Last night was the first time I've reached a H.E.N.C.H party since the summer. I had my door tax at the ready, but it seems the old privileges are still in place, and I was waved through straight away. It's like I've never been away! First time I've hit the town for well over a month and, despite the freezing fog conditions, it was well worth the effort. As expected, much of the material being played by the H.E.N.C.H djs in attendance was new to me, especially Komonazmuk's set. What really impresses about his material is the high level of engineering - he seems to find more frequency space than anyone else. His basslines are heavy, yet the kick drums punch through forcefully, the snares sound gigantic and the high end is always very tight and well defined. Komonazmuk (above) has made it his business to learn a lot of professional recording tricks (he was trying to explain to me some stuff about compression and side-chains) and the results speak for themselves. Later, Whiteboi, back-2-back with Headhunter, turned out a truly shocking series of halfstep-horror anthems - full of gothic choirs, piercing feedback drones and ectoplasmic waves of lo-end filth. Bizarrely, most of the audience at that point were female...so strange to watch all those women in their party frocks twisting and swaying in slo-mo to this violent rapture. Headhunter provided the more uplifting counterpoint, also throwing in a couple of new dubs by Jakes that are completely off the radar. There was one with a gibbering synth line sounding like The Clangers through a ring modulator, and another with a freaky screeching sound like an elephant in labour. I dunno what the fuck is going on in Jakes' beautiful little mind, but I love it. I'm assured that some of the material these guys are firing out will finally be getting released early next year, and about bloody time, I say. More news as it happens, etc.
The headliner for the evening was original souljah Geeneus (left), who treated us to a high-octane set that, as expected from a man with his pedigree, flowed freely between dubstep and instrumental grime. I was particularly impressed by a D1 dub called "8 Bar", which recalls the fierce urgency of classic Plasticman. That's the sort of D1 material I'd rather see released. It was also a pleasure, as always, to check another set from The Peverelist, aka Tom from Rooted Records, dropping a typically understated selection, including some choice cuts from Bass Clef and Pinch's rather beautiful "One Blood". But it's Tom's own productions that are really getting me excited right now...trying to find the common ground between minimal/hypnotic techno and dubstep. Anyone who listened to my new mix will see that I'm interested in combining elements from both genres, and I'm totally on Tom's wavelength. It's not as far fetched as it sounds, afterall some of Mala's tracks, like "Left Leg Out" show clear connections with Techno's pulse beat, and with Shackleton forging links with Ricardo Villalobos, anything's possible, right? Whether or not this approach is a possible exit-route from halfstep orthodoxy, or a creative cul-de-sac, remains to be seen, but you can be sure that when Tom releases "The Grind" and "Erstwhile Rhythm" on his Punch Drunk imprint early next year, he'll be at the vanguard. Check Kek's review for further insights...
All in all, a great party. I left just after 3am, and punters were still paying to get in. It's fantastic that H.E.N.C.H has built up such a successful format in my absence. The venue is nice, although the acoustics are a bit weird. If you wanna feel some proper chest-rattling bass, you need to stand along the back wall. Move forward a couple of paces and it just disappears!
Shout-outs to all my crew who reached: Doppleganger, Bubonic, Delsa, Atki 2, Gatekeeper, Madboy...and all the others I always say hello to, but aren't quite sure what their names are.
Honourable absences: Wedge & Appleblim (gigging in Wales), Pinch (gigging in Helsinki), ThinKing (too skint).