On Saturday 28th November 2018 Tale of Us, along with some of the finest artists melodic techno has to offer, filled the famous Printworks with lush swells of sound and 6000 ravers. Like many of Printworks’ parties they run from midday to 23:00 but there was little time for a slow start with Vaal kicking things off in the main room, followed by the likes of Woo York (Live), Agents of Time (Live), Adriatique, Fideles, Recondite (Live), and the head honchos Tale of Us. The dark room treated the heavier side of techno with Sigha, Anitgone, and Amandra (Live) taking control of the decks.
Standing tall over Surrey Quays in Canada Water, Printworks was formerly one of the biggest printing presses in Europe. The former press facility is now a huge venue, able to cater to 6000 ravers across two rooms. In it’s third outing of electronic events since it opened in Spring 2017, it’s easy to see why it is coveted amongst everyone as soon as you step in the building. The main room named the Press Halls is directly where the press machine would have been housed – a long and narrow almost tunnel-like strip which acts as the dance floor, while a second floor balcony/platform lines either side.
The walls are covered in metal cabins, railings, and pipes (no pull ups please!) all the way to the roof, giving a real industrial warehouse feel. The narrow strip can hold about 15 people shoulder to shoulder, which can cause jostling but there is space under the platforms albeit with a more restricted view of the stage.
As the day reached its peak, bars naturally became busier, however contactless payments helped speed up the service, saving people digging into their pockets for change. Balcony upgrades can be handy if you’d rather ditch the queues, with the separate bars upstairs rarely having much of a wait. Floor staff were also collecting bottles/cups from the rave floor – nice touch.
Food & Drink
Drinks were of a standard price for a London venue. £6 for a pint of beer or cider, £6.50 for a spirit & mixer, and wine ranging from £5-£6. Free water was also available at each bar. Aside from drinks you can also get some great food in the smoking area; Patty&Bun and Bird are on hand to satisfy any cravings throughout the day.
All the bars and food outlets accept contactless, but if you prefer cash then you’ll need to get some before entering the venue. There’s a convenient supermarket (Sainsbury’s) with a cash machine just outside of Canada Water station if needed.
While the venue does start to feel cold at the beginning of the event (it is late November in a former industrial complex) the venue slowly builds up to a nice temperature. If you’re unsure about whether you’ll need a jacket or not, you can rent a small (£6) or large (£9) locker which you can go in and out of all day (additional £10 refundable deposit for the key). A nice touch which we’d like to see more of at large events.
Afterlife are a huge European brand, and it was only expected that they would bring a large number of people from all across the globe together to dance. The crowd was older (mid 20s +) and the movement on the floor more mellow which suited the music superbly. As is common with techno, a positive and inclusive vibe was felt throughout the day; everyone coming together to dance and enjoy the music.
Production and Sound
The lighting at Printworks is one of the most impressive installations we’ve seen and highlights the size and scale of the venue. For those technical of you, multiple Clay Paky Mythos, Stormy CCs, Sharpys, blinders & LED Strips are placed on the stage and suspended from eight video and lighting “pods” via a Kinesys motion system along the length of the hall.
These impressive lighting rigs move up and down the high-ceiled Press Halls to provide a visual masterpiece which really needs to be seen. Layers of haze and smoke that sit just above the crowd highlight the intensity and strength of the lasers. The huge LED screen on stage served up some incredible motion visuals: our favourite being the crimson volcanic lava which writhed and wriggled across the screen.
Printworks have been working closely with dbnAudile to create an upgraded system for this year’s series of events. A new extensive d&b audiotechnik J and V-Series system has been installed, providing high grade sound quality and a next-level bass performance throughout.
Stacks of speakers are littered through the venue to make sure that no matter where you are on the dance floor, you can feel those rumbling drops – top notch stuff! Interestingly, the Press Halls are also fully soundproofed from when they previously delivered the Metro and Evening Standard newspapers to London.
Following on from Vaal and Woo York was the Italian duo Fideles, for a 90 minute melodic masterpiece. With the venue beginning to fill from an early point, the duo took advantage of the budding atmosphere to layer some atmospheric synths and beats. Manoeuvring the crowd by building up and slowing down the tempo at just the right times, they took us on an astral journey throughout.
A stand out track from their set; “The Border” out on Exit Records from 2017 brought out a cry from the crowd as the warm synths pierced through the speakers, underpinned by a clean yet thundering 808 kick. This paired with the carefully orchestrated visuals took the room by surprise, as the venue regularly plunged into darkness before shooting blue and red strobes across the Press Halls.
Another standout moment came from “Wired Mind” out on Still Vor Talent. The building chords combined with pulsating red lights and volcanic lava stream on the visuals left the entire room moving. A unique and refreshing set from Fideles, packed with unreleased and unheard material.
Arriving for a two hour slot in the cavernous Printing Hall, Adriatique opened to the industrial setting with “Dawning”, the introductory track from their 2018 debut album; Nude released on the Afterlife label. The track’s measured build up eased the eager crowd in, building anticipation with it’s electrifying synths and rigging the venue with energy.
The DJ award nominees tend to let their own productions do the talking – laying down another from their debut album; “Studies in Dance Theory”. This combined with the venue’s world class production of intermittent beams, deliberately drifted across the crowd, left everybody washed in red & white light.
Known to throw in the odd hidden surprise, we were treated to Four Tet’s remix of “Afraid” by Nelly Furtado. Its recognisable vocals projected through the venue, with tribal undertones adding a new dynamic for the thousands of ravers watching on.
Tale Of Us
The second Italian duo to feature on the night; the Afterlife head honchos comprised of Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri. Taking to the stage overlooking a jam-packed Printworks, the closing act were in control for the final 2.5 hours. The Afterlife brand founders opted for their usual multifaceted musical journey.
Selecting the unreleased “Skywalking” by Mathame presented a special moment, as smoke filled the room with white light blooming through the mist before the track erupted into the crowd. Use of tracks with hypnotic vocals became a regular feature of the set, adding further euphoria to the venue’s atmosphere. A prime example came from Erly Tepshi’s remix of “Day Before We Went To War”, with its melancholic lyrics leading into an uplifting drop and raising the spirits of the 6000 strong ravers.
The pinnacle of the set came from an exhilarating remix of “Sweet Disposition” by Undercatt. Released in 2015 on the label 2DIY4, the iconic vocals echoed through the room, leaving ravers in awe.
A day of top drawer performances from Afterlife. Marrying the SE16 industrial setting’s memorable production & sound with melodic techno proved to be a perfect match. A small mention for future events would be at times the Press Hall was slightly overcrowded – not hugely, but enough to leave you on top of people at times. Apart from this the event was an enjoyable and refreshing soundtrack, delivered to a diverse European crowd partying as one. 8.5/10
Jake Davis (Hungry Visuals)