Run by a gang of local experimental music fans, Golden Cabinet is held in the unlikely surroundings of a community centre in Shipley, a small town near Leeds in West Yorkshire. It runs from 7:30 PM until 11 PM, holds only 100 people, and can only happen on Saturdays—on Friday nights the hall is used for Tae Kwon-Do classes. Yet, since its launch in 2013, this monthly party has managed to attract an enviable roll call of guests (to name a few, Andy Stott, Vatican Shadow and tonight's headliner, Perc), and is developing a reputation as one of the liveliest events on the UK's leftfield circuit.
The constraints that the night is under have proven an unexpected boon. It arrives in a short, sharp burst each month and, because of that, everyone seems up for it from minute one (it must help that local real ales are only £3-a-pint at the tiny bar). As we arrive, Austrian electronic/oscilloscope artist Jerobeam Fenderson is thundering to the end of a set that is shaking every window in this old stone Victorian school.
Deliberately, Golden Cabinet programmes acts—from outré psych bands to out-there bass producers—who never normally play together, which not only switches up the dynamic of the night but attracts a bizarrely eclectic crowd of 60-something hippies, Leeds hipsters, anarcho-punks, veteran ravers and curious younger clubbers. Essentially, Golden Cabinet is where Shipley's freaks hang out, which provided the perfect environment for Sly & The Family Drone, and their pulverising mix of live drumming and improvised, FX-pedal electronics.
For those unfamiliar with Drone, think Lightning Bolt, Fridge and Venetian Snares being ground to a bloody pulp. And yet, they are also one of the most entertaining live acts you will witness this side of The Knife. Playing in the middle of the crowd, who are later encircled in gaffer tape, the band frequently break off, handing out drums and broken cymbals, while the heavily bearded front-man gradually gets naked in-between twiddling knobs and guttural yowls. He ends the set stood atop a speaker stack, triumphant, with the microphone stuffed down his underpants. Between the sheer physical assault of the music and the onstage antics, it is brilliantly, chaotically compelling—part endurance test, part cabaret.
As a tall man in a black t-shirt stood behind a MacBook and some hardware, Ali "Perc" Wells was never going to be able to compete as a theatrical spectacle. But aided and abetted by some excellent full-wall visuals from the Golden Cabinet crew, he brought his own brand of techno drama. Due to the early finish, there was no time to dither about, so after some brief scene-setting ambient noise and local radio samples, we were pitched straight into a set of a pummelling intensity.
But for the enormous, rubbery kick of "Dumpster" or the delirious screaming brutality of "Take Your Body Off," it was a set heavy on less familiar Perc remixes (Daniel Avery, Clouds). As these unfolded, they highlighted just how masterfully Wells deploys his sonic artillery. Every now and then he'd cut suddenly to sheer noise, letting everything hang momentarily before unveiling yet another layer of bass. For all its modish, corroded industrial-noise aesthetic, Perc's sound is now 20 years old. He plays barrelling, kick-heavy techno. Yet rarely in those two decades has anyone rivalled either his sound-design—the space, density and dynamic bounce which he builds into his huge-sounding tunes—or his intuitive grasp of how to work a dance floor.
This was all over after an hour. At this point, we all skipped out into the night, still wanting more: the best way to leave any event. In Golden Cabinet's case, less really is more.
Photo credit: Rob Lycett