Peng Sound

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Pre-WWII Paris was a hotbed of musical ideas. The emigre jazz musicians who had fled the racist climate in their native US had the whole city buzzing off the new sound of 'hot jazz', the most raucous and powerful strain of the genre yet…everything changed when the Nazi occupation in 1940 made many of them flee the country and those remaining were banned from playing at all. Deep in the Parisian underground existed a small cult who came to be known as 'Zazous', brandishing umbrellas, wearing zoot-suit trousers cut off at the knee and triple-soled shoes. This band of outlaws smuggled their prized collection of swing records into small cafes just off the Champs Elysee and danced till the small hours, just under the radar of the occupying forces. Fast-forward 70 years to the UK and the omnipresent feeling of impending doom is looming now more than ever. Operating from the basement of the Take 5 cafe in Bristol's Stokes Croft, 'Peng Sound' is right in the middle of the cultural quarter of the city, a sort of no man's land where all the different cultural elements of the city collide and create a unique environment. 70 years on from the Zazous smuggling boxes of records into cafes and little has changed. The best escape from the current climate of fear and loathing is still to gather with like-minded people and dance the night away to great records played loudly in sweaty basements, and the Take 5 is a place of refuge from the mediocrity that the 9 - 5 grind instills. The Peng Sound night was started in early 2009 by Dan Davies after witnessing a Positive Vibrations set and realising that while Bristol is very well catered for in terms of 'dance music',  the dub side of things was only really represented by the bigger dances. Peng Sound offers people the opportunity to hear some top selectors and deejays on a small but perfectly formed system, in a great venue that always conveys a proper house party vibe… Davies is the first to admit that nothing about the dance is planned that far in advance. This explains the fact that the nights are 'almost monthly, certainly every six weeks' or, 'If I'm being honest.' he says, 'when the right music comes along, i'll organise the night around it'. This very laidback approach certainly fits the way things tend to happen in Bristol and has let the night grow at its own pace. There's very little promo behind the night apart from the business card sized fliers that seem to find their way into all the right places. Even so, the night has a loyal following that sees both the first floor of the cafe (a space to chill and chat breeze as well as the get Redstripe at the bar) and the basement (housing the system and turntables) packed out every time there's a dance on. Dub is the thread binding all the acts together. At Peng Sound some previous hilights have included a dub-techno set from Leewok and the fascinating sonic contradictions of Tapes' playing his unique take on digi-dub off cassette tapes. The intimate vibe that this small venue provides seems to coax extra-special performances out of the artists who play there, and this was particularly evident in the dynamite live performances from Atki2 and Indi Kaur, also featuring Bongo San. I asked Dan if he could pick a favourite act that had played for him over the last couple of years and he told me that the show that Dubkasm put on is the one that will always stick with him…'They really tore the roof off, they had Solo Banton with them for the first time, guiding the crowd through their astounding selection of freshly cut dubplates – it was massive.' Speaking to Dan, it quickly becomes clear that its his passion for the music that really drives the night. It's not there to make mad profits, it's a place for people to go and hear some quality music in a great space and have a dance… Bristol has always moved at a slower pace than London and because of that we're a bit more sheltered from the relentless hype machine transmissions. We got talking about some of our favourite records and both arrived at the same one: 'Mommy what's a record' by Kerri Chandler. That track, for me at least, sums up what the night is about perfectly, No drama, just quality music that's had time to evolve at its own pace…Peng Sound is one of Bristol's best-kept secrets. This weekend (The 19th) is your next chance to get your Zazou on, sneak into the Take 5 basement and dance all night, ignoring the harsh realities lurking outside…Perhaps leave the cut off zoot-suit trousers behind though… Alex Digard