Ben UFO at The Cellar (3/11/11)

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Hessle Audio may not be a name with which you are familiar, but for the past three years or so this record label has been steadily cementing its reputation as the thinking man’s home for electronic music. Earlier this year, Hessle released 116 & Rising, a compilation which proved their strength in depth. Following on from Ramadanman’s appearance at Pop! earlier in the year, label co-founder Ben UFO brought the Hessle Audio soundsystem along to The Cellar (formerly the Soul Cellar) last week.

The Cellar is one of those places you may only find yourself at a few times over the course of your time at university. It’s not a place geared towards the braying drunken masses, or an establishment of cheap drinks and chart music. The acts it showcases range widely — from swing bands, to reggae, to jazz, to a DJ set from the youngest Gallagher brother. Every now and then it comes up trumps. Last year Zero 7 put on a great show, and on Thursday it was the turn of Ben UFO to get heads nodding with his renowned mixing skills.

The local music scene came along to watch. Tropics, a band on the rise with a Glastonbury appearance under their belt, and Gang Colours, a Gilles Petersen protégé who still collects glasses in Orange Rooms for old time’s sake, watched on.

For the uninitiated, Hessle Audio is a peddler of the kind of music that treads the middle ground between house, garage and 2-step. While the founding triumvirate of UFO, Ramadanman and Pangaea may have been educated at the Skream school of dubstep, there’s no wobble to be found here, which perhaps goes some way towards explaining a crowd smaller than usual for a Ben UFO set. Speaking to Six’ Six, who proved a fantastic warm-up act, it was clear that Southampton is something of a fort for all that is slow and noisy. The music on display here had everything that you should expect from a good DJ set: it was enjoyable, atmospheric, varied, and you could dance to it. It was a shame there weren’t more people to experience it.

I’m not here to bemoan people’s lack of taste in music — you can like whatever you wish — I’m here to suggest that you try something new and see if you like it. Remember all those garage tunes you used to love when you were younger? DJ Luck & MC Neat, Shanks & Bigfoot, The Artful Dodger? That ethos, and that beat, are back in a new and improved form, and Hessle Audio are your guides.

The Cellar is billing this as the first in a set of events, calling it “A brand new forward-thinking night that brings the freshest future electronic sounds to Southampton”. The organisers are hoping to bring Hotflush label founder Scuba to the venue in the new year and, if this goes ahead, I strongly recommend that you see how good it can be when you put on your dancing shoes and your thinking cap.

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