25 September 2010

“The Hug Club”

“The Hug Club” - West Coast Bar - Margate

The lure of a seedy, sweaty basement might be hard to explain to the nonbeliever, but the dark, dingy dungeon-esque room is once again the best setting to rediscover your faith in nightlife as well as the place to be seen – or, at the very least, the place to hide away in the corners.

That the promoter, and resident DJ, of tonight’s event, Derrick Patterson, has a generous and pragmatic streak is part of the reason why he is a survivor on a transient scene that sees club nights come and go on a weekly basis. He is deeply loyal to his music and never ceases to inspire. That's not to say his quality control is higher than anyone else’s; he’s just never bored or grief-stricken in his approach, which makes his sang-froid a little more impressive.

Never a conventional promoter he’s not afraid to experiment within the whole range of house music. His last club night had the sanguine Steve Zest, head honcho of the Whitstable Delicious nights guesting. Tonight he has tVC DJ’s Oz and Si. His club approach is roomy enough to allow a few detours and surprises. He is a celebratory champion of the fact that the current UK dance scene has become a pretty broad church.

21st Century promoters such as Derrick Patterson are producing a new kind of club night and that bright light is shining and penetrating the bias against deep house music’s so called hypnotic fug, bringing a new clarity and a fuller appreciation to modern clubbers. The promoter has brought generous helpings of enthusiasm, ebullience, a gargantuan capacity for work, courage, and a steady proselytising on behalf of promoting house music in Thanet. DP’s sonic appeal has always been offset by his idiosyncratically British start-up philosophy, placing humility and hard work over hubris. Few ideas reach unexpected outcomes, but West Coast Bar regulars will probably find that a recommendation.

Into this mix come the hoary East Kent free party stalwarts themselves. tVC always liked to think they sat at the more cerebral end of the house spectrum sometimes being accused of being elitist and stroking their chins. More like knowledgeable and appreciateive.

It is unsalubriously rumoured that tVC gigs attract an audience of a certain age. They will so soon, if they are not already, be fat and disappointed and 50; or is that just Oz? You can't fault their enthusiasm though, but the aging house DJ is an easy figure to mock. In the early and mid 90s, the tVC people were boggle-eyed ravers in their teens and 20s, and one would think that tonight would clearly a red-letter day for Thanet’s babysitters; but it so isn’t. It would be easier still if all tVC had to offer was memories. But nothing could be further from the truth.

tVC deep house and techno ethics eschews tired cliché because they deal fundamentally in gently technorific affecting reveries. Their dazed funk sodden grooves and jazz-derived wooze provides uncluttered and pristine meditations. The throb of exquisite, synthesised kick drums, melting melodies supplemented with percussion and synths and just enough melancholy to suggest hidden depths, cannot fail to propel you gently towards the dance floor. They are still ploughing their resolutely individual, indefatigable and unpredictable furrow. It's a reason not so much about walking away from the world as about all the most contemporary reasons you may have for trying to.

DJ Si is never less than fully unintegrated with his surroundings. The results of all this are mixed, as ever: funny, irritatingly clever, sometimes teetering along the edge of listenability, often all three at once. No dark, dour observations on the futility of it all from Si. The effect is discombobulating, like being on a strobe-lit ferry in rough seas. He plays a set of soulful deep house and minimal tech with lots of dancefloor bite. He dovetails this nicely with his pigeonhole-defying blend of mind-melding techno dubby grooves. He propels mixes that output chains of reference and ironic reversal extended beyond all bearing. He plays a convergence that really works though; a pleasure indeed. It feels like that point between liquid and frozen, always on the margin, slightly skewed. Some people might call it slush. It’s like difficult easy listening, with globules of sound resisting each other like chip fat and washing up liquid. Not that it lacks more straightforward ways of hitting the dancefloor sweet spot because it doesn’t. The parts may be disparate but they are made to submit to an abiding mood of vivacity and sunniness. A plethora of pulsating field explorations no less. Deep house will always eschew tired clichés don’t cha know? His best set to date.

But, thankfully, tVC have also lost none of their shambling, DIY philosophy or charm. The lugubrious undertow of their slinky flow is really becoming universally comprehensible to a new, more aware and sussed generation brought up on electronic music. Indeed the tVC sound mixes familiarity and misery in an oddly appealing way.

On a prosaic level, that is perhaps because deep house made music less utilitarian: its subtle minimalism and playful ennui previously lost in the ludicrously lucrative funsucking, cheesy-anthem-fest of much of mainstream club culture. In the future we'll see less cheesy-anthem-festing and lots more smaller independent acts and DJ’s doing their own thing, but on a regional and city level; just like Derek Patterson is doing in Margate. Basically we're going back down into the underground, baby, and there's nothing wrong with that. It’s where electronic music, and perhaps all art, truly thrives.

With exemplary and often excruciating honesty, of his crippling self-doubts, his needinesses, the greed of his addictions, his drive for acceptance, shallow though he knows it is, Oz still purifies his soul through his DJing. Education is about much more than learning things. As Stephen Fry maybe would say "in the rooms of friends, with earnest frolic and happy disputation. Wine can be a wiser teacher than (vinyl)." (The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry). Any excuse for a piss up, ey?

tVC are apologetically unapologetic. What that means is that on the one hand nothing has changed – people inspired by the past always want to make and hear new music – and on the other hand everything has changed – because people inspired by the past always want to make and hear new music.

Ridiculously over the top, but also ridiculous amounts of fun. It is dancing as a way of taking your mind off the fact that, as Woody Allen once put it, life is divided into the horrible and the miserable – i.e. genuine physical suffering v mere existential angst – and if you're really lucky, you end up miserable.