Art School, playful selections mingled with genuinely jarring moments. Tense Southern rap bangers like Gangsta Boo & La Chat's "Witch Brew" bumped into stretches of industrial and modern R&B jams like Kelela's "Rewind," creating a riotous energy that took the edge off the night's pedagogic intensity. A friend and I watched as the sound tech, monitoring his headphones in the exaggerated disbelief of a Charlie Chaplin character, scrambled to correct the peaking decibels. For about ten minutes, Huxtable's tracks—which included an edit of Livin' Joy's "Dreamer"—boiled out of the speakers. It may have upset the engineer, but it nailed the rebellious spirit of the night.
Photo credit /
Alex Woodward / Arika