It was 12 August and the date was set for Anjuna Deep’s London homecoming as the summer festival season continued in style. With a line-up showcasing a host of talented artists it looked sure to be a great party. Anticipation for the event had been building in recent weeks and I’d snapped up a ticket at the height of the summer heatwave.
For those that don’t know, Anjuna Deep is the record label that was founded in 2005 by Above & Beyond as a spin-off from their main trance imprint, Anjuna Beats. Initially conceived as an outlet for the deeper and more progressive end of Above & Beyond’s DJ sound, the label has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a back catalogue of over 300 releases spanning a 13 year period. As a label it is synonymous with quality and a distinctive melodic sound, although one that has evolved over the years to incorporate a more diverse range of influences. In so doing it has been successful in moving with the times whilst still staying true to its original ethos.
Anjuna Deep has firmly established itself as a big brand in its own right, attracting a wide support base from the trance heads through to fans of progressive and lovers of melodic music more generally. Anjuna Deep has also been working hard recently to increase its output as an event brand. As part of their Open Air series they have been throwing parties all over the place this summer, particularly in the US including New York and San Francisco. And it is a party concept they are taking all over the world with upcoming shows scheduled in Amsterdam and Hong Kong to name just two. This was to be their first foray into the London festival market. Interestingly, the party would be on a Sunday but that didn’t seem to put people off as a strong legion of fans headed down to the Three Mills Island site in the vicinity of Bromley-by-Bow near Stratford.
Among my friends group it had been a case of every man for himself in getting to Three Mills Island from various different corners of London. All eyes in the build up had been firmly fixed on the weather forecast, which didn’t look great and seemed to be changing by the hour. There was concern about what condition the site would be in after heavy rain the previous Friday. Fortunately my friend Oli, aka Mentat, had gone out ahead to catch Ben Bohmer’s early live set and was able to report back that actually the groud was in pretty good shape. Some of us, though, had still come a little over prepared!
When I arrived at around 3pm Moon Boots was on the decks and his set incorporated an interesting mix of influences, taking in latin rhythms, house beats and 80s keyboard sounds. Here’s a track he played early doors by Chinaski:
At 4pm James Grant and Jody Wisternoff then took to the stage for a late afternoon back to back set. This was a pairing I particularly wanted to see. James Grant, as head honcho of Anjuna Deep, has cemented his position in recent years as one of the scene’s most influential tastemakers. And Jody Wisternoff is a legend, most well known for his production output as one half of Way Out West with fellow Bristolian Nick Warren. To go with this he has a back catalogue of great solo tracks that to some extent may have flown under the radar but just ooze class and are demonstrative of a creative genuius at work in terms of translating an idea into a killer piece of music. Tracks like ‘Lasoo’ and ‘Cold Drink Hot Girl’ are ones I still appreciate to this day and can be considered scene classics.
Their arrival on the decks signified the party going up a gear. Two tracks in they dropped Eli & Fur – ‘Night Blooming Jasmine’ (Rodriguez Jr. Remix), the most recent release on Anjuna Deep and from there the set went on to very much encapsulate the sound that I associate with the label. As a back to back it worked well in terms of the flow and interchange between the two. This video gives a flavour of the vibe:
A standout moment was them dropping the Guy J remix of Way Out West – ‘Tuesday Maybe’, a massive track for both Jody and the label and a stunning piece of music with its soaring melodies developing around a rock solid bass foundation. James and Jody’s back to back did, though, feel like a relatively peak time set for the time slot and so the challenge for next act 16 Bit Lolitas would be how to follow on from this.
16 Bit Lolitas are Dutch duo Ariaan Olieroock and Peter Kriek but its just Ariaan who does the DJing. They were absolutely prolific when they first caught my attention around 2006 with their many tracks being a staple in the sets of Hernan Cattaneo and other leading progressive house DJs. At that time they really nailed their own sound and honed a production line delivering great tune after great tune. The tracks were distinctively 16 Bit Lolitas but each sounded fresh and musically different. I have followed their work less in recent years but they are well and truly part of the Anjuna Deep family having clocked up multiple EP releases on the label over the course of a decade.
It was an impressive performance from 16 Bit Lolitas behind the decks. Granted, he took things down a notch or two after the euphoric highs of James and Jody’s back to back but musically it was interesting as he served up an eclectic mix with much more of a leaning towards melodic house and techno than I had been expecting. For me, it made for a more musically rounded event taking into account all the acts on show. It was great to hear out tracks such as Trentemoller’s remix of ‘Djuma Soundsystem – ‘Les Djinns’, Four Tet’s remix of Bicep – ‘Opal’, and Guy Gerber & Dixon’s ‘No Distance’ seen in the video below.
There was a classic moment when he dropped his own 16 Bit Lolitas – ‘Deep In My Soul’ and the clouds momentarily parted, allowing the sun to beat down on Three Mills Island. This was an event that caused the crowd to go crazy with excitement!
The sun then returned behind the clouds, where unfortunately it stayed for the rest of the event. 16 Bit Lolitas’ set continued on its way towards its conclusion with some heavyweight techy tuneage from the likes of Patrice Baumel and Super Flu. By now, though, the crowd was ready for Yotto who for many was the main event.
Yotto’s sound is the perfect fit for Anjuna Deep although he isn’t afraid to incorporate varied influences within his DJ sets. He had impressed with his debut BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix at the start of the year and his star continues to rise with debut album ‘Hyperfall’ set to drop on Anjuna Deep on 7 September. As he entered the fray at 7pm, the place erupted as he dropped ‘Kantsu’ as his opening tune. The track featured on his ‘Radiate’ EP that came out on Anjuna Deep in June, and to open with this felt like a real statement of intent as to what was to follow. After such a bold opening I wondered where the set would go from here. There followed a more housey/disco segment for a few tracks before he settled back into more familiar melodic territory, dropping many of his own productions and other tracks of a similar vein. As well as ‘Radiate’ and ‘Chemicals’, his release from earlier in the year on Joris Voorn’s Green imprint, we heard a host of new cuts from the forthcoming album.
Yotto’s hour and a half set went by in a flash. The set had been high in energy and felt like the peak of the night. Yotto would be a tough act to follow for closing performer Eric Luttrell. I needn’t, however, have doubted him.
Luttrell initially took proceedings down a level with a fairly chilled but gorgeous melodic opening. This worked great early set as day transitioned into night and the party entered a new phase with the stage production coming into full effect. Here he is playing ‘Contact’:
And as darkness ensued, the atmosphere of the party ramped up another level still as Luttrell took a captive audience through an impressive array of tunes from his Anjuna Deep back catalogue. His music was rocking the big stage as the crowd were locked in to a set of atmospheric melodies backed up by pulsating baselines. Here’s ‘What You Are’:
… and ‘Generate’:
After feeling incredibly lucky that it hadn’t rained to this point with the exception of a spit of drizzle early on, at 9pm the rains finally came. It actually added quite a lot to the atmosphere as by now no-one really cared with only an hour left to go. As the rain started to beat down heavily there were some proper big tracks to wind up the night. A favourite moment was the big bassline madness captured here:
Overall, the night had been a belter. I liked the one stage set up as it meant each artist got the attention they deserved from an appreciative crowd. All had put in impressive performances which I had enjoyed for differing reasons. It was great to see the night come off a success having just about defied the weather, especially as it was the first time Anjuna Deep had put on an outdoor festival here in London. And so they move onwards and upwards with events in the next couple of months in Bali, Hong Kong, and Amsterdam for ADE. I don’t think it will be the last time I go to an Anjuna Deep Open Air party and I will be keen to check out their future events, be that in the UK or another global location.