Over the last couple of weeks, as the sky has grown darker and the summer sun has given way to fresh bouts of rain, the season of flouncing house and balmy disco edits has been slipping away. We've had a great summer, but as this weekend's wet and wild bank holiday began, and everyone started talking about carnival, we had our sights set on something steelier, something more punishing, something a little more, raw.
All photos by Beth MillsTucked away in a warehouse space somewhere near Shadwell, a murky underbelly underneath a London otherwise bubbling with festivities, was Blueprint — opening night of Hydra's new season, and the best techno lineup we've seen all year.So our evening began, tinnies in hand, surveying the dripping walls of the studio spaces we had submitted the next twelve hours to. Techno is only as good as the environment it's listened to in, and Hydra always pay keen attention to this. The space housing Blueprint had just the right amount of industrial chic going for it, alongside plenty of room to get your head away from the pounding 909s for a while. Yes, it was hot, too hot. Sweat falling from your eyebrows hot. "Jesus I can't take much more of this" hot. "My trousers are sticking to the creases of my knees" hot. But, Hydra have totally acknowledged the air-con's shortcomings on Facebook, stating "From the artists to sound, production and overall experience we only ever want to deliver perfection for everyone attending so we're sorry if the heat affected your evening." And given how the rest of the evening panned out, we aren't going to have any problems forgiving them.From our opening bout with an effortlessly on form Helena Hauff, welcoming us in with her signature shades of analog-led breaks, builds, and bangs, we shuffled with the growing crowd into the main warehouse for the first of the evening's titans, in the shape of Robert Hood. We've seen Hood a couple of times this year — once at Weather Festival in Paris, and once more at Glastonbury. On both occasions he slipped between his more strictly techno output as Robert Hood, into the gospel-informed heights of his Floorplan moniker — he even went as far as to drop a bit of New Order. Well, whether it was the sweat or the complete lack of lights, there was no such let up this time around. It was full on Robert Hood in full on Robert Hood mode. Okay, we got a couple of Floorplan moments in the shape of "Baby, Baby" and "Never Grow Old", but largely it was all splintering beats and wild curling basslines. From start to finish he was on inimitable, spine-tingling form. The night couldn't have gotten off to a better start if it had tried.
Yet beneath the towering behemoths that littered the lineup, there were pockets of hidden gold in the smaller Black Studio. The first of these was a b2b from Tessela and Untold, which gave way to a similarly brazen session from Kowton and Peverelist. Both sets made waves to break out of the straight pummeling of the rest of the evening, introducing cacophonies of breakbeats, syncopated rhythms, and blaring horn stabs into the mix. The b2b's proved unbelievably dynamic, adding unexpected contortions to an already stellar course through everything large and moody.It was then time to check in with the timelessly powerful Jeff Mills. He's a self-proclaimed space obsessive, and there was as ever a touch of the other-worldly about his performance. Steely, stern, and winding with galactic throbs and wobbles, Mills managed to fill the already packed to the brim Warehouse with the sort of Detroit-dappled, industrial leaning set nobody else is even close to capable of. Having formed part of Underground Resistance with Robert Hood, the two of them sharing a lineup offered particular resonance — serving as a monstrous, and demonstrative, reminder as to exactly what the two of them have brought to techno. One adding the washes of higher spirituality, the other practically in orbit, it was a schooling in their irresistible respective powers. Pioneers still reigning supreme.By this point, we'd reach close to 8am, and the delirium of hour after hour soaking up strenuous drum patterns and countless other stimulants had left the remainder of the crowd in a feverish, but resolutely fist-pumping, state. From the exhausted applause that carried Objekt's powerful two hours to a close, to the final throng stood battered by Rødhåd's Berliner excellence, the mood had reached that normally unreachable deranged joy exclusive to sessions just like this. Of course nobody wanted the night to be over, but judging by the clammy hair and creasing eyes of the stragglers spilling out under the unforgiving 10am sun, home didn't seem like too bad a shout either.
This crowd, was in many ways, what made the evening such a pleasure. It is, of course, an unmistakable quality of die-hard techno fans. For whatever reason, be it the focus of the music or the restrained quality of the DJs, the standard punter is not only "there for the music", but conscious enough of everybody else not to spend the evening shoving people out of the way. Even the slightly panicked ginger bloke who threw up in the smoking area took time to apologise to everybody around him, before calmly asking a bouncer if he could help clearing it up at all.Shouts out are also absolutely due to Hydra. Not only for sticking Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, Rødhåd, Tessela, Helena Hauff, and Objekt on the same bill in East London — but also for their attentiveness to throw a night that not only hosts the music, but maximises its potential. The sound was ever-present, without being over-bearing, and the visuals that accompanied each set flooded the rooms without ever distracting. Above all, their continuing communication with ticket holders is something promoters all over could take something from. It might sound straight forward, but there aren't many nights out where you could complain about the air-con the next day and have a full apology in response.It was an odyssey worth waiting for, and more than worth enduring. As we emerged onto the puddles of the mid-monday-morning streets, trying desperately to remember the address of the bloke we met in the smoking area who said he was having an after-party, we were sprung back into reality with a jolt. Bumping into lamp-posts, the daylight stinging our eyes, we were confident of only one thing. Summer is over. Long live Jeff Mills.Follow Angus on Twitter.