Three years in, the Croatian festival is no longer merely ‘Outlook’s younger brother’…
Presented with a bigger choice of competing options than ever before, there was some doubt in our minds as to whether we’d make it a hat-trick of consecutive trips to Fort Punta Christo for Dimensions this year. Now, happily returned from another week of sun-kissed fort based electronic music, we’re rather ashamed to admit such concerns ever crossed our mind. The team behind the festival made only small tweaks to their already refined formula – but there’s every reason to think that this may have been the best edition yet.
The most obvious change came in terms of the date, which saw Dimensions swapping places with Outlook to take place in the last weekend of August. On the ground this meant that we arrived to a campsite fully unspoiled by the latter festival and its bass-driven excess, whilst the weather also (mainly) held out to a greater degree than before. As with last year, the activities in the fort were preceded by an opening concert in Pula’s ancient Roman amphitheater on the Wednesday night. The music on this occasion lent largely towards the cerebral – with Darkside and Nils Frahm in particular delivering expansive and mesmerising performances. There was nothing wrong with this persay, although given the outbreak of dancing and smiling provoked by Caribou’s two drummer assisted set, the organisers may have been advised in booking a line up more geared towards a higher energy level. Nonetheless, the ability to use a venue more commonly associated with gladiatorial re-enactments is a unique trump card up the festival’s sleeve.
Blessed with the wisdom accrued from two previous trips, we took this visit to Croatia as a chance to explore some of the many options that orbit the festival site. For the brave/stupid, we can wholeheartedly endorse a spot of cliff diving and a trip to the Lower Kamenjak peninsula, whilst carnivore’s paradise Alla Beccaccia (Hyponik recommendations: Beccaccia cold platter, pasta with truffle, wood oven cooked Beefsteak with Mushrooms or Wild Boar, washed down with a few litres of the house red and some local Fig Brandy, costing around £20 per head), was more than worth the ten minute drive. Those who chose to spend their days at the festival’s own dedicated portion of beach though were treated to a greater programme of musical treats than ever before – with John Wizards’ Afro-Psych Pop and Mo Kolours’ rootsy grooves going down particularly well under the beating sun. Always leaning towards intimate in terms of its capacity, the festival – and in particular its daytime activities, provided ample opportunity to make and continue to bump into new friends. French, German and Australian accents were just as likely to be heard as English ones, and it was also good to see a sizeable Croatian contingent present.
The music itself was again chosen with care by the programming team – who continue to neglect the easier, more commercial route many of their competitors have gone down. An admirable policy, it also goes some way to explaining the good behaviour and general attitude of what was a very music focused crowd. One real curveball from this year’s line up came in the form of Jazz and Soul legend Roy Ayers – who performed one of Dimensions’ first sets at The Clearing on Thursday. The husky voiced Ayers and his tight band got the party vibes rolling from the off, with a host of classics such as ‘Don’t Stop The Feeling’ and ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ bringing about a sea of ear to ear grins – “Aint no party like a Roy Ayers party, and a Roy Ayers party don’t stop!” Live music in all its forms found a suitable home at The Clearing during the festival – whether it was the epic Electronica of Jon Hopkins, the Afro vibrations of Ebo Taylor or the RnB of Hyponik favourite Fatima.
Venturing into Fort Punta Christo itself found all the arenas and their bespoke soundsystems in better nick than ever. The Void, formerly Outside The Fort, was often the scene of a snaking queue – although this was efficiently dealt with on nearly all occasions. Inside punters were met with a level of sonic clarity that you’d likely struggle to find in most clubs – a good thing too, given the caliber of artists that graced its stage. The Thursday saw an Ostgut Ton take over which began with label boss Nick Hoppner and a patience testing 45 minute sojourn into plaintive atmospherics. Soon though he remembered his surroundings, and West African drum workouts got feet moving along with 90’s classics like Murk’s rework of Liberty City’s ‘If You Really Want Somebody’. His colleague Tama Sumo took things to a breakneck pace with new cuts from Objekt woven into punishing Acid bombs, with the occasional camp Disco-House number added to cool things off once in a while. Following on from her, Ben Klock drew a decent reception – although there was something about his impeccably mixed Industrial schtick that felt rather out of place heard under the glorious moonlight. Theo Parrish the following night also fell a little flat due to a rather stubborn tendency to avoid playing too much to the occasion – with any residual momentum dampened by his regrettable tendency to tweak the filters ad nauseam. The Sound Signature boss is without peer on his day, though unfortunately his day wasn’t at Dimensions. The Void was also the site of a by all accounts epic back to back session from Motor City Drum Ensemble and Floating Points on Sunday, at a time when biblical storms kept ourselves and many equally weather sensitive festival-goers away from the Fort.
One Motor City maestro who hit all the right notes was Moodymann. Taking the stage with two ‘assistants’ on Saturday night, he stayed off the mic for a conspicuously long amount of time to start. The result was the most considered performance we’ve ever seen from him, packed with highlights such as Pepe Bradock’s transcendent classic ‘Deep Burnt’, Floating Points recent summer jam ‘King Bromeliad’ and Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’. Creating an atmosphere that even he would struggle to repeat, he later treated fans to an inspired analogy relating to love making and eclecticism that rounded off what was surely one of the most flawless sets of his illustrious career. The same night saw another freewheeling performance at The Clearing as Dan Snaith donned his Daphni guise to drop some perfectly chosen club killers – with Double 99’s lethal ‘RIP Groove’ serving to cause one of the biggest reactions of the weekend.
As with any trip to this part of the Adriatic coast, the Mungo’s Hi-Fi arena provided some of the most satisfyingly intense moments, with the Glaswegian soundsystem consistently delivering the perfect amount of chest-rattling bass to showcase artists spanning the full width of the hardcore continuum – just enough low to tickle the tip of your nose. Major highlights from across this stage were a live set from Rhythm & Sound’s Tikiman alongside Scion, Mala and dBridge, with Digital Mystikz’ ‘Haunted’ in particular going straight for the jugular – Mungo’s shine a light in the darkness!
A draw for many at the festival came not in the form of a specific artist, but rather an arena. The Moat is genuinely unlike any other musical space in the world; a 100m long passage flanked by five meter high walls, accessible only by descending a metallic staircase . Inside the sonics are impeccable, with bass wading punters about from front-to-back. This alone meant it was often full to capacity even early on in the evening, but with the addition of some of contemporary House and Techno’s most interesting names it became an essential stop. London’s comm•une collective led the way on Thursday with a nicely varied roll call that included a spellbinding turn from Damiano Von Eckert, an ocean deep set by Fred P and rave trench madness from the mysterious Marquis Hawkes. Friday saw the rosters of Hessle Audio and L.I.E.S go head to head – finishing off with a brutal sunrise set from Pangaea that will live long in the memory. Less obvious names such as varied trio Italojohnson stole the show on Saturday, dropping cuts that took cues from Dub Techno and Hardcore to the delight of a rabidly fist pumping crowd.
Sunday’s less than ideal weather aside, Dimensions 2014 was a resounding success in every possible way. From its somewhat tentative beginnings three years ago as an experimental offshoot of Outlook, Dimensions has grown into one of Europe’s most finely put together electronic music events. The brave booking policy continues to eschew the obvious in favour of finding interesting angles that separate Dimensions’ musical programming from that of its many competitors. The festival experience itself remains relaxed but open to life affirming moments of dancefloor nirvana that are only magnified by taking place in a setting that, to borrow a line from one of the Dimensions’ unofficial anthems, will ‘never grow old’.