For such a majestic locale, the thousands of people that entered through the stately doors in the heart of Kensington were generally dressed in a vivid assortment of raving attire, and looked more ready to grab a pint than to remain seated in the late Queen Victoria’s architectural shrine to her husband. Luckily though, the bars served beer, and hundreds of punters were equipped to go wild in a venue more commonly associated with operas and award shows. The darling German-based label Innervisions were shortly due to host a showcase in one of the UK’s most renowned cultural settings, the Royal Albert Hall in London, and considering the ambitiousness of the project, they had pulled in the most respected venue, the most esteemed line-up, and the most reliable promoters/event producers in the UK, London Warehouse Events.
It was almost as though a faux-ceiling had been erected, evoking a touch of intimacy inside the vast expanse of the Hall.
As with any LWE production, several sly surprises revealed themselves as soon as attendees entered the venue. The fiercest manifestation of this arrived in the form of a gargantuan LED cube upon the stage that was constructed as a 3D reproduction of the iconic Innervisions square emblem; atop this was suspended a circular lighting rig that sank down towards the crowd as the night progressed, its lamps twirling in tandem to the music. At times, it was almost as though a faux-ceiling had been erected, evoking a touch of intimacy inside the vast expanse of the Hall. It was as though the dancers in the stalls were at times enclosed within a small plot of space, lit up by cherry-hued lanterns that scowled through the smoke, cut off from the world around them.
The movement of mood from ambient to dance-fuelled was a graceful one, each act functioning as an extra stoke upon a slow-burning flame. It seemed that some of the crowd were only anticipating the dance music, however, as every now and again there was a distinct babble in the room during the more subdued opening sets from Marcus Worgull, Henrik Schwarz and Bugge Wesseltoft – with even Nina Kurtela’s performance veiled between chattering voices. No doubt the envisioned behaviour of the assembly was envisioned to be an artsy blur between that of a rave-ready crowd and of the quiet observance regularly found in theatrical spaces, but since the evening was of an exploratory nature, this sound predicament with the crowd conduct was clearly something that could not have been easily anticipated.
Marcus Worgull commenced the narrative well, offering up a simmering introduction of modest tempos throughout the first hour. As he moulded the soundtrack to the first arrivals, the steady palpitates of sound were intermingled with excited voices reacting boisterously to the hypnotic digital display upon the stage. Overlooked by the ancient organ that had been in place since 1871, the visual greeting was a treat for the eyes, with this spectacle of contrasts serving well as a focal point for the night.
Nina Kurtela’s ‘365 Routines‘ and Henrik Schwarz & Bugge Wesseltoft’s ‘Scripted & Prepared Pianos’ tiptoed close to the type of acts more generally suited to the Hall, although it appeared strangely under-appreciated by some of the crowd who had perhaps been more anticipative of stauncher BPMs – instead of engaging with an elegant study upon the connecting nature of dance. Not dissimilar from Nina’s topical focus, Henrik and Bugge held a mesmerising rapport with each other, carrying a balletic poise that was not too far off what had graced the stage in numerous years before. Aside from the musical hardware that colonised the one-of-a-kind grand pianos, breaking apart from the classical vein there dwelled a small screen upon the platform that lit up sporadically so the pair could communicate. An amusing ‘Yeah More’ blinked out towards the crowd, its tiny screen mounted by the purple flares of light blushing from the cube behind. The languid pianos soon paced into an energetic performance that finally permitted the evening to move out of the more romantic, soporific realm and into the crowd-pleasers Innervisions are known for – foreshadowing the monitor’s message like a televised prophecy.
Âme’s Frank Wiedemann and RY X graced the stage as Howling shortly after a luxurious gasp of techno reached towards the heavens from Âme Live, Matthew Herbert and Gudrun Gut. Ry crooned with an achingly soulful pitch that had all too short a lease for his half hour appearance. Flanked by several aquamarine inclines of light that twirled like sentinels on the edge of his vision, his and Frank’s performance invoked even the security nestled in front of the barriers to gaze up in brief awe at his vocals. As Howling’s set closed, RY’s head bowed for a moment in homage to his company, the sound diffuser mushrooms hovering as enormous UFOs above the shivers of light sparring with each other below.
Âme Live strode through several befitting tracks from ‘Dream House’, alongside a happily mandatory delivery of their definitive track ‘Rej‘ that clambered ardently out from the speakers. Howling was mindfully timed, and it coaxed the tone back down into a docile temperament from the arcing peaks and sways of Âme Live. A theme of juxtaposition had arisen to the forefront of the event; from the historic backdrop of the lettered Henry Willis organ against the cube, to the choral nuptials between acoustic and electronic, it was clear that this Autumnal sundown was about bringing together opposites for a statement on the charm of paradoxes.
No better reminder of this theme arose, however, when Steffen and Kristian stepped up from inside the arena for the final hour and a half in an immersive back-to-back of iconic potential. Dixon’s first track – Kincaid’s remix of Blacmange’s ‘What’s The Time‘ – reiterated this motif perfectly. A Middle-Eastern-tinged cadence buffeted the walls alongside the thick Northern-English accent of Blacmange, whose spoken-word rhetorically questioned the crowd to consider what was the best dog they’d ever had, or what their favourite crime was. It was an atmosphere never experienced before in this setting, firing the whole affair into a different ecosphere with its Arabian swagger. As the persuading rhythm suppurated through the room, the circular lighting rig descended upon the B-stage situated in the center of the amphitheater, pinpricks of human figures submerged beneath the whitecaps of illuminations surfing around the platform. By now, not one person was seated, hordes of people flooding into the aisles to party. It was a flirtatious start for the duo, and continued into 75 minutes of selections that held an analogous character to the regular Innervisions club shows. Flying through a plethora of staple selections, they scampered through tracks that included All Is Well’s synthy earworm ‘Is It (Version 1)‘ and an unreleased number from Middle Sky Boom & Eliezer. Since the club-akin sound had been so eagerly awaited, the climax of the show was thoroughly relished by all, as dancers and staff finally cast away their ceremonial composure and let loose to the music.
This synthesis all came together in a succession of moments, amplified and accentuated by the painstaking production and placement of all aspects of the show.
A hint of timelessness surfaced like the crests of waves when the juxtaposition was most evident, as though all the small divergences had together manifested an alien space where the current era was unknown. The non-conformist nature of the production, the sound and the space collectively induced a dissonance that many found themselves to be impulsively engulfed by, the utter bizarreness of the whole situation conveying an impression of having been lifted away from Earth to dance upon some planet far, far away. It was an event that fused not only the present and the past, but also the future, the selections made by each artist giving an attentive nod to epochs gone by, as well as the contemporaneous. This synthesis all came together in a succession of moments, amplified and accentuated by the painstaking production and placement of all aspects of the show.
Towards the end there was a Dionysian abandon that lined the Hall, antagonistic in appearance against the meticulous months of planning that had led up to the night. Inhibitions had indeed never been so far gone in such a regal space, and the immortalisation of the music burned as bright as the flaring visuals that hurtled playfully around the serene venue. Innervisions and LWE’s musical nous was carried through with a special type of articulation that most would argue could not be replicated by others. Although a couple of hiccups surrounding the sound had rippled though the event at points, the progressiveness and success of the night overall was still gladly apparent, with the surreal euphoria lingering long after the clock struck midnight and five thousand dancers streamed quietly out – back into the real world and away from the blissful daydream of the hours before. It was enduring statement, harking back gently to everything that Innervisions stands for – to be lost in the perpetual moment, and to dance together, alone in a space that seemed at times to be severed from reality.
Impressions by Emily Rose Howard