Review: Boxed X Local Action

Art & Culture

Assembled under the Clock Strikes 13 banner, the lineup for this night is frankly obscene. An embarrassment of riches such that ravers have flown in from Europe and even North America. 11 B2B sets – most of them never previously attempted – featuring some of the finest DJs from the extended Boxed and Local Action families. With the Bussey Building’s usual hallucinatory projections supplemented by Rachel Noble’s very cool visuals, and the decision to bring in a booming Neuron Pro Audio rig, the stage is set for a special evening.

Spooky and Oil Gang is one of the pairings that makes immediate sense, so I’m surprised to hear it’s not been done before. Drawing for a crowd-pleasing set, Spooky takes control for the majority, working in an astounding number of mixes and keeping everyone on their toes. His touch is everywhere, from that ever-present DJ tag to all the exclusive edits – ‘Lighter’, ‘Keep Calling’, ‘Liff’. Oil Gang chimes in with some of the biggest anthems, most obviously the Psycho strings of Trends & Boylan’s forthcoming ‘Norman Bates’ which I’ve been dying to get a release ever since I first heard Slimzee play it back in the summer.

Sudanim (Her Records) and Logos are two of the more out-there DJs on this lineup. Playing on three decks, what they come up with is probably my favourite set of the night. Beginning with hard-edged drum workouts and Jersey club before veering between different tempos, their approach sees them highlighting the similarities between various strands of club music. The pair excel at teasing tracks, bringing them in only to pull away at the last second, and generally creating interesting dynamics and refusing to settle into a groove. This is a set where the frantic flute techno of DJ Marfox’s ‘2685’ dovetails beautifully with the heavy metal bass assault of Killa P/Distance’s ‘Badman’.

On paper, perhaps the most interesting team-up is Mumdance and Sir Spyro, and it doesn’t disappoint. The form the set would take was not immediately obvious. A selection of deeper tunes – Commodo’s ‘Lights’ and Riko Dan/The Bug’s monstrous ‘Iceman’ among them – really show off the power of the soundsystem, before the set settles into a parade of grime anthems both new and old from the likes of Chronik, Riko Dan and AJ Tracey. Spyro finishes things off by letting ‘Topper Top’ run all the way through – a fair victory lap for a track that’s ruled the raves in 2016.

Mr. Mitch and JD. Reid start off all cosmic and trancey before drawing for some of the hottest tunes of the moment – ‘Pick Up the Phone’ into ‘Whippin Excursion’ is the hypest mix of the night, and Flowdan’s ‘Horror Show Style’ gets another great crowd response. Spooky’s ‘Cherry’, forthcoming on Oil Gang, is a delicious blend of grime and reggae, and there’s even a cheeky airing of old Channel U-era classic ‘Gash by the Hour’.

This was clearly a special night for everyone involved, artists and ravers alike. With lineups as stacked as this you’re always going to miss people – in particular, it’s a shame I only caught a tiny chunk of Finn and UNiiQU3, which judging by Twitter was an absolute madness. But every set I witnessed had a claim to be among the best I’ve heard all year. Boxed x Local Action was a demonstration of the immense power of collaboration, and a snapshot of the rich seam of creativity this particular corner of the underground seems to be tapping into. Now let’s do it all again next year.

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