- It's easy to lose track of time at De School. The Amsterdam club, which has also established itself as an art space, restaurant and 5-a-side football facility since it opened early last year, has a maze-like quality, its various rooms (except the main dance floor downstairs) frequently repurposed for other events. The intense, smoke-filled darkness of the main room has the best kind of disorientating effect, encouraging dancers to lose themselves in the music.
It was downstairs, in the early hours of Sunday morning, that Karen Gwyer played a peak-time live set. By this point, the club was some four hours into a 30-hour Het Weekend event, curated and programmed by Call Super, AKA Joe Seaton. "I get put in the situation time and time again, where I'm on at the beginning of the night, and the DJs carry it through," Gwyer said earlier this year, discussing her frustrations as a live techno performer. Opening with an extended take of "The Workers Are On Strike," from her recent album Rembo, she served up an hour of improvised and deeply hypnotic techno, proving that a number of promoters would do well to take note of her wishes.
Stepping up after Gywer, Seaton played the first of two scheduled sets. Leading with the playful vocals of Errorsmith's "My Party" and building gradually from there, he busied himself across several decks over the course of four hours, progressing into propulsive techno via slamming breaks and UK garage. 12 hours later, in the well-lit second room upstairs, he returned to the party under his Ondo Fudd alias. The performance, which was inspired by his imagined visions of the late New York DJ Anita Sarko's unorthodox Mudd Club sets, included a volley of dub and well-received '80s pop hits, such as New Order's "Temptation" and the instrumental version of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me." This offered some light relief after Ben UFO's three-hour set downstairs, which drew on garage house from the likes of Mood II Swing as well as Lil Silva's UK funky classic, "Seasons." With Shanti Celeste's arrival delayed, the Hessle Audio boss delved into an impromptu selection of jungle for the 200 or so people still present.
With Seaton and De School programmer Luc Mastenbroek deciding not to formally display set times—some hints were given—people came and went without obsessing over who was playing when. This felt refreshing in a clubbing landscape that's increasingly skewed towards excessively elevating headliners, and it also ensured that the dance floors remained spacious—something I certainly don't take for granted as a London clubber. Seaton had also put his mark on the space via a series of large canvas paintings that adorned the walls of the upstairs corridors, many of them bearing recognisable motifs from his recent Arpo Cuts project.
Ben UFO wasn't the only one to draw on higher tempos during the weekend. Objekt played a jungle and drum & bass set upstairs on Sunday night, shifting through a slew of brooding, half-time cuts that recalled the sound of the Samurai Music label. Watched on by a sizeable number of hardened dancers, his set came to a head with his own "Strays" from his 2014 LP, Flatland. The atmosphere was getting real loose by this point, with many of those still standing likely to have clocked up a number of hours inside.
Earlier that day, between 7 and 8 AM, De School regular upsammy opened upstairs with an hour of exquisitely-paced ambient cuts. Some of the crowd took the opportunity to sit or lie down. Following her, Objekt played the first of his two sets, which was loosely themed around soundtracking the sunrise. After a low-key start, he quickly disproved my expectations of an extended ambient set, firing out music from Jlin and even his own "Theme From Q" within the first hour. Perhaps the highlight, though, was Aphex Twin's "Xtal," rolled out as daylight finally began to peek through the windows behind him. "Places that I have lost nothing but my imagination in are often my favourite places," Seaton wrote in the blog post announcing Het Weekend last month. In that moment, reality seemed just as good as anything imagined.