In the way that these things seem to happen from time to time, it feels like something is in the air, whipping around, picking up speed.
After the loss and stasis of the pandemic, it’s a welcome benign contagion, spread as much by word of mouth as social media – a contact high, if you will. For one reason or another, Manchester seems to be on the cusp of an electronic music renaissance.
It’s an excitement that the organisers of a Manchester music night are far from immune. Huddled around a corner table at The Peer Hat, the venue whose basement plays host to Bleep, the open mic electronic night they have been instrumental in establishing, are three of its prime movers: Alex Butterworth, Alberto Fortin and Matt Temperley. All are eager to get their message across. They make for engaging proselytisers – by turns enthusiastic, thoughtful and modest.
Exemplifying the last quality, Temperley politely corrects my misapprehension that the elegantly simple conceit for the night was entirely their own brainchild, making it clear that “We did not invent the electronic open mic night idea. There happened to be one night in Manchester, and it’s like once a year or something.”
All the same, to his ears, something was missing. “The ones I’ve been to, the demographic was a little bit older, and some of it was very challenging to listen to. We wanted to open that up to people who might not necessarily be music nerds.”
Bleep itself had its genesis in a Meetup group hosted at Fierce Bar by Butterworth, whose initial motivation was a little more prosaic. “I just wanted to get out and meet more people, really,” he says.
Butterworth’s expectations were, perhaps, exceeded in finding Fortin and Temperley. As I talk to them, it quickly becomes apparent that the three share a kindred sensibility. Separately, each recounts coming to the genre through first being arrested by its sounds as listeners, and then turning into creators through, in Fortin’s phraseology, wondering, “I wonder if I can do that?”
Having come together, the group were struck by what Butterworth describes as “The lack of places to go. I think there’s this massive gulf between playing in your bedroom and playing a gig.”
Bleep, then, is their attempt to bridge that chasm. Fans themselves, there’s a definite sense of anticipation at the discoveries that such bridge-building might eventually lead to, or, as Butterworth observes: “It’s not out of question that we’ve seen the next big artist already.” It’s an aspiration that’s closer to expectation than hope, one that’s lent further emphasis by the January-abolishing warmth with which they speak of each of the artists who’ve already appeared. Each is presented with a media pack some time after their performance by way of a ‘thank you’.
Passion is a word that has been overused to the point of redundancy, but it’s passionate curiosity as opposed to commerce that fuels the Bleep enterprise.
“We all have full time jobs, we all pay for the venue, we’re not making any money off it,” Fortin reminds me. Just the same, Butterworth chimes in that “It’s been 100 per cent worth it.” Fortin agrees: “Yeah, that first night, we were all on a high for days. Everybody’s been so nice, and everybody feels like they’re part of the same community.”
Moreover, they’re keen to emphasise that they don’t exist in isolation, however splendid. Temperley enthuses about Manchester’s other electronica nights, crystallising in the same zeitgeist. “I think I mentioned about Fluff and Noodlr. We go to their stuff, they come to ours. There’s been a lot of – what do you call it? – cross-pollination.”
Such cultural splicing apart, it’s a community that they’re keen reach further into, broadening the mix of performers on stage to better reflect the heartening eclecticism of an audience that is as diverse as any in Manchester. Butterworth speaks for all of them when he says that “we’re kind of really aware of representing different demographics and genres and stuff like that”. More specifically, Fortin muses that “we’ve had this conversation about how we encourage more women”. Putting those words into action, they’ve made overtures to the likes of the Yorkshire Sound Women Network, with one ear already open for Bleep 3.
Fittingly, their parting words are of the future. Even though Temperley cautions that “I don’t feel comfortable yet”, in the same breath he concedes that “there’s been a massive amount of amazing feedback.”
Fortin agrees “that would be the dream, to revive the electronic music scene in Manchester”.
It’s definitely in the air, like caution thrown to the wind.
Main image: Manchester Electronic Collective
Bleep takes place at The Peer Hat on the second Thursday of every month. Bleep 3 is on February 9, 2023. Entry is free, and performances start at 7.30pm