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Review: James Zabiela @ The Warehouse Project 01/10/2011

By Tom Midlane

The key behind the resounding success of The Warehouse Project has been their ability from the off to attract the biggest names in dance music and curate some genuinely mouthwatering line-ups.

Dance music has a tendency to fetishize the new (a DJ friend of mine says he feels genuinely uncomfortable listening to a song more than six months old) but it’s worth remembering that there’s over quarter of a century of brilliant music to draw on now, a fact that is often ignored by a clubbing scene splintered into hundreds of bleeding-edge micro-genres.

Enter then, James Zabiela. After a decade on the dance music scene, he is one of the last of the old-school DJs, able to weave genres into each other, to tell a story with music rather than rigidly sticking to one genre.

Nic Fanciulli gets the main room warmed up with his sleek house and techno and some obscenely chunky beats. Mancunian Matters is dying from man flu, but manly throws some of his best shapes anyway.

Zabiela takes to the stage in a Metallica t-shirt and his trademark shoulder-length hair. His set begins with some gentle tech-house, but before long he is wringing insane samples from the Korg app on his iPad.

The drops are huge, and the crowd are hanging on his every beat. One thing that’s noticeable tonight is what a friendly crowd it is. While there are still a handful of topless oafs looking to pull or brawl, the vibe throughout the whole evening is pleasingly upbeat, perhaps due to the mix of more refined older clubbers and students.

In room two Mat Playford drops a blinding set of piano-led house (although the strobes are a bit blinding!) and Geddes plays some lovely melodic house.

But it’s Zabiela who is the real draw tonight. His glistening tech-house segues at the end of his set into some frenetic drum and bass, before he fades into the night, leaving Detroit techno legend Derrick May to see us through until dawn with his hypnotic melodies and throbbing basslines.

As Mancunian Matters starts to have hot sweats and takes himself home for a honey and lemon, one thing is abundantly clear: the techno never died, it just took a brief disco nap.

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