Saturday 4th October
Vox Warehouse, Leeds
It's safe to say that 2014 has been a big year for Contact - with numerous successful nights around the country as well as - in particular - getting its own stage at Outlook festival this summer (a more significant achievement, given the noticeable absence of the DMZ stage this year, which is normally the flagship Dubstep event of the festival). Given this, it seems that in more and more fans' opinions, Contact (as well as its contemporaries) is one of the few high profile events which is pushing the Dubstep agenda in a way which emphasises the genre's core values, celebrates its classics but at the same time doesn't get stuck forever looking back at the "good ol' days", as many fans are prone to doing. Essentially, Contact is strictly a 1 step back, 2 steps forward affair, and having been fortunate enough to see what all the hype was about at the first Leeds Contact; I couldn't wait to bear witness again.
Thankfully this time our cabs to Vox Warehouse actually turned up so I didn't have to miss any of the DJs. Once the initial cloakroom trip was over, VIVEK was just opening his set in true SYSTEM style, with a nice warm up of dub reggae in the way he often does at his night in London which - alongside Contact - has kept the fire burning the last couple years. However, after a few tracks he went straight in with a heavy selection, catching me a little off-guard in a good way, with the first culprit being Kahn's currently-making-waves dubplate Abbatoir which instantly raised the fever in the room. The track coupled with the Void Incubus Soundsystem certainly made an impact. What good is a Dubstep night without the system to back it up? However, at this stage it was still only around 12:15am, and the sound technicians hadn't even pushed the levels to half yet. The crux of what I'm saying is that the sound setup in that room was no laughing matter, to the point that seeing the Incubus System advertised on the event page, for me was almost like adding another headliner to the bill, since it brings so much to the atmosphere and music.
Loefah followed on from VIVEK with the subject of what kind of set he would play being a big point of debate with my friends before the night. As many know, Loefah has since moved on to different things since his part in shaping the genre we were there to listen to, primarily with regards to his current label Swamp 81. I for one assumed it would likely be a Swamp 81 set which would have been enjoyable regardless. However, I was delighted to hear him play a whole host of 140 classics plus some unorthodox picks which I have seen him spin when playing DMZ nights: Filth, Eyez VIP, I (Loefah Remix) and Anti-War Dub to name a few, not to mention James Blake's CMYK and Joy O's Hyph Mngo. He also threw out some grimier tracks to great effect, in particular Pulse X and Mumdance and Novelist's Take Time, but before I knew it, it was onto Youngsta - a man who needs no introduction despite the fact I've written numerous ones for him already.
Youngsta has access to more unreleased material than most other big names in the Dubstep scene, partly due to his role in keeping its strong core following through his Rinse FM shows as well as Contact. This coupled with his innate ability to mix tracks in a way that's sometimes impossible to follow, means that ID'ing most of the songs he plays is sometimes a lost cause. This isn't a problem of course, and is one of the reasons people generally agree that when it comes to technical ability; Youngsta is the best in Dubstep. Of course the title of Best Dubstep DJ is a very subjective one, but it's safe to say that Youngsta would always be in the running for it. As a result, it should go without saying that his set was very, very good. But honestly, I can't remember a time where his set hasn't been up to his own self-imposed standards.
By the time it came to Truth and J:Kenzo's sets, the speakers were in full flex and the whole room was really feeling the force of the Incubus System. From the smoking area, you could hear the whole warehouse shake, which certainly kept the breaks short, since the sound of tune after tune getting played made you itch to go back inside.
Truth kept it true to their sound they've been pushing this year (although only 1 of the duo was present on the night), with tracks from the new album Hollow World and their releases on Tempa being a lot of the focus, plus some of the new unreleased material they've been teasing on Facebook: Goodbye, How Strange and their remix of Bukez Finezt's Under Control all went off, as did Commodo's F_ck Mountain and the J:Kenzo DnB remix of Truth's own Babylon London. However, despite Truth's signature brand of weight, as well as the calibre of all the other sets, my favourite one of the night has to go to J:Kenzo (who, ironically I missed last time due to my taxi trouble). After opening with his most recent release, Straight Defeat, from his own label Artikal, he quickly delivered a somewhat unorthodox set which spanned more of the Dubstep/140 spectrum than any of the previous sets combined. Sets at Contact tend to follow Youngsta's lead - dark minimal sounds, often tribal, and while J:Kenzo of course played a decent amount of that, he also surprised with songs ranging from Silkie's forthcoming track Bird in the Sky to Thelem's on-a-joker-tip track Foul Play as well as Faze Miyake's unreleased song Firefly. Just hearing a few tracks like that was nicely refreshing at that stage of the night, but it wouldn't be a Kenzo set without some grit. Magneto VIP, Sleeper's remix of Under Control and Caspa's dubplate ,which people are claiming is called Submission Way, all made an appearance, with him finally rounding up the set with some of the Drum and Bass he has been experimenting with in the studio; namely his track Intellect.
Contact was certainly a night to remember. Even friends I brought there who - up until then - had never really heard Dubstep, came away looking like converts to new a religion and asking me when the next one was. Unfortunately I didn't know the answer, but after that night, I'm certain it'll be back, it's just a matter of when...
Words by Arthur Seaward
Images courtesy of Alex Morgan