If you’re a fan of electronic music in its many forms, there’s a rather fantastic Facebook group called The Identification of Music Group.
76,000 members strong and counting, the group serves as a haven for genre fans looking to hunt down tunes. From blurry nightclub videos shot on iPhones at 4am to onomatopoeic walls of text feebly trying to describe 90s German techno, the group is a disorganised mess of hopeful people trying to rediscover music that has managed to escape them.
While on paper this sounds kind of terrible, the beauty of the group is that 99% of the time it works perfectly. Everything from mid-00s pirate radio grime rips to barely-audible French disco cuts are identified by friendly facebook commenters, saving the day to an outpouring of gratitude.
Earlier this year however, the group began to run into significant trouble identifying selections from Bicep sets; namely, nobody could identify them. Desperation mounted by the day as the phrase ‘unreleased Bicep’ was commented beneath more and more posts. Hopeful fans were crushed by the blow that they wouldn’t hear the songs again for a long time – possibly never again.
For Bicep, the notion of crate-digging and uncovering lost gems is a philosophy rooted at their very core; a driving force behind their entire career. Formed as a production duo in 2009, Northern Irishmen Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar created a blog (and later a record label) called ‘Feel My Bicep’, a space where they could share their own early work as Bicep along with Chicago House and Detroit Techno edits and tracks they had uncovered themselves. Feelmybicep.com stands as a testament to their passion and dedication to curating a trove of almost-forgotten musical treasures, and their progression into touring and DJing worldwide has solidly cemented them into UK Dance music culture.
In September this year, the pair released their eponymous debut album and everybody finally uncovered all the ‘unreleased Bicep’ they’d been dying to find. Better still, they announced an album tour which took them all the way to Hope Works.
On the night, the excitement was electric. Pushing this anticipation to the max on the warm-up slot was Hope Works resident DJ (and Birthday Boy) Lo Shea, keeping the room on edge with a diverse selection of tracks with a range of influences. From fully fledged house stompers to ethereal melodic numbers, he never pushed the crowd too far but kept the energy rising for the main event.
A sizeable gazebo had been erected in the courtyard outside the main warehouse (in the smoking area), which not only provided a retreat from the particularly chilly wind but also provided revellers with a stellar selection of music courtesy of Hope Works co-resident Chris Duckenfield. From the main room to the Rave Cave to the smoking area, Hope Works was a hive of activity and musical diversity.
As Bicep took to the stage there was a collective roar of excitement from the crowd, something heard very rarely within the DJ set-based confines of Hope Works. Any concerns that the show might be live for the sake of it were very quickly dispelled. Unlike other acts that have made the transition to playing live sets such as Blonde and Disclosure, the focus was less upon physical drum pads, guitars and live vocalists, but instead upon banks of computers, wires and analog synthesisers – a mix of old school and contemporary machinery that has proved so fundamental in shaping their current sound. While it wasn’t entirely obvious what the duo were actually doing with their equipment, they were definitely doing something right, sending the crowd into a wild mix of wide grins and dodgy dance moves as all the hype paid off.
“They were definitely doing something right, sending the crowd into a wild mix of wide grins and dodgy dance moves as all the hype paid off.”
Bicep’s set served as a crash course in their own material, but also in what can be achieved in a set of house music. Their equipment didn’t seek to emulate the tracks but rather completely recreate them from the ground up. Such tight control over all the instrumentation allowed for remixing on the fly, extending and altering elements to keep the crowd hanging onto every single bass kick. The analogue synths washed over the warehouse, evoking a sense of nostalgia for an era the majority of the room never experienced first hand.
Hope Works simply shined as a venue for an experience such as Bicep. With on-point live visuals combined with a hefty amount of smoke and lasers – the warehouse served as a blank canvas for the exquisite array of colour and sound, pairing audio and visual perfectly.
High points of the set came somewhat predictably in the form of seminal anthem ‘Just’ and recent lead-single ‘Aura’, but that was no bad thing. As the simplistic yet emotional melodic riffs flowed through the room it was impossible not to feel unequivocally happy, something that can be said of the whole set.
With Bicep finishing at 3:15am but Hope Works remaining open until the early hours, subsequent music came courtesy of frequent Bicep collaborator Hammer (Bicep curl, Hammer curl… you get the idea). The DJ kept the room alive with a selection of particularly funky house numbers, very much in line with Bicep’s own ‘HOUSE DISCO FUNK TECHNO ITALIO COSMIC’ manifesto. Finally Lo Shea bookended the evening, playing the closing slot with an infectious energy that couldn’t be stopped – even on his birthday.
The crowd left immensely satisfied. Bicep at Hope Works was a blur of good friends, a good venue, good music and, most importantly, good times.