Armand Van Helden: Kuala Lumpur Movement

Van Helden drops a complex set in Malaysia...

Anticipation. That’s the key word here. Kuala Lumpur’s partygoers are notoriously rabid when it comes to their appointed heroes, and Armand Van Helden has been the most elusive of them all. For two years promoters have fought in vain to bring him to Malaysia, and tonight was the culmination of months of dogged persistence.

Of course, getting him into the club is only the first hurdle. The biggest problem is getting him to entertain a crowd. Rumors had been circulating of nights where AVH would only play hip hop, unsatisfied crowds and sets curtailed by jeering and booing. With that in mind the night’s sponsors and promoter were pacing, ashen-faced like fathers to be in a maternity ward.

They were right to be worried. At that afternoon’s press conference, AVH refused to be drawn on his set for the night, so when he finally hit the decks you could feel the tension as he cued the first track. Two minutes of staccato metal noise did nothing to abate the pressure, but then he launched into… Daft Punk. Cheers and whistles exploded as 2000 people reached to the roof in unison.

Not that it was plain sailing. AVH is definitely of the “Fuck you” school of DJs. He’s not there to entertain he’s there to perform. If you get to dance a bit it’s a bonus. Refusing to carry the groove for more than three consecutive tunes, the set ranged from mutant disco beats to techno moments to harsh metallic beats. Always artfully mixed, it was designed to be as funky as it possibly can without actually allowing you to dance. Big cheers greeted the harder material, with a roar of approval when AVH, bizarrely, dropped in a Jane’s Addiction vocal sample.

Mostly the crowd was dumbfounded and dispersed early. Three and a half-hours, a distorted ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and AVH disappeared to the tune of ‘Little Black Spiders’. Those that came to dance left with shoulders hanging. The rest of us thought it entertaining, but cynically so.

Matt Armitage