In something of a coup for local promotors Northern Electric Festival and Portions For Foxes, tonight saw Travis Stewart’s UK tour behind latest album Human Energy kick off upstairs at local clubbing institution World Headquarters. It’s an ideal venue to experience Stewart’s immersive, fast-moving productions – even if the Thursday night and day-job friendly stage times seem to confuse some attendees who, expecting later club hours, drifted through in the midst of Stewart’s energetic performance.
For those who did make it down early though, they were treated to superb sets from two very different but accomplished north-east producers. Xaatu’s opening set displayed plenty of the remixes with which he’s been making his name, traversing current trends in hip-hop and R&B but with an enjoyably up-tempo, speeding approach. Ochre meanwhile offers a more downtempo proposition, mixing layered beats and synth washes akin to Ulrich Schnauss or Boards of Canada with live guitar playing for a more subdued but unquestionably immersive set.
Very little, however, can compare to the frantic pace and overwhelming physical force of a live Machinedrum set. Interweaving sampled hip-hop with truly comic timing amidst a plethora of his own productions, both released and brand new, Stewart’s MIDI trigger set up found him unleashing a storm of snare rolls and chopped-up breaks whilst still tapping into the brightness and glossy melodies of Human Energy. Refusing to settle into one genre or lane of dance music, this genre-stomping performance was a rare chance to see a master of the field in his natural environment.