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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Lauren Martin

The month’s best mixes: cosmic connections and oceanic electronics

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Wed 31 Jul 2019 1:00 pm

ADAB brings Afrofuturism into the psychedelic mix, while Russell EL Butler taps into the African diaspora

Neptunian Influence: ADAB

Related: The month's best mixes: infectious singeli and full-throttle floorfillers

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Mike Dunn: the funky freak still uniting rap and house

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Tue 18 Jun 2019 2:00 pm

A thwarted deal with P Diddy left the Chicago house star ‘in a real dismal place’. But by reconnecting with the propulsive hip-house genre that he pioneered, he’s bounced back brighter

‘Well all right, you squares …” So begins Mike Dunn’s 1995 house classic God Made Me Phunky, as if he’s settling into an acid-tongued children’s story. The track becomes a rambling tale of how God takes him “on that spaceship up to, y’know, the funkiness”; his voice, full of sensual braggadocio, booms out over the beat, where raw drums crash underneath a looping piano hook. It’s one of the hip–house genre’s finest moments, a blend of dance and rap music that Dunn pioneered and is still pushing forward.

He’s just released his 2017 album, My House from All Angles, digitally for the first time, 29 years after his 1990 debut Free Your Mind. The ups and downs in the intervening years are a key part of house history.

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‘I had to honour him’: the friends who finished Avicii’s final album

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Thu 6 Jun 2019 3:00 pm

After the EDM star died aged 28 last year, his family decided that his album Tim should be completed. How did the chosen collaborators handle such a sensitive task?

Last summer, a carefully chosen group of producers was given a challenging task – to complete Tim, the third album by the late Swedish DJ and producer Avicii, AKA Tim Bergling. Released this week, the album was roughly two-thirds finished when Bergling killed himself on 20 April 2018 aged 28.

His was the defining voice of EDM, the bombastic, Technicolor dance music that has dominated the charts in this decade. His 2013 song Wake Me Up, with soul singer Aloe Blacc, spent 26 weeks at No 1 on the US Billboard dance singles chart and was for a time the most-streamed song in Spotify history. Bergling became one of the world’s highest-paid DJs and collaborated with Madonna, Coldplay and Nile Rogers, who called him “one of the greatest natural melody writers I’ve ever worked with”.

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The month’s best mixes: steely funk, Lisbon tarraxo and hardcore psychedelia

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Tue 21 May 2019 1:00 pm

Our May selection features Job Sifre’s bitter electro, TSVI’s polyrhythms, and a trip down memory lane with Tama Sumo

Related: 'We're not beard-strokers!' Wigflex, Nottingham's 'rudeboy techno' night

Related: The month's best mixes: dancefloor stormers and experimental sidewinders

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The month’s best mixes: dusty house, spooky techno and sparkling jungle

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Wed 27 Mar 2019 12:28 pm

We select the best mixes in March, including recordings from Lena Willikens, MGUN and DJ Klaus

Related: The month's best mixes: psychedelic sounds, soulful UK garage and sinewy EBM

Related: The BBC cutting Late Junction is a blow for experimental music

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The month’s best mixes: Nkisi, Aleksi Perälä and silken Berlin memories

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Mon 28 Jan 2019 3:00 pm

We select the best of January’s mixes, including recordings from Terraforma, Mutek Mexico and Panorama Bar

Belgian techno, Milanese eccentricity, Finnish ambience and silken Berlin sounds make up January’s best releases – as well as a utopian playlist platform

Related: The best DJ mixes of 2018

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The month’s best mixes: Sarah Davachi, Octo Octa and hippy workouts

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Wed 10 Oct 2018 12:30 pm

Love-drunk disco from Josey Rebelle, sassy funk from Amsterdam, prog rock, lonely pop and even Mariah Carey feature among techno beats and polyrhythms...

September’s selection of the world’s best mixes features artists in dialogue with their younger selves, low-slung dub chuggers, an emerging new Chicago name and gleeful Dutch soul-house.

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Helena Hauff: Qualm review – zeitgeist DJ bends techno to her will

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Fri 3 Aug 2018 9:00 am

(Ninja Tune)

In five years, Helena Hauff has gone from a resident DJ at the sticky, sweaty Hamburg club Golden Pudel to one of the current techno club and festival circuit’s most thunderous selectors – blending acid house, electro, and post-punk into industrial techno, EBM and wiggling downbeat house jams. Her tastes comes not from a lifetime of crate-digging, though – she only started to DJ in her early 20s after buying her first record in 2009, Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. Without access to a computer or physical music releases at home, Hauff trawled her local library for CDs and listened to the radio, recording what she loved from both on cassette. This approach to musical discovery, largely devoid of context and driven by feeling, allowed her to sketch lines between Stockhausen and the Cure, Belgian cold wave and British synthpop – finding melodies buried inside static and kick-drums, her ear attuned to finding charm within chaos.

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The month’s best mixes: Gigsta, Susumu Yokota and 25 years of Dutch dynamo Clone

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Tue 31 Jul 2018 11:30 am

The latest instalment in this series on the best DJ mixes and radio shows features a Japanese pioneer and sets from some of the world’s top parties

After Tayyab Amin’s selection of South American electronica, grime and Welsh seabirds last month, here are July’s mix highlights, spanning high-octane club music, a Japanese experimental pioneer, and sets offering a taste of the world’s best parties and record labels.

Related: Hungama: the UK club night taking queer culture to Bollywood

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RL Grime: Nova review – jackhammer EDM/rap bangers for US festivals

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Fri 27 Jul 2018 10:30 am


Los Angeles native RL Grime came up in US rave circles with the late noughties lo-fi rap deconstructionist crew WeDidIt. Alongside producers and DJs Shlomo and Ryan Hemsworth, he distilled the glittering bombast of the then-burgeoning EDM sound, drawing from creepy percussive trap atmospherics and from Grime’s own love for emo songs and pre-teen horror TV shows. With his 2014 debut album Void, Grime took his edit techniques and crossed over into trap-inspired EDM production, collaborating with vocalists. On his new album, Nova, these collaborations are more high-profile, with melodic rap and R&B refrains from Chief Keef, Jeremih, Tory Lanez, Ty Dolla $ign and Miguel. Meanwhile, the beats are decidedly less concerned with trap, more suited for the US festival circuit than the rap club – rolling drum’n’bass builds with jackhammer drops, Auto-Tuned vocal samples as algorithmic bursts.

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RP Boo: I’ll Tell You What! review – footwork original steps it up

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Fri 6 Jul 2018 10:30 am

Planet Mu

Chicago footwork pioneer RP Boo bought his first Roland R70 drum machine in the late-90s from the window of a budget equipment store. With no instruction manual, he didn’t know how to stretch out the bars, so worked exclusively in a one-bar pattern – formulating his frantic, multi-layered sound, crushing hyped-up dance floor commands into percussive rhythms and rumbling low end. Years later, after playing on a different R70, he didn’t recognise the sounds and had a revelation – the presets on his own had been mangled by everyone who tested out the model in-store. Imbued with the trials and errors of fellow Chicago drum machine enthusiasts, his sound was unique from the off.

RP Boo’s third album for the Planet Mu label, I’ll Tell You What!, sees this originality in full force: teasing out soulful vocal melodies (executed brilliantly on closing track Deep Sole, reminiscent of the late, great DJ Rashad) into skeletal, high-impact beats; skittering between paranoia and euphoria with rapid flicks of the wrist, and directing footwork dance battles on At War: “We are at war in the street, watch and witness!” RP Boo’s skill extends to feeding genuine personality into his tracks. U-Don’t No, a highlight, was made in the days following the death of his mother. If there’s one word to describe RP Boo’s revolutionary sound, it’s “legit”.

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The month’s best mixes: Eris Drew, Afrodeutsche, Sharda and more

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Tue 12 Jun 2018 11:00 am

In the first of a new monthly Guardian series picking out the best DJ mixes, radio shows and other musical ephemera, we explore Afrofuturistic UK techno and Colombian sound design

This is the first in a new monthly column that will look at new music beyond the usual round of albums and singles, sharing the latest DJ mixes, digital releases, radio shows, recorded conversations, documentaries on music and any other ephemera. The sheer volume of cutting-edge music online means that it can be, even for the most faithful digital trawler, a challenge to keep up – so I, along with Tayyab Amin on alternate months, will be skimming off the best bits. This month’s column features ecstatic rave breakbeats from the US, fizzing bassline bangers with big licks of Jamaican dancehall, Afrofuturistic UK techno, Colombian sound design, and more.

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How Weather Festival is Revitalizing Parisian Nightlife

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Fri 12 Jun 2015 1:29 pm

When I told some festival-loving friends that I was heading to Weather Festival in Paris, I got puzzled looks that said, “I go to festivals a lot, and I’m clearly supposed to know about this. Why don’t I?” But when they learned that it was co-run by the founders of the local boat-as-nightclub Concrete, their looks softened. In the few years since it first moored on the banks of the Seine, Concrete’s international reputation has mushroomed thanks to its storming All Day Long techno and house parties. Its collaboration with a hometown festival with similar tastes, then, is not just fitting, but necessary.

The dance music festival circuit in Europe is now less of a circuit and more of a marathon, so clubs-as-institutions ground homegrown scenes in a crowded market, and Concrete gives Weather a much-needed edge. The closest point of comparison is Amsterdam’s Dekmantel (which I reviewed for EB last year), where a crew of promoters and DJs took their ethos out of the club and into the fields of the Amsterdamse Bos. But the relationship between Weather and Concrete is perhaps more pragmatic than romantic, because Paris has had a hard time standing out as a world-renowned clubbing destination alongside other European dance music cities, like London and Berlin.

The struggle can be traced back to Baron Haussmann’s top-down “rational redesign” of Paris in the 19th century, which contemporary critics maligned as a military-minded architectural imperative to disrupt social gatherings and push the working classes into underdeveloped banlieues. The project has had an incredibly long-lasting impact on the how the city socializes; a 2010 study by the French School of Economic Warfare (snappy, right?) detailed the issues facing Parisian nightlife, such as how crowded neighborhoods fall victim to mounting noise complaints without permanent and legal clubbing spaces, a situation that worsened thanks to the 2008 ban on smoking in commercial entertainment venues. Other detrimental factors include a complicated web of licensing laws for venue owners and promoters, a lack of late-night public transportation for revelers, rapid gentrification exacerbated by the high cost of inner city living and the perceived risks of traveling to the outer districts in search of bigger, less restrained spaces. It’s all doubled-down on the electronic music scene to the point that, a few years ago, French national newspaper Le Monde declared Paris a city in the throes of clubbing death.

But more recent years have shown promise. The Paris episode of Resident Advisor’s Real Scenes video series in late 2012 showed a new breed of producers, DJs and promoters teaming up with enthused veterans to hunt for new spaces, open up dialogue and push the image of Paris as a city on the mend. In 2015, Concrete is perhaps the most visible example of how those efforts have worked to the scene’s benefit, and a festival like Weather has duly positioned itself as a hub for local fans and artists, as well as a tourist destination that will bolster its reputation abroad. Now in its third year, Weather’s got its work cut out, so as my friends and I headed to opening night, we deliberated on how the festival might carve out a unique space for itself.

Rather than wrestle with the issues that would come with hosting an inner-city festival in the style of Barcelona’s Sonar, Weather is situated in a field clearing on the edge of a nearby town called Joinville-le-Pont. The site is entirely open air, with five stages of varying sizes and production value dubbed Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and—oddly out of theme—Modular, which are spread along the outer reaches of a large central thoroughfare. The organizers took measures to keep the grounds as unspoiled as possible: the toilet facilities are “dry,” (let’s not go any further with that one), and drinking cups cost 1€ each in a bid to cut down on ubiquitous festival litter. Beyond that, though, the overall set-up is fairly unremarkable to the point of cutting back on expected facilities. There’s nowhere to charge your phone, there are criminally few bars for a site planning to host tens of thousands, and the food on offer is limited and rushed compared to the more considered offerings at comparable European events. Woe forbid if you’re a vegetarian—you’ll be eating fries for days.

The best indication of a festival’s mood—besides the music, of course—is the crowd, and the Parisian one is particularly young. People in their late teens to mid-20s seem to dominate, and at first it seems that age is all that unites them. There’s little trace of the techno Death Eater aesthetic popular among Berlin clubbers, nor the aspirational streetwear sensibilities of various UK-centric scenes. In fact, for a city globally acclaimed for its easy but refined style, any sense of youth fashion is low-key to the point of becoming forgettable. I got the sense that Weather is a more of a big weekend out for locals rather than a musical destination for ardent followers from the city’s underground.

But the bookings do glow. The opening night was headlined by a performance of Derrick May’s legendary techno material as conveyed by the 60-piece Orchestre Lamoureux, and it was one of the finest manifestations of live techno instrumentation I’ve ever seen. Helmed by May and conductor Dzijan Emin, the orchestra did away with the vast cheeseball brass that can overpower the bass-driven core of similar projects. The xylophone in particular was a masterstroke, and its subtleties chimed beautifully through the deep 4×4 heartbeat. Nearing the end of the hour-long performance, pianist Francesco Tristano teased the crowd with a five-minute solo, riffing on the melody of May’s most famous track, “Strings of Life.” Emin took a confident, baiting pause before the whole ensemble launched into a 10-minute explosion that made the previously measured crowd scream. It was classical and techno music rendered vital and modern, and we left on a high, pumped for the Friday and Saturday onslaughts to come.


Since Weather ran from late evening until 8AM on both nights, we committed ourselves to the long haul, but the mood of the music on offer tested our sense of pace as well as our patience. Paris, it seems, is in the thralls of deep and dark techno, as if nipping at the heels of a Berlin calling card. When we walked onsite at 9 p.m. to see Ricardo Villalobos’ three-hour set of wriggling post-punk, trippy house and techno oddities, we knew these would be the most relaxed and varied vibes we were likely to experience that weekend.

Wringing out my clothes in dark rooms to punishing techno is a hobby that I’ve cultivated over the years. But due to premature summer sunrises and unpredictably balanced open-air sound systems that often lacked chest-rattling low end, sets that should have torn the festival apart occasionally felt stifled. The depth and power that DVS1 and Rødhåd are capable of was somewhat lost in the chattering of the wider crowd. Xosar’s playful selections of abrasive, psychedelic techno—including cuts from her excellent new LP, Let Go—were rid of nuance because of the criminally quiet sound levels. And one of the prize billings, the world premiere of a collaborative live set by L.I.E.S. labelhead Ron Morelli, The Trilogy Tapes’ Low Jack and noise god Vatican Shadow (who screamed and leapt on tables), was battered so far into the red that it made our ears glow purple.

After repeatedly inconsistent experiences with sound on the various stages, we relaxed our pre-planned schedules and wandered across the site to catch acts less beholden to mass appeal. One such act, and perhaps the most rewarding of the entire festival, was a live modular performance from Minimal Wave’s In Aeternam Vale. While the far larger Autumn and Winter stages boasted top-tier, large-scale lighting and visual production value, the smallest Modular stage had the most consistent, bass-heavy sound and comparatively studied bookings across the weekend. Before Blawan’s brand-new live set (which was more languid than his usual hard-as-nails style, tumbling around the mid-to-high 130BPM range) and the founders of Britain’s cult festival Freerotation, Stevio and Suzybee, In Aeternam Vale subtly stunned the crowd into submission. Live modular techno has become a by-word for relentless abrasion in the recent “industrial” techno revival, but this was a varied and absorbing articulation of how bass can be a gravitational pull, rather than a tool to keep tired feet moving.

Brice Robert PhotographeAntigone and Abdulla Rashim. Photo by Brice Robert.

In fact, barely a body moved throughout the hour and a half he played. Instead, awkward New Wave vocals were distorted past androgyny and into hypnotic streams of thought, with low-slung, smutty struts of electro peppering the bass with long-studied practice. It rinsed us of our high, but left us with a steady flow of adrenaline that lingered throughout the night. The Modular stage kept those who wished to slam through the night to harder offerings like Antigone, Abdulla Rashim, Mr. G, or the glorious pairing of DJ Deep and Roman Poncet separate from the bodies who just wanted to float in the modular weirdness and warm, mid-morning ether.

Heading home in the baking Saturday morning sun, after Jeff Mills inexplicably played “The Bells” twice in his three-hour set, my team compared notes. We heartily agreed that, musically, Weather Festival and Concrete did a fantastic job booking some truly strange electronic music in a huge public setting; nearly 50,000 people attended across the three nights-into-mornings. Considering that its critically acclaimed counterpart, Dekmantel, hosted 10,000 per day last year, it’s a testament to not only the appetite that Parisian crowds have for quality house and techno music right now, but the sense of scale, ambition and investment in this underground music as a tourist draw. The ease with which we could float from stage to stage, from memorable set to equally memorable set, shows that the crews behind the operation have excellent, on-the-money taste.

We observed no violence among the huge crowd, appreciated the watchful but mercifully subtle security presence and couldn’t help but smile to see young teenagers re-group—with bubbling energy, even after 12 hours of relentless fist-pumping—to playfully argue about who really was the shit. If Weather organizers can hold down their tastes next year while honing some of the more logistical aspects of the overall festival experience, particularly the consistency and quality of the sound, then it won’t be long until international audiences start flocking more readily to a city revitalized, once again, by the techno-loving masses.

Header image by Jacob Khrist

Dorian Concept— “I realized that the biggest challenge for me would be to do something simple.”

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Mon 20 Oct 2014 11:45 am

If you were involved in the late 2000s ecosystem of auteuristic European hip-hop labels like Kindred Spirits, Nod Navigators, LuckyMe, and Arkestra Discos, there’s a fair chance you came across Dorian Concept’s YouTube videos. The Austrian producer’s single-shot uploads focused squarely on his fingers, which flickered back and forth across the keyboards of his microKORG and Casio SA-21 synthesizers. The clips are still absorbing displays of memory, improvisation, and trickery that enthrall keyboard nerds—and they’re also a cool-as-hell way to see hip-hop played live.

Today, Ninja Tune released his second LP, Joined Ends, but it’s not a throwback to those one-man keyboard days, which we documented in a past SLICES feature. Instead, it’s a pleasingly cohesive journey through downbeat hip-hop, jazz, and lopsided pop that simmers with life. We caught up with Dorian Concept to talk about playing live, his self-taught skills, and how being from Austria taught him how to think about hip-hop.

First off, I find it hard to believe that it’s been 5 years since your last LP was released.

Well, I consider When Planets Explode my “mini LP.” It came out that way because, although the label I was working with at the time, Kindred Spirits, had planned an EP, that period between 2007 and 2009 was probably the most productive ever for me. I was studying in Salzburg and getting used to my  microKORG. Everything was very fresh, and since we had so many tracks, it ended up as an LP. Since then, I’ve been really drawn to the romantic image of consciously working on an album from scratch. I consider Joined Ends my first LP proper.

What have you been doing in the years between When Planets Explode and Joined Ends?

I still have my solo live show built around me improvising on the microKORG, mostly over backing tracks through my laptop. By 2011, I’d saved enough from all the shows to step up my set-up, as it were, so I invested in some new gear.

So the album was made with this new gear, then? What did you buy?

This whole journey started with the Moog Prodigy, which is an old synthesizer. For a long time, the microKORG has been the budget, universal synthesizer. I’ve got a great history with it, but the Moog Prodigy is different. It’s an older synth, and having a vintage instrument has really helped me to rearrange my head musically.

What is it about the Moog Prodigy that helped with writing Joined Ends?

On the one hand, there’s this charm to older gear, especially with the limitations it has. The modern way of working with soft synths on your computer has become so simple: switch through presets, scroll through the history of synths with a few clicks. With my history as a keyboardist, it’s very important for me to actually own the instrument rather than replicate it. I was intrigued by the limitation and the creative charm of the Prodigy—the things that get lost in the process, the things that become a bit more complicated with the analog approach, and the culture attached to it.

I find Joined Ends to be a much less frantic and club-orientated listen than When Planets Explode. When it came to the writing of the LP, what zone were you in?

Joined Ends is a lot simpler than anything I’ve done before. Looking back at my earlier material, I realized that the biggest challenge for me would be to do something simple. Once I had the arrangements going, I managed to hide the franticness in the tracks. It feels weird because, while the tracks may feel mellow, there are these weird layers tucked into it all. I still have that energy in me, but it’s now about my weird way of controlling it.

Condensing that energy has always been an interesting element of your music. But surely that energy is already “contained” in a way if it’s all just you?

I’m definitely aware of and have accepted the fact that the whole keyboardist thing is a real hook for me. I’m definitely not shy about my skills. It’s something I have fun with doing, but it’s also used to separate me as a performer and me as a producer. I’ve been trying to reconnect the two with how I was self-taught through my love of jazz. I went back to some old series, like the Coltrane Quartet records, and Live At Birdland. To be honest, I think it’s that I’m now old enough to be sentimental for the first time in my life.

What were you sentimental for?

I realized that I grew up with downbeat music in Austria. People recording a Rhodes loop, and having a hip-hop instrumental with it, was my first exposure to hip hop, even though it was basically Austrian lounge music.

What’s particularly Austrian about that style?

The Viennese—when you look at the city and its creatives, there’s this introverted energy.  I think it comes down to the fact that the city isn’t exactly overwhelming. Were always in the top three of “life qualities” in the world, usually along with Vancouver and Zurich. There’s very little struggle for the Viennese. You don’t feel the energy from outside as much and because people need friction, you begin to struggle within yourself a lot more. That’s why the album is built on more introverted energy. Working with struggles within, rather than without.

Drunk On Vibes: Dekmantel Festival reviewed

Delivered... Lauren Martin | Scene | Thu 7 Aug 2014 2:38 pm

All photos by De Fotomeisjes.

Back and bigger than the 2013 event, Dekmantel Festival’s second edition has lost none of its singular atmosphere, says Lauren Martin.


Surveying the electronic music festival landscape of 2014, regulars and newcomers alike are met with a daunting selection. The Croatian coastline practically needs a holiday from itself, once niche European festivals like Sonar are now solid commercial enterprises, and the awkward pre-teen of US EDM has beefed out into a relentless juggernaut that functions not as a continuation of, but a conscious removal from club culture; queue here, pay fifty dollars for an Avicii shirt, “Be part of something, man”. Unless you refuse to ever leave your local techno bunker, you’ve likely spent some time this summer choosing which three-day endurance test to throw your money at and, with myriad options and only a few (at a financial stretch) choices to make, it’s the pretty young things full of promise and surprise, like Amsterdam’s Dekmantel, that really get the people excited.

Having attended its first year and been overwhelmingly impressed—tight organization, a killer line-up, a beautiful setting and a relaxed yet enthused atmosphere—we wondered less how the Dekmantel Soundsystem would execute this year’s event with the same fervor, and more if it would retain the magic of discovery that had made last year so memorable. Having (rightly) been given unanimously glowing reviews for 2013, there was every chance that 2014 could have been smothered by the British swarm that Croatia and Spain seem at the mercy of, and transform the Amsterdam Bos into a side-eye inducing weekend of tripping over laughing gas canisters, and inwardly pitting shufflers against one another.

News that there were to be nearly twice as many attendees as the year before instilled some concern, too. What made 2013 such a well-rounded experience was its conceptual framing: a graduation from a respected clubbing ethos to a weekender that could take its loyal following with it, and all without eroding an established music policy. The overwhelmingly Dutch crowd—chilled out, stylish and enthusiastic—made our presence feel like a welcome absorption into a native club event rather than a commercial tourist trap, so with such international exposure and promised expansion, we were going in with high hopes yet one eye half shut.

Within minutes of returning to the site, though, we smiled in relief. Despite the increase in capacity the site was almost exactly the same as the year before, yet it still managed to feel spacious. The open-air Resident Advisor main stage, with its wraparound LED screens and exposed soundsystem, looked elegant and sounded clear. This was the club taken into the open, without the overwrought theatrics of many of its contemporaries.

Last year’s RBMA tent had been moved adjacent to the main stage and was now this year’s XLR8R tent, too. With the two largest areas greeting you on entry, you were free to explore the further edges of the site: the narrow corridor of the Warnsteiner Selectors stage, with its overhanging willow trees creating a sun-speckled canopy; the addition of the wooden-decked RBMA area, which felt like a casual rooftop party lowered into a forest; and the return of Boiler Room, arranged in a woodland corner with its own bar and a more exposed view than last year’s lively yet cramped tunnel. Each stage was designed to look and feel different from its neighbor, which created a necessary visual contrast and sense of intrigue within such a small site.

As the bodies poured in throughout the Friday afternoon, it became apparent that the core Dekmantel crowd remained intact, too. Sure, there was a marked increase in British attendees on last year—floral headbands, hot pant under-butt and waxed chests appeared as standard, hyper-aggressive shuffling to Karenn perhaps less so—but the continued pull of the locals and the 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. schedule meant that the party never visibly tipped over into tourist-centric messiness. With previous concerns about scale and quality quashed, then, we dived straight in.

For a festival heavy on kick drum techno madness, Friday’s line-up was a varied offering that eased us into the spirit of things. Braiden’s early afternoon set at the RBMA stage saw him in a playful mood: the spirited groove of Moodymann’s “The Third Track” and Debbie Jacobs’ sultry disco classic “Don’t You Want My Love” sharpened our shoulders, and confirmed that he’s one of the UK’s finest yet largely underrated DJs. Like Genius of Time’s dreamy acid track “Juno Jam”, Jacobs’ anthem was heard time and again across the weekend; conveying a mood of low-key luxury that rang loud and clear in Canadian label Mood Hut’s excellent selections of deep house, R&B and disco—all punctuated by their flailing limbs and heart-warming sing-alongs, which we duly joined in with. For brief respite amongst it all, we lay on the grass over at the main stage as Magic Mountain High’s improvisational set strung out acid lines into distorted, techno freakiness. These more chilled offerings built upon one another right up until the first of the weekend’s superstars, DJ Harvey, who stood firm behind the willow trees of the Selectors stage.

DekmantelFestival-De Fotomeisjes-Electronic-Beats

DJ Harvey is, in short, a sexy beast. With each seamless transition a sly grin ripped across his face, and his notorious “Bask in my glory, fuckers” attitude waved over us as we stamped down hard and (quite literally) swung from the trees to his rapid-fire selections of deep house and classic disco: Paul Woolford’s massive piano-led hit “Untitled” sitting comfortably alongside TC Crew’s “I Can’t Do It Alone”, and we mentally squirmed; trying to lock every last blend into our artillery for the next “house party rescue” moment.

With the groove of the day at fever pitch we closed with Jackmaster and Oneman’s Can U Dance project: bodies doubling up towards the sky as Numbers classics like Piddy Py’s “Giggle Riddim” were blasted out to the liveliest, most obviously British crowd of the night. Double and triple acts populate Dekmantel—the poorly named but worthwhile Talaboman, the superstar majesty of 3 Chairs and the militancy of Answer Code Request and Steffi’s b2b set, to name a few—but what makes Can U Dance an indulgent yet well-placed festival prospect is the feeling that this was born of friends who finish each others sentences so often, that they figured they should finish each others blends, too.

Saturday saw both Dekmantel and the crowd put to the test, however, with the gloomy promise of an electrical storm. Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall’s skilled set was cut short only half an hour into its allotted two hours, and the crowd were packed in as the back three stages were shut off until 6 p.m.. Concern rippled through the crowd as the sky turned a foreboding blue-ish gray, but the close quarters meant that two of the finest sets of the festival were met with a generous audience.

Joey Anderson’s signature style is at the druggier end of a current crop of esoteric house music: raw in production yet languid in delivery, his set swelled with power and curious heads turned in approval with each rising holler. The tent was heaving half an hour in and by the time the last drone teased itself out, the crowd were rapturous in their applause. Anderson was visibly humbled by the experience, but having been taken into the Dekmantel fold with this year’s superb debut LP After Forever, those who knew him well showed little surprise for how natural the two-hour event felt.

As the air thickened, those who stuck it out were rewarded with Shackleton. Years after boiling down the organs of Skull Disco into his polyrhythmic swarm of glacial shatterings and tribal wails, this unassuming Yorkshireman stands alone in a modern echo chamber of his own making. The insistence of his live set held such a foreboding command over the crowd that it felt as if he was drawing on the storm warning, as the close heat prickled with every new, intricate sequence. With the crowd left dripping by the set’s close, it was apparent that, throughout dubstep’s decade of mutation, Shackleton remains a monumental figure. Between himself and Anderson, too, those three heady hours inside a baking festival tent were Dekmantel’s knowing nod to club culture proper: sweat it out, or get out.

It was a sentiment that went full throttle on the last day, too. Typically, the Sunday of a festival is when the trolls roll onsite late in the day, weary from their regime of stage-hopping and hangovers, but Dekmantel’s Sunday was their finest of the three line-ups, and when the joy of techno music manifested in collective rapture. Marcel Fengler and Efdemin’s early set had the XLR8R tent pumping barely past lunchtime and, as much as DJ Harvey’s full-throttle mania got us hyped only a couple of nights before, Ben UFO’s humble demeanour in the same stage made his execution all the more inspiring. Although praise for Ben UFO isn’t exactly in short supply, it would be amiss to recount this year’s festival without a love letter to his craftsmanship and encyclopedic knowledge: working the “Applause Riddim” (Sizzla’s “Run Out Pon Dem”), Dat Oven’s “Icy Lake” and a garage remix of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” into the space of ten minutes with a playful sincerity that renders him a unique prospect.

By the late afternoon, the crowds were less fresh, more drunk on vibes. Young Marco and Motor City Drum Ensemble’s outings at Boiler Room were inspired journeys through soul, disco, house and just about every noodling strand in between, and the crowd sing-along when Motor City Drum Ensemble dropped Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” made the weary believers again. Karenn’s rescheduled set on the RA main stage was the most disgusting display of militant, nosebleed techno—an hour long screw face punctuated with screams of “fucking heeeeell”—but not even they could warm up the kick drum for Robert Hood, who executed the set of the festival without breaking a sweat. This was a warm, deep, rich, relentless display of techno music that once again confirmed his status as a true master. Listening to and dancing to of all of this was a crowd who I never once hear make a genuine complaint about sound quality, track selection, artist appearances or organization, instead sprinting between stages so as not to miss a single track from their underground heroes. Dekmantel was rattling through superstars with fervor and by the time Jeff Mills basked in the pink and orange glow of the RA main stage for its close, this small crew of Dutch club promoters had ten thousand people in the palms of their hands.


For those strong-willed enough to make it to the official after-parties, Trouw was the club where clothes went to drown and minds were wrung out by JD Twitch and JG Wilkes, aka quasi-regal DJ duo Optimo. Having closed the Selectors stage the same night, they barely had time to breathe before jumping into the DJ pit of Trouw’s mammoth upstairs corridor-room, and smacking the thousands-deep crowd with a relentless selection including Debbie Jacobs’ “Don’t You Want My Love”. With the news that Trouw is to close in 2015, the collective imperative to experience Trouw in all its immersive glory was all the more pressing, and hearing Jacobs’ cries for love rattle off the dampening concrete walls confirmed just how neatly Dekmantel had this entire weekend tied up. It’s no small feat for a small crew of local club promoters to start up a festival of niche electronic music, but to sell it out and execute it to unanimous acclaim has quickly crowned them hometown heroes. Thank you, Dekmantel. I can still hear Debbie now. ~

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