Festival Review: No Bounds — Sheffield’s Electro-industrial Heartbeat

Posted by Mike Schumacher

No Bounds is an event that highlights the history and present of Sheffield. The city’s industrial history is never far from sight, with the Hope Works nightclub, a former first-world-war gun-barrel factory on the outskirts of town, as well as the Kelham Island Museum.

Never more so than when Helena Hauff’s brutal pounding techno rings in at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, causing disintegrating concrete to peel off the walls. The bass is so loud that it makes the toilet seats rattle like chattering teeth in the cold.

However, this year’s event reflects the spirit of modern Sheffield, with music played in DIY venues, canalside pubs, and even the bus terminal, where experimental electronic musician Mark Fell takes over to present Interchange. The Maltby Miners Welfare Band puts on a three-hour show throughout the hub, with softly rumbling brass instruments resonating throughout the somewhat eerie, echo-laden station.

The piece – which recalls Terry Riley’s In C – has a deep sadness and a strong emotional impact as it combines enormous enveloping noises with the odd background of a fully functioning and befuddled-passenger-filled city centre junction.

However, the majority of No Bounds takes place in the dark rather than the brilliant white light of a bus terminal. Minsky Rock, a collaboration between producer Ross Orton and Working Men’s Club singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant, will perform a performance of squelchy but energetic acid electro at Hope Works on Friday evening.

The Hyperdub label showcase, which features Loraine James, Kode9, and RP Boo in a triple whammy, is as beautiful as it is unexpected, jumping from hip-hop to jungle to clattering breaks, shimmering techno, and disorienting levels of twisted and broken rhythms.

Aurora Halal gives a masterclass in slow-build-release DJing, pausing for what feels like minutes at one point, allowing a sustained drone to grind through the speakers, with everyone in the room connected by the throat-clenching vibration. Space Afrika bring Saturday to life with some potent dark ambient backed by a subtle yet stirring groove, while Aurora Halal gives a masterclass in slow-build-release DJing, pausing for what feels like minutes, allowing a sustained drone to grind through the Batu, followed by Helena Hauff, is enough to loosen your fillings, thanks to relentless sets of pummeling techno that is also complex and diverse.

It’s difficult not to think of Richard H Kirk while listening to such wildly innovative, futuristic, and often pulverizing music inside a giant concrete block in deep industrial Sheffield – which outside resembles the Berlin Wall, as you’re surrounded by 12-foot towering grey walls wrapped in barbed wire – especially when Hauff plays a snippet of Cabaret Voltaire’s Just Fascination in her set.

Kirk and his colleagues reinvented the city’s failing economy by transforming a disused cutlery factory into a music studio that created some of the city’s most pioneering and influential sounds well over 40 years ago. No Bounds is pleased to continue the legacy of repurposing the city, its history, and its previous industry to create new places for creative engagement while putting Sheffield at the forefront of mind-blowing electronic music.

Thanks to at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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