Co-founder (along with Pearson Sound and Pangaea) of influential U.K. label Hessle Audio Ben UFO is an international staple with impeccably programmed DJ sets. Hessle Audio is most known for introducing the world to James Blake, Blawan, and Cosmin TRG. But in recent years they’ve consistently released music that is simultaneously puzzling yet energizing, like Objekt and Bandshell.
Ben is the only one of the three founders who is exclusively a DJ. Since 2007, he’s been the poster child for the label’s no-boundaries approach to music. You’re guaranteed that any party he plays will come with rugged beats, including but not restricted to, techno, house, and garage as well as darker, more experimental strains of electronic music. The ease at which he glides between genres and the status that his label holds in the music community led to his Fabriclive 67 mix CD this past January (a series many DJs and producers hope to eventually contribute to). Recently, he’s taken to crossing the pond for almost regular gigs in the states.
As I approached the museum, I could hear the muffled thud of kick drums so gritty they could only be from Ben’s set. PS1 was surprisingly calm when I arrived, a change from the usual chaos of weekends past; maybe it was the cloudiness of the day (though rain was not in the forecast). It didn’t take long for him to hit his stride and have the dance floor in his palm. He’s much too shy to admit it, but he probably could have taken his set even further left and the crowd would follow. With only an hour or so to flex his musical chops, Ben dipped quickly into some hard-hitting music.
After a couple opening bits he picked things up with new Beau Wanzer (of Mutant Beat Dance), New York’s Anthony Naples, and a myriad of tracks from Kowton (who’s going through a bit of a purple phase). The highlight was unquestionably Kowton’s edit of Jeremih’s “Fuck You All The Time“; the original was something of an oddball hit last year. The crowd visibly swayed as the song opened up with its iconic rhodes chords, with the rest sounding as if it were caked in tape saturation and classic DMZ sub bass.
One of the signs of a skilled DJ is knowing the precise moment to challenge a crowd and play music that may not typically work; Ben weaved between floor pleasers like Pepe Bradock’s latest record on LA’s Acid Test imprint, and lesser-known cuts from Frak. There were no frills, no gimmicks, just impeccable mixing and complete control. Those in attendance that day were given the Hessle Audio treatment: some forward-thinking dance music—emphasis on dance.