Jan Schulte @ Hope House 21/02/2020

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Over the past seven years, Outlaws Yacht Club has unassumingly established itself as a linchpin in Leeds’ creative community. Pushing a leftfield musical agenda through its DJ bookings and expertly curated record store, it’s gathered a reputation amongst discerning fans as the go-to establishment for the areas within the dance music spectrum that are unorthodox, weird and just a little bit freaky! Due to this, it’s hard to not draw parallels to another European-style café bar with a cult following of music obsessives – the Salon des Amateurs.  The recently reopened venue in Dusseldorf has over the years provided a breeding ground for a wealth of unconventional artists now firmly established on the international circuit. Among them are Lena Willikens, Vladimir Ivkovic and Toulouse Low Trax. However, on Saturday 21st Feb, the Outlaws crew, in collaboration with MAP Charity, welcomed another of the Salon’s graduates through the doors of Hope House for a second year running: Jan Schulte.

For Ivkovic and Willikens, the pair have gradually evolved the Salon sound into something more their own – twisted, low-slung and psychedelic with an emphasis on slow, relentless grooves. Schulte, however, cannot be so easily pinned down, and he perhaps more readily exemplifies the Dusseldorf bar’s infamous anything goes policy (as long as it’s left-of-centre). With one foot in the rich history of European experimental music (spanning new wave, post punk, cosmic synth pop and disco, early electronic, krautrock etc etc.) and another deep in dance music folklore, Schulte manages to effortlessly combine styles to form a very distinctive and idiosyncratic sound.  His recent productions as Bufiman are largely indebted to 90s US breakbeat and electro, while still retaining a New Age, ‘tropical’ vibe that is really pushed by DJs such as Young Marco and Jamie Tiller. His recently released full-length debut, Albumski, is the culmination of this mishmash, and I was eagerly anticipating how it would work on the dancefloor. 

What most readily struck me on this occasion, is how much Schulte’s music over the course of the night was rooted in funk. Just as the crowd were starting to filter in a heavily pitched down version of Prince’s ‘Erotic City’ could be heard bumping through the Slop system, and this set the tone for the rest of the night.

Schulte stuck to mid-tempo jams for most of the first half, with a refreshing nod to 90s RnB & street soul. There was also, of course, a lot of what sounded like recent productions from himself and his Dusseldorf pals (I’m no good for IDs here, but it’s worth listening to the recent Lucas Croon and Phaserboys eps on Aiwo rec. for this kind of thing). With all of this music, there is a big emphasis on a warm and well-rounded low-end (bouncy basslines aplenty), which sounded so full and vibrant on the Hope House floor.

I’m a sucker for this kind of dance music, as it feels so cosy and effortlessly easy to dance to. However, that’s not to say it can’t get tedious after a long while and, naturally, Schulte upped the tempo and intensity when it reached peak time. The diversity of genres on display remained, with Schulte mixing a lot more pumping house and techno into occasional flourishes of his kraut & kosmiche roots. His mixing was seamless but very understated; there was no flashy tricks or showboating, just a nice and steady continuation of the groove. This made for a very loose atmosphere on the floor, and while the room wasn’t anywhere near as packed as the time Jan played a year ago, there was still many a jubilant punter by the end of proceedings.

The remarkable success of Leeds’ DIY scene recently may have made it harder for events such as this one to thrive. Nevertheless, I hope for all our sakes that Outlaws Yacht Club push on in their pursuit of bringing Europe’s most exciting DJs to our attention.

Christian Eaves