Winter of Discotheque: A Guide to Clubbing [*]

Ray Philp and Anna Seale walk you through the smorgasbord of after-dark musical pleasures on offer in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Feature by Ray Philp and Anna Seale | 16 Sep 2011


Auld Reekie's club culture is regularly reported to be 'turning a corner', after which it usually careers into another brick wall of indie-disco and electro-house that's about as underground as your 13-year-old sister's pink iPod. And let's not even mention George Street, because if you're cheerfully cosying up to private school girls with Black Sabbath hair extensions and lipgloss shinier than P. Diddy in a gold lamé catsuit, then you're beyond help. But, here we are, reporting that this bloody corner has been – or is about to be – turned.

Bi-monthlys from Glasgow imprints Numbers and LuckyMe can and should take credit for raising the bar, though the quality of the residents alone (Jackmaster, Spencer, The Blessings: HELLO) has endeared both nights to discerning clubbers who revel in a music policy that combines Prince, Machinedrum, Missy Elliot and Underground Resistance.

The Burgh's more established soirées have had a long and patchy history of hosting hip-hop and drum & bass, two genres that have tended to cannibalise themselves in Edinburgh. Xplicit's willingness to rouse itself from this torpor and embrace a wider palate beyond d'n'b should give you one less reason to disregard them on account of their flyer design, which looks like what happens when Photoshop has been dryhumped by a lobotomised Rolf Harris.

Offshoots borne of Xplicit's longevity gravitate towards Sneaky Pete's and the Bongo Club: the former in particular has been singularly responsible for curating some of Edinburgh's more imaginative bookings this year, hosting the garage/R&B hybrid of Witness and the UK bass music melange found at Coalition, often hosting spinners with strong associations with polybass epicentres like Hessle Audio and Night Slugs.

Of the rest, Cabaret Voltaire's Ultragroove remains one of the capital's best straight-up house nights, though the entry fee will likely stunt your efforts to corrupt your liver with industrial helpings of Jaeger. Wasabi Disco's eponymous music policy (with a bit of Moodymann and UK house thrown in) concedes a little more ground to a student budget without sacrificing on quality, while Departure Lounge's venerable showcase of hip-hop, house and boogie are worth every penny you would have otherwise spent at Madchester attired like a gorilla at a JD Sports sale.


So, you’ve emerged from the nightlife cul-de-sac that is your small home town and landed in Glasgow, a city that’s hit saturation point for club nights. Congratulations - try not to arse it up. Don’t be afraid to try everything on offer in a bid to find out what niche sound you’re into and remember that nobody requires one Facebook photo album of their night out, nevermind sixteen.

But where to start? With the closure of the Vic Bar, and with The Arches holding fewer and fewer nights of clubbing significance, there has been a noticeable shift in how clubs operate in the city.

The 150-capacity La Cheetah has become a popular space of late, with top prize going to Highlife. Run by Brian D’Souza and Glaswegian ex-pats Huntleys & Palmers, you can expect to hear music from corners of the planet you'd generally overlook. Highlife focus on 'future afro-beat' sounds from ‘across the black Atlantic diasporas’, covering everything from Chicago house, Detroit techno and disco to Cumbia, Kwaito and Afrobeat. Look out for the inevitable Highlife party that will coincide with the launch party of Auntie Flo’s debut LP later this year. 

After almost 25 years in business, The Sub Club remains as popular as ever, and was recently voted the 10th best club in the world by electronic music authority Resident Advisor. Offering a wide range of nights and music policies, we could ramble on about the club no end, but for the sake of brevity here’s a run down of the three standout nights.

Numbers celebrated their eighth birthday at the start of July in the only way they knew how – by slapping Prince on a dayglo poster and inviting Floating Points down for a three-hour set, before capping the evening off with resident Spencer. This is what the Numbers night – along with their accompanying label and ethos – is all about: bookending great releases from fresh artists with parties in their hometown and showcases at Fabric in London. Don’t be fooled by the standard 'UK bass' tag with which Numbers usually get painted: you’re just as likely to hear house, techno and dubstep mixed into the Pointer Sisters as you are Hudson Mohawke.

Saturdays in the Sub Club mean Subculture, one of the longest running club nights in the world. Focusing on deep house and techno with residents Harri & Domenic at the helm, recent guests include dOP, Josh Wink, Andrew Weatherall and Rahaan. House music pioneer Lil’ Louis, the man behind ‘French Kiss’, loves the club so much that he chose to film a large part of his tour documentary during his Subculture set.

Finally, look out for Sensu, which takes place every month both inside and outside the club. Sensu’s ongoing success is built on the foundations of exceptional guest bookings, strange venues and a pool of talented residents. Need an example? How about Sensu leading a group of 200 regulars down an alleyway, through the back door of a Japanese restaurant for an all-night party in amongst the sushi rolls with Magda and Marc Houle? Combine this with their recent Visionquest booking for a boat party on the Clyde and it’s easy to see why it continues to be so popular.