“I had one thing on my mind: Afterlife…
It was 14:10 on Saturday and I was aboard a train to Waterloo. A blonde girl sat across the way, grinning as my now-open beer bottle frothed and sprayed up the window. Outside, the London Eye winked at me as the train snaked into the centre of town, the walls adorned with graffiti of a dozen colours.
Waterloo Station – descending floor after floor I made it to the tube. The connection. It was only now that I saw the first of them. Six young men aboard the tube in black leather and suede, hanging long, one with round sunglasses, all gripping cans of lager. This, the first sign I was approaching Tale of Us’ major London party – ‘Afterlife’ on November 4.
The Jubilee line shot raging eastward, taking me to the ex-wasteland of Canada Waters. Myself and two dozen ravers were taken towards ground level by an escalator, all filthy and chrome. I reached for another beer as a preacher stood at the station entrance, extolling the virtues of repentance through a microphone.
As I turned to climb some stairs, hordes of excited eyes gleamed, portals of ecstasy, pointing in all directions.
He was at the right place. Empty balloon canisters were amounting the pavements and a couple with an Essex twang stuck their fingers inside a bag of powder. The growing crowd had ears for techno only.
A five-minute walk was all that stood between me and the rave. The sun was hidden behind a phalanx of clouds that loomed across the metropolis. As I approached the warehouse, I became aware that this was the last daylight I would see before entering the Afterlife.
This was Printworks, the venue whose ‘Issue 002’ season was in full swing. I was guided in by security around an industrial perimeter to the entrance. Above was a sign reading ‘DRUG AMNESTY.’ I walked promptly, encased in a steel gate. Relaxed with the firm knowledge of clean pockets, I approached the doorman. This made no difference to him, all fire and brimstone, as he pressed my crotch with his forefingers. You best believe it – you can expect this from London security in 2017.
I had arrived. There were two things now, techno and good drink. I first felt the sound scape of Afterlife through a little outside speaker that did zero justice to the first artist – Patrice Bäumel. Drink in hand, I made for the heart of the warehouse. As I turned to climb some stairs, hordes of excited eyes gleamed, portals of ecstasy, pointing in all directions.
The sounds came in thick, whirling towards me at the top of the stairs. This serenaded my entrance to the Afterlife as I entered the great ‘room one.’ In colours of harsh red and black it stood, long and deep like the hull of some great ship. A thousand ravers swayed on a musical voyage led by Patrice Bäumel, who at 3.10pm was unleashing minimal techno in the form of his recent release ‘Sorcery,’ which flooded the room with hissing hi-hats and razor sharp percussive elements.
There was a moment of fathomless darkness, allowing the London crowd to fade into obscurity, under a series of brutal lasers as they undulated to emerging tracks.
A dozen fat speakers hung in the midst of this great room. There was a moment of fathomless darkness, allowing the London crowd to fade into obscurity, under a series of brutal lasers as they undulated to emerging tracks. Looking up, vermillion lines were cut into the air, rising 30 foot above the balcony terrace to the ceiling.
Bäumel is a master of subtlety, using the raw power of Printworks’ sound system to accentuate carefully chosen samples that pepper his set. I took a moment to take it all in, the floor shook and my chest thumped from the tectonic bass. This was an incredibly polished underground venue, its visual appeal matching the sounds of Bäumel. He was toeing the line between power and preparation, careful not to outshine headliners Tale of Us.
The same can be said for Mano Le Tough, who was holding back, revealing a clear trance influence in his set, often softening its bite. It was a dreamy soundscape, underpinned by a recurrent kick drum. It felt awkwardly slow in parts, as if it was building up to something. That ‘something’ was found in brief flashes of brilliance, like Tough’s dropping of a new remix of Radio Slave’s Grindhouse. The crowd drank it up like water as it gushed through the sublime sound calibration of the warehouse.
A bald man of brooding intensity stepped up to the decks. The crowd came alive with cheers for Recondite, who began to weave a rich tapestry of noise. As the room plunged once again into darkness, there was a haunting sensation in the air, as the party reached its peak of otherworldliness. This was ‘Afterlife,’ after all, described as ‘a journey’. Recondite was transitioning his way to a dramatic crescendo, as he teased the iconic ‘Phalanx.’ He played live, giving his set an unpolished feel, creating greater character and unpredictability.
As the room plunged once again into darkness, there was a haunting sensation in the air, as the party reached its peak of otherworldliness.
I escaped the whirl of bodies, along a hall lined in barbed wire, to a hole in a wall that flickered on and off from a tantric strobe. Room two was aptly Charge Bay. The energy radiated out of the small, low roofed dungeon that spat faster, harder techno than anywhere else on offer. Obscure Shape & SHDW unleashed a gothic techno set of a faster BPM. It teamed with power, as thunderous kick drums bounced off of the walls and through the hearts of a hundred committed ravers. All around me, were dance moves reserved for the deepest rave. The crowd moved as one, with energy at its peak, set to the sounds of Die Weiße Rose, which in a live setting constitutes a true musical masterpiece.
All good things must come to an end. It was time to enter the main room once more. Tale of Us instantly established haunting chords that coupled with a hanging manikin and light show that cemented an ethereal setting for the headliners. Tale of Us took no prisoners as their kick drums deepened, showcasing a meatier set than most before them. The zenith was reached when Stephen Bodzin’s track ‘Strand’ injected gripping energy into the warehouse, before Tale of Us’ remix of Time brought hairs on end and heart rates back down to earth.
What now? It was 23:00 now and I had no clue what day it was, where I was. I had been lost to realms beyond. Afterlife held its own aesthetic and sound, where Printworks was a perfect match. I took a long pull of my beer and read a flyer for an afterparty. It was Alex Niggemann in central London. I hailed a black cab and ran like the wind along the River Thames, a thousand lights dancing on its surface in the black of the night.