After a quarter of a century making music, Laurent Garnier knows how to take his time. Garnier and his accomplice (the two of them worked in tandem behind the booth as part of the LBS set up) played the long game at Pacha last night – trusting the patience of the crowd and the quality of music enough to engage in exceptionally drawn out mixes, often indulging in twenty minute-long tracks.
Very early on in the four hour set the atmosphere was charged and exciting; Garnier slowly weaved between strong, dark tracks as red lasers folded threateningly through a sea of naked retinas. We were taken on a musical (don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it) journey – and I’m afraid there’s no better way to put it. Pacha regulars and tourists alike traversed the abrasive realms of Garnier’s acid house roots (Garnier’s Crispy Bacon and Pierre’s Acid - Acid Face Mix - were both aired), before smoothing out into jazzier house and techno territories in a slow progression from harsh synthetic synths to rich natural instrumentation which nobody noticed was happening until it was complete. Slick.
About the mid-way mark I got the song I’d been waiting for. Gnanmankoudji began with its brassy playfulness, light and percussive, with no hint of the monster round the corner. Then the guts of the track kicked in with a slowly advancing bass and that familiar trumpet riff which manages to be joyous and solemn at the same time. As a friend said to me mid-song, the best part is that half of these people have no idea what’s coming next! That was the thing about Garnier’s set last night– most of the time you had no idea where he was going to go, but as soon as he started heading there you realised he couldn’t have possibly gone anywhere else to better effect. For example, just as I wondered what he could ever follow Gnanmankoudji with, the familiar sounds of Man With The Red Face made themselves known – to roars of approval, of course.
I can’t say everybody got it. The last time I was in Pacha it was another All Gone Pete Tong night and Alesso was playing, so I can only assume that the few people who weren’t blown away by Garnier might have come last night hoping for some straight up commercial house to rave to - but they barely even got vocals, let alone a chorus. The majority of bodies loved what was on offer, however, whether they had known what to expect (insofar as anyone can ever know what to expect with Garnier) or been pleasantly surprised.
Garnier’s set had been so intense and forward-pushing that it was almost a relief when Pete Tong took over and changed the mood to a more relaxed, easy going techno jive (I say this… but I would have definitely taken two more hours of it!) Tong was in fine form, as ever, and swung the remaining groovers (of which there were many) comfortably into the wee hours.
It was a class night which Pacha provided the perfect setting for, but to be honest I’d probably follow Laurent Garnier down a dustbin if his decks could fit.