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We tried to relive the experience of clubbing at the Design Museum’s electronic music show

It features installations from The Chemical Brothers and Jean-Michel Jarre’s studio

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Flashback to a Saturday in early March. An archway near Cambridge Heath: I don’t know where exactly. One thing I do remember is ‘I Feel Love’. It’s the middle of the night. In float Giorgio Moroder’s synths. It’s a beefier take on Donna Summer’s classic. None of us realise it yet, but Miss Summer is here to give normality a thumping send-off. See ya soon, I guess!

Life has been a bit confusing since. Boring, for sure. And now, in the biggest mindfuck since lockdown started easing, I’m immersed in strobing light and quaking bass once more. ‘I Feel Love’ is blaring out of every corner of the building.

I may be mooching around Kensington’s Design Museum, but fleetingly, I’m transported back to that conclusive mad one in March. Laurent Garnier’s four-hour soundtrack for ‘Electronic’ is clever like that. It’s split into themes (Chicago, New York, Germany, Second Summer of Love, bass) that span the history of electronic music – so you’re practically guaranteed a snatch of your last night out.

Andreas Gursky, Union Rave (1995)
Photograph: Andreas Gursky, Union Rave (1995)

The rest is sensory overload, but the depth is staggering. For the heads: countless DIY rave flyers, Jean-Michel Jarre’s studio, walls of Hyperdub and Warp album sleeves. For everyone else: strobe-light-flashing fun. A Kraftwerk room plays a half-hour 3D show created by Ralf Hütter. Blown-up Andreas Gursky and Tina Paul photos whisk you to long-dispersed parties. Reactive light works properly make you flinch. 

In the Chemical Brothers room, I had a wiggle. An actual wiggle. Floor-to-ceiling screens show dancers in striking high-fashion outfits. Smoke and haze fill the room. ‘Got to Keep On’ blasts. The closest I’ve got to the dance floor these past few months is drunkenly prancing around my living room to Grimes in my pants, how could I resist?

‘Got To Keep On’ by The Chemical Brothers and Smith & Lyall
Photograph: ‘Got To Keep On’ by The Chemical Brothers and Smith & Lyall

It’s a decent escape from reality. Though, as the exhibition points out, electronic music has become such a force thanks to its ability to become a ‘generation’s place of communion’. I come out alone, bleary-eyed, but still optimistic. No doubt we, Generation Covid, will find solace in forgettable clubs again sometime soon.

‘Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers’ is on at The Design Museum until Feb 14 2021. Tickets start at £14.50 and you must pre-book. 

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