Report: Espionage ft. Floating Points & more, Melbourne 2012

Espionage ft. Floating Points, Alex Nut, Fatima & Teebs
Where?House, Melbourne - Melbourne Music Week
Saturday, 24th of November, 2012


Clandestine meetings between secretive parties who tread the shadows, shirking the gaze of mainstream attention. Covert operations played out under the veil of cloak-and-dagger, ephemeral dealings that leave no evidence of having ever taken place other than in the traces of memory of those who experienced them.

And so it was on Saturday evening for the penultimate night of Melbourne Music Week at Where?House: a concealed and temporary hub of creativity, food and music cobbled together in the crumbling monolith of the Argus building on Elizabeth street. Upstairs: food stalls, with sizzling bratwurst, steamy plumes rising from hot bowls of phở, the hiss of burgers frying and hot chips doused in a rainbow variety of condiments. Downstairs, in the building’s darkened bowel: music, and an equally varied spread upon which to gorge, with a host of local talent and internationals including Teebs, Alexander Nut, Fatima and Floating Points.

L.A. based Mtendere Mandowa (better known as Brainfeeder Records beatsmith Teebs) slots effortlessly into the cavernous expanse of this multidisciplinary funhouse. An accomplished skateboarder and painter before having ever started tickling at the buttons of a sampling pad, little fragments of those prior endeavours seem artfully dusted over Teebs’ musical creations. Languid hip-hop beats tumble forth from the speakers with the blithe irregularity of a kick/push roll along asphalt, while painterly smatterings of jazz chords, wind chimes and whispers of hi-hats hover elegantly above. Mandowa bounces away in front of a fluorescent collage of endlessly dancing shapes, with the colourful geometric ballet flickering out upon a sea of loosely fitted white t-shirts and baggy jeans that writhes under trance of the beat shaman’s woozy potions.

It’s worth noting that everything about tonight seems perfectly catered. Beats that stumble along at an off-kilter pace in conjunction with the hazy, inebriated undulations of the crowd; the urban chasm of a venue that’s as artfully dishevelled as those who populate it. If Teebs seemed a perfect native of the multi-purpose Where?House, then Eglo Records boss-man Alexander Nut (pictured) is emblematic of its informed curation. His set flutters expertly between excursions of jazz, techno, dubstep and hip-hop, before being joined on the mic by neo-soul singer Fatima, a long time collaborator of the label. Smouldering over Floating Points’ ‘Mind’, the London-via-Stockholm based vocalist appears swathed in black with a shimmering neon pink scrunchie perched atop her head. It strikes as a pertinent visual summation of the sound she’s moving through alongside Nut: a bed of heavy, darkly robust beats and bass lines that nod towards grime and dub, continually offset by the free-form twinkling of airy, velvety smooth jazz lines. The shapes continue dancing just as they did behind Teebs and there’s an impressive lighting rig fitted to the inner shell of the Argus, but puffed clouds intermittently exhaled from patches in the crowd ensure the duty of a smoke machine is rendered obsolete.

Things take an unexpected left turn to signify the arrival of the enigmatic Floating Points. The UK producer sparks fires where there were only previously smoke signals, by launching into a high octane suite of classic disco edits and energetic house. Firecracker snaps of bongos punch holes in thick quivering bass lines, while giddy licks of piano swoop down every now and then across the waving hands and wiggling shoulders. Producer Sam Shepard is Floating Points in both name and nature as a DJ, deftly gliding through every point in the spectrum of dance music’s eclectic disapora – disco, house, techno, minimal, jazz, drum ‘n’ bass, reggae. Not even a stuttering introduction to his ARP3 can dissuade the raptures, with the jittery glitches serving only to prolong the eventual euphoria of a pulsating groove that seamlessly encapsulates everything that makes this such an impressive showing.

With the clock having struck its unfortunate 2am curfew, the entirety of the crowd head for the darkness, just as this incredible transitory space will at the completion of Melbourne Music Week. The music stops, the lights come on. The sandy, concrete dance floor is nothing but dust in the wind. The Argus returns to a state of fallow neglect.

Nothing secret can stay. 

Elliott Grigg

(Photo: Espionage)

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