Reviewed: Amnesia London – The Terrace Sessions
November pay-weekend is one of our favourite weekends of the year. Having just been paid, everybody throws caution to the wind and loosens their inhibitions before the financial stranglehold of December tightens its grip. It’s party season, and the parties come thick-and-fast. But take it from us party-veterans, it’s worth taking a ruthless approach to planning your social calendar. Pick your parties wisely. Quality over quantity, always.
This time of year means a proliferation of office parties often results in an unbalanced crowd. Hoards of people who wouldn’t set foot inside a nightclub the other eleven months of the year find themselves in uncharted territory. It can create an odd – if not wholly unpleasant – vibe. Nights can struggle to get started. The odds of stepping into somebody’s regurgitated pigs in blankets is unfavourably favourable. You will see a group of inebriated middle-aged HR managers dancing around handbags and some truly offensive novelty ties. And yet, there hangs an air of magic. Could it be the spirit of Yuletide?
With a meagre Xmas bonus burning a hole in our thinning wallets, we set sights on a jaunt to Brixton to kick-start the seasonal festivities. Black Friday was yesterday; next Friday is start of Advent. Not that we care much. We’ve got more pressing issues at hand: Amnesia Ibiza are in town, with some heavyweight friends in tow. Would it be a slice of Balearic heaven? Or a London winter wash-out? Here’s what went down.
It’s worth saying that we’re sceptics at the current trend of clubs going on tour around other clubs. All too often it comes across as a cheap attempt to cash-in on the touring brand’s reputation – usually with a line-up with only tedious links to the venue. But this accusation could not be levelled at the promoters in this case. Martin Ferrer Jnr. AKA Mar-T is Amnesia’s owner and long-term resident DJ. Catalan spinner Caal, another of their current crop of in-house talents. De La Swing was of course an integral member of the elrow camp, which had such an impact in their debut year at Amnesia last summer. And Ilario Alicante was a huge cog in the wheel of team Cocoon yet again during their 18th season on the isle. The Terrace Sessions: it offered what was claimed on the label.
Plans are well underway for the 15th Anniversary of their flagship South West Four festival, as ever set to take place across August Bank Holiday weekend. As with previous years, we’d expect Amnesia to have a strong presence at the Clapham Common extravaganza. It’s a relationship which has blossomed at the Ibiza institution under LNL’s bass-heavy Tuesday night Brit-stronghold, Together. But with festival season seeming a far-cry away, we’ll settle for a string of decorated club showcases.
We start off the evening in the side room where party-starters Random are in control of proceedings. We catch sets from Micky Crist, Chris Nottingham and bossman Tristan Ingram. “It’s time for me to pump-up the volume, no problem with the records revolvin’” We might be slight on numbers early-doors. But the vibes are undeniable. GW Harrison’s ‘When House Takes A Journey’ sets us on the right path. Drinks prices are in-line with London prices in general, but a little steeper when compared with other underground music venues – particularly considering those on offer aren’t premium brands. The December pinch is already putting a strain on bar visits.
Having peaked too early, it becomes apparent a couple of the group have pulled a French Exit. We take a moment chilling on the top-floor balcony, overlooking the dancefloor and stage below. The multi-functional space, with its theatre-like set-up is one of our favourite London venues. With more charm and extravagance than your average club, it’s almost a smaller-version of Brixton’s more famous Academy a little further down the road.
We join the main room at the close of Special Guests, Waze & Odyssey’s set, right in time for Mar-T. For us, the heir to the Amnesia throne is one of the most underrated DJs on the planet. Marty drops Jamie xx’s remix of The XX ‘On Hold’ and the night begins to pick-up momentum. One thing we can’t gloss over is how cold we are. Is the aircon on? Has a production door been left open backstage? A gnarly draught rips right through the dancefloor. At one point we consider returning to the cloakroom to fetch our coat! It does beg the question whether CO2 cannons are really necessary in London in deep November? For a venue previously known as The Fridge, it’s pretty apt. Fortunately the music is good enough to keep our feet movin’.
Darius Syrossian is next on and immediately moves us up into fourth gear with a rousing intro. His set is littered with tinges of acid and Jesse Perez’s massive Toolroom release ‘Daddy’. Whether it was a late door, or whether it merely took a long time for the crowd to migrate to the dancefloor, it is only now we reach the height of proceedings. The dancefloor is mobbed and we no longer feel the cold. We are finally able to appreciate the frequent blasts of ice-cold CO2! A Scandi-looking, perma-grinned lumberjack offers us a spoon of white powder. Like some preposterous character from a snow-laden Sylvanian woodland. Darius fires them off: Petter’s ‘Some Polyphony’ and his own brand-spanking new ‘Snake Charmer’ – which we expect we’ll be hearing lots of in the coming months. But it’s an updated version of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ which unites the room, hardcore and more casual clubbers alike. As we’re joined on the floor by the retiring DJs from Room 2, the foundations have been perfectly laid for our star attraction. Fifth gear is imminent!
Berlin-based, Livorno-born Ilario Alicante is the man we travelled to see. It’s the second time we’ve seen him in as many months. (check-out last month’s interview with him here) But it’s easily our favourite of all his sets we’ve seen in 2017 – a full-on techno onslaught. He treats us to new material. ‘Leave Me’ sounds like artillery shell-fire before the drop escalates into an interplanetary nuclear warhead, while ‘Virgo’s Echoes’ – referencing his own label – is a pure Drumcode bomb. By the time his set is brought to a close at 06:30, we are left stirred. We have sympathy for De La Swing – how on earth do you follow that?! In fairness, he somehow manages to keep the interest of the dancefloor. But our energy levels have run flat. It’s time to grab our jacket and face the bitterness of the early morning. The bitterness of reality.
We arrived unsure as to whether the Amnesia experience could be replicated outside of Ibiza. Yet we left feeling certain that’s exactly what we’d experienced. It’s a testament to the organisers and venue for pulling-off the unlikely. Lock N Load will be back at Electric Brixton on 31st December, as the colony marches into town for their first New Year’s Eve outing. ANTS is headed-up by Richy Ahmed and the newly announced Heidi playing the coveted midnight slot, CamelPhat plus regulars Lauren Lane and Eli & Fur, and is sure to be a highlight of the capital’s new year celebrations. We have little doubt we’ll be back at Electric Brixton before the end of winter. But for the time being, we’re left dreaming of 7am sunrises on Amnesia terrace as the first rays seep through the skylight. You can try to export the best bits of Ibiza. But nothing beats the real deal!