By Henry Hodson
Boiler Room London – 24/02/15
‘Dan, are you going to drop some bangers tonight?’
Daniel Avery stands stone-faced before us in the Boiler Room bar. His taciturn wit covers for a mind elsewhere, ears already tuned to monitor the main room with impenetrable focus. For him, the performance has long begun.
Opening proceedings tonight, and having headlined the venue two weeks previously, Bleaching Agent is keen to prove his caustic blend on the staunch surroundings of the Boiler Room. The naked pipework above strains a hiss, and snares move between the clang of a wooden spoon on a saucepan and the shudder of corrugated iron. Almost immediately, Bleaching Agent drills our skulls and the girders above with a mechanical grind that threatens structural alteration, its off-beat punches catching us on the wrong foot; the occasional transition is jarring, but for Bleaching Agent cacophony is a tool, and when rhythms realign they remain just as syncopated. It is the molten fusion of modern industrial sparsity and Detroit machine soul melody in Redshape’s Throw In Dirt that defines Bleaching Agent’s paradox, and by the time his three quarters are up we have barely tapped the surface.
Volte-Face is next on the bill, and, whilst ever true to his name, the immediate about turn he takes is decidedly less contrived than the name itself. Every tick of the hi hat sends us more irretrievably into his dimension, and as the live camera inches closer to the controls, the crowd bouncing higher around him, there is no pace that Volte-Face cannot keep. His progression is seamless, relentless, and when blaring sirens shift into a muted synth shuffle none of the urgency is lost. Volte-Face paints a dystopic vision of the future – his skeleton t shirt in line with the bare-bone bleakness of his beats, vocal samples from Cornwallis’ At The Disco echo morbid words distorted beyond what is discernibly human. While Answer Code Request sets up his midi pads in the opposing booth, Volte-Face picks off any survivors with a squadron of shrieking swoops from above, and leaves the floor to be rebuilt from the rubble.
T-minus one hour, and Boiler Room’s unassuming host utters an introduction in nasal tones to the Answer Code Request live set. Patrick Gräser himself, smart hair slicked over, acts under no time pressure, however: orchestrating a build-up sample by sample in which synths are shelved on top of one another and filtered individually, almost imperceptibly, swirling in the aether with no audible pulse for an anchor. Answer Code Request allows for nothing before its time, and as a man in the front row yawns in hypnosis, it seems almost that the light display of the digital pads is more arresting than the music itself. When at last a kick enters the mix and a triangle can be heard pinging from the very back of the room, a cheer of relief erupts. The loops begin to spiral slowly to ground level, and by the end of the set a bounce has roused the room once again, weighted clangs punch through the crowd as though from opposite sides of an aircraft hangar for the final number.
Daniel Avery is a master of tension and release. Over the past three hours he has observed from the floor, following every peak and trough of the journey he has curated for us. For the final, cathartic release though, it is no standout track from 2013’s Drone Logic that he gives us. It is not ‘All I Need’, then, but rather that which he knows we need. We almost drown in the viscous organ line as it churns and bubbles through the opening moments, and all the while Avery holds us down. But once laced with an escalator of high treble stabs, the pace quickens until the lightning strobe strikes. From here on we are in flux, with two-second snatches of hi-hat skittering along the ceiling like swarms of insects, and the clatter of Peter Van Hoesen’s new cut Swerve Damiao brought in with all the glitch and delay of a dial up internet connection. Avery’s is a face of confident composure, his sleight of hand undeniable, and he stamps on the seeds of his famed songs no sooner than he has planted them. But despite a conscious move away from the celebrated sounds of Drone Logic and the analogue equipment he used to produce it, Avery loses none of his euphoric warmth, and as he cues up one more song we find ourselves ready to surrender entirely to the man.
Volte-Face’s remix of Platform Zero fills the air with its symphonic swell, and for the first and last time, Daniel Avery smiles – a knowing smile. He has asked us to jump, and in the slow-motion abandon of the fall a distinct bittersweetness descends too. It is the realisation that the arc of the day has come to its eventual end, it is the final snatch of the sun’s glow before dusk. From the anonymous charity of the last-minute venue leak to the affectionate introductions shouted within, Boiler Room tonight is the intersection of five hundred different origins through one infectious, human passion.
In Daniel Avery, Divided Love is united.