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Review: Carnival Cities at Sankeys

A Carnival that celebrates what matters.

Carnival returns to Sankeys in its Saturday night slot, this season presenting a new 'Cities' concept. It aims to combine and present various labels, agencies and iconic brands from around the globe - in an intimate international setting. In comparison to the other venues on the island, Sankeys has a distinctly British feel. A low roof and bright poster paint decor give the impression of a grimey adult playground - where it is clear that the focus lies firmly on the music.

Carnival brings acts and artists who are not conventionally associated with Ibiza and as such an incredibly varied mix of styles, sounds and eras can be experienced. At a time when the same names can often be found playing every week throughout the season it is good that none if not Carnival is maintaining a spirit of variety.

Hosted by The Underground, an artist agency based in Manchester, the main room pushed a brand of positive, emotional house. All on the line-up were signed to the forward thinking label that advocates perfection and quality in its unique sound. Newcomer JOBE began the night with a selection of refreshingly original tracks and unlike some of his peers, he seems to search for sounds that stand out. Shifting through sculpted remixes and disco licks, JOBE pushes a sound that takes influences from the golden age of dance, coupling vintage synths with the moody futuristic house that characterises his Newcastle home.

Sankeys honcho Finnebassen, tagged as the 'new Solomun', delivered a soulful set of low tempo swing. His own track, 'You're Not Cool Enough' represented the fusion of gooey pop elements and melodic mid tones that characterise the rising star's music. Recurring wobbles and high-pitched synths continued to lead the crowd on a happy dance to tracks that had a pleasingly varied structure. Him_Self_Her then took things into darker, bass-driven territory. Scuttling crackles and compression heavy percussion lent themselves well to the surroundings. Bass-driven garage influences shone through the pair from Leicester with a unique fusion of stomping low end and ethereal sounds.

In the Spektrum the Capadi Rebels brought a heady dose of darkness to the neighboring proceedings. Beginning as a boat party collective and featuring in Sankeys Monza night last season the Rebels have gone from strength to strength. A mid tempo techno march flowed with intensity of an afterparty as a grooving rhythm turned the quieter room into an echoing warehouse. Hosting the Spektrum room throughout the season, the Rebels should be watched closely.

In the LAB, the ever-growing Defected In the House label collaborated with Bomba Events to present a celebration of classic house and techno. After Bomba's opening was delayed, the team behind the new club was eager to whet the lips of the islands clubbers with a taste of what to expect later in the season. Dennis Ferrer produced a solid set of rolling house and gritty vibrato techno. The New York veteran gave away to Chicago legend Lil Louis who - classic flat cap in hand - treated the room to a masterclass in the throbbing, industrial clangs of North America. Ringing metal and acidic echoes surrounded a train of thundering lows and alien crescendos.

On the screen in the main room, retro computer graphics and pixelated blurs flashed the names of the acts between colourful shapes. Away from the dancers and the CO2 cannons of its peers, Sankeys Carnival seems humble and bright-eyed. Turn away from the shining sparkle of classical Ibiza and duck your head into this moody sweatbox.

Ahead of their set, Ibiza Spotlight caught up with Him_Self_Her to discuss the state of the island, the Underground Agency and their bright future:

You have a very unique sound, what inspires you?

"Original vocals. They have real emotion. We think people gravitate towards us because we have that originality. Our music has to have feeling; it has to have something more to it. With most of our tracks we shall start off with a strong vocal line and work around it - with a good vocal we can write a track around it in four hours."

What do you guys think about the current scene on the island? Does the island means anything in particular to you?

"Firstly, we came to Sankeys last year as customers and can't believe that we're actually playing here.
Before, it was the San Antonio side that was the big deal and now - musically - d'en Bossa has become the more serious side of the island. In some ways the old ways are coming back, but in others they are fading. Day parties have started coming back, and with the new venues on this [d'en Bossa] side of the island, people are trying to bring the focus back onto the music."

With Carnival, Sankeys is choosing labels and line-ups that reflect a particular city - in this case Manchester. Do you feel representative of the UK house sound, or of the Midlands? How do you think your location in the UK influenced you musically?

"Coming from Leicester, the scene there is really tough. It's very DnB and garage orientated and we were trying to do something different. In Manchester we have the biggest following. Rebel was probably the one that we could look up to, and be inspired by.

It's hard to say who are influences are musically. Meeting Fur Coat made a big difference, they said we had a very 'UK' sound - garage and bass line driven - whilst we thought they had a very 'international' sound - techier. From that point we have tried to sound more 'international'."

After being signed and discovered how do you feel you have developed musically over this past year or so?

"We are very careful not to pigeon hole ourselves. When the times move on, we won't be left behind. In our productions we do bear this in mind. Our most recent works - which are unsigned - have a new sound to them. It is a lot darker and very deep. The feeling is still there, but we are definitely getting darker. It is frustrating that many people base our sound and performance solely on 'Gone Too Long'. We have grown and developed since then."

The Underground Agency, 'Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.' Do you fit this message? How do you interpret it?

"It is quite apt for us. We actually take our work very seriously and work very hard. Perhaps because we've both been trying to make it for so long and never made it - and now it has happened - we are not stopping for anything. We are in it for the right reasons and have a solid work ethic and wealth of experience."

Do you have any upcoming projects or ventures you'd like to share?

"We are doing a memorial remix of a Romanthony track coming on Glasgow Underground. We have an original coming on Sex Panda White and remixes on Teenage Mutants and Love Matters. Our Crosstown EP is the big one - it has a remix from a very big artist that we can't reveal just yet."

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