"This is not a club, this is the cold thaw, the core reaction, a mission where the apathetic will die". This is strange. I am in The Office, a basement club just off London's Oxford Street. A six-foot something bald man in a futuristic, one-piece yellow jumpsuit is shouting over an electronic cacophany into a battery-powered megaphone, held for him by an angelic blond boy in Osh-Kosh dungarees. Gathered around to watch this disco-Dada figure are a curious mixture of funky skateboard kids, deathmetal teens, dance purists, musos, cute Clockwork Orange boys on roller skates and London's edgier arty types. No-one talks - it's too loud. The man in yellow is Matthew Harden, aka Matthew Glamorre, frontman of notorious artrock band Minty and veteran club runner. Harden was host at Britpop's favourite hangout, the uber-cool, beer-fuelled school disco that was Smashing. Now Hardern, along with partners DJ Andrew Aveling and Mistress Oblivion, is back with Harderfasterlouder, the ultimate anti-retro noise statement. HFL-goers arrive between 11.30 and 12.30 to silence. The doors are then closed (no latecomers allowed) and a sonic "crescendo" begins - a collection of frequencies that builds up over half an hour into a wall of sound. This is followed by a short silence, after which Hardern appears with megaphone to announce the manifesto. Then the hard, fast, loud part the crowd's been waiting for really kicks in. The music - what the club calls "Bosch & bass" - is modern, dark, gnarly and at the uneasy end of drum & bass, speed, darkcore and deathmetal. DJs ("drill pushers") mix and crunch the genres together, keeping the noise levels right up there. All around the dancefloor people are losing it in the music and the vibration. They are wired for sound - this is Harden's "core reaction". The music bangs on and the crowd thins out as the bar-huggers slide off home. "Too arty for me, darling," one remarks. At first I'm tempted to join them. Not being much of a one for dancing to deathmetal or beserker ragga is making me feel left out (OK - old), until I decide "What the hell", and step on to the dancefloor. Aha. Now it makes sense. Throwing yourself around, pulling faces, hugging speakers, headbanging and flailing your arms about feels GOOD!
After the sonic storm, a period of chill-out/bonding time for those who made it to the end is in order. This is the point of the experience for Harden. You come, you feel the tension in yourself build with the music and your mind rebels against the unrelenting noise attack. To get through it, you dance, you lose your mind in the sound, and with it you lose the tension - musical meltdown therapy for the hardcore generation. Though my head throbbed for most of the next day (my own fault for getting carried away and putting my head on the speaker...), I have to say, I had a blast.
Harderfasterlouder is fortnightly (next night is on 16th October) at The Office, 3-5 Rathbone Place, London W1. Entry is pounds 3 or free with wheels (skates, boards or chairs).