House Of Disco

Dimensions Festival: A Review

Review by Séamas O’Reilly

 

 

 

Upon arrival in Pula, the heat struck instantly, having come from London at its most overcast and sodden. Fanning himself with a newspaper, my taxi driver quickly asserted himself as a font of useful knowledge, background information and local history. His name was Roman and he wanted me to know he was excited about Dimensions. He even sought to make me comfortable by turning the radio to a channel playing what sounded like the Level Select music for Alan Shearer Tennis ‘94. He gets it, I thought to myself. Smiling, he pursed his lips and squinted his eyes as if to say “this, compadre… is the *real* shit”. I contorted my face so as to project the appropriate register of delight and in that moment he was satisfied that we were brothers in techno.

Though relatively remote from the world’s gaze, Roman was eager to point out that Pula has, in the last few decades, become a beacon of sorts to subcultures far and wide; festivals come into town for all manner of genres and lifestyles, from folk and house and punk and reggae to – more specific to Roman’s interest – their large, dedicated pool of biker gangs, one of which can claim Roman among their number.
If, like rastas and rave-loving bikers, the town had truly taken Dimensions to its heart, the best place to gauge this would be at the opening concert, held in the truly breathtaking Pula Arena, a stunning 2,000 year old amphiteatre far from the festival site in the town centre. One look at the venue raised expectations for all present, but the crowd had those hopes met with a blissful trip through Nils Frahm’s hypnotic, tonal repertoire, a rousing, leg-shaking set from the irrepressible Roy Ayers and a staggering tour-de-grace from Dark Side, which the Nicolas Jaar-fronted group confirmed would be among their last performances together. Caribou’s set was also predictably brilliant on the night, although lightly marred by a few sound issues early on.

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The opener’s early audio tremors aside, Dimensions itself proved a thoroughly tight ship. Even the set up on the beach’s daytime roster offered a full-strength system blaring out an upbeat blend of disco, house and live work from the likes of Kwabs, Tall Black Guy, Conor L & Joma, The Internet and Trus’Me.
The beach itself was a real delight. Since the main music stages kicked off at around 10pm each night (closing up at 6am), the festival was finely calibrated to the nocturnal rhythms of its more hardened revelers. As a result, if you managed to avoid going completely mad the night before, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how much space you had at the site’s idyllic sun spots during daylight hours. The small cohort of the festival’s 6,000 attendees who did make their way to the beach generally sashayed their lithe, sun-kissed frames from around midday onwards and, though pleasant and charming to a fault, their perfect, hard bodies left even this svelte reporter feeling about as toned, tanned and buff as a surgical stocking filled with dog food.

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There were of course distractions *other* than the fear of dying fat and alone that dragged people from their beach towels. Every day, half a dozen boat parties catered to every conceivable demographic with a positively greedy roster of artists. Competition for tickets was fierce but standouts included Hyperdub’s early sailing on Thursday, which featured Kode9, Scratch DVA and Cooly G as well as the gnarling, energetic frenzy of the Exit Records’ party, which featured drum and bass cuts from Alix Perez, Skeptical and the immeasurable dBridge. Meanwhile the massively over-subscribed Eglo skiff proffered the equally heavyweight attractions of Daphni, Floating Points, Alex Nutt alongside the irrepressible, Fatima. For her part the Eglo diva had wowed the crowds the night before in The Clearing where she attacked her live show with all the cock-sure, bulletproof swagger of Erykah Badu phoning up to contest a very high gas bill.

In the same vein, there were a smattering of other, less explicitly dance-oriented, acts in attendance, with the aforementioned Roy Ayers proving the most high-profile on the roster. Odd Future soul combo The Internet turned some heads for their loungey, beachside set, while Omar put in a good shift readying the Clearing stage for Moodymann on Friday. The peerless, breezy class of Jessy Lanza continued to win over fans to her seductive mélange of chopped n’ screwed R&B and there was a solid, if incongruous, turn from LA rockers Warpaint, who acquitted themselves with great aplomb despite being the only indie-rock act at the entire festival – a mysterious island of ripped denim amid a sea of pressed khaki shorts.
Moodymann’s set itself was a perfect distillation of his distinct appeal, with a classic dose of house and funk classics as well as his by now trademark enthusiasm for impromptu bouts of public speaking. The crowd were suitably entertained when he extemporized on his broad musical diet by comparing it to his varied and unpredictable tastes in the bedroom. Previous to that we’d seen Space Dimension Controller whip the crowd into a frenzy with an excellent selection of synth-pop classics that might have been this reporter’s favourite set of the entire weekend.

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With a slight change to his billing, Theo Parrish arrived without his band due to an ill vocalist that unfortunately put the kybosh on live plans. The crowd needn’t have worried, however, as he duly served up a rollicking set of fader-hectic house and techno that wanted for no greater garnish nor accompaniment. Elsewhere, Jon Hopkins had his set time amended which wrong-footed several festivalgoers, but those who made it were treated to a stonking run through of his inimitable, lavishly cut slices of boffin-house. On stage, he cut such a pleasingly nerdy figure that one hopes a quick peek inside his leather satchel would reveal some cod liver oil tablets, a chemistry set and a slim volume of difficult modern verse. All present agreed that we’d done well to see him at all, since it’s been rumored that his mum banned him from doing any more festivals because those boys from Disclosure keep stealing his pogs and breaking his glasses.

Sunday night began with rolling black clouds ranging in upon the site from 10pm. There followed a spectacular light show, as pretty, bruise-coloured hues swirled around the ominous cloudbanks in truly surreal purples, greens and blues. Sporadic, and then constant lightning soon generated even more melodrama before the heavens inevitably opened with a force that was positively sarcastic.
Spiteful torrents of rain were soon battering everything for miles, and dusty trails from beach to fort melted into treacherous mud slides. The rain fell heavy enough to splash muck and small rocks upwards at waist height while, all around, great stabs of lightning continued to flash through the deluge. In a telling indictment of our collective scientific literacy, this broiling electrical storm sent most of us hurtling for shelter under the nearest tall, metal structures we could find. Where was the analytical mind of Jon Hopkins when you needed it? On a hill, carrying out experiments with his homemade turbines one expects.

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The abject weather conditions soon began to take a severe toll on the event itself and the whole site shut down for safety. Sadly, the Fort Arena I and Clearing stages remained closed for the rest of the event, and a lot of chopping and changing of rosters to compensate ensued. This was a shame as it denied us a few of the more anticipated live acts of the night, as Aux 88, Underground Resistance, Metro Area and Karenn all had their full hardware sets shelved by fears of the inclement weather.
Intractable, sludge-strewn distances rendered me incapable of catching up with Floating Points or Motor City Drum Ensemble at the Void stage, so I settled in for the storm at the Moat stage. Seeing as moats are structures specifically designed *solely* to collect, retain and carry water, we shouldn’t have been too surprised that this function was performed beautifully and we were duly drenched beyond all rescue. This merely emboldened us to abandon any and all pretensions of comfort and just bed in for the rest of the night. We saw out the festival in the company of first Anthony Naples and then Nina Kraviz, who delivered a set that started brooding and lively, before then dividing the audience clean 50/50 in its latter section. The evening was capped off by Techno’s top typographical tough guy Ø [Phase] who won the soggy hearts and minds of the crowd with the festival’s bristling, razor sharp swan-song, now claimed by many as the highlight of the 4 days.

Mud-caked and bedraggled, Dimensions’ hordes stumbled out of the swampy depths some hours later to find an uneasy, mottled-grey sunrise, and a northerly chill that seemed to reflect the cooling off of a hot weekend. We that stayed on for another day or two found that the weather never returned to the highs we’d experienced when we first arrived. When I was eventually driven back to the airport, it was not by Roman, but the taciturn old lady from whom I had rented my apartment; four feet tall, stern and with hair like wire wool, she didn’t like techno or even belong to a biker gang. The radio played Croatian news. I longed for the optimism of a week earlier but the festival had come and gone. Only the hangover remained.

Session Victim – Glow In The Dark EP Review

Review by Matthew Crick

 

 

 

About this time last year, and again on the same unblemished imprint, Session Victim delivered possibly one of the albums of 2012. The unmistakable chopping of disco strings and soulful vocal samples, over the pair’s trademark house beats, comfortably positioned them as two of the forward thinking producers in the last decade.

Glow In The Dark is the German duo’s first EP of 2013, and with the exception of appearances on Wolf Music, Retrofit and What’s In The Box in recent months, we somehow knew that reuniting with the habitual label would ensure quintessential sounds once again.

And this sound is typified in opener ‘Yes I Know’ – those shortened chords and stabbing vocals add the all too familiar substance to a stylish house beat – the perfect track to ignite the weekend’s revelry. Berlin-based Max Graef, who at 19 has a very seasoned ear for house and garage, as well as his own label, Box Aus Holz, adds even more bassy mettle to his slant, without striping away those effective loops. Certainly one emerging producer to keep a close eye on.

And finally, the title track is generally what we all crave from just one single tune, if ever possible, and that’s intoxicating, cheerful disco-soaked house music. This is the kind of music, overall, which should not only demand the respect from its peers, but also inspire the next generation of them.

Listen to the EP here

Come see them play live at our party in London hereListen here

Mano le Tough – Changing Days Album Review

Review by Matthew Crick

 

 

 

If the Mano le Tough blueprint is to create music “that’s more than hands in the air 5am moments in a club”, then his debut LP, Changing Days, could possibly be the antidote for those excessive moments of partying.

And through this album, we could also be encountering the more accomplished Niall Mannion mood at present, rather than the unpolished Mano sound of the past. The Irishman did what many of us would barely survive a weekend from, and eloped to Berlin in his youth to work on his burgeoning marriage to music. Several liaisons later, including notable releases on Mirau and Buzzin Fly, Permanent Vacation were inevitably the ideal working partner to support this particular Mano project.

So, you could say that expectations were ostensibly high then. It opens with ‘Cannibalise’, an eerie and brooding proclamation of self-indulgence in the modern world. The tone does get a little more light-hearted from here on in, with ‘Everything You’ve Done Before’ offering the rewarding use of both an electric organ and Mano’s vocals – elements that feature throughout the album.

When you eventually drift on to ‘Please’, this could so easily be the archetypal 5am track that we’ve all been craving after a hedonistic evening. A stunning, plaintive song that avoids sentimentality. Basically a welcomed five minute cuddle.

‘Moments Of Truth’ then quickly revives you from sedation by furnishing a slap around the face as it announces “You ain’t going to bed just yet my friend”. The latter stages of the album, although slightly more nocturnal and kinetic, could also be the very beginning, overall displaying a clever melodic cycle.

Mano may have produced music that doesn’t necessarily redefine the boundaries, however he is one of the best out there who provokes emotion and reflection.

Listen to the Album here

Mano's album

Osunlade – A Man With No Past Originating The Future Review

Review by Joshua Mason

 

 

 

If like me you’re a little tired of pretentious sounding paradoxical titles to albums and tracks then the title of this latest release by Osunlade may not sit too well with you. I promise however that all can be forgiven once you delve a little deeper. ‘A Man With No Past Originating The Future’ is the seventh studio album to be released by the Yoruba boss, and with a staggering 718 releases on Discogs this is a man that has been on a long and enlightening musical journey. Those of you that would be expecting to hear the usual soulful house music in this album from Osunlade would be very much wrong. Light some scented candles and place yourself cross legged on a cushion because it is simply so much more than that.

The album begins with ‘The Realm of Difference’ which really sets the mood for arguably his most diverse and personal release so far. The track is a trip through an ambient soundscape with flutters of wildlife that complement the gentle beat of a heart like drum. Yoruba records was originally created with the purpose of making music to elevate the soul and the opening track of the album certainly embodies that motif. In ‘Eclipse’ Osunlade gets back to his St. Louis Missouri roots with a jazz adorned track layered with gorgeous guitar licks that gently charm you through the entirety of the song. ‘Sour The Plan’ featuring newcomer Supreme is a politically charged track in which Osunlade speaks his mind. The muted guitar picking resonates in the mind and translates almost as a ticking while he preaches that there’s ‘2 minutes left in the hour glass and time is moving fast.’ It’s tracks like this on the album along with ‘The Vessel’ that show his wisdom and how much this album is from the heart. One of the album highlights for me is ‘Human Beings,’ a beautiful vocoder ballad that lulls you into glossy eyed state of dream and wonder. Waves can be heard lapping onto far away shores and the lyrics speak true as ‘the world before as we know it goes.’

A Man With No Past Originating The Future is an endeavour of love and passion, an individualistic album that stretches musical boundaries while at the same time stays true to the artist. While previous releases by Osunlade have been largely house based, this release is purely music of the world. Many of the tracks are difficult to define genre wise and this only further highlights his versatility and talent as an artist. It’s quite simply a man with nothing to prove making music that he loves.

[Listen to the album here]

onsulade cover