As the morning dawned on February 27th a palpable sense excitement seemed to be dusted over the city of Manila. A burgeoning musical and arts community has been emerging slowly over the years, where an over-the-top bottle service with sparklers culture has seemed ever dominant. A facet of like minded individuals have been pushing for something of an alternative…
The team behind UNKNWN have been very much in the thick of promoting such events for quite some time; bringing in artists both local and international at many different events. However, UNKNWN brings with it a sense of ambition, a series of shows, running monthly from February to September throughout different locations around the city… each with its own guest DJ. Very much in the vein of of the secret guerrilla raves of the 80’s and 90’s, the locations are often kept secret until just days before the party starts. The opening event was revealed to be taking place on top of the City Garden Grand Hotel tower which stands regally over Makati Avenue. The first guest dj’s; Italian-born Francesca Lombardo, and Berghain resident - Answer Code Request.
Upon arrival guests were instructed to take the elevator 32 stories to the rooftop bar - usually a space reserved for hotel guests to dine and take in panoramic views of the city, today the seating was replaced by a Funktion One sound system. Moving through the entrance, a white armband was provided for access to the day party, and a black band for the after hours night party…
Opening was Samantha Nicole - a regular in the local scene, resident for Fatale and promoter for UNKNWN. The sun setting in the distance as her deep house selections set the mood for the days proceedings. I myself was greeted upon arrival to the quirky synth lines of Metro Area’s ’Atmospherique’.
As darkness fell over Makati, more revellers began to arrive. The potential of the party became very apparent. The sense of community felt strong as familiar faces greeted one another and introductions were made between new friends. Many spent their first few minutes familiarising themselves with the new space and time was taken to appreciate the city views that were presented to them at such a high altitude.
Taking over from Samantha Nicole, Manila newcomer Cinemassacre took to the decks. A member of Manchester’s (and Kalukis) Pirate Copy collective, and co-promoter of Slaughterhouse events at Time. His eclectic set was tinged with funk and soul. Records from Curtis Mayfield and David Bowie slid beside more traditional house records and tempted the crowd from the periphery and into the action. The warmup near completion, the roof deck reached capacity.
Manolet Dario was the man to be handed the reigns next. Somewhat of a local hero, Manolet’s reputation for tight mixing and rolling tech house is well established. Tribal rhythms and low-slung sub-bass was the order of the day for the NBK resident. The lights dimmed as his set locked into a groove setting the pace for the headliner. The dance floor ebbed as drinks flowed. It was now time for the first guest dj of the evening - Francesca Lombardo.
Francesca’s heritage is one of a classical nature, famed for her singing talents in many of her productions. Signed to Crosstown Rebels, her set featured many tracks one might hear in Ibiza’s infamous DC10. The crowd appreciating breakdowns and buildups as she mixed smoothly between tracks. Ending on an unreleased production of her own, applause erupted for the visitor as the first leg of the night was completed.
Time serves as the cities focal point for after hours house and techno. Something of an anomaly in 2016, parties at the Makati Avenue space tend to last until mid morning. A booming bass-heavy sound system and strict music policy ensure regulars are served regularly with underground electronic music - with an all out ban on commercial EDM.
We arrived at the tail end of Miguel Libre’s opening set - dark and atmospheric, the already packed club moved with the Subverse DJ.
Next up was UNKNWN's very own David Sorrenti. David’s set had a quintessentially Berlin feeling about it. 909’s and stabbing synths echo’d through the main room. Industrial sounding pads swirled around the sound system and the excitement built minute by minute. The moment approached for the main event of the evening.
Answer Code Request is revered in techno circles. His work on Ostgut Ton regarded seminal, and his reputation for hard hitting sets proceeds him. On the night, he was true to form, heavy kick drums and warped sequences fluttered around the room. Often operating with 3 decks, minimal compositions were chopped and changed with precision. Catching ACR in such an intimate space was a privilege, and the crowd responded heartily.
The closing slot was handed to Emel Rowe, hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Emel is renowned for playing diverse selections - including disco and classic house. Having probably the least enviable task of the night, his excellent skills behind the controls were showcased as he broke suit and delivered an eerie and acidic techno workout to close the night. In a city with such a thriving underground scene, UNKNWN is a very welcome addition. Inclusive of performers from many of the different promotions across the city, what is setting Manila apart is the willingness of these promoters to work together. One look at the roster of UNKNWN DJ’s is indicative of this. Long may it continue.