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Soulwax @ New Century review – Electronic veterans coerce a disco out of the Manchester venue

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Upon entry, you bear witness to the most cluttered looking stage seen in recent memory. Five guitars, four keyboards, four microphones, three drum sets, a couple of soundboards, a DJ deck and a laptop. That’s without mentioning the number of lights and speakers dotted about the place- escalated onto scaffolding.

Electronic duos Asa Moto and Movulango kick us off, maneuvering around the wreckage by staying in their designated areas. Asa Moto commandeer the decks and give us some Daft Punk adjacent tunes that earn a few head bops and arm flailing. It’s intriguing watching the pair pass the headphones back and forth in an ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ approach to crafting songs, but the set itself falls into cliché territory. 

Belgian duo, Movulango, take over the laptop and soundboards on the opposite side of the stage. Instead of healthy competition, they mirror each other. Their sound is eclectic; using synths, an electric guitar and vocals, molded together with some drum and bass, and indie influences. The similarities, however, lie in crowd reception. They’re vibing, but not too excited.

This sentiment mostly continues as we move into Soulwax’s set. The light’s go down, cheers echo, but as we go into our opening track, ‘Missing wires,’ it’s mostly silence. On the one hand, the performance is deafening, so you can barely make out any additional sound if you tried, but upon observing the crowd, they are more content with getting drunk and dancing rather than screaming along to whatever lyrics are present, let alone intelligible.

The tracks are continuous, the likes of ‘Krack’ blending seamlessly into ‘Do You Wanna Get Into Trouble’. The lighting is also matched perfectly, flashing in time to the drumbeats, or muting into deep reds and blues before exploding into a white light syncing with the beat drops and chorus.

The set ultimately leaves no room for a breather or crowd interaction. The don’t talk, just dance mentality is shelved with more familiar tracks such as ‘NY Excuse,’ in which everyone finally sings along, and the only time the group allows themselves to take a break by thanking the crowd before launching into the encore, ‘Conversation intercom.’

Surprisingly, we aren’t treated to any of the remixes used commercially in events such as Chanel’s Haute Couture shows. Alas, the set comes to a close and an ovation is given.

Many use the term an experience loosely but Soulwax’s set is a true to form experience. In nature, it’s unconventional yet atmospheric and just like this crowd, makes it difficult to want to stay still. 

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Ameena Ceesay

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