Dimensions Festival 2012

...people who take their music seriously
Dimensions review use this.JPG

Although the rain stopped at the end of the first weekend, the floor in Fort Punta Christo had already been churned into a sticky mud soup. By the time Dimensions arrived, replacing Outllook’s yardcore style with its faceless, lunar blues, the churn had hardened into an impermeable cap of hard topsoil. The festival’s spirit, for Clash, would live at the scene of Carl Craig’s ‘69’ set: the bass drum, hitting like an enormous absorptive sponge which is Craig’s techno signature, still summoned particles of dust from the dance floor which, caught between those blues and the darkness within the stone walls of Fort Arena 1, combined to create an experience so individual that it would remain welded in Clash’s mind.

Why individual? Johnny Scratchley, Dimensions’ organizer, had combined all the elements of the festival in a way to outclass its nearest competitors, Sónar and Bloc. Sónar By Night’s anonymous airport hangar-y venue was superseded by Dimensions’ Austro-Hungarian fort; Bloc’s wintery Somerset setting (let’s forget the Docklands debacle) was edged out by a seaside, summertime Croatia. The line-up? The combination of acts like Portico Quartet’s fragile virtuosity, alongside Mala’s roots dubstep and Scuba’s flinty retro-techno, made for the most uncompromising line-up yet seen on a big festival poster.

Alongside all the featured events, the fun thing about Dimensions where the weird little sub-events occurring off the sides of the venue. I didn’t go to many, but they sounded fun. Secret cliff-jumping? A weird psy-trance woods party, only accessible by a rope-bridge perhaps? Rave on a basketball court? The venue was awash with rumours of all these sorts of events, all of which made for a welcome break from casual mockery of the shuttle driver’s choice of in-car music. Tough crowd.

The marquee names, coincidentally, weren’t always as much fun as the lesser-known DJs. Of course there was Mala, wowing the crowds, kicking off with a suitably imposing five-minute wall of pure, notched bass – compered by MC Chunky – attempting an unflinching recreation of his DMZ crowd – brave, at 1,000 miles from home.

But it was in a snakeskin-lit circular stone Courtyard stage that we discovered what we yearned: after all, this was a summer evening in Croatia! The incredible DJ Rum was rocking his own party; a set of huge proportions: Rodney P tracks, followed by some excellent falter-funk garage vibes.

On a different tip, another impressive if more intense set was provided by Machinedrum, featuring his own brand of dislocated, crispy techno; we heard Cutty Ranks samples spliced into chunky, scattered rhythm that blogs are calling trap music.

Digital Sound Boy’s Zed Bias again provided earnest Dimensions fans with a guilty-pleasure set, dropping Movado remixes and a dubbed-dancehall fest only equalled by Mungo’s Hi Fi themselves, playing their own rig early in the festival, who were followed by the excellent Iration Steppas.

Shackleton confounded his morbid, esoteric reputation by energizing the crowd for his slot, set in one of the best venues of the festival, a sunken, corridor-like moat on the edge of the fort. Dropping ‘Out of Space’ by The Prodigy certainly must have realigned some opinions. Lucha Libre-mask-attired Carl Craig’s was set, in a similar, if larger arena, with banks of flames edging the inner fort walls. The ‘69’ alias tracks that Craig dropped and manipulated live created a deep, immersive blanket, which as critic Mark Fisher wrote about dub music: “work through hints, suggestions and feints: [which] function not as teases, but as positive deviations from both climax and idling on the spot.” The effect is much heightened with Craig’s harder techno, and the tragedy of the set was that, at only an hour long, the intense trip was cut short when Craig, now in a death-white mask, disappeared abruptly from the stage.

The festival had a feeling of an experiment: complicated, brilliant music, set in a fairytale venue, with a summer holiday feel. The feel was not strictly euphoric, yet it was celebratory. A celebration that there can be an event on this level, to cater for people who take their music seriously: the next step in taking underground music up and into the main arena.

Words by Miguel Cullen
Photo Credit: Oliver Clasper

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