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LIVE: The Mouse Outfit - Sound Control, Manchester

Manchester’s most exciting new hip-hop collective The Mouse Outfit treated fans on home turf to celebrate the release of their second alum Step Steadier, and Far Out was there to soak it all up.

There’s a liquid old-skool hip-hop vibe from the off with a warm-up DJ set from local boy Pete Cannon as the venue fills up. Kitted out with a jacket that would make Huggy Bear jealous, he gets the atmosphere going with a mix of classics and new cuts, including Mouse Outfit rapper Sparkz and his latest solo release ‘Kno the Sound’.

Then there is a welcome interlude courtesy of regular collaborator and effortless MC Black Josh. He catapults a barrage of off-the-cuff rhymes at an audience who grow evermore expectant for a headline set  to bring the Monday night party feel.

It’s not long before the full band arrive on stage to be greeted by a packed out Sound Control. It’s a live set-up that swells to reach thirteen at its busiest, but the show is one characterised by an enthralling roulette-style approach as the Mouse Outfit’s revolving door of guest MCs runs fluidly throughout the night.

Lead vocalists Sparkz and Dr Syntax are a regular feature and get things off to flyer with Dubbul O, setting the atmosphere alight with the closer from debut album Escpae Music, ‘Never Get Enough’.

The tempo is brought down to an appropriately hazy level with the jazz-inspired chill out of ‘Shak Out’. Sparkz doesn’t miss a beat and getting another chance to catch him live confirms that he must be considered among the most exciting new MCs in the UK right now.

But the Mouse Outfit are all about the whole being better than the sum of its parts, and such a concept rings true when Truthos Mufasa arrives to accompany Black Josh on ‘Sit Back’. It’s the kind of stoner anthem that is impossible to lose your love for.

Ten years ago the focus of the rap scene in the UK was very much on grime, a new abrasive kind of social comedy that for all its humour, came with a dark underbelly.

Contrastingly, the Mouse Outfit use wordplay, dry wit and a party atmosphere to draw on a more American influence. But there is no risk of this sounding like a pastiche, as an intelligence and vernacular that is quintessentially Mancunian from the likes of Sparkz, Black Josh and Truthos Mufasa make the music undeniably fresh.

The set continues to treat onlookers to a versatile collection of tracks, exploring dub reggae and funk with the help of recent collaborators Fox and Tman.

With so many hype men present to gee up this most excitable of early-week crowds it is not surprising that the whole room is bouncing by the time they disappear from the stage. The upshot is that an encore quickly takes place. There are few better ringmasters to create a sizzling end atmosphere than Dr Syntax. As the band leave the stage, there is a feeling that it can only be a matter of time before the Mouse Outfit take over.

Patrick Davies