Twitch 9th Birthday – Pangaea
Saturday 28th November 2015 – QUBSU, Belfast
Last Saturday, what’s now undoubtedly become an institution in local electronic music crept into its 9th year. Though, ‘crept’ isn’t really the word. On this year’s parallel event to the one that saw the Twitch group draw Omar S over to Northern Irish shores in late 2014, Martyn was pencilled in to put the icing on top of another riotous year that has seen an impressive array of high-quality acts grace the Bunatee room – Midland, Hunee, Peverelist & Kowton, Move D, Head High & Prosumer, Joy Orbison with newcomer Job Jobse, Anthony Naples and Pariah, to name but a few…
Unlike last year’s birthday event, however, this year’s milestone occasion suffered from an initial setback resulting from the fact that its big performer was unfortunately forced to cancel a few days ahead of the gig. After many “false dawns” (according to the Twitch Facebook page) as far as booking the Dutch selector has been concerned, this was understandably disappointing, not least for the event organisers – who have repeatedly mentioned how high a regard they hold his music in – as well as for regular Twitch-goers. But where one door closes, another opens. With little time spent lingering on the cancellation of Martyn – who, we’re told, will make his long-awaited debut sometime in the near future – the guys managed to pull in some last-minute UK-sourced talent, in the form of London’s Pangaea, for his second solo performance at the Bunatee (the first being all the way back at the start of 2012).
Being totally honest, I was pretty unsure about what to expect from the co-founder of the formidable Hessle Audio. And this wasn’t anything to do with the memory of a bad performance or association with Pangaea. It was also nothing to do with his standing or the deep level of respect people in the dance music world appear to have for his work. If anything, it was just down to only ever having seen him perform live as part of the London-based collective prior to last weekend, and with him not appearing to have as much as its two other members (Ben UFO and Pearson Sound) in the way of a visible live performance or production back catalogue. He appeared on the Boiler Room for only the first time this summer at Dekmantel, and one Youtube commenter’s quip – that Pangaea was a bit like “the george harrison of hessle” – sort of echoed how I was feeling about the DJ/producer at this point before the night got going.
Luckily, though, any lingering uncertainties I might have had were quickly dispelled once Pangaea took to the front of an already-pulsating Bunatee at around 1 AM. With the crowd visibly energised on the back of a warm-up that was filled with big tunes from the year that was – a number of which were posted on their social media accounts earlier that day – the stage was well set for Pangaea to take over the reins.
With a good head of steam worked up already, what followed for the next two hours was a sustained, back-and-forth volley of punishing techno. Track IDs were admittedly tricky to tease out in amidst this chaotic medley of febrile, unrelenting sounds and hefty bassline thumps, and to some degree they aren’t all that useful in giving an indication of how the show panned out. Two that were picked out after the night, though, were Randomer’s spine-tingling Huh and DJ HMC’s unstoppable Marauder. They’re handy reference points for the set and for anchoring Pangaea’s tastes a little bit, but with the two hours having played out mostly in rolling waves of techno tunes, overlapping samples and drum machine accompaniments, it becomes pretty difficult to pinpoint specific moments that stood out over the rest of the night’s music. The sort of grainy, rough-hewn underground energy that Pangaea still carries over from his student and pirate radio days into a lot of his releases was present in a lot of the tracks he pulled out during the course of the two hours (which, again, made them hard to pin down). In the end, it all became the kind of heady, manic set that is just best to slip into and let wash over you.
A slightly more removed live performer than some of the acts who have played here recently (and not unlike his Hessle cohorts, in this respect), Pangaea more than made up for his on-stage reserve with stellar selections and an upfront, no-prisoners-taken delivery. His encore, for instance, wasted no time in treating dancers to several minutes of old school rave, before rounding things off with some of the heavy-hitting techno fare that made up the main body of his show.
One last night before the Christmas break will play host to Panorama Bar resident Steffi, supported by her longstanding vocalist Virginia. As one of the most established names in house and techno out there, this is definitely one to mark down in the calendar and not to be missed. Once again, hats – or tops, for many – off to Twitch for consistently providing some of the best bookings and live atmospheres in Irish dance music for a number of years now.