Nestled within the historically rich coastline of Pula – Croatia, London collective Comm.une returns for a fourth year with their electronic dance festival Dimensions.
Sister festival of Outlook, Dimensions has established itself as one of the finest purveyors of quality underground electronic music, both for its stellar programming, lighting and sound systems, as well as the quintessentially Croatian backdrop of paradise on the Adriatic Sea.
Following in Dimensions tradition, the opening ceremony took place in Pula’s magnificent 2000 year-old Roman amphitheatre, where the bloody lion baiting and lethal gladiatorial battles of the past have given way to the modern thrills of flashing lights, drum machines and glowing smartphones. Floating Points and his 16-strong classical ensemble fused old and new musical forms in a cinematic performance which brought the ancient arena back to life.With an appetite well and truly whet, Swedish band Little Dragon took to the stage headed by Yukimi Nagano – with her characteristically buttery voice bellowing throughout the theatre. Their rework of Constant Surprises was one performance of notable merit, with analogue synthesizers, sampling and effects utilised expertly. Closing things out was the ever enigmatic stylings of Four Tet. His set was a slow burner, and it somewhat detracted from the atmosphere that had been built by his predecessor. But it wasn’t too long until the 4/4 thump gripped the theatre, and his latest release morning/evening EP was duly receiving an encore.
Alongside ground-breaking sound systems (selected and managed by the same people that run the main stage at Glastonbury), sensory immersion is also accentuated by the unique surroundings – with eight distinctive stages located across an abandoned 19th century fortress.
The largest arena, the Clearing, is a vast grassy space fronted by a mammoth triangular metal frame hanging above a cliff. On the first night Dorian Concept delivered an amalgamation of spacey rhythms and textured energy. His successor to the stage – Mount Kimbie, heralded delectable experimentation in combining wayward melodies with uncompromising grooves. Heavier and coarser deliverance came from a thunderous techno set by Juan Atkins and a closing set from Blawan where his fiery selections were halted momentarily by a pesky beat repeat malfunction.
The Moat stage – a 100m long excavated trench around the main fort – is one of the most immersive arenas. Within its dusty depths, three rows of towering sound systems create a sound so palpable you could run your fingers through it. The Hessle Audio fellowship, Ben UFO X Pangaea X Pearson Sound explored elements of dark hysteria, and weighty techno. As the alarm sirens of Arman Van Heldens ‘Witch Doctor’ rework filled the complex, people began to lose their shit!
A fiery live analogue show from Legowelt, was tailgated by an unrelenting techno performance from Intergalactic Gary. Daniel Avery confidently sent the place in uproar with robotic meditations, and whilst Boddika was warming up with delinquent bass selections, his set was woefully cut short by a power outage. Though The Moat was a hotbed of belligerent techno, Hunee’s archetypal brand of infectious groove and soulful bounce was complemented by a B2B show with Rush Hour co-founder Antal. A strong positive energy had been cultivated during their set and I would go as far as to say, one of the best sets of the week.
The eerie hillside landscape of the Garden stage – with its glowing trees was a fitting environment for Space Dimension Controller’s showcase of dreamy cuts and ritualistic melodies. The sloped terrain of the Garden stage can get pretty arduous though, and our time there was pretty limited by this factor.
Hidden away in the corner of the festival is the Arija stage, and though we didn’t find ourselves there for too long, it was great to see our Bristolian friend Harri Pepper juggle surfy, disco edits with playful house grooves (including the much lauded Tabu Ley Rochereau – Hafi Deo).
Mungo’s Arena is steeped in attitude. After crossing a drawbridge suspended above a moat, you pass under the arena’s towering stony entrance into its courtyard. Housed within this medieval setting is the Glaswegian dub rig Mungo’s Hi-fi – one of the festivals most celebrated sound systems with its manipulating personality, and devious dexterity.
Dimensions mainstay Mala demonstrated his aptitude for controlling and driving a crowd’s collective consciousness through thick, slabby dubstep and atmospheric reggae, during his broody carnivalesque performance. Loefah’s follow up jungle set didn’t quite manage to retain the same level of energy in the arena, but Goldie’s return sure as hell did. I am pleased to note that he managed to not lose his wedding ring whilst moshing in the crowd this year.
The Fort Arena, with its long rectangular base sits at the foot of a hill – where the lofty Dimensions sign shines out onto the Adriatic – like a beguiling lighthouse. Due to a missed flight, Moodymann was unable to perform his tribute set to J Dilla, however Gilla expertly took the reins on this show, throwing down rarities from Dilla’s back-catalogue as well as Gilla’s own personal remixes. Loefah provided a three hour educational exploration through the history of Chicago house, whilst local rising talent Homeboy (Wolf Music) transported the crowd on puffy sound-waves of Balearic soul and shuffling tempo.
Neighbouring the Fort Arena is The Void stage, with a sound system sharing the same name. A hotly anticipated set from Lil Louis brought to the fore his blend of monstrous Chicago house, bold techno, and thunderous emotion – all amplified through the futuristic dexterity of the Void’s sound system.That evening at The Void (and following a standout performance from Alexander Nut) the other half of Eglo Recordings management, Floating Points headed the stage to explore more club orientated selections than his set at the opening night. Alongside some solid techno, he also dropped his go-to track, which I’ve seen him play twice this year now: Crustation – Flame (Mood II Swing borderline insanity dub mix).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Croatian festival without boat parties on the glimmering waters of the Adriatic. On-board SS Flux Dan Shake and K15 commandeered the ship into wild levels of boozy hysteria, whilst later that evening (on the Dollop party) Romare & Max Graef performed eclectic house and boogie breaks under a setting sun – on a rather over-populated boat (to some dismay). Alongside hosting their own boat parties, NTS and Berlin Community both broadcasted live shows from the VIP/ Press tent featuring Charlie Bones, Alexander Nut, and Telephones.
The live performances this year were just as forward thinking, with NAO slingshotting 200 odd sun-bathers in to uncontrollable wobble, and the multi-talented FKJ was another standout act, performing bass guitars, samplers, synthesizers and drum machines all with super tight timing. Cat’s got more soul than army boots.
London’s CDR returned to the Knowledge Arena this year to showcase their informative classes in Ableton alongside conversations from artists like Mala and the infamous funk-father George Clinton. Clinton spoke of previous run-ins with the law, getting screwed over, copyright issues, and hip hop influences. He’s a very humble and interesting man and you must check out his new book.
As you may tell from this review, there isn’t really much mark down. But reflecting back on the week in Croatia, it is quite hard to draw negatives from a festival so well programmed, and nestled in a little slice of heaven. They cap the ticket sales to 6000, so you have a boutique festival, without the compromises on world class DJs, and world class sound systems. The prices at the festival are not reminiscent of Zimbabwean hyperinflation, and the security are lenient and professional.
In short – see you next year Dimensions!