Techno [Noun]

A style of fast, heavy electronic dance music, typically with few or no vocals.

Synonyms: dance music; electronic music; Ninja Tune

It’s disingenuous to describe Ninja Tune as a techno label given the egalitarian sprawl of their roster, but you’d be hard pressed to discern that from their Printworks showcase last weekend; a ruthless illustration of their elite status in fast, heavy electronic dance music (typically with few or no vocals).

Printworks is a venue sculpted for techno. Charting the labyrinthine weave of its corridors, basking in the yawning expanse of the Print Room (its main hall), its excavated design is remarkable. Slender, limitlessly high and incalculably long, the Print Room seemed ripped from the hedonist montage of a David Fincher film, a procedurally generated “warehouse rave”. The soundsystem was immutably crystalline and acerbically devastating, and whatever the lighting engineers are getting paid, it ain’t enough; particularly for the final billers in Bicep and Modeselektor, the aura was reflexive, kinetic, and – when appropriate – hazily beautiful.

Arriving to the minute in time for Helena Hauff’s 14:30 set, it’d be lazy to ascribe it as establishing the pulping tone for the day; but fuck, did it ever establish the pulping tone for the day. An arguably conventional peak/trough dynamic underscored her ninety minutes, but the brazen mid-afternoon croaking of the modulators disembowelled any threat of normalcy. There was little cooldown or dissonance between Hauff and Âme’s ensuing transition, though Âme were more wilfully adventurous, permitting more breathing room before sonic ejections and neon stabs flooded the blackness. There weren’t so much troughs as levity dips, shallow pores waxed off by the subsequent discharge of atom-splitting, reality-distorting thud-thud-thudding.

Bicep brought swathes of devotees from their native Northern Ireland, resembling a religious pilgrimage rather than a weekender. Their fans’ swelling fervour during the set of their local-lads-done-good intuitively felt like a culmination or a marker, the triumphant closing of a chapter anticipated by years of underground fanaticism which climaxed in the issue of their recent, stellar S/T debut. Their time on the decks was at once tonally apposite to the volcanic vortex and at times distinctively melodic and cradling, that miraculous incongruity which techno capably conjures where an aural singularity can be brashly feral yet transcendental. As before-it-was-cool-bloggers and ravenous feasters of the internet’s dance library – as the quintessential postmodern cratediggers – Bicep delivered a cosmopolitan maelstrom comprising the classical and the topical, the bangers and the opaque, perforated by cuts off their record; the stark melancholy of ‘Glue’, the mercurial swelling of ‘Aura’, the celestial drop of ‘Rain’. In technical mixing and sequencing, and in telepathic bond with the crowd, it was one of the best live sets I’ve seen this year.

Concluding the night, Modeselektor exorcized any lingering spectre of Moderat mourning with 150 minutes of callous nihilism, straight-edged drone and synth pikes piercing the miasma, letting up only once; in an ephemera of jaw-dropping and surreal sentimentality they spun ‘Born Slippy’. As one of – if not the – most flamboyantly beloved UK techno track of all-time, it was insolently and unapologetically on-the-nose. It is inextricable, indissoluble, eternally synonymous with techno. Which in retrospect makes sense, because so is Ninja Tune.