As part of their new Helping Hands European tour, Ivan Ave and Mndsgn played an experimental hip-hop set at The Electric Circus. The two support acts were both home-grown talents from Edinburgh: Cracked Hands gave a cut-up, eerie, electronic ambience with vocals somewhere in-between Björk and Grimes. Haptics (Jack Elliot) mused about how he always wanted to be on Steve Wright’s ‘Sunday Love Songs’ and shared the common frustration over faulty Windows computers. Chatty as he came to the small stage, Elliot fumbled through new songs and random anecdotes. He gave a mixture of soft guitar ditties as well as spoken word over a fast electronic backdrop.

The intimate setting at the Electric Circus allowed for an almost conversational feel with the audience. A member of Oslo-based collective Mutual Intentions as well as signed to Jakarta Records (including Ta-ku, Kaytranada, L’Orange), Ivan Ave is a young, excitable face to lyrical hip-hop and rap. He came on stage first, introducing his new Helping Hands LP, produced by Mndsgn. He mixed up old and new material including Low Jams EP track ‘Toast’ with its jazzy acid hip-hop feel. Between verses he would reach over the stage to clink glasses with whoever was at the front, breaking off with a laugh and picking up the beat again. It was hard for the audience not to appreciate his showmanship, evidently enjoying the set as much they were.

Representing the underground hip-hop label Stones Throw, Ringgo Ancheta, a.k.a. Mndsgn (pronounced ‘Mind Design’) came to the fore with tracks such as ‘Camelblues’ (also covered by DJ Koze in his 2015 DJ-Kicks edition). Mndsgn represents only some of the exciting new talent coming out of Stones Throw, made famous by J Dilla, Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf among others. His introduction to hip-hop begs one to believe it was predestined: having fled from the Philippines and raised without electricity in a remote part of New Jersey, Ancheta recounts on a trip to Philadelphia: “The first guy I met on the street introduced me to the world of music and beat making. Within a day I was making my own beats on his sampler.” On the night it wasn’t hard to notice his familiarity behind the keys, creating soft ripples of an electric organ, and the tinny rasp of a snare. Not one of the duo’s tracks fell flat: the innovative combination of Mndsgn’s slow and simple rhythms and Ivan Ave’s articulated rhymes created a magnetism with the audience.

Signing off on an improvised loop of ‘Camelblues’ the two invited everyone for a cigarette outside, continuing with the same carefree nature chatting with people outside as they had on stage. The first thing Ancheta asked to the person next to him was how the hell he was meant to pronounce Edinburgh.

Make sure to buy a copy of Helping Hands, released 12th February 2016.

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