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INTERNATIONAL REVIEW: Dimensions Festival, Croatia 2013

Four days of musical mastery in an abandoned fort by the sea...

With the summer season now over, it's time to look further afield for our dance music fix. In September Spotlight sent a reporter to the fledgling, but already highly acclaimed Dimensions Festival at Fort Punta Christo in Croatia, to scope out the techno talent on the other side of Europe and report back with her findings.

Beginning the festival in Fort Arena 1, to the strange backdrop of a brightly lit installation of industrial fans, smooth moving Move D delivered a heart warming set filled with soothing summer sounds. A couple of questionable tracks made their way into the mix at times (Armand Van Halen You Don't Know Me), but they seemed to sit extremely well with a majority of the crowd below him. This was the soulful intro needed to warm up for the remaining days at Dimensions as the pace would soon accelerate.

Livity Sound played live at the Moat, one of my favourite areas in the fort. Pev, Kowton and Stennett upped the tempo and intensity with their hardware based techno set, bringing the chaotic, bass heavy and dub inspired sounds from Bristol to the stage. The trio have created such turbulent but fresh music through their collaborations, acknowledged by the crowd who stomped away to their beats and prepared for Pangaea who followed with an incredibly experimental and (to be expected) heavy start to the Hessle take over. The Moat, totally packed by this point, had an air of uncertainty with how to move to the raw and edgy music displayed for everyone at first but this didn't last long and soon the crowd settled to embrace Pangaea's mayhem.

The pace continued throughout each of the Hessle boy's sets, persisting with relentless pounding beats devoid of many melodic sounds and setting the bar for the Blawan and Pariah collaboration Karenn. Another live set from the duo upped the tempo again creating a ruthless atmosphere deep within the walls of The Moat, bringing to the floor twisted and uneasy rhythmns often intimidating the ears. The music Karenn produce always succeeds to keep the groove though and I found it one of the most fun sets to dance to.

Andres, whose track New For U was voted for by RA as the number one release at the end of last year, brought a distinguished sound and style to the festival on Thursday night with more Hip Hop tempos and 80s funk grooves. Andres is a true entertainer, scratching with his mixes and getting on the mic to introduce his music and friends, one being the late J Dilla with his Gary Numan tribute Trucks. A welcome set Outside The Fort as the rest of the festival played out the harder side of their electronic sounds.

Floating Points kept the vibes going high with a set that switched between the forward thinking, intricate & sedate house/techno of his Eglo records imprint releases and seamlessly mixed funky, soulful disco classics. Eclecticism is a hallmark of his DJ sets and it created a wonderful, free-flowing space for dancing.

After his ventures to the exotic island of Cuba a couple of years ago, Mala brought back to the British Isles an inspiring collection of stories and recordings. Combining his background in sound system culture, he fused his dub and bass styles with the some of the many talented musicians in this very individual country to produce a beautiful LP and It was a blessing to hear the amalgamation from two very distinct and opposite worlds make it to The Clearing on Friday night, showcasing Mala's work and reminding everyone how good it feels to hear his rhythms on a huge system. Live vocals, incredible percussion and hypnotic keys demonstrating the spiritual Cuban and colonial Spanish cadences were a perfect match to Mala's sound system pulses and hardware cues loosening the crowd and watching them melt.

Set in The Ballroom, a circular, high walled, prison-like room with only fifty capacity at most and a sound system equipped for a space ten times the size, any set seen in this area of the fort was bound to have the hairs on your ear drums stand on end. Randomer's set was a serious impact on the body, his tunes cutting through the room with high slaps and crashes and rumbling bass lines forcing your knees to wobble. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere in here but it was something I couldn't embrace for longer than twenty minutes.

The Dungeon was opened this year, a strange, tightly curved room with a big impacting sound system. I caught Night Owl, unknown to me before now but definitely on my radar for the future. The music stayed around 128 bpm, bringing lots of warm house grooves to this ancient and quite morbid space. A great contrast overall and was glad to be introduced to Night Owl's selection of music.

Patrice Scott made it to Fort Punta Cristo on the Saturday night. Playing between the walls of the Moat he demonstrated a surprisingly hard set compared to many of his own productions released on his label Sistrum. Given it was the third night, having probably witnessed the evenings previous, he must have felt a duty to keep up the harder techno sounds. Still, he interspersed this relentless drive with the smooth deep Detroit sounds he is famous for, making it a perfect warm up for Analogue Cops who were to follow.

An interesting variation in this year's line up came in the form of sets from two separate yet distinct Jazz/Funk legends. Lonnie Liston Smith's cosmic funk was limb loosening and groovy launching Friday night with space disco rocket fuel. As the drummer rolled off a solo, one stick balanced across the top of his head, it felt good to enjoy a live band knowing the majority of the evening's soundtrack would be pulsing kicks and flawlessly synchronised electronic rhythms.

Saturday night also kicked off, for me and many others, with a celebration of human rhythm as legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen brought his band to the stage. I am an impartial adjudicator here, obsessed with his recordings & how the music his bands create largely stems from the complex purity of his drum style. His new material was joyous to hear and it was pretty special to see such a large crowd getting it completely and dancing freely.

Interspersed with his own tracks and remixes of tropical house and weirdly exotic techno, Dan Snaith (aka Daphni) mixed disco, African soukous and downright funky tracks, weaving in cuts like Four Tet's Kool FM (a strange, stop-start junglist vibe) without losing the carefully cultivated energy of organic instruments entangling with electronic sound.

Evian Christ killed it on Sunday to an undeservedly modest amount of people. Maybe Sunday early evening wasn't the logical point most people wanted to soak up his strange, dark & atmospheric Triangulations on Trap & Footwork but it hit the spot for me, as brutal grooves emerged from swathes of noise. The same might be said for Demdike Stare, who were utterly compelling and absorbing, yet the overspill of noise from 3 Chairs punctuated their set, tempting wandering ears to the more dancefloor friendly rhythms.

Pantha du Prince was a true highlight, utilising the deep, rich, fascinating tones from his bell laboratory in a life setting with remarkable flair & instinct for the dancing crowd. A perfect Sunday night headliner, his melodies carrying you gently to the more beats-oriented moments where you could let loose and move before the tranquil, crepuscular chimes ushered you deeper.

Writing and photography by Spotlight contributor Daniela Kitchiner.

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