The Hessle Audio gang have come a long way since bumping into each other in a queue outside London’s Plastic People. A mutual fascination with dubstep was the foundation for David Kennedy (Pearson Sound), Ben Thomson (Ben UFO) and Kevin McAuley’s (Pangaea) cross-pollinated imprint.
A decade on and Hessle Audio finds itself at the forefront of electronic creativity. Their sound has always challenged its listener, dipping in and out of techno, garage, dubstep, bass and grime to engineer something truly special. A scroll through the label’s Bandcamp is symbolic of a journey through a subterranean gold mine. It seems fitting that they celebrate ten years in the game with close friends and arguably Belfast’s finest electronic music institution, Twitch.
Twitch celebrated eleven years of throwing parties on Saturday night. The ethos of both the night and the label are remarkably similar. Twitch have never shied away from a challenging booking in the same way Pearson Sound and co have never shied away from a challenging listen. That’s why we love music, isn’t it? We don’t want something that’s super easy to take in. We want to be excited, engrossed and entertained.
That’s what makes Twitch so special. They don’t choose the easy option. In an industry were selling tickets often becomes more important than booking an artist who is breaking boundaries and opening eyes to fresh ideas Twitch stand strong, dedicated to the sounds of the old, the new and the radical.
Twitch’s eleventh boasted a massive line up. Pearson Sound, Ben UFO and Pangaea were joined by Hotlfush Recordings artist Or:la and a rare performance from Hessle Audio’s own Joe.
Local favourite Or:la got the party underway on the roof of Mandela Hall. A music venue that is the home of many of Belfast’s most treasured rave memories, Mandela will soon be demolished, along with the entirety of the Queen’s Student Union, to make room for a contemporary home for the university’s students. The new plans do include an ‘entertainment venue’, but there is an underlying fear that it may not be as culturally valuable as the beloved Mandela Hall has become over the years. This only made the roof party that little bit more sentimental.
A few necked Heverlee’s and a badly rolled cigarette later and we found ourselves in the Bunatee soaking in the vibes from Joe.
Joe’s discography is a remarkable listen. His work sits on both sides of the fence that lies between the dancefloor and home. Badman basslines and tribal energy make for left field grooves and music that really makes you think. His debut Belfast performance followed the same ideology, sticking to the original Hessle Audio disinterest in disposable music. A rare performance and one certainly worth catching.
A short walk across the lobby and soon the sounds of Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea simultaneously caressed and punished our ears. Their back to back set had everything you could have possibly wanted from a Hessle Audio performance. Introverted, self reflective grooves were welcomed by those eager for a breather whilst the soulful experimentation of Daphni’s ‘Yes, I Know’ incited a scene of joy and euphoria.
The highlight of the night came from Or:la and her low ceiling Bunatee bar performance. It had everything. The Hotflush producer has become a master of innovation, distributing the ideal sound for each individual setting she enters. We caught her at Sunflower Festival earlier in the year and she dropped Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ into the middle of a set. Here we were treated with SL2’s ‘On A Ragga Trip’. Timeless. The roof of the Bunatee vibrating from the impact of a hundred ecstatic fists.
The end of Mandela may be near, but the memories from nights like Saturday will live forever.
Twitch x Hessle Audio photographed by Ruairi Drayne