Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: Adam Beyer’s Maze hits London


London is a city where the future and the past collide on every corner. No clearer can this be seen than in London Bridge, where the nearly-completed, imposing, ultramodern glass tower The Shard leans over Dickensian streets and old pubs with sticky wooden floors. Down the road, in a railway arch from the 1830s, it’s happening too.

Tonight is the 15th birthday bash of Adam Beyer’s Swedish techno label Drumcode, and although fifteen-years-old is antique by dance music standards, here in Ewer Street Car Park a possible future of clubbing flashes.

Whilst Drumcode has always been celebrated for its consistency and reliability, the U.K. unveiling of its label head’s new visual show Maze is strangely unpredictable. After all Adam Beyer is a DJ and a producer loved mainly for his uncompromising techno and dependable imprint, not for his stage antics or showmanship. To see him in the spotlight, inside a giant structure of visuals and light, is just so un-Drumcode and that is what makes it so intriguing.

But don’t for one beat think that Adam Beyer’s Maze is a smoke and mirrors attempt to distract his audience away from a pre-recorded set, as is so often the case with the dance music spectacle. On the contrary, Maze is 100 per cent live and sees Beyer mixing his usual rolling techno tracks, as experimental visuals (that he helped design) are projected by VJs onto a box structure that frames his DJ booth.

As the Drumcode boss begins his DJ set to a rapturous and anticipative audience of around 2000, the 3D formation around him starts to pulsate in blocks of light and colour. Maze makes Adam Beyer look like he is on TV, and the visuals are weird, mechanical, and deliberately abstract. They match the futuristic, hypnotic grooves of Beyer perfectly.

The music quickly moves into a tunnel of intense techno - the trademark sound of Adam Beyer - and it is fitting music for the old brick-covered archway.

Before the show Beyer said he wanted Maze to be a psychological experience, and one that enhanced his DJ sets, rather than a show that detracts away from the music. Considering the crowd in front of Beyer seem wholly entranced, as if being sucked into a beautiful black hole, it must be mission accomplished.

As Beyer drops yet another intense kick and bass combo (the music is mixed so fluidly that it's impossible to note any specific tracks), the Maze swirls into a stunning cyclone of moving shapes and objects. A bit of rusty metal from the corrugated iron roof above drifts down onto the dancefloor as if it is raining history. It is merely Beyer tearing the roof off, literally.

Nightclub experiments are usually fraught with all manner of teething problems and technical issues, but tonight everything seems to run like clockwork. The production, as one clubber put it, is well beyond what he had expected from a warehouse rave. The walls might be rough, the ground might be uneven, and the toilets might be plastic cabins, but when you’ve got a visual show and sound as good as this who really cares?

Maze is Adam Beyer’s DJ tour de force, and quite brilliantly, it does exactly what its name suggests. It is techno, but not quite as we know it.

(Words: Terry Church, Photos Ivory Haze)

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