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Last night we put on our disco dancing shoes and headed down to Manchester’s International Festival to sample James Murphy’s custom-made Despacio disco sound system, alongside Stephen and David Dewaele, better known as 2 Many DJs.

Estimated to have cost £750,000, and originally intended to use for a night in Ibiza playing records between 95 and 115 bpm, the sound system was instead designed and commissioned for the City’s bi-annual international festival, alongside audio experts McIntosh; the company that supplied the amplifiers for Woodstock in 1969, and who also created Grateful Dead’s infamous Wall of Sound.

As with any event at MIF, Despacio took place in a unusual venue; the City’s Co-operative building. The eight enormous 11-foot speaker stacks were positioned in a circle surrounding the audience in the center, who were then given a lovely chequered dancefloor to throw as many disco shapes as possible.

Murphy, and the Dewaele’s, were hidden away at the top of the room pretty much out of sight – and rightly so, this wasn’t about the DJs but the soundsytem. The lighting was simple, with a large disco ball hung from the ceiling which had also been surrounded with acoustic baffles to increase the sound quality.

The songs were slow and winding as Murphy and the Dewaele brothers played a vinyl only set for four and half hours taking everything in from obscure disco, twisted funk and psychedelic rock. Billed as a meeting of “minds, music and perfect sound” the event was unlike anything we’ve attended before, there were little or no hits, as the dream-team played what they wanted – seemingly taking little heed of what the crowd might have wanted.

Essentially what Murphy, the Dewaele’s and McIntosh created was as disco version of the valve soundsystem, and for all intent and purposes it was a massive success, the sound quality was unlike we’ve every heard before.

So where might you be able to sample some of this Despacio magic in the future? Well, were not entirely sure but it has been confirmed the system won’t be dismantled after last night’s final show.

“We may eventually find a sacred space on a mystical island and build a shrine where it will live forever,” says James.

Stephen adds: “We’d love to do a US tour with the sound system, and we imagine that due to the sheer size and weight of the system, we will need three trucks like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had. The flyer should be a helicopter shot of the three trucks driving on the turnpike saying MURPHY, DEWAELE and DEWAELE on the roof.”


Andrew Rafter

Andrew Rafter is the editor and founder of Harder Blogger Faster.