words by Andy Liddell
For a while now, my interest in Hayden James has been centered around his subtle production that constantly surprises and excites my ears. De-tuned wobbly chords with delicate vocal cuts to emphasise the melodies – his understated track ‘Embrace’ embodies all of this with a bouncy groove and simple humming vocals.
So I was pretty keen to hear his tunes performed live and pumping through huge speakers. But in the dark, sold-out room at Sheebeen, nestled in Melbourne’s Manchester Lane, I found all the musical subtleties I was looking for were not in the room. The tiny tinkles were lost, and reverse-vocals were hidden in the mix and non-detectable.
But it totally didn’t matter, because I discovered something else – I released through those big speakers, on a hot Friday night, that it wasn’t subtlety I was after – I was craving the warm sustained bass, pumping over deep kick drums. I wanted sizzling chords that wrapped me up and pushed my hands in the air. I wanted broken hip hop beats, always surprising me with stops and drops to keep me guessing. And that’s exactly what I got.
Hayden James showed me he was more than a clever production wiz – he can also bring the joyous grooves to the party.
Split-screen visuals cascaded across his shoulders like he was being birthed by a kaleidoscopic flower.
Hip hop tempos shifted into house floor fillers as he dropped his 2013 break-through ‘Permission to Love’. At this point the crowd picked it up, and couldn’t stop moving until they rushed the stage for the final track ‘Something about you’.
Unfortunately my favourite track ‘Embrace’, almost passed me by as it was seamlessly mixed into a house beat. But It totally worked.