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BAND-AID: Double Helix and the State of the Rave

Art by Beyza Çelikmen

“Rat Rave” by Double Helix (Slow Dance, 2022)

Genre is finally dead, thank God; now the kids can dance on the grave. It’s been a long time coming. What good do genre labels do anyway? Why box ourselves in, musically or otherwise? Why not tear apart your indie rock song and drop a thumping house track in the middle? Why shouldn’t you have your Primus-turned-Ornette-Coleman free-jazz breakdown and eat it too? Why not go as far as we can? This is the ethos of the new wave of London’s underground, carried to the mainstream through breakthrough acts like Jockstrap and Squid. From this vibrant scene comes Double Helix and their bombastic first single “Rat Rave,” a sledgehammer of a song that stakes their claim as the grimy rave revivalists that, deep down, we always knew we needed.

Double Helix is the duo of Patrick Smith and Kim Engelhardt, joined by James Allix of Tigercub on drums for live shows. As their name suggests, the pair intertwine their sound into one cohesive whole: a perfect strand of mutant DNA. Engelhardt’s bass lines seamlessly blend into Smith’s synths, percussion, and fuzzed-out vocals. For a debut single, the duo has delved remarkably deep into their sound, cutting their teeth at the now-infamous Brixton venue The Windmill and refining their own musical identity. On “Rat Rave,” Double Helix presents a buzzing, beautiful, and dense wall of sound that tips over and flattens the listener. It is a trance-inducing melange of influences and ideas, whizzing by as fast as electricity. They have nailed their maximalist approach to dance music, which is equally indebted to 90’s rave culture and blistering aughts punk rock.

“Rat Rave” is a massive lead single, an announcement of a force to be reckoned with. It powers along like a bullet train, adding and subtracting its layers of scuzz and noise, effects sweeping in and out in a darkly psychedelic rush, part Ministry and part Frankie Knuckles. Propulsive live drums tear through the mix in the track’s heaviest moments, bursting at the seams with heavy low end. Trance synths flex and undulate atop the maelstrom, drawing the listener in as the intensity ramps up. Just when it seems the track can’t take any more, Smith’s meditative vocals of “Pain / Figure / Pressure / Obey” pop into the mix and add another layer of controlled chaos.

The video for “Rat Rave” is as enveloping as the song. Twisted, hazy visuals depict a dancer lost in the sound. Living with a hidden disability, the artist’s performance in the video echoes the song’s sentiments of dancing through pain and escaping the body. This is an accomplished and confident single: an immediate and satisfying merging of Double Helix’s rave and punk identities, whirling around in a mosh pit drenched with neon light.

Watch the video for “Rat Rave” below:

“Rat Rave” is forthcoming on Slow Dance’s 2021 Compilation:


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