XOYO, situated a few minutes' walk from Old Street tube station, is an odd venue. It's best seen as the product of an age in which the East London zeitgeist and the more robust quarters of dance floor culture intersect with unusual frequency. Since its 2010 opening, the venue has played host to some pretty impressive line-ups, drafting in the city's most established dance music promoters and, at points, setting the agenda for more long-standing clubs to follow. Still, with a hardly-late license and a sound system that eschews sub weight in favour of crystalline hi-end, a night at XOYO falls a fair way short of being a Proper Night Out. Certain prejudices are revealed in the layout, too: right next to its vast stage, which occupies an entire long wall, are the stairs by which people enter—meaning that, as an audience member, it's difficult not to eyeball each individual as they pop up in the periphery of your vision. A less forgiving observer might detect a bit of a Debutante's Ball vibe to the whole thing.
Still, the venue's a great choice for a night which is all about presentation anyway—presentation of Planet Mu's formidable stable of artists, yes, but also visual presentation as an integral part of musical performance. Arriving in time to catch the tail end of Tropics' set, it was immediately clear that the producer's keys-guitar-drums trio was tailored to slot in neatly alongside live bands rather than DJs. Rudi Zygadlo has more of a whiff of the electronic auteur about him, but the fallibility of human performance is still what powers things along: the muscular synth-funk familiar from 2010's Great Western Laymen got a generous airing, but fell slightly flat (blame the muted crowd, maybe); far better were the melancholy moments, Zygadlo with his head bowed, drawing plangent sonorities from his guitar.
Barry Lynn, AKA Boxcutter, kept the theme going with a live—albeit laptop-based—set that masterfully walked the line between spontaneity and calculated impact. Appearing under his distinctly hypnagogic new alias, The Host, things could have gone either way—thankfully we were spared the more oceanic (and, frankly, more hackneyed) cuts from the project's self-titled album. Lynn instead treated us to his slick extractions from a rich hybrid seam: namely, the merging of footwork's itchy percussive patterns with limpid, hypnagogic atmospherics. It's a surprisingly danceable combo, and only became more so as Lynn gradually segued into the sophisticated drumfunk he was known for in years past. The deployment of "Fieldtrip" from 2007's Glyphic made explicit the changing sameness of this producer's output—in one sense The Host is Lynn turning over a new leaf and aligning himself with the concerns of the contemporary underground; in another, it's an artist pursuing the same old creative concerns with ever-more refined results.
As Kuedo took to the stage, it became clear whom the majority of people were there to see. Live, Jamie Teasdale took a hands-off approach, opting for a no-frills presentation of album material (plus a few extras) rather than any flashy pyrotechnics. It paid off, too—in spite of the apparent bedroom orientation of the music, its trap rap-via-Bladerunner grandiosity really benefited from extreme volume and full-frequency heft. The whole thing was towering, enveloping and, at its high points—"Visioning Shared Tomorrows," "Ant City"—spine-tinglingly effective. You get the sense that, if these tracks had lyrics, the crowd would have been singing along to every one of them.
Machinedrum rounded things off, and what a great bit of programming it was. Save for a handful of wide-eyed, gurning figures gingerly negotiating those stairs, it was hardly a druggy crowd, but Travis Stewart worked it like one anyway. Where the glossier melodics of Room(s) featured, it was to highlight their qualities as an update of sugary, euphoric hardcore (at several points, Stewart puts his hands in the air and mouthed the lyrics melodramatically—a move that would be preposterous if we weren't all swept along). For the most part, though, Stewart took the opportunity to showcase his balls-out footwork-jungle hybrids. This is far from wimpy music, and the intensity rarely dipped for the duration. As the last track rolled out at 3 AM, though, there was just one lingering question: Couldn't we have had a few hours more?