Brooklyn was a site to behold this past weekend, for it was the location of a tunnel into a peculiar dimension riddled with all things techno and the subtleties folded in between the tapestry of electronic music. My weekend excursion to New York for the second edition of Time Warp US was nothing short of eye-opening mind stimulation amongst the finest techno one’s ears could possibly commend on American soil.
The world-renowned festival took place over the span of two days, November 20 and 21, at a massive warehouse in a secluded industrial sector by the water in Brooklyn. The event moved from its planned happening at the Bedford Union Armory a few miles east in Crown Heights to its original venue at 39th Street Pier, a last-minute change that seemed to be more welcomed than opposed.
I had just flown into the Big Apple late that afternoon, and it was straight to the warehouse after unpacking and taking a cat nap. The first night was chaotic; my friends waited a minimum of 45 minutes in the general line, followed by a wristband distribution frenzy and confiscation of open packs of cigarettes and gum here and there. Comparatively though, the entrance line was much more easygoing than the ones I’ve had to deal with at California festivals.
Even before you go into the two small doors on the side of the warehouse you can hear the rattling of the large shutters and vibrating heavy-duty glass windows near the ceiling, sensations that made my spine tingle with anticipation at the forthcoming experience. At approximately 1 AM, I dove right into the sea of dancing technoheads on Floor 1 with the start of an energetic set by Luciano. His set was an exceptional negotiation of uplifting and dark progressive elements that carried me through an hour of nonstop foot stomping before I made my way to the last half of Black Coffee’s set on Floor 2 where I grooved to some filthy house and soulful techno to an intense top-notch light show. Rectangular red pillar lasers, intersecting blue strobes, and movement illusion partial yellow LED light panels is the best I can describe the ingenuity.
I returned to Luciano in preparation for who else… Ricardo Villalobos. The DJ that has a disdain for playing in the US. I wasn’t about to miss this once in a lifetime moment. The set transitioned from Luciano’s classic feel-good sound to Ricardo’s straight up funky bongo line and Latin percussion ensemble. The haters can complain about how Ricardo played a lack of “real” techno, but I thoroughly enjoyed his refreshingly groovy Caribbean journey crossing among deeper shades of tech house, the truer minimal sounds of the 808 snare and hi-hat combo, and all sorts of weird and wild booty shaking jams. His mixing style was raw, alluding to the primitive call-and-response nature of the drum itself. Ricardo plays, we dance. Villalocos for Villalobos! ¡Que baila!
I went to check out Jamie Jones b2b Seth Troxler for a hot minute, since I’ve already seen them plenty of times this year. The vibes were akin to the vibes during their Disco Knights set at Burning Man, where they threw down tropical and tribal tech and dusty tunes. Guess they wanted to bring a piece of the playa back. And it was no surprise that I ran into a crowd of Robot Heart fans en masse on Floor 2 during their set. Pretty easy to tell considering the contrasting trippy patterns, sequins, face jewels, and glow toys galore in the mob of all-black Drumcode uniform and independent techno record label print tees.
Overall, Day 1 was a solid fun day. The sound on Floor 2 was messed up with the high ends tuned too high, prominent mids, and underwhelming lows, but the problems were fixed on Day 2 and the light programming blew my mind. The stage design for Floor 1 was truly admirable. I thought I was transported into the deep jungles of the Amazon during Ricardo’s set with how the lights were hitting the ceiling of wavy pattern cut-out fabric and synchronized with the mood of the music perfectly.
On Day 2 though, things got serious. Serious good. Friday night transitioned well into the heavier and darker sets of Saturday night. I began my second night with Apollonia, where the trio played a spacey techno rendition that sent me to some faraway places at the end of the universe. The cool color scheme of the visuals and lights made me further appreciate how much effort was put into detailed execution by the team behind the creative direction of Time Warp.
Len Faki switched gears with a bass heavy, driving acid set at the other stage. The aesthetic and audio change was sporadic, but I got right into getting down. Len Faki utilized a volley of synths and hard cuts, and all I could proclaim to my friends was how relentless he was. We returned to Floor 1 to catch the entirety of Recondite’s hour-long live set. The Innervisions man himself played an indubitably brooding tale, a story told through the language of dark melodic techno and the groundwork of the Jungian unconscious. Reality and the tenebrous substance of the unconscious became autonomous in Recondite’s succinct live set.
Sven Väth carried on the melodic ambiance but gradually worked in a more punctuated German minimal flavor, bringing me back to the gravitas of the warehouse. The next two hours consisted of me separating time between Sven and Chris Liebing who were both executing distinct vibes of techno. Chris played an aggressive four-on-the-floor set complete with pumping kicks and copious amounts of love for the drum machine and raging mentality. I rallied at the end of Chris’ set in preparation for il maestro Joseph Capriati.
Capriati is an interesting addition to Drumcode, because he is playful with his sets compared to his more serious counterparts. He is at the forefront as a young Italian DJ, and he brings a kind of liveliness to techno that you can just feel, no questions asked. He seamlessly incorporated reductive aspects of house into his signature Drumcode sound, weaving a bit of vibrant magic in between each song progression. I experienced my Time Warp moment when he dropped Roberto Capuano’s Obsessed, newly released on the 4-track Wilford EP as of yesterday on Drumcode. All I saw was blackness and numbers ticking away at the infinite concept of time on the wall behind Capriati.
Time Warp has its reputation for good measure. Quality curation, extended sets, impressive stage and light design. It is in good spirits with the warehouse vibe, something that I have been waiting to experience first hand. While it is different than the original festival in Mannheim, a festival absorbs its surrounding environment and culture. I could feel the pulse of the New York underground in lieu of the focus on German minimal. The diverse sounds made for a more interesting techno journey.
Until the next time we dance and warp to the techno dimension. Thank you Time Warp US.
All photos courtesy of Stephen Bondio and Chris ‘Pearcey’ Proper.