“There’s nothing else like this in London!” says NTS Radio selector DEBONAIR as we take in the mid-week scenes unfolding in Room 1 at Corsica Studios. It’s a warm, balmy Wednesday evening and we’re at the South London venue to witness a raft of live performances from a group of South African artists creating off-beat music and visuals at the bleeding edges of bass courtesy of monthly event series Ø (pronounced ‘that Hyperdub party’).
Organised by label boss Kode9 alongside co-curator Shannen SP, for more than a year Ø has brought the likes of Arca, Björk, Klein, Dillinja and more to Corsica for a monthly dose of experimental fire-power. “There’s no real formula,” says Shannen, ”it’s just who we engage with.”
And tonight the engaging artists in question include queer rapper Dope Saint Jude, performing for the very first time in London, NON Records’ Angel-Ho and dreamy, dynamic pair Okzharp & Manthe Ribane, whose ‘Closer Apart’ is out on Hyperdub in a matter of weeks. All inherently unique, the artists tapped for tonight’s affair share an honest, innovative ethos in terms of their sound and their story that’s apt at a night run by such a pioneering label.
“All the people I admire who are always doing dope shit overseas always work with Hyperdub”, says Dope Saint Jude, AKA Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius, while changing into her stage outfit, a neon green cropped motor jacket. “I feel like London is definitely conducive to any kind of sound that’s out of the mainstream. In South Africa there isn’t really the infrastructure for [anything like that].”
We head downstairs for the night’s smoked-out opening, watching on as Kode9 entices a sea of eager bodies into the space with a trusty concoction of obscure bass, a dark dancefloor and a revered soundsystem.
There may only be two rooms at Corsica, but on nights like this, the dark space and twisty route upstairs can seem confusing, even maze-like, as dancers drift between the dark, intimate dancefloors and smoking area, the bass rattling through the venue. As the night goes on bodies spill out from the black-walled Room 1 dancefloor backwards into the bar area curious revellers cram in to see the live acts on the elevated stage, while video projections cover the walls.
The party draws a crowd of passionate and fashionable clubland followers wielding industry totes, discreetly branded cross-body bags and stylishly scuffed-up sneakers. The crowd are well-informed; hyper-articulate even: “I love how Dope Saint Jude speaks from her reality,” says 23-year-old Tom, who arrives solo in order to catch his favourite South African artists live in London; “how different that is to mine yet how easily I can connect with her music.”
At 11pm the future star takes to the stage flanked by her equally excited hype girl Ocean Jade. The pair’s frenetic energy fills the room with a star power most commonly seen in artists decades into their careers. An r’n’b smooth roller gets the crowd nodding before a quick switch-up into powerful new track ‘Like’ ignites the room with a no-fucks-given energy as the crowd dances and sings along.
Duo Okzharp & Manthe Ribane are up next. Decked out in futuristic sunglasses, Manthe’s purple tulle ballgown is in vivid contrast to the casually dressed crowd. Synchronized dances go off as the pair launch into a decidedly jungle-inflected production, emoji diamonds fill the screen behind the stage.
The night’s final performance, at around 1am, comes from the fiery-haired Angel-Ho, whose reserved energy off stage swiftly transforms into a blue-lit display of powerful vocals and pop presence comes complete with kick-jumps, an unexpected outfit change and a surprise stage invader who’s swiftly scolded by Angel-Ho mid-performance – much to the delight of the crowd.
Watching on as a group of girls sway and twerk together as they wait at the bar, or as a pair of stylish friends grind as they take in the video installation created by Okzharp & Manthe Ribane alongside their collaborator Chris Saunders premiering in Room 2, it’s clear how important nights such as Ø are for the next wave of clubbers. And with a string of Hyperdub affiliates such as Klein and Lee Gamble drifting around in support of the night and indeed the label, it’s clear Ø is a night that resonates with fans and label family alike.
Jasmine Kent-Smith is Mixmag's Magazine Staff Writer and Weekend Editor, follow her on Twitter