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Laidback Luke slams in for his first techno takeover at Eden

The Dutchman dusts down his techno collection for Taste The Punch.

This weekend it'd been nearly two years since Laidback Luke had got stuck into crafting a set in Ibiza, and on that date in 2015, his choice of venom was very, very different.

EDM was brought him here two seasons ago, with Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike being the ones to bag him for their Garden Of Madness residency at Amnesia. For fans of him and that big room, thrashy electro chaos, to see him pushing this idea of digging back into his techno roots this summer stirred curiosity.

Where you place Laidback Luke on the genre spectrum depends on your age. Laidback Luke of the here and now is knocking about with the EDM giants – most recently he's shared line-ups with Hardwell, Marshmello and Martin Garrix. If you're in your late 20s, you'll remember him pushing material during the glory days of electro house, when he shared bills with Boys Noize and Soulwax. If you're hitting 40, you might know him for some serious house and techno weapons, when his cohorts were Marco Carola and Adam Beyer, and his influences included Jeff Mills and Carl Cox. Early records like Daydream Funk, Concrete On Vinyl and his remix of Green Velvet's release The Stalker are the kind of tracks which have an extensive shelf life.

What happened? Why did he quit techno? He explains all in episode 337 of Resident Advisor's Exchange series. But in a neatly packaged nutshell, as a techno DJ he realised he didn't have the freedom to make the kind of music he wanted to – the “cheesy, karaoke and ballad-orientated” stuff that was at the heart of his Filipino roots. He loved singing along to records. Recording loop after loop was breaking him, and after a month in the studio, he wasn't able to program more than a kick drum. So, in the late ‘90s, him and techno “broke up heavily.”

In that RA Exchange, he also stated that while techno fitted into the ex-girlfriend category, they still keep in touch. And he's been in contact with his old flame a number of times since the latter half of 2016, with a B2B alongside techno heavyweight Dave Clarke at last year's Tomorrowland festival, an acid house set with The Lab series, and he rampaged through a techno set at the Flash Factory in New York in December.

This loops us back into the not so distant past, as on Friday Taste The Punch brought him to Eden for the first of his two exclusive techno sets. Stating that he'd be unearthing his ‘90s roots and blasting the kind of ammo he played when he first found himself in Ibiza, I was keen. And after checking out the above-mentioned mixes - which contained tracks from Ben Klock, Jeff Mills, Hardfloor, Josh Wink, Mark Broom, Plastikman, Planetary Assault Systems and Slam – I was very intrigued.

Led in by Danish DJ and producer Christian Nielsen, he got stuck into the robust stuff fast, flirting quickly with Joseph Capriati's techno thumper Always And Forever, and quickly transitioning into Robert Hood's newly released track Idea. Both great tracks, and both capable of stimulating crowds, which they did at Eden to great effect. To go into what came next – a sample of Hardrive's Deep Inside vocal – we should look again quickly at Laidback Luke's techno past.

Back in the '90s, he'd do combinations that he describes as “out of this world and not done.” At an Awakenings event he once played a heavy Speedy J track and layered in the vocals from Modjo's chart smasher Lady. He was told that it wasn't suitable for a techno crowd, and push against his experimentations was another factor in his move to other sonic ground, especially as he found that with more mainstream crowds, they'd go all in for the odd inclusion of a techno slammer. He appreciated the open-mindedness of those crowds, and the punters at Eden were well up for this mash up with Hood and Hardrive - job done.

Unafraid to push his audience, he distinctly switched up the mood by bringing in Objekt's leftfield track Needle And Thread. Loaded with mechanical Berlin-style elements and hard-hitting blasts of broken beats, it roused a reaction of curiosity on that dance floor, and clubbers were willing to roll with it. Stepping the pedal off the breakbeats, he brought in an absolute classic from techno boss Surgeon with his 1995 record Atol. While in other sections of his set he applied high-velocity mixing tactics that might be more commonly heard at EDM main stages, he let Atol do the damage in its purer form.

From there he threw in another round of high-octane techno bangers that vie for big moments, including Devotion by Pig & Dan and Reboters by Joseph Capriati. Joris Voorn's 2006 brute Incident – an incredibly vigorous record which sounds to embrace earlier dance years with a house-driven breakdown, piano riff and acid house touch – was a huge moment of the night. A fan of Scotland's Gary Beck and Slam, he brought in their collaboration Pressure Lights – a record packed with tightly rolling snares and explosive kick drums – into the final chunk of his techno dive.

Final thoughts? Laidback Luke's track selections were airtight, and it'd be superb to see him digging further into the techno records of the '90s. Personally speaking, his mixing and samples missed the mark for me at times, and might not fly at stricter techno-pushing venues - something he'd perhaps admit himself if we're to go on his own account of his dance music background. Going on his personal tastes in fusing the underground and mainstream worlds together, he did stay true to what he enjoys and the crowd were behind him.

Catch Laidback Luke for round 2 with the Taste The Punch crew on Friday 28 July.

PHOTOGRAPHY l Marta Krystyna J

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