Oval Space are really stepping up their programming schedule in 2018 including this ‘Golden Age Disco’ offering including man of the moment Hunee, Sadar Bahar & Lee Collins b2b as Soul In the Hole, Soichi Terada performing live & Donna Leake.
On entering the venue just past midnight the venue was already busy to the level most promoters would accept this head count at the end of the night. As i weaved through the dance floor i noticed a distinct switch in set up since my last visit to see Larry Heard perform live. The dj and live area has moved front left with raised stairs surrounding the dj area creating a tighter more intimate space. This brings the crowd around and over the performer and much closer to the action. The crowd on Saturday night looked decidedly hip with several on trend bumbags and designer sports sneakers & streetwear labels flashing by in corridors and in the smoking area as youthful clubbers rushed in and around the venue with urgency.
Donna Leake of Brilliant Corner’s fame warmed up proceedings on the E&S DJR 400 rotary mixer which is a lovely compact mixer providing a full & rich sound to the usual Xone 92 or Pioneer equivalent. As we get back to the grooves Donna flexed quite effortlessly through bpms and frequencies including The Fatback Band Is This The Future a true fuzzy slow bpm chugger with a sleazy freaky synth line that really impressed the dance floor & added some tropical energy into the space. The next tune straight switched the bpm slower by way of Wayne Smith Under Me Sleng Teng which is a bona fide Reggae classic. Donna has a knack of going from genre to genre whilst keeping the energy and intention locked in, it is a joy to watch a real selector enjoying the music as much as the dancers down the front.
As Soichi Terrada made final preparations to his live set, which included ensuring the Kaos pad was fully working and also not forgetting to change into one of his colourful pattern all over print shirts. The rave kids down the front could not contain themselves and really made some noise when Soichi took the mic and started his live set which consisted of what looked like an old school Akai sampler with floppy disc, a few FX units including Kaos pad, mobile compact keyboard, loop pedal, 8 channel mini mixer plugged into a Pionner DJM mixer as a master out and Ableton loaded into the MacBook Pro. Sochi also looked liked he was travelling with a well well used silver Rimowa luggage case adopted by heavy touring djs and producers. The first tune came in and the crowd really showed some appreciate with hands in the air, whoops and cheers, as it was Saturday Love Sunday with its slow waves chords underpinned with a simple synth line and broken beat drum pattern. Next up came Do It again probably the most recognised song from Soichi’s work with Shinichiro Yokota produced way back in 1992 on Far East Recordings. This original pressing has 1 copy for sale on Discog’s for a eye watering £707. House music with an Asain influence is really seeing some prominence and this booking alone supports that growth. Soichi occasionally interacted with the crowd on the Mic and also stood on the equipment table with a origami bird and microphone to add some liver performance theatre. Soichi is full of life and energy and sincerely enjoys performing and sharing the moment with the crowd, it is really refreshing to see live performers enjoying the experience in contrast to fully concentrating on every beat and bar ensuring no mistakes or diversions. As we neared close to his 60 minute set the last tune eased into the speakers which was Got To Be Real with its sample heavy production including vocals by Cheryl Lynn & Vices In The Dark & Raw Silk. Soichi used samples heavily back in the early 90s when these songs got produced and they all sound very fresh and light all these years later. Soichi took the mic one last time and sincerely thanked the crowd for the joy, interaction and support. Soichi has an in demand live set that is pretty slick, well rehearsed and full of energy and high moments which would do very well on the festival circuit.
Sadar Bahar & Lee Collins stepped up into the booth just before 2am carrying several backs of vinyl plus brown boxes of newer vinyl and a heap of 45s. It is always nice to see lots of vinyl in the booth it feels more considered, meaningful & authentic. The crowd looked fully up to speedy by now and the programming thus far from Donna Leake to the Soichi Terada live set flowed very well and weaved a consistent story. The first groove brought by Sadar Bahar was a Al Tone Edit which carried the energy from the live set seamlessly. As Lee Collins looked deep in thought eyeballing various tote bags full of wax. Elbernita Clark Awake O’Zion really raised the energy as the vocals and string section gave the speakers a good old work out. Both djs started to let loose and have a little dance and bump in the booth as friends came to say hi and enjoy the occasion. Lanier 25 Hours was another highlight with its infection groove and melody. As the time past you can see why Sadar Bahar has risen to fame with a killer selection of disco, rare groove and soul underpinned with high energy and consistency. The heaving crowd stayed glued to the floor and as i surveyed the smiles, and several hands in the air, kids popping moves down the front helped keep the energy high and infectious.
As the time inched closer to 5am Hunee appeared from the green room smartly dressed and shaven as usual looking focussed and relaxed. The crowd acknowledged the main guest had arrived and as he was soaked in the atmosphere assessing the dancers down the front and the selection in full swing soon it would be his time.
Just after 5am Hunee stepped up to the 3 cdjs and the crowd made enough noise to welcome the change over. As Hunee got to work he left little to be warmed up and went straight in with some sort of vintage Italo Electro numbers which really raised the bar from the get go. It was quite impressive to see the elevation within 3 tracks from Sadar Bahar straight into Hunee’s groove. The energy now in the room was thick and the crowd stayed on the floor and did not thin out as it reached the early hours. Hunee masterfully careered from tracks that sounded from different genres, continents and time periods. Hunee definitely plays with intention and a clear vision on the impact and power of the tracks he presents in his own style. After a few minutes Hunee in his trademark white shirt started to ease into his groove dancing away and the next 60 minutes was very enjoyable from one of the most in demand djs of 2017s.
Overall this was a very well programmed event and the subtle changes to dj booth set up are a game changer for this spacious venue. Overall the music was on point and flowed effortlessly from Djs to live set and then Hunee to close. I would strongly recommend trying to catch Donna Leake at Brilliant Corners or other spots as a true digger of weird and wonderful gems on wax across all genres. Soichi Terada impressed with his emotive and distinctive live set which was really animated and brought to life with Soichi’s energy and origami theatrical dance. Sadar Bahar and Lee Collins really carried the vibe with more vinyl than most people can imagine, flexing good time party disco tracks. Hunee as the marquee main act delivered a high energy and very accessible cross section of Italo, Disco, House and obscure gems to close out a musically rock solid and footloose evening. If Oval Space continue to programme this tight the venue will really start to produce a distinct voice within the competitive London club scene. With Juan Atkins, Peggy Gou, Luke Vibert & Norman Jay amongst many others booked in Q2 & Q3 the next few months are stacking up and the future is looking positive.