Old Fountain Studios – May 10th
Five minutes off football’s reverently sacred Wembley Way lies a pilgrimage of a different sort. Last week the zealots and fanatics of one of Berlin techno’s most adulated deities descended on an old TV studio to offer their unconditional worship to Paul Kalkbrenner, and he duly rewarded them with one of the most vitalic and unexpectedly soulful live sets I’ve seen in a long time.
Nestling in the corner of Wembley Park is the latest addition to LWE’s ever-burgeoning roster of spectacular rave venues, the Old Fountain Studios hollowed out and refurbished into a mordantly industrial den, with arching walkways dizzyingly high and barbed wire tumbleweeds hiding in the room’s corners. The PR ahead of the show stressed the sophistication of the venue’s light rigging system; hyperbole is something you become numbed to when covering these events but the crew’s excitement over their lighting creation is entirely vindicated. Designed as a large, overhanging pyramid filled with smaller triangles, the tessellating lights system – also boasting 85 lasers – spotlighted Kalkbrenner at the set’s most timid ebb and washed the crowd in mustard light during ‘Sky And Sand’s’ euphoric opening chords. It was consistently energising, but crucially never upstaged the music, always foregrounding and without posturing.
At a capacity of 2000 in what was ostensibly a square room I was concerned about space and the prospective lack of it, but, although they didn’t quite sell out the show, there was plenty of room to dance. Morevoer, the airiness of the L’Acoustics soundsystem, while not as crystal clear as some of its competitors, never aggravated or overpowered with precise bass and treble levels. Considering this is only the venue’s second ever event, after the Martinez Brothers played there the Sunday previous, this was a remarkably efficient set-up.
Describing the relationship between Kalkbrenner and the crowd as a religious experience might be embellishment, but it truly epitomised the collective, reciprocated passion and joy which nudges raves into the realm of the spiritual.
Ańii warmed up the crowd with a debilitatingly intense live techno course, a crowd which will have likely changed in the work toilets and grabbed a meal deal on their journey to North West London given the dinnertime kick-off for Kalkbrenner’s emergence. Kalkbrenner’s appearance in Zone 4 was in promotion of his eighth studio album Parts Of Life – an attempt at coagulating the lifetime of Berlin techno since its blossoming in the late 80s – and the set manifested as half album launch/half Best Of, a structure that presents itself as unavoidably clunky but one Kalkbrenner navigated without, literally, missing a beat.
The new tracks, surprisingly introspective and idiosyncratic but never self-indulgent, seamlessly complemented Kalkbrenner’s thick tome of canonical favourites. Each surpassed its predecessor in populist, fistpumping glee; ‘Azure’; ‘Cloud Rider’; his thunderous remix of Kid Simius’s ‘Flute Song’; and his effervescent-trance Jefferson Airplane rework ‘Feed Your Head’. Describing the relationship between Kalkbrenner and the crowd as a religious experience might be embellishment, but it truly epitomised the collective, reciprocated passion and joy which nudges raves into the realm of the spiritual.
An unexpected encore brought with it an extended burst of the wistful ‘Aaron’, before the parishioners receded into the secular night.