It seems that Canal Mills has received an unfair amount of criticism since it opened last year, with complaints about it being too cold and the sound system being below par some of the key things that people have moaned about. With this being my first visit to the venue for mono_cult’s final bash before their NYD extravaganza, I found that this criticism seems to be at least a bit unjustified – a lot of money was clearly spent renovating the building and so it means it isn’t simply a grotty warehouse venue and there are decent bar and toilet facilities, dragging it above the substandard ‘warehouse’ locations which have come under a lot of criticism recently. For a venue of its size, accommodating around 1,200 people, it does pretty well, and the problems with it are at least partly due to its size, which would be a hinderance to any similarly sized location. For example, there is definitely room for improvement with the sound in the main room, but in such a high ceilinged room there is always going to be a lot of sound lost through the huge expanse of space above the dancefloor.
This loss in detail in the sound in the main room seemed particularly detrimental to the classic house that populated much of Bicep’s set – at times leaving that familiar kick drum and a lot of hi-hat being disproportionately dominant above little else. Saying that, though, it was still a decent set which managed to shine through sound issues at times, with the Irish duo having the nous to intersperse crowd pleasers through the set for the main room crowd. In the second room, Bristol’s Kowton moved from the bassy style of house which he’s more normally associated with into heavy, percussive techno which was well suited to the punchy sound in the significantly smaller room. Following this, Boddika took to the decks in the main room with the kind of acid tinged bass music and clanging techno he’s known for in his productions, transmitting that Swamp 81 sound which still retains its distinctive recognisability.
His set went down well, and the main room filled up toward the end in anticipation of Nina Kraviz’s set. Kraviz’s set, though, seemed to be a bit misjudged and over the top after the dark, bass heavy selections of Boddika. A good example is a fairly dire remix of ‘Good Life’ by Inner City, which drew on the main vocal cut before dropping into a formulaic up tempo, banging techno remix which was shortly followed by a track with a distorted electro bassline that sounded just slightly too cheesy – the energy of the set seemed a bit forced as a result. This was followed later on by some airy balearic house in a patch of downtempo selections in which the set picked up a lot. However, the overall trend of the two hour set was towards the slightly less convincing choices which marked the start of the set. While Kraviz also may have suffered from the imperfect sound in the main room, it was still overall a bit of a disappointing end to an enjoyable evening.