Warp x Tate: playing to the gallery

As Warp Records gears up to turn Tate Britain into a club, we ask: what's the connection between Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, brass bands and old-school rave?
Acid Brass / Jeremy Deller, The History Of The World
By Oliver Keens |
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When art and pop music meet, the results can too often be hideous. Just this year, we’ve endured the confused jumble that was Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’ album and the sight of Jay Z lamely pretending to be performance artist Marina Abramovic. And there’s no need to bring up Ronnie Wood’s paintings or Damien Hirst and the 1998 novelty terrace anthem ‘Vindaloo’.

But it might be time to suspend our cynicism as two great British institutions come together – one artistic, one musical – to fill the hushed halls of Tate Britain with a cutting-edge exploration of the past, present and future of electronic music. Warp Records is hosting a free event called Warp x Tate on Friday December 6, and is taking ‘The History of the World’ (pictured above) by British artist Jeremy Deller as its starting point.

Using a simple flow diagram, Deller’s 1997 work connects two pivotal events – the Miners’ Strike of the 1980s and the birth of rave culture – through brass bands and acid house music. Cultural signposts such as ‘civic pride’, ‘free parties’ and ‘E’ help bring the disparate styles of music together and reveal the active dissent both genres directed toward the politics of the Thatcher years.

Words are one thing, but Deller’s masterstroke was to make this artistic mind map a sonic reality. In the ’90s, he collaborated with Stockton’s Fairey brass band (established in 1937) to create an album of acid house that marched to the distinct sounds of colliery pride. Surprisingly, these esoteric covers of bangers by 808 State, The KLF and A Guy Called Gerald sounded great and the resulting ‘Acid Brass’ LP has become a cult classic. Deller will resurrecting the project for this event, with the full might of the Fairey Band behind him, as well as the newly enlisted help of Warp Records.

Though it was itself born out of the late ’80s rave movement, the label is still globally renowned for championing the newest original voices and some of their most successful young charges will be at Tate Britain, creating new pieces of work that interpret the more evocative links in Deller’s diagram. Two Scottish producers with a technicolor approach to booty-shaking dance music – Hudson Mohawke and Rustie – take on ‘Summers of Love’ and ‘Rave’ respectively, while the headier, Eno-esque American producer Oneohtrix Point Never takes on the theme of ‘Melancholy’. There’ll also be a live set from Warp’s newest signing Patten.

As well as a good dance session, the event should introduce the era’s politics to those too young to remember them – and provide those that do with a chance to understand today’s dance music. If only all marriages of music and art were so edifying…

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