With a string of EPs released on renowned labels such Whities and ESP Institute followed by a debut album released on LuckyMe this year, Nathan Micay is an artist going from strength to strength at the moment.
As a producer, the Toronto native now based in Berlin began his career as part of the post-dubstep scene putting out UK bass influenced tracks as Bwana. Like so many artists raised in that scene, in recent years he began shifting towards a more techno-focused sound until, in 2018, he ditched the Bwana alias altogether and now releases exclusively under his own name. This transformation is demonstrated perfectly with his recent album “Blue Spring”, where he creates a sound that blends various strains of dance music with gorgeous synthesiser melodies and textures to create lush, emotive soundscapes that still remain firmly rooted on the dancefloor.
It was with some excitement that we headed down to Leeds’ Freedom Mills, a firm favourite underground venue. Dance Disease had invited Micay to play alongside fellow Berliner Eluize and local duo Space Cadets. Entering the no-frills warehouse venue, we were greeted by a modest crowd who were already moving steadily to Eluize’s techno and electro selections. Eluize is another artist who has been seriously impressing recently, with her 2019 “Confide LP”, released on Craigie Knowes, showing off her ability to produce wonderfully creative house and techno, varying between tracks within the same synth-laden vibe as Micay’s and harder, more acidic productions. On the night, Eluize adeptly warmed up the crowd and kept the room simmering away. Whilst never quite reach boiling point, her upper mid-tempo, sharp and percussive techno and electro provided us with as much enjoyment as she was visibly experiencing behind the decks, something which is always a treat to see.
Soon enough Micay was on the decks and opened with his typically warm and enticing sound, playing with subtle breakbeats and starting to steadily ramp up the energy in the room. Not too long into the set, his mixing into one of his own, the excellent “The Party We Could Have Had” from his debut album, demonstrated an ability to keep a seamless groove going. From within the intimate crowd it was clear to see that he was keeping everyone just as locked into the rhythm as he was. Maintaining the vibe, his selections continued with tracks that were often difficult to classify, treading right on the borders between house, techno and electro, much like his productions. Another stand-out track came with the urgent percussion and big bassline of Xpress-2’s “AC/DC”, showing off Micay’s lack of fear when playing tunes that others might dismiss as out of fashion. In fact, what impressed most overall was his ability to construct an exciting set out of tunes that in the wrong hands could result in something that was frankly boring. As he moved through the second hour of his set Micay switched to a more garage-oriented sound, showing off his stylistic origins. Clearly playing to the UK crowd, he got a big response to Armand van Heldens classic remix of “Spin Spin Sugar” by Sneaker Pimps. Positioning this amongst other less recognisable garage tracks, he fairly successfully maintained the energy he had built over the course of the last 90 minutes, something that is not always easy to do with genre changes. Soon after though, the set was rounded off by moving back to more recognisable territory, with an appropriately big and synthy track to finish.
Finishing off the night were Leeds’ own Space Cadets, a recent collaboration between Adam Pits and Lisene. Both are making a name for themselves as solo DJs and producers but, as shown by their self-titled EP recently released on Sheffield label Seven Hills, they clearly made a smart decision to team up. Living up to their name, they took the vibe of their closing set into bleepy sci-fi territory with fast and exciting techno and electro, whilst throwing in the occasional big trancey breakdown for good measure.
Reflecting on the night, credit has to be given to Dance Disease for curating a thoughtful line-up of talented DJs that complimented one another so well. In a city with a dance music scene that can often feel saturated with carbon-copy student promoters making safe and repetitive bookings, dancing the night away in Freedom Mills made me feel like Dance Disease are doing something very right at the moment.
By Andrew Pretorius