Boiler Room confession in Brussels with Derrick May

A techno night to remember. Boiler Room in Brussels

Boiler Room choose Brussels to start a new series made of 12 episodes around the world, to explore the contribution those places gave to electronic music, clubbing and rave culture. And where else in Brussels if not Fuse, the Temple of Techno in Belgium? This is the place where basically every relevant figure in the techno scene has played at least once (if you don’t believe check here).

I struggle to remember a recent Boiler Room episode with the enthusiasm and participation I experienced on that Monday evening, which was packed and humid, where everyone was there for the music – and the music only. It reassured me that, even after this EDM wave, there’s still some room for pure techno in Brussels.

This time Boiler Room decided to hand the keys of the first event in the series to the one and only Derrick May – who has a special relationship with Belgium having played at Fuse in 1995 for the first of many times – with an eclectic bunch of artists to back him up, from Belgium to Detroit and France to Israel. From purely techno DJs and producers, to classic musicians turned to clubbing and electronic sounds, the night was a success for the atmosphere and the quality of the performances.

First in the booth were Israeli duo Deep’a & Biri, two guys who started quite slow with some melodic techno before changing the rhythm into some truly bouncing basslines. The duo are made up of Israeli producer Yaron Amor and Itai Biri, the first being a historic figure of the Israeli underground scene and a member of the historic Barzilay Crew and the second a younger DJ and producer who fell in love with techno music at early age. They took us on a trip with an openly dubbed outset, with plenty of percussive shuffles and constant rhythmic punches. They joined May’s Transmat records in 2013, but have released previously on other labels such as Gigolo Records, Rotary Cocktail and We Love (Space Ibiza).

Immediately after, it was Belgian pride time. In a precious b2b we had the pleasure of two Belgian gems on the decks, Fabrice Lig and Trish Van Eynde. They have been DJing and producing for the last 25 years now, and their work has been recognised the world over. Different styles. Fabrice part had a constant reminder of how he has been constantly interconnected with Detroit Techno throughout his career, but always with a personal touch which was evident in some moments of funk infused techno. On the other side of the booth, Trish knew well the place where she was playing. Being a resident at Fuse for years until 2001, she probably knew already what we wanted to hear, and filled her set with harsh strings of golden techno, bringing us on a vibrating journey and playing with our senses with calibrated cuts and some stop & goes that worked just perfectly.

At that point, we were all so pumped up that I think we started to forget it was a Monday evening, just before dinner. In the dark of the club and with free beers it was probably too much. Naah…it was not too much at all, more was yet to come. But I was a bit sceptical about the next artist. Not that I doubt his skills, but I wasn’t sure he could properly fit in the situation. After a couple of hours of banging techno, a piano player, a classic trained musicians. What could he do with us? It was the moment, Francesco Tristano stepped in that I realised how much of an artist he is. Never obvious, never an easy choice for him during his performance (I wouldn’t call it a set), but an artistic trip that lifted us up in a progressive escalation until the very end with techy, pumping beats and melodic strings attached in a classy combination of talent, taste and rhythm.

While Francesco Tristano was finishing, I decided to move on the other side of the booth just to watch closely Derrick May’s preparation to the set. In a series of moves that looked to me as a sort of ritual, he was frenetically organising his CDs and vinyls, cleaning them with a rag he kept for the entire set and, something that struck me most, decided to change the vinyl cartridges provided by the club with some of his own. It’s not just perfectionism, it’s a solemn sacrament and liturgy that led him to a flawlessness set. When he started mixing, we immediately felt the personality and the charisma. The energy, the unique touch, the cuts, also the speed he was mixing different tunes was simply brilliant. I have no idea where he takes this strenghth, maybe from the many, many years he has spent on the scene, but honestly I was impressed by the ability of playing not just music and tracks but also playing with the crowd, connecting with us and taking us somewhere unknown until a few minutes before. At a certain point, he was so into the music he broke the knob of the cross-fader and continued playing without it, but still doing the cuts that make his style so recognisable.

Alternating with May, another well-known artist, DJ and producer from France, Karim Sahraoui (aka Djinxx, Soul Monkey and Electronic Resistance). You could tell that he has a special relationship with May, working perfectly with each other, complementing the others’ approaches. When one was taking us down with a break, the other was bringing us back up in the sky. Karim had a very personal style, with the respect you need to offer to May he never followed, but instead insisted on his special style and taste with phases of arioso delicacy and other of sweaty, pushed, lively and offensive strikes of techno thunders.

It was a Monday to remember. Not that easy to find such a line-up, right in front of you, with a crowd so into the music. I knew it already, but it was a further confirmation that if you say techno, Brussels will be there. In conclusion, I must say that too often I perceive a sort of snobbism in the face of some Boiler Room initiatives and events, most of the times totally inappropriate and mainly due to what I think is essentially the typical resentment towards something so successful.

But this time there is no space for criticism. They gave us some pure, genuine, energetic, and much needed techno. So thank you, and see you soon in Brussels.