Deadly serious riotous fun
When Aphex Twin played the Warehouse Project in 2007 what initially looked to be his security entourage stood in front of him on stage. Their muscles popped out of their tight white Aphex Twin logo T-shirts but they were in fact world-class competitive gurners that Richard D James had hired for kicks. They contorted their faces and mouths in unthinkable often grotesque ways that mirrored the unfathomable and misshapen rhythms that raged from the speakers.
Tonight, the only faces that’re twisted and manipulated in such a way are the ones that belong on the giant screen behind Aphex Twin. At one point they include a selection of people from Manchester as the visuals maul and mutilate photos of footballers and the cast of Coronation Street – a sea of thousands looking up to see nightmarish incarnations of Jack and Vera Duckworth looming over them.
Aphex Twin is kicking off the latest season of the Warehouse Project by performing and curating the opening evening in a brand new venue after WHP left their Store Street location after almost 15 years. He’s invited the likes of Nina Kravitz, 33EMYBW, Lee Gamble, Rian Treanor and Aleksi Perälä to perform alongside him. Walking into Depot Mayfield – a previously abandoned railway depot – feels a more like walking around a city than it does a venue. The 10,000 capacity space is almost overwhelming in its size and scope, making one feel like an ant scuttling around inside the belly of a giant beast.
Thankfully, the venue doesn’t match the usual hyper-slick super club atmosphere and aesthetic that you may associate with such a large capacity space. The essence of the building – tunnel-like, exposed bricks and shadowy corners – has been kept in place so it succeeds in feeling like something of an actual warehouse party or underground event. It’s dark, cavernous, sonorous and offers little in the way of unnecessary frills or luxuries, instead focusing on the combination of pulsing lights, throbbing sound systems and the gargantuan space to be recipe enough. WHP in the past has, quite rightly, faced criticism of some events at their previous venue Store Street feeling over crowded but there seems little danger of that being an issue in their new home which allows ample room to dance and wander in its vastness.
And while Aphex Twin is obviously the main draw, there’s much excitement to be found elsewhere too. Earlier sets by Lee Gamble and Rian Treanor are key highlights, with the latter’s ability to blend playfulness with uncompromising experimentalism – whilst always jolting seamlessly between grooves and anti-rhythms – is a persistent joy. Nina Kravitz has the unenviable task of following Aphex Twin but she storms the home straight with a blistering set.