There is a tangible vitality running through the veins of Liverpool’s electronic music community right now. It could be argued that the region has not witnessed such a boom since the electronic-infused pop heydays of the eighties. OMD, Flock Of Seagulls, China Crisis, Dead Or Alive all cracked the charts, not to mention Frankie who conquered the world, albeit briefly. This was before house music’s revolution swept across UK clubland. In the 1990s, Cream in Wolstenholme Square became a mecca for many weekenders getting their fix of 4/4 beats, amongst other things. Ladytron emerged in the late nineties and had success with a fresh lilt on synth-heavy electro pop with a nod to new wave.
For a city prepossessed with guitar music, there have always been significant pockets of electronic music that have peppered Liverpool’s history. However, all of this considered, it is the sheer concentration of numbers right now that is enabling another chapter to be written for electronic music in Liverpool, and just possibly its most important one. Evian Christ, Faded Gold, Afternaut, Forest Swords, Bantam Lions, Kepla, Sun Drums, Capac, Mitternacht, Tomasu, Isocore, Lunar Modular … not to mention other bands who have been fermented in electronic music such as Outfit and Wave Machines. There are more acts popping up as we speak that will help transcribe this rich period. DEEP HEDONIA’s idea was to begin cultivating this unrivalled scene of underground musicians by using live performances as a forum for exchanging ideas. This night would be named ARK.
The men behind the moniker are Jon Davies, Thom Isom and Sam Twidale. Jon and Sam aren’t just fans and promoters, they are at the forefront of this wave with acts Kepla and Sun Drums. Thom is of a design background and focuses on visual and art direction. “We have to put a bit of thought as to what will work and where it is best suited. Ark at Dumbells feels right. It’s a place where people can feel understood. Sometimes in more traditional gigs there just isn’t the time,” says Thom. The first ARK was a success, with various different artists showcasing everything from the more ambient side of the spectrum, from False Lights’ nod to 80s imagined mysterious TV soundtracks, to the deep core of Lunar Modular’s undulating rhythms. Jon Davies: “It’s great to see people going out and setting themselves up with loop pedals, sequencers and the like in a reaction to knowing what can be achieved here.”
Indeed, modern electronic music in all its forms is born out of an optimism that arrived hand in glove with the cheaper technological advancements that welcomed the turn of the century. eBay has a steady stream of affordable grooveboxes and sequencers and, considering that laptops are able to run software such as Ableton and Reason with ease, the world is now your bedroom; your bedroom is now ARK. Factor in Deep Hedonia’s wider ambition when it comes to their bookings and you get a feel for the kind of impact they can have this year. Local acts who have cut their teeth at ARK will get to rub shoulders with internationally-renowned acts the Hedonia crew invite to the city. Last year alone, Laurel Halo and ITAL played Liverpool and it is with this ambition in combining the international with the regional that a picture starts to build around where electronic music can go in this city. Jon points out, “We may have started a bit on the giant side when baby steps may have been needed, but they were shows that we really loved and felt needed to come to Liverpool. Burial next in Sound Food and Drink?”
It’s quite infectious to see such a DIY spirit embodied in the three of them. They do take it serious but there’s still a cheeky laugh to be had. “We really want to put the acts on that we want to see and hear. We don’t want to end up putting big shit acts on just to make money. This goes hand in hand with building a respectable name,” Sam states. Put this in tandem with the fact that they’ve enrolled on the LJMU enterprise fellowship course (which focuses on help and support in getting such ventures off the ground) and you can see what the green shoots of their ideas can grow into.
We’ve established that there are many strings to the Deep Hedonia bow but the cynosure that really presents the collective’s bull’s-eye is ARK. The emergence of acts in Liverpool who have gone out and cobbled bits of gear together to then throw their synths into the electronic dance music ring with ever-mutating genres may be the truest testament of Deep Hedonia’s commitment to both Merseyside itself and the development of its music. ARK is where, for me, they will cut their teeth and possibly have the most influence. The night provides a floor for many like-minded people to bring their synths, laptops, sequencers, mixers, etc and have a dance and a grin. I was there, I concur. The next instalment takes place on 9th February, with Lunar Modular, Afternaut and Bantam Lions joined by a host of exceptional talent.
Fashions and fads come and go in waves but electronic music – whether it’s called intelligent dance music or straight-up electronic dance music, whether it’s in the direction of house music, or whether you’re mining the depths of the more experimental sub-genres – is alive and kicking here. Deep Hedonia are putting a collective stamp on something that Liverpool is crying out for. Along with the best of acts that they will bring into the city from far and wide, ARK’s local emphasis is attestation that there is a blossoming here and now for all to enjoy. Liverpool could just be at the forefront of the next wave of European electronica. Real Deep Hedonia.