Amsterdam Dance Event 2019: Five key performances

  • From mega-raves to cosy club nights, ADE has it all. Matt Unicomb highlights some of this year's best sets.
  • Share
  • Somewhere near the Amsterdam Flower Market, a popular attraction for the city's middle-aged visitors, puzzled tourists stood gazing at a small crowd moving in the distance. What looked like a student demonstration was actually a few dozen young people jumping around to techno, namely Kobosil's hit remix of Rosa Anschütz's "Rigid." Those grannies and grandpas may not have realised it, but they were watching Amsterdam Dance Event, a mammoth festival that takes over the Netherlands' biggest city each October. This year, that meant 400,000 visitors from nearly 150 countries spread across hundreds of raves, panels, talks and exhibitions. Between Wednesday night and Monday morning, almost every taste was covered, from ravers craving warehouse techno to those looking to lose themselves in dingy basement clubs. Up-and-comers shared lineups with established superstars, many of them playing one of the most important dates of their careers. Here are five key performances from ADE 2019.
    SOPHIE "Just because it doesn't have a four-four beat doesn't mean it's not dance music," said SOPHIE while puffing on a vape during a panel on ADE's first day. "I want to challenge the idea of what a club experience should be like." Eight hours later in a warehouse at NDSM Docklands, SOPHIE's dance floor was packed. A mixture of functional techno and deconstructed pop, her set moved between rolling, four-on-the-floor beats, ambient and stretches of chaotic, syncopated percussion. Playing the opening slot at a DGTL party that also included Modeselektor and Richie Hawtin, she had dancers jumping around the room, their phones shooting into the air as soon as she teased recognisable vocals. Best of all was the clinical delivery of a few lean, loopy techno tracks, all of which could've come from the studio of a top techno artist. Instead, they were tracks from SOPHIE's Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides Remix Album. The best was her "Lichtbogen Dreamin'" remix of "Infatuation," which hinged on piano chords that could've been sampled from some '90s classic. (SOPHIE creates all her sounds from scratch, so they weren't.) Whether it speaks to her talent or the state of the wider scene, it's interesting that some of the best techno tracks I heard during ADE were made by someone more likely to produce beats for Tyler, The Creator than release on a conventional dance music label.
    Kosh Trends come and go, but nothing gets crowds going like a fat bassline. Thursday night clubbers at Oosterbar, a basement space underneath Generator Hotel, heard plenty of them during Kosh's one-hour live set, which showcased the distinctly modern blend of techno and electro his label, Casa Voyager, has been perfecting for the last few years. Keeping the tempo high, almost everything he played was unreleased, an endless stream of chugging percussion and basslines like the one found on this year's excellent "In A Maze." His slot was over too quickly—it felt like he had plenty of bombs left to play. But as his international gig schedule gets busier, this won't be the last time Kosh rocks an Amsterdam dance floor.
    Marcel Dettmann ADE is ground zero for so-called "business techno," which means a mega-rave at one of the city's biggest venues (Gashouder, Warehouse Elementenstraat) is always around the corner. There's also no shortage of more tasteful techno, much of which this year could be heard across Amsterdam's more low-key establishments. Marcel Dettmann, who you could usually catch at Gashouder or Warehouse Elementenstraat during ADE, chose to spend this year at Shelter, a basement with one of the city's best soundsystems. Playing the launch party of his new label, BAD MANNERS, Dettmann delivered the classiest DJ set I heard all weekend, moving through styles and sounds with precision transitions and a smooth flow. It wasn't far from the so-called "Berghain sound" he and Ben Klock established throughout the '00s, where tripped-out house met subtle, modern techno. This more nuanced approach was perfect for Shelter's Funktion-One setup, which highlighted the intricacies of each selection (something often missing at ADE's larger parties). There was loop techno, DBX-style house and even some synth pop, all blended with Dettmann's slick mixing. Somewhere towards the end of his three-hour set, the familiar vocals of Phuture's "We Are Phuture" rang out across the room, the rowdiest track in a set stacked with great tunes.
    SØS Gunver Ryberg SØS Gunver Ryberg is one of the new stars of experimental techno, pushing a style that challenges what exactly artists can play to a dance floor. Her Saturday night live set for Paula Temple's Noise Manifesto, a label Ryberg has released on a few times, was confrontational. Stormy and intense, her set channeled the sounds heard on her Entangled mini-album for Avian, where shrewd sound design met forceful grooves. That said, there weren't many discernible grooves during this live set, which would tease four-on-the-four beats, only to have them disintegrate. But that didn't stop Ryberg from head-banging the whole way through her one-hour slot, the most overwhelming music I heard all weekend.
    Melchior Productions Ltd Many locals consider Sunday their favourite night of ADE. They take Monday off work knowing that most tourists will have returned home, which usually means a calmer atmosphere and, in some cases, more space on the dance floor. Some head to De School, where the party runs deep into Monday. Others visit Shelter, which by the end of the weekend was my new favourite club. In control at Shelter on Sunday was a crew of DJs and live acts representing Perlon for a rare Dutch edition of Get Perlonized!, a formerly Berlin-only party that founders Zip and Sammy Dee have since taken global. On a soundsystem like Shelter's, a live set from someone like Thomas Melchior is sure to be one of the weekend's best. His deep and intricate tunes, driven by nimble basslines, were brought to life by the Funktion-One speakers hanging around the dance floor. Bright and positive, his set ran through classics like "Meditation 5," often with added vocals (including one that sounded like Arabic stretched over another perfect groove). Hunched over his laptop in a black hat, spliff by his side, he delivered his tunes through the best system I've heard him play on. It was a happy end to a long week of excellent music. Resident Advisor participated in several panels, hosted a party at RADION and ran the RA Cup at ADE 2019.
    Photo credits / Reinout Bos - Lead Tim Buiting - SOPHIE Sam Eye Am - SØS Gunver Ryberg Lieke Vermeulen - Statue, Charlotte de Witte, Bridge Laura Siliquini - Richie Hawtin, Rave Dick Rennings - Circle Of Live Laura Jacobs - Portrait & Magnus Westwell present Body In Water