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Kamixlo and Endgame behind the DJ booth in the smoke clouds left behind by King Midas Sound & Fennesz

(Check out the the entire photo series >> HERE <<)

One of the things that has been puzzling me most last year is why there was virtually nothing going on in the Netherlands when it comes to the new club/trax avant-garde. While in many countries around the world, collectives, events, labels and communites where mushrooming everywhere, there was nothing even close to that over here. Sure, there are individual producers involved in the movement such as Torus, but they exist more or less in a vacuum, a product almost entirely of the internet instead of their physical surroundings. But now times seem about to change, with the first Amsterdam edition of Progress Bar featuring London underground excitements Kamixlo and Endgame, alongside live act King Midas Sound & Fennesz and Progress Bar host DJ Juha van’t Zelfde.

Progress Bar is a creation of the Brighton avant-garde cultural platform and venue Lighthouse. Evolving out of Lighthouse’s earlier Improving Reality events, the Progress Bar is a catalyser for “cutting edge thinking and dancing“, a podium to explore the significance of new cultural expressions in a context of technology, society and politics by means of a diverse blend of talks, workshops, live music, film and club nights. After a series of successful events in Brighton, Lighthouse’s artistic director and Progress Bar host Juha van’t Zelfde teamed up with Lighthouse’s Dutch counterpart platform Sonic Acts to bring the Progress Bar concept to Amsterdam.

Progress Bar was set in the cultural meeting spot Tolhuistuin, located on the north side of the IJ river, just a three minutes free ferry cossing away from Central Station, with the modest skyline of Amsterdam’s old city centre glowing on the horizon. Described by the website as the place where the cultural experimental garden of Amsterdam’s North abandoned shipyard area is connected to the outer world, the location left an almost symbolic impression of the night. The programme consisted of a lectures session with THE FADER journalist Aimee Cliff and the influential Trinidadian writer and performer Roger Robinson (both based in London), a live concert from King Midas Sound & Fennesz, introduced with a short set by Juha, and afterwards the Endless club night experience with no less than Kamixlo and Endgame.

Not so long ago, Aimee Cliff wrote an article in THE FADER about the current state of club culture in London and the way it is influenced by continuous gentrification. The transformation of neighbourhoods from neglected impoverished areas into expensive places for young rich families, pushing out the original poor inhabitants as well as the unique club cultures they were home to. In her lecture she pointed at the Endless crew as one of the prime examples of an independent movement which posits itself as a protest force against gentrification of their physical neighbourhood Brixton as well as the social environment of the club itself. I had a chat with her afterwards about the similarities and differences between the UK and the Dutch situation, considering what makes London so different from Amsterdam or Rotterdam even though they are so similar in so many ways.

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Being less actively involved in the ambient/noise scene, I was not yet familiar with King Midas Sound & Fennesz, whose sound immediately reminded me of the sonic style of the live acts at the Afrofuturism Festival, Morgan Craft and Nyfolt in particular. King Midas Sound – originally a joint project in itself already of the abovementioned vocalist/poet/performer Roger Robinson, experimental ambient-bass producer Kevin Martin and the Japanese artist and singer Kiki Hitomi – joined forces last year with the Austrian guitar-noise artist Fennesz for a forward-looking album called “Edition 1”. The unique musical direction of the album is a perfect blend of King Midas Sound’s melancholic, poetic vocals and experimental beats with Fennesz’ abstract art of stacking layers of melodic loops and noise into atmospheric soundscapes. The intense, mysterious ambiance, arising from the depths of the ocean and swelling into an apocalyptic thunder so loud that standing in the room was only bearable with earplugs, was enhanced by smoke machines cloaking the entire stage in a blanket of barely translucent mist. Viewed from the floor, the clouds surrounding the stage like a sacred mountain and the rumbling soundscapes became one, filling the entire place, alternately bursting out, lightening and evaporating again. Piercing through the sonic thunderstorm came the angelic voices of Robinson and Hitomi, singing tender songs about pain, love and desolation.

“Edition 1” (>> BUY HERE <<)

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Kiki Hitomi from King Midas Sound, only visible as a silhouette, veiled behind the mist

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View from the crowd

A documentary impression of the band King Midas Sound from four years back

After the live performance, the floor was to Kamixlo and Endgame. The third Endless crew member Lexxi, originally part of the line-up, couldn’t be there unfortunately because of his health. Since 2012, they’ve been building a whole new club culture from the scratch, one that breaks every expectation commonly associated with clubbing while at the same time, bringing club culture back to its essence of providing a safe space for young people, especially from intersections of ethnic and sexual minorities, to do their own thing and escape the hardships of life in music that reflects their reality. Endless utterly erases the boundaries of conventional genres and the dominance of 4/4 beats with nothing more than a laptop on a small table from which the crew members play with their back towards the dance floor.

At Progress Bar, things were a little bit different so that the Endless experience couldn’t be transplanted in its entirety but had to be translated and conveyed to an audience relatively new to the underground club sound in a hall with a high stage and a robust DJ booth that automatically created a sense of distance between artist and crowd. Kamixlo opened with a first set presenting his unique personal style and sound. To me, the explosive rollercoaster ride between industrial dembow beats with mellow references to reggaeton and RnB, mixed with heavy grime and Chicago drill bangers was one of the most powerful emotional experiences I ever had on the dance floor (possibly anywhere at all). It was as if a trapped chain of suppressed feelings was progressively pulled, teased and out of its cage by a continuous back and forth massage between tender sensuality and total destruction.

Endgame’s presentation set leaned more towards the conceptual ambient side of the underground club movement, with his own characteristic signature style of dark-ethereal melodic synths accompanied by the downtempo rhythmical patterns of reggaeton and zouk. During his set, the dislocating, sterile yet sensual cybernetic sounds blended together with the fluorescent geometric light patterns projected in the dark hall into one impressive, dystopian-futuristic ambiance that felt as if I were dancing in the universe of my own tumblr. In a way, Kamixlo and Endgame together showed both essetial faces of the club underground movement. Kamixlo demonstrated the attitude of crossing the boundaries of genres and showed how vibes commonly understood as opposites can perfectly supplement each other, while Endgame showed the uniquely futuristic sound that comes out of the ever growing scene of young creative musicians expressing their reality with this attitude.

Sniper Redux ft. Blaze Kid & Uli-K, based on a Kamixlo & Uli-K edit of Endgame’s ‘Sniper Riddim‘ shows the absolutely unique sound from the London underground, combining the essence of underground reggaeton, rap and grime with a subtle dark-futuristic club atmosphere

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Kamixlo behind the decks

Endgame

Endgame

In the meantime, I hang out with grime/footwork experimentalist J(ay)A.D., just back from a trip to Suriname, and his friend the eclectic bass alrounder and Liquorish Records curator Oomboi Lauw and also met the unique Dutch conceptual producer Torus, who happened to be a good friend of NAAFI OG Lao. Strolling between the dancefloor, the smoking area and the bar in the hall outside, the night slowly changed from a showcase of specific sounds and personal styles more into the radically eclectic, ‘endless’ whirlpool of vibes that I imagined of the nights in London, varying not just between dembow, ambient club music and rap but now between anything from dancehall to nostalgic 90s rave to metal or industrial caribbean drums, beyond rational coherence. But it al made deep sense on the level of expression, loosing yourself entirely in the music.

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Cyberpunk-esque geometric projections on the dance floor

At the end of the night I had the great opportunity to sit with these two amazing musicians, also really cool people in person, for some water and Haribo’s and chat with them about the history and future of their scene in London, soon published for the new Trailblazers session.

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This first edition of Progress Bar has powerfully shown that The Netherlands is ready for the new club movement. With Staycore showcase NASE3 last week, which I couldn’t attend due to my own gig, it had an immediate follow up for people who got enthusiastic for this sound. The next edition for progress bar is already scheduled for March, but who can’t wait until then, there is a regular nights in the making in Amsterdam and, of course there is the grand SONIC ACTS ACADEMY, entirely dedicated to the club avant-garde with an absolutely splendid line-up. Of course Generation Bass will be there to report. We’ll be back with more news!

SonicActsAcademy

Flyer for the Sonic Acts Academy

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