Review: Houghton 2018
How does one follow perfection? Last year’s inaugural Houghton – curated by Craig Richards and brought to you by the good folks behind Gottwood – raised the bar so highly that to simply replicate last year’s rave utopia seemed a tough ask in itself, let alone better it. Nevertheless, signs were encouraging in the build-up to Aug 9.
Quietly securing another round-the-clock licence was certainly the coup everyone was hoping for. A comprehensive who’s-who lineup of British and European talent once again… yep, we were spoilt for choice for a second year running. A gloriously sunny few weeks beforehand couldn’t possibly disperse in such an untimely manner either, surely? The groundwork had been set. And yet, in hindsight this was the calm before the storm – literally and logistically. There was a Machiavellian humour to the frequency of rainfall across the weekend. Low volume at peak times tried its best to derail the buzz. Loos overflowed, campsites suffered and nos canisters multiplied, shamefully scarring Houghton Hall’s quintessentially quaint surroundings. Negatives yes, in the interest of balanced journalism – otherwise we’d just slap down a 10 and be done with it.
So let’s focus on what really matters and wax lyrical about the astonishing musical wealth Houghton ’18 offered. The last set was your favourite, the next one better. The notion that Fabric brings the very best out of DJs took physical manifestation and caught the shuttle bus over too. The site exhuded inspiration, the whole weekend surpassed expectations. From a plethora, here we painstakingly select a handful of standout performances.
The Exit Records boss, best known for his exploration of subterranean minimal and razor sharp tech, wasted no time diving head first into breathless 174. This came as something of a relief. dBridge represented one third of Houghton’s ‘official’ drum and bass artists – with Calibre and Doc Scott – and the former had just stepped away from a careful, teasing ambient-electronica-liquid set to cries of ‘play some drum and bass’. The people had spoken, needing respite from the house-and-techno gauntlet perhaps, and d truly delivered. Cutting-edge minimal fused seamlessly with footwork, jungle, tech step and a healthy smattering of classics. Think Metropolis, Hello Lover, Dub Phizix’s Deadline remix, Babylon, Pulp Fiction and a host of dubs even the most diligent beard stroker would have had a hard time IDing. Essential.
Friday night saw Burnt Friedman, positioned on a low-level stage in the middle of The Warehouse, perform an hour of his uniquely rhythmic percussive styles.
As people arrived many faced towards the front of the room completely missing Friedman in his central spot, whilst others seemed confused as to where to look altogether. The Warehouse, with speakers positioned on each corner of the room, allowed Friedman to play individual sounds through different speakers creating a 3D sounding experience which ultimately messed with everyone’s sense of direction even further.
Friendman’s sound fused Electronic, Jazz and Dub sensibilities and placed them in a club-like setting. His tracks consisted of sharp organic percussion samples, driving bassline stabs, and enveloping hypnotic rhythms often progressing from few elements and developing into a mesmeric wiled-out climax before falling into a flurry off beats and pads, which would help shift into the start of the next track. The set was just as engaging as it was refreshing with moments of his modern style sounding comparable to tracks on labels such as Hessle Audio, Timedance and Livity Sound.
Over the last few years, Joe Seaton’s reputation as a world-class DJ has arguably succeeded his production output. Down in Houghton’s most ambitious arena – the 45-degree sloping, improbably audiophilic, amphitheatre-esque Quarry – his 4-hour set bore many inspired moments for those willing to endure the elements. A thrillingly varied exploration of dance music old and new, he was just as comfortable throwing out angular beats a la Dan Habarnam’s High Pass Rambo, as he was delving into some seriously niche garage cuts such as Standard Hoodlum Issue and When I Was A Youth, rugged hardcore and even The Bells – which was accompanied by some of the most nimble cutting techniques ever witnessed. Jeff himself would have raised his glass.
Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smagghe
The Salon des Amateurs resident’s penchance for trance at 33rpm, and Ivan Smagghe’s idiosyncratically left-field leanings, provided the blueprint for an extended masterclass in extraterrestrial chugging set deep within the gloomy forest stage of The Clearing. The pair stayed locked to an irresistible half-speed groove, a move which clearly resonated with an exuberant crowd granted ample room to buss some serious shapes throughout to cuts such as Margot’s ethereal ‘Magico Disco‘. An intense but charmingly slow smoke machine followed suit, consuming one group who were all to happy to frolic in its complete immersion.
Photography by Here & Now.