Three weeks after SHADES, his knock-out collaborative project with Eprom, graced DC’s underground electronic scene, Alix Perez returned to a sold-out Flash nightclub for a stunning journey set, thoroughly exploring the deepest trenches of modern dubstep and drum-and-bass (d&b). He was certainly offered a warm welcome back – the Belgian-born, New Zealand-based producer’s last North American tour was slated to begin in March 2020, just as the pandemic halted shows across the world. With diverse sets composed of masterfully-selected cuts produced by him and his 1985 Music label, full of budding international talent, Alix Perez has become an icon and mainstay of the underground bass scene.
It’s abundantly clear to see how he’s made such a name for himself. A producer since 2005, Perez has consistently delivered cutting-edge sound, showing a mastery of dubstep, liquid d&b, halftime, and every genre in between. It had been three years since he last brought his world-renowned DJ sets to the States, and needless to say, the fans came to get down.
Alix was the last of the night to take the decks after an incredible support set from Player Dave – a relative newcomer to the scene pushing some of my favorite sound of late. Without a word, Alix launched into a gnarly unreleased (ID) track from 1985-contributor Drone, layered with an a cappella from Flowdan; he truly started with a bombshell. Perez went on to play 30 minutes of earth-shattering dubstep alongside some especially sludgy halftime cuts. Song highlight of this segment (of the few I could identify) has to be the Epoch remix of Headland’s “Garbo” – a total ear worm that warranted the first spin-back of the night. Both Headland and Epoch are close collaborators of Perez’, with Epoch featuring on the most recent 1985 Music collaborative project, the CODEX / 1 EP. Check it out here:
After allowing us a mere minute transition to catch our breath, Alix threw us head-first into a segment of “rollers”, high-energy drum and bass cuts featuring crisp, powerful drum kicks and immense rolling bass-lines. Perez really showcased his mixing prowess here. With every transition stunningly cohesive, he never allows you the opportunity to get tired of one track before hitting you with a barrage of new, face-melting IDs. There’s also something to be said about his totally composed demeanor on the stage, making it all look absolutely effortless.
Later in the set, we delved into some of the 1985 crew’s lighter cuts, taking us from high-octane ferocity to crying in the club within minutes. Among these were a couple of tracks released on Alix’s Wairua project, an exquisite 4-song EP filled with soulful, exuberant liquid d&b meticulously crafted to inspire emotion. I was especially happy to hear my favorite track of the bunch, “Evermore”, containing some of the most lush synths and well-produced shakers I’ve heard in the genre.
Continuing his set, Alix moved into a section of jungle and breaks. This was my first time hearing an extended amount of jungle on a sound system, and the four-point Funktion-One rig Flash boasts more than did it justice. The selections offered a novel, refreshing sound while still effectively evoking the genre’s roots. After letting us get down to that for a while, Perez transitioned back into some rollers and eventually capped the night with a booming 140 BPM ID, which he explained had been a hit in each stop of his U.S. tour. After 1.5 hours of relentless bangers, we poured out of the venue battered and exhausted, but nevertheless buzzing with excitement.
Wholeheartedly, Alix Perez offered one of the best DJ sets I’ve had the privilege to see. The cohesion was next-level; not many others quite have the ability to pack as much heat into a set as he did while still offering such a fluid experience, never once losing the energy of the crowd. His ability to read a room is unmatched – just as I felt myself tiring out, he’d move into a lighter segment, flawlessly transitioning between moods. It’s clear Perez is a master of his craft, both as a producer and a DJ.
During the set, in the rare moments where I was able to catch my breath, I thought about just how large the movement was becoming. It makes my heart warm to see so many people get down so hard to genres previously inaccessible to most American audiences. The origins of 140 BPM dubstep and the various subgenres of drum and bass lie within the UK, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that I’d seen tracks of those classifications blow up with mainstream audiences in the U.S. For instance, 1985 Music mainstay Visages’ – a four-piece drum and bass phenomenon from Toulouse – track Lunar Eclipse was easily the song I heard rinsed the most throughout my time at Okeechobee Festival, the event that serves as the unofficial “start” to festival season in March. It’s a slapper of a track, boasting a mid-way tempo switch that ravaged crowds that entire weekend.
The Culture of 1985
As we see jungle and liquid influences make their way back into contemporary pop music (see Rochelle Jordan), it will be interesting to see more and more electronic music lovers get turned onto the sound that Alix Perez and 1985 have refined. To me, 1985’s rise as a label signifies a return to the humble roots of these genres, as well as a victory for the underground scene. It presents boutique-quality sound design and production that remains cutting-edge in the face of years of advancement in electronic music. Evidently, distinguished designer Rick Owens agrees, plastering his social media with the SHADES tune “Eternal Rain Descending” as well as making it a fixture of his apocalyptic SS23 line this Paris Fashion Week.
Beyond that, through Perez, I’ve been introduced to an array of remarkable overseas talent similarly pushing boundaries across multiple genres. As the label continues to grow, I look forward to seeing the tangible influence it exerts on electronic music culture within the U.S. Keep an eye out for more 1985 releases to come, as well as SHADES’ highly-anticipated second album dropping later this summer.