Popular convention has it that in the early stages of the century the era of the superclub died. Monoliths such as Cream and Gatecrasher lost their weekly potency and clubland was officially in crisis, particularly as many of the magazines touting this state of affairs slid into oblivion. A closer approximation of the truth was that the party stratosphere for which electronic music hinges on was merely in a state of temporary flux rather than terminal decline, and 2003 would see an event in Manchester that would sow the seed for the next phase of the huge clubbing vessel tightening its domineering grip.
That party was a glorious warehouse affair in Boddington’s Brewery, a showcase that still ranks in the minds of this particular voice of Pulse as possibly the finest electronic music dalliance we’ve ever attended. The glorious line-up included DJ Sneak and Derrick Carter locked in a four hour back to back tussle, A Guy Called Gerald playing live (‘Voodoo Ray’ a misty eyed moment for a sea of ex Hacienda ravers emerging briefly from retirement), and a peerless performance from DJ Marky at the pinnacle of his showboating prowess.
More importantly though it provided the template for the Warehouse Project, with many of the creative figures behind it present in some capacity that evening. Nearly coming to the close of a simply scintillating programme in their new venue, amidst the sea of triple pronged orgasms of sound one stood out as corker for real connoisseurs of rave. It was an evening dedicated to the standout performer of that Boddington’s dream nine years previously, a certain Laurent Garnier.
That set Garnier delivered, a five hour tour de force of emotion tunnelled through every conceivable genre under the sun, still stands as maybe the best we’ve ever witnessed. So there was simply no doubt that with Garnier entrusted for a full eight hours on his lonesome Pulse would be in attendance, regardless of the positioning on a Sunday. This was one for the die-hards, the event we would be talking about for years to come, the real end of year bonanza 15 days early. The question is, did it live up to this feverish hype? Nope. It exceeded it.
First things first, even witnessing only a certain tier of the new venue it’s clear the WHP has seriously upped its game. This is the real deal from the raw industrial way dance music, certainly in this country, is best experienced within. There’s a touch of Trouw’s huge breezeblock opulence about the place, a fine compliment considering the Amsterdam club’s rightful place as one of the best clubs on the planet. Negotiating the bar and the cloakroom is a shivering exercise in light of the grim grip Mancunian December has inflicted, but it only adds to the excitement in engaging in the physical and metaphorical warmth the dancefloor exudes.
Once we’re there we’ve barely had time to find our feet as something faintly familiar begins straining out of the speakers. The recognisable components of ‘Voodoo Ray’ are being gently teased into the mix, instantly taking Pulse back to 2003 and countless others even further into the recesses of time. It’s a record that not only oozes warmth and nostalgia, but timeless languid dancefloor tomfoolery that anyone with even a smidgen of appreciation for this thing we call dance music reacts to. From then on we are utterly transfixed.
As the course of the evening goes on the dancefloor swells yet never to the point of saturation, and Garnier veers further and further into the annals of electronic music’s peerless quality. There’s lashings of gorgeous kissy house music, best represented by the beauty of Ten City’s ‘That’s The way Love Is’ and the giddily camp ‘Chocolate Sensation’ from Lenny Fontana and DJ Shorty. Underground flavours come courtesy of the criminally underrated ‘Aguila’ from the Aztec Mystic, gorgeous strings swathing the ears of all in attendance. And acid house never seems to be further than 20 minutes away, Sandee’s low slung ‘Notice Me’ and the crunching electronics of Steve Poindexter’s ‘Computer Madness’ all part of a sea of squiggles and gurgles erupting from the Roland’s fleet of primitive drum machines.
Lurching into rockier terrain, Garnier reverts to trademark twists such as Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for the man’ and an achingly beautiful interpretation of New Order’s ‘Temptation’. The list of classics dropped is endless (the set was billed after all as 25 years of Laurent Garnier) but there’s still moments for modern music to make the flashpoint, the blinkingly beautiful ‘Frentzen’ by Ian O’Donovan and Breccia a high point and a record you feel Garnier will be pushing for years to come.
But it’s the way the obvious and the subtle are all imbued together that really catches the eye, with the sum of parts always greater than any individual moment. This is best summarised by the way Garnier reaches for Mat Playford’s edit of the monster King Britt remix of Josh One’s ‘Contemplation’ rather than the Ibiza classic as the King intended, the extra chords and analogue feel Playford added just that little bit more appropriate than the sunnier original. As always with Garnier, the devil is in the detail.
The triumphant way his own masterpieces crackle into the mix adds the finishing gloss, the fist pumping that comes from the skulduggery emitting from ‘Crispy Bacon’ and the wide-mouthed euphoria of that saxophone in ‘The Man with the red Face’. They are the final ingredients in what is best simply described as a masterclass, the perfect round-up of why this selector has been so entrancing for the past quarter of a century.
Dance music is arguably at its most potent when it fearsomely strides into the unknown -blowing down existing paradigms of sound in a ground-breaking retaliation at everything else in the musical domain. That however ignores the wonderful way it can be experienced from a historical vanguard, whether through resurgences of the sounds and movements of yesteryear (take the current vanguard for the swing of early 90s house and garage) or at the hands of a DJ blurring the lines between the best music ever created.
And there is no-one on the planet who comes close to crafting the latter than Laurent Garnier. It’s so fitting that one of the cornerstones of the modern clubbing environment can be so expertly helmed by one of the greatest tastemakers we’ve ever known, turning in a career high point from a career based on them. It’s flabbergasting looking back just how special this night was, a musical high Pulse may struggle to ever replicate. Quite simply amazing.