Hosting underground parties is never straightforward. Hosting them in London? Then be sure to carry a pack of paracetamol and have a plan B, C, and perhaps even D in the likely case of running into problems.
Despite all the headaches along the way, London promoters Cartulis Music celebrated 10 years of parties in November, dating back to the end of the noughties as Unai Trotti’s brainchild began hosting warehouse parties in East London. The formula hasn’t changed as much as you’d expect and to pop the cork of the champagne was a 31-hour party featuring some of the finest musical talents around who’ve become close with Cartulis over the years.
A few days before the event disaster struck in the form of the venue of choice, FOLD, losing their license before having the decision thankfully revoked on Friday morning. Every cloud has it’s silver linings though as the sense of gratitude and relief really felt like it gave the weekend a boost even if everyone was on cloud nine already.
I arrived just in time for a breakfast serving of apocalyptic techno and rugged breaks courtesy of DJ Koolt. The pioneer of the Uruguayan underground told us back in July that he’s noticed people coming to see him and fellow Uruguayans DJ knowing what to expect rather than them creating a surprise. This was probably the most comfortable I’ve seen him play in the U.K stitching basslines together with surgical precision whilst rare selections left an abundance of post-event IDing to be done alas tracks such as Manuel Jelen’s Terulo Killer received a fanatical response from the early morning crowd.
With sunlight breaking through the infamous FOLD blinds at 10am, Slow Life‘s Laurine and Cecilio‘s smiles took centre stage as they exchanged pleasantries with Koolt. The duo’s set back in January’s Cartulis event at FOLD went down in London folklore and the Slow Life pairing seemed prime to do it all again.
It may seem simple enough but you could spot Laurine and Cecilio dancing in the crowd before their set, mingling and joking with friends and fans alike. In certain corners of dance music, this would be impossible, but it’s small features such as this that make them and Cartulis events so enjoyable and personal.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen them play and not left their set afterwards feeling completely and utterly inspired. The mixing is tight yet never feels robotic and whilst playing there’s no stone-faced DJs behind the decks, just two friends playing some of the deepest dug music around. The crowd fed off their energy and grins were aplenty throughout the dancefloor, vintage tech-house was seamlessly woven into esoteric techno and blitzing breaks. Old did meet new as with Paolo Mosca‘s soothing acid cut “What’s Their Name?” receiving special grins from the two selectors whilst it played out.
Cecilio signed off with Ceephax’s Bacardi Breezer, a track which never fails to induce dropped jaws and FOLD was no exception as the boisterous bassline and quirky keys played out I was sure I was going to leave just as inspired as every time I’ve seen them before.
I returned later to hear raving reviews of Raphael Carrau’s set as well as Radioactive Man‘s punishing two-hour live jam. Heading into hour 21 would be Melliflow co-founder Vera, who appeared to be taking a step back and hitting the reset button on the energy levels for the night. It was a bold move but it was arguably needed after Radioactive Man’s set and to allow the following DJs to benefit from a somewhat reset vibe.
Only a selector as talented and as knowledgeable as Vera was going to be able to pull it off considering the crowd’s fanaticism up until that point. It was expertly done though as she rebuilt the foundations of the night through atmospheric techno and lowkey electro.
Next up was Cartulis resident Z@P who revelled in the aura of a calmed down crowd. A heady and intense selection followed from a selector who’s quickly rising up everyone’s ‘favourite DJs list’. The Uruguayan is an outstanding producer and in amongst his pickings of obscure bass-packed techno his very own productions stood out the most. The face-scrunching bassline of Brutalismo, as well as the now-iconic Tracid, inspired bursts of fervent energy that the Phonoteque disciples are all too familiar with inducing.
As Binh took control, my appreciation of FOLD began to hit home. The Cartulis crew had come up with a Plan B but it consisted of multiple venues assumingly all over London. It’s better than nothing of course, but there’s no way to keep the energy levels and the intensity high if people are having to commute over the capital and swap venues.
People talk about the mornings at the East-London venue but in this case it was the night where the weekend was at it’s apex. There were a number of factors; the club’s 24 hour license is unique in a city known for it’s restrictive closing times, the enforced no videos rule as well as a venue that attracts some of the brightest and most thoughtful promoters in the music scene which leads to crowds who are there for the music and nothing else.
The smoke-covered DJ booth made it difficult to work out who was playing encouraging people to focus on dancing rather than staring at the DJ. The standard of music and mixing was sky-high all weekend but when Binh took over it was easy to tell. Moody ’90s house was perfectly woven and exchanged between the likes of zealous and distinctive techno with Lochi’s ‘Vote Techno Party’ illustrating the Time Passages boss’ ear for unique sounds.
To close things off was Cartulis head-honcho Unai Trotti, the Spanish artist has often taken the warm-up slots in favour of guests basking in the peak-time slots so for him to close his own anniversary party was heart-warmingly deserved. It wasn’t all sentimental of course, Trotti is a phenomenally talented DJ and has seen his reputation grow far beyond being one of London’s best-kept secrets.
The line-up consisted of some of the deepest and most dedicated digging DJs from all over the world. Even if no-one would admit it, there was always going to be a subconscious standard of playing rare and unknown music to what is always an incredibly knowledgeable Cartulis crowd and he may have taken the cake. Trotti’s set was both the icing and cherry on top for the weekend closing off the weekend with FOLD now completely transformed into a room of chaotic ecstasy.
Ten years is a hell of a long time in underground music, regardless of the scene. Yet after that weekend, it felt so obvious that a promoter who puts so much love and thought into their parties would make it this far. The incredible roster of residents provides the building blocks for any party and they’ve now found a home in FOLD to allow their musical ideas to expand in the same way Hoppetosse and Club der Visionaere have helped foster so many successful and iconic nights.
Let’s hope so anyway.