When Dixon released his first BBC Essential Mix last year, he used his introductory section to express bemusement at the Shazam phenomenon plaguing nights out across the world. Dance music, he suggests, is a form of escapism – a means by which to “disconnect from the real world” and lose oneself in the scenery being painted by the artists behind the decks. Under such circumstances, the need for track IDs is an unnecessary and wasteful distraction; the desire for noisy phone recordings is sacrilege, a crime. If ever there were any doubts that the Innervisions head honcho spoke the truth, the label’s Canal Mills takeover was the perfect reassurance.
Since its formation in 2005, Innervisions has been crafting a position for itself at the head of the German techno table, managing to create an immediately recognisable sound despite playing host to a huge number of artists from a variety of backgrounds. The roots of this uniform sound were planted in the fertile garden of the Berlin scene, where the party-hard attitudes of world-famous establishments like Panorama Bar has seen the electronic scene thrive, supported by a multitude of creative and intellectual producers. The thoughtful, multi-textured approach to production became a signature of Innervisions releases, as well as the driving force behind the founders’ growing success. Both technically brilliant and gifted with a natural sense for where a set should go, Steffen Berkhann aka Dixon and Kristian Beyer of Ame brought these unquestionable talents to Leeds in a five-hour back to back set, assisted in their effort by support from the likes of Prins Thomas, Optimo and Mr Ties.
Following on from a surprisingly muted end to Mark E’s 12-1 set in the main room, the duo’s presence had an immediate effect, lifting the atmosphere quickly from one of anticipation to dreamlike euphoria in just a few long, subtle transitions. The art of playing b2b is undoubtedly a tricky one, but the pair were able to avoid any disjointedness, no doubt largely the result of many years of familiarity with one another, but also down in part to relatively long periods between changeovers, steering clear of the single-track plays which destabilise many a collaborative set.
Drawing regularly from the Innervisions catalogue, both men mixed with typical assurance and grandeur, indulging the crowd with long blends of rolling basslines and heart-thump kicks, soft panned pads and resonant synth strings. What’s magical about Dixon sets is the way he creates a sense of journey, building up and adding energy to embellish the regular 4/4 kicks which tie the set together, and this talent is clearly not missing in Ame’s arsenal either. Sparing use of the vocal-led tracks that many will associate with Ame sets – both live and mixed – heightened the deployment of deep-house leaning tracks, allowing the flowing techno soundscapes to drive and dictate the immersed audience. Like their productions, the five hour set was tailored towards creating an emotive atmosphere, with carefully timed breaks providing moments of clarity just as the audience look set to start tiring from the climb.
It’s the kind of night that demonstrates European techno at its finest; an intricate and inspiring myriad of timbres set to the primitive urges of dance beats. Dixon wants us to find ourselves lost in it, and I for one have found no reason to question him yet.
Words by Andrew Kemp
Image courtesy of Canal Mills and sourdoreille