Caressed by thick snow crystals I nocturnally approached one of Leeds’s finest warehouse venues, Canal Mills. The slow flux of hedonists, homogenised by hoods and hats coated white, streamed towards the brick building, amassing in a line extending around the corner. Luckily I skipped the queue, passing into that familiar humidity and constant thump of a House night.
Canal Mills is a stylish venue. Ambling in I was immediately interested in the layout. This first space was sizeable and relatively relaxed with seating in the middle and against the walls. Directly on the near right was the entrance to the Room One and at the far left Room Two; the space did not feel , as so often and irritatingly happens, as a path between rooms or a thoroughfare to the bar positioned at the far end. As with many warehouses, it’s bare walls and high ceilings created an enjoyably minimalistic vibe.
I started off in Room Two catching the second half of People Get Real’s set. His funky, hip-moving beats were interesting but nothing special. At midnight Maxxi Soundsystem took the DJ mantle. I excitedly anticipated the subtlety and skill that this big name would bring to the decks. Unfortunately, he was uninspiring. The music shifted too fast and progressed too little. Melodically lacking, there was an immediate driving intensity that attempted to force dance from you.
Both the headline acts, Huxley and Jamie xx, did not disappoint. I spent little time at Huxley, although what I saw of him was excellent and displayed his trademark garage house combination. I spent two sweaty hours trapped, physically by the crowd and mentally by Jamie xx’s music, in Room One. DJ, producer and musician in the ghostly downbeat band The xx, he is utterly unique and inimitable. With beats and melodies as sparse as his attire, his band’s music, and the warehouse, I felt the impression that many great artists give off, whether in music or art generally, of being deliberate. The music was melancholic at times, the four by four beats that defines house music were slowed, creating space to breathe and time to move. He understands the importance of silence, the silence which ultimately separates music from noise.
After Jamie xx the brilliant Floating Points started spinning. He wonderfully contrasted Jamie’s engulfing black cloud of music with ecstatic upbeat tunes. At the end of my night I remember hearing a beautiful, happy saxophone-led song, exactly the right song for the situation.
Wearily leaving at five in the morning I felt like a bin bag of bones, which means I must have danced. What more could I ask for?