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Underground Frenzy at Red Stripe Make Session 009

| Free events, Music | 25/07/2013

Boiler Room Make Session

Perched on the corner of an industrial estate in the East End, the ninth Red Stripe Make Session is a sweaty fusion of urban music and contemporary art. With Boiler Room sourcing a clutch of well-known musical talents including a certain Mark Ronson and Rafaël Rozendaal hosting some of the capital’s up and coming visual artists, the event is a thrilling if unbalanced success.

A nondescript business lot is an unlikely space for a showcase of artistic talent but the organisers are striving for the atmosphere of a warehouse party rather than an art gallery. The secret nature of the location – even the doormen refuse to acknowledge the event by its name – lends a sense of exclusivity to proceedings. Guests are encouraged to feel privileged in their participation. Muffled bass can be heard by those queuing outside and there is a sense of climax when one finally enters the room and feels the grimy noise assault all eardrums in the vicinity.

The space stripped down would resemble an underground car park but the artists on show have embraced the setting, transforming it into a lurid, grungy cavern. Rafaël Rozendaal’s initiative, Bring Your Own Beamer, has travelled the world encouraging artists to turn up at his exhibitions with their own projectors and showcase their work. This murky basement then makes for an ideal canvas. A string of videos and staggered images are projected onto the walls with bricks, pipes, and people entangled in a web of flashing lights. With the searing music and kaleidoscope of colour blanketing the industrial setting, one would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a strange hybrid of the Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan Batman films.

There are 28 artists on show and their work makes for an eclectic collection. Of course, the throbbing atmosphere of a nightclub is not the most conducive environment for observing art. This is the first Make Session which has attempted to combine the two and it is clear that the emphasis is firmly on the music.

The artists are not merely used as stage dressers though. Their work is intrinsically linked to the technology which produces it and there is a neat symmetry between the cold stares of the projectors and the spinning turntables. No doubt that some of the work is overtly gimmicky – a flickering “buffering” text the prime example – and the walls are perhaps too cluttered for their own good but the artists provide sufficient interest to justify their inclusion. A stand-out piece by up and coming artist Andi Schmied proves just how eye-opening their work can be.

Of course, the main focus of the evening is the music and the organisers deliver a powerful combination of relaxed and up-tempo sounds. Mark Ronson casually swans around the room chatting to DJ Drama whilst the under-card of lesser-known talent is left to demonstrate their abilities. Martelo, who counts Tim Westwood as a fanboy, is particularly impressive switching between house, soul, and everything in between. The DJs build up a frenzied atmosphere seamlessly although there are some unnecessary interventions on the microphone by their hype men.

The penultimate act of the night is London rapper Giggs who steals in almost unexpectedly – a testament to the work of those he follows. He begins by asking if the crowd is sufficiently inebriated before launching into a quick-fire barrage of songs. With refrains such as “That boy’s a gangster”, one could hardly call the set subtle but this in itself is an advantage. The rapper knows his audience and even if his lyrical nimbleness is lost in a deluge of bass, the frenzy promised at the beginning of the night finally comes to fruition.

Such is the impact of his set that Ronson’s appearance on the decks afterwards seems relatively underwhelming. With so many influences competing for the crowd’s attention, it is inevitable that they suffer from sensory fatigue – a problem exacerbated by the dwindling stocks of Red Stripe.

The event proves to be a thrilling swirl of primal sound and colour. Although the attempt to combine art and music feels a little contrived, the night provides plenty of highlights with Giggs ultimately stealing the show.

For those interested in the Red Stripe Make Sessions check out the Boiler Room website.

Information about the Bring Your Own Beamer tour can also be found at

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