14th / January / 2017
Housed in a converted church that used to provide shelter for the dutch religious group “Vrije Gemeente” (Free Congregation), Paradiso is a grand structure situated on Leidseplein in the south of Amsterdam. When the Christian movement decided it was time to move on and relocate, the whereabouts of the venue, along with an already installed stage and great acoustics, meant hippies moved in with the initiative to turn the main hall into a multi-purpose arts venue. Despite much initial backlash from the police, the city council were swayed by the squatters argument and in 1968, converted the old church into the venue that still stands today. It became synonymous with rock counter-culture, one of the first to accept the use of soft drugs, and has hosted everyone from The Sex Pistols through to Winehouse in over 40 years of action. But tonight, it was headliner Icicle’s turn.
The single room event was spectacular taking place in the main hall, but it can be imagined that the venue wasn’t built with the intention of handling low frequencies, explosive percussion and heavy bass – and although the acoustics may have only enhanced a performance from someone like Adele, it detracted from the precision of drum and bass. Compared to the sound-system in a club like De Marktkantine or De School, it didn’t make the grade.
Despite this setback, the general buzz of the crowd made for a great night. Stepping up first were Ivy Lab, who after breaking on to the scene with Sunday Crunk (released on Critical back in 2014) and various collaborations with artists like Alix Perez, Emperor and Mefjus – have really made a name for themselves with their signature, hip-hop inspired, half-time style of drum and bass. A collaboration of Sabre, Stray and Halogenix – the night really took off when they took to the decks, effortlessly sliding through Critical classics, with the addition of new production featuring predominantly. Compared to the minimal four-to-the-four beats provided by Klute, this set swayed and melodically stumbled to a climax before Icicle took to the stage – heavy and danceable, yet not over-aggressive, focusing on the rough grooves that have helped the triad set benchmarks in the drum and bass scene.
But the main attraction of the night needed no introduction. Guided by SP:MC on the mic, whose energy and prowess on stage aids a selector equally as much as the song selection, Icicle powered through an eclectic range of production – highlights featured the distinctive Arrows, and Dreadnaught (ft. SP:MC), during which the man on the mic really stepped into his element. His work with Proxima has evidentially influenced his style of mixing, with more half-tempo work coming through during the performance, but the set was consistent and remained deeply rooted in his characteristic and intricate production – focusing on rolling sub-base, sharp percussion and unique sampling.
Following this was Nymfo himself, the glue that had pieced the night together. Given the opportunity to curate and close his own event was a massive honour, and he ended the night in style – showcasing releases of his own from Commercial Suicide and Metalheadz. Leading the way in Dutch drum and bass, through his own nights Break and Red Zone which take place in Eindhoven, Nymfo brought the show to a close in style at Paradiso – mainly in the way of his own techno tinged dancefloor style productions. Although following Icicle was always going to be a task, he held his own effectively.
Closing the night was Klute – which is a hard task for any selector, keeping the slowing embers of a dying flame alight. Despite an already impressive collection of productions (currently working on studio album number seven), he also runs Commercial Suicide, whom have released the likes of Calibre, Break and Hive – as well as releasing on Metalheadz, Shogun Audio and Hospital Records himself. His set was packed full of brutal hard-hitting bass, throwing the venue straight into the deep end from the offset, with his signature minimal style contrasting nicely in the mix with his own liquid production – giving the audience time to recover before dropping more rollers to keep the crowd moving.
Although the acoustics didn’t do the quality of the sound any justice, the energy of both the bookings and the crowd carried the event through till close. Sets by both Ivy Lab and Icicle demonstrated the power of Critical Music – rarely resorting to cheap tactics to make dance music and instead achieving a great balance of open-minded experimentalism, rolling percussion, and raw-grooves. Although Rotterdam and Eindhoven are known as leaders in the dutch drum and bass scene, tonight Nymfo put Amsterdam on the map, and the energy inside Paradiso proved that even the most serene of venues can produce the heaviest of events.