WORDS BY JOSH DE SILVA PHOTOS BY ROB JONES
Dimensions Festival takes place in the spectacularly beautiful surroundings of Fort Punta Christo, nestled just outside of Pula on Croatia’s Adriatic coast. Encompassing a repurposed moat, tiny hidden rooms and expansive clearings, as well as the idyllic beach stage and the awe inspiring amphitheatre in Pula, the site itself is the real star of the festival, but there’s plenty more that makes Dimensions special.
The lineup reads like a who’s who of underground music, with a great level of variety spread across the 11 stages, almost all of which boast fantastic sound. With the addition of boat parties and the Knowledge Arena, an area for workshops and discussions, Dimensions promises something for just about anyone. While it didn’t quite deliver on every aspect, Dimensions certainly feels like one of Europe’s most accomplished dance music festivals.
Read on for a day by day breakdown and to find out some of our highlights, as well as what we think could be improved in years to come.
Dimensions’ opening concert is traditionally the festivals’ chance to show off the breadth of their booking ability, with past guests including Grace Jones, Massive Attack, and Larry Heard’s first live performance in years. This year followed suit, with German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk bringing their 3D live show to the majestic Roman amphitheatre alongside composer Nils Frahm and Detroit Legend Moodymann, as well as Nubya Garcia, Josey Rebelle and Debora Ipekel.
Frahm’s emotive performance felt like it was written especially to match the grand surroundings of the arena, with soaring chords matching a pulsating light show, drawing those who had arrived early down from the raised steps and onto the main dancefloor.
After a short break and with the venue now packed with revellers donning their 3D glasses, Kraftwerk silently marched onto the stage to take their places behind four illuminated plinths. Before I talk about the performance, I want to note that the 3D aspect of the show was a bit of a let down, and felt more like a gimmick than actually adding anything. For the majority of the performance the glasses simply crisped up the visuals, with around 3 or 4 instances where a 3D element, such as a satellite or UFO, actually emerged.
Sadly I felt the rest of the performance didn’t quite meet the high expectations either. The band worked their way through their many iconic songs, but the soundsystem felt a little too quiet throughout which seemed to take a bit of the punch out of the tracks. Coupled with the bands’ trademark robotic lack of movement, this translated to a slight lack of energy. It is however truly remarkable that classics such as ‘Numbers’ and ‘Tour De France’ were produced in the 70s and still sounded completely modern and fresh.
Moodymann stepped up for the close for what was ultimately a classic Moodymann party set. He dropped crowd-pleasers such as Peggy Gou’s ‘It Makes You Forget’ and DJ Koze’s ‘Pick Up’ whilst sporadically cutting the music to jump on the mic – great for some, but very safe and a bit disappointing for others given his legendary reputation.
Our Thursday kicked off with our first and only boat party of the weekend, courtesy of Leeds’ Tribe Records. Alex T, one of the shop’s staff and a member of Dimensions’ DJ Directory, warmed up nicely alongside Cosmic Slop’s Mike BC, with a set of groovy Techno mixed with hits of Garage and Minimal.
Next up was Danish DJ Courtesy, who has been making waves over the past couple of years. She picked up the intensity, shifting through the gears quickly into driving techno. A solid, if slightly predictable set was rounded out with a few uplifting trance tracks before she handed the reins over to Saoise.
My first time seeing her DJ, Saoirse was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. She played to the majority English crowd by moving rapidly through Garage, House and Techno with a distinctly UK edge. Perfectly timed classics such as Happy Clappers ‘I Believe’ and even some Drum & Bass kept the crowd on their toes, with mixes always sharp and blazing through tracks in quickfire succession. Her set flew by and by the time the boat returned to the docks the boat was properly rocking.
Thursday night started off in the Dungeon, a new stage for this year within a small tunnel inside the fort. New York’s DJ Python opened, with a fantastic warm up set blending Dub Reggae, EBM and pitched down House – which all sounded great on the excellent soundsystem.
Salon Des Amateurs residents Lena Wilikens & Vladimir Ivkovic’s 4 hour b2b on the Void stage had been highlighted by many as a must see set of the weekend and they didn’t disappoint. Working through their usual brand of chuggy, dark and often psychedelic Techno, they entranced the packed crowd. With the tunes getting weirder and laced with acid towards the end of the set, it really was a great way to kick off the festivals’ night time programming.
Sadly lightning storms meant the music was cut out a few times later on, which affected the flow of the stages a bit and we decided to call it a night.
Friday’s beach lineup was stacked with UK Jazz, which has exploded recently thanks to the likes of Yussuf Kamaal, Alfa Mist and Ezra Collective.
The day started off with talented keyboardist Joe Armon Jones and Bassist and producer Maxwell Owin, who’s recent album Idiom on Peckham’s YAM Records is a fantastic flagship of South London’s electric Jazz scene. Playing exclusively their own material, mostly unreleased, it felt like two extremely talented musicians just simply having fun with their music, which translated perfectly to relaxing on the beach with a cocktail and soaking up the vibes, and the sun.
Next up was Ezra Collective, a 5 piece for whom Joe Armon Jones plays keys and led by charismatic drummer Femi Koleoso. The beach stage quickly filled up as Femi introduced the band and gave a shout out to the London Jazz scene, a large portion of whom were in attendance. If most people had been relaxing throughout the day, Ezra Collective’s set felt like the kick start to the real partying, quickly lifting the energy levels until the whole beach stage was rocking. The feel good performance felt accomplished and each band member was clearly at the top of their game, with numerous solos, a dance cameo from the band’s tour manager, and even a cover of Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ feeding the party atmosphere.
Our Friday night started off at the Void stage for Manchester local and cult favourite Il Bosco, who’s Red Laser Records label and parties provide some of Manchester’s finest House, Italo and Techno. His set was another fantastic example of a warm up set done right, with spacey synth heavy disco tussling with deep Italo cuts like Coco Bill’s ’Evita’ and tracks from Red Laser’s back catalogue such as Kid Machine’s ‘Wheels of Fury’.
Next we headed back to the dungeon, quickly becoming a favourite stage, for Sheffield’s Pretty Pretty Good, whose plethora of residents took over for an extended 5 hour slot. They worked through from chuggy EBM and pitched down electro to groove laden Techno all the way up to Garage and Dubstep, with Stanton Warriors’ breaksy remix of Basement Jaxx ‘Jump ‘n’ Shout’ a standout tune.
The Moat at Dimensions is one of the most unique and characterful stages at any festival, and we had saved our first trip in for Electro legends Detroit In Effect. After a brief announcement on the mic that ‘the real party’ had now started, the duo kicked off at breakneck speed, scratching and cutting their way through Electro bangers, Footwork and Ghetto. The intensity was high but the mood was always playful and slightly tongue in cheek, with vocal tracks like DJ Assault’s ‘Yo Relatives’ cutting through the heavier Electro. After dancing the hardest we had done so far, D.I.E. felt like it would be hard to beat.
We closed the night at The Clearing, essentially Dimensions’ main stage, for Avalon Emerson. Whilst she played some great breaksy tunes and some killer jungle, the set was permeated with lots of lengthy breakdowns, which seemed to ruin the flow a little, before ending on a dreamy synthpop tune as the sun rose.
More storms meant Saturday’s programming didn’t kick off until a few hours after it was scheduled to. We headed to catch live Techno dons London Modular Alliance, whose stripped back, acid tinged Techno sounded ridiculous punchy and crisp on The Void stage’s incredible soundsystem.
Next up was Margaret Dygas, who ended up being the pick of the entire festival. Starting off her set with groovy Minimal with some killer basslines, she looked comfortable and in full control whilst she picked up the pace into more driving techno. Effortlessly blending records for extended periods, she whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with each drop bringing cheers, and Moony’s mellow Garage banger ‘3 Days’ sparking numerous ID requests. As she handed over to Sonja Moonear, we couldn’t help but feel like she was only just getting started and deserved a few more hours to show what she could do.
Another pick of Saturday night was Skee Mask, who had played a Dub set in the Subdub arena the night before. He jumped through tempos from broken UK Techno to Jungle and Ghetto, and even dropped DJ Taye and DJ Manny’s Teklife classic ‘WTF You Here For’.
Sunday’s start was again delayed by storms, but this felt like a bit of a welcome break as many recovered from the past few nights. Hessle Audio’s sold out boat party saw around 100 no-shows and the energy levels across the campsite felt little depleted.
Once the Dimensions app announced that the music had finally started again we headed to Pearson Sound in The Moat. An exercise in showing off the breadth of Hessle’s sound, his set shifted through choppy UK Techno and Breaks, with occasional stabs of lighting acting like a natural strobe and adding to the fantastic intensity of the moat.
Next we headed to the garden for another of the festival’s most anticipate sets – Fabric Resident Craig Richards b2b with Nicolas Lutz. Having played together two nights before at Fabric, you could see that they were two DJ’s who were very in tune with each other. After an hour or so of groovy minimal hooks, full of rolling basslines and crisp hi-hats, the pair moved into darker territory and settled into a more Techno heavy vibe. Whilst their mixing was always tight and the tunes were good, it felt very linear and more twists and curveballs would have helped to reinvigorate the energy-lacking crowd.
We ended up with Josey Rebelle, clearly a favourite of Dimensions having played multiple times over the course of the weekend – and picked to close out the festival. Closing The Void after Palms Trax, you could have expected a more funky and Disco inspired set but Josey didn’t mess about, heading straight into slamming Techno, Rave and Acid House. Dropping tunes like Heiroglyphic Being’s ‘This is 4 the rave bangers’, she lifted the energy levels and helped to end the festival on a real high.
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