Stumbling through the twilight of dawn as a fourth edition of Dimensions came to a close, I distinctly remember a solitary voice remarking “everyone’s just so nice!”. Those were the sage words of one weary punter, linked arm-in-arm with two friends as the masses traversed down the winding path that led you away from the main site, and few would disagree. Lineup, location, sound specification and music policy are the festival’s major selling points, but nobody can dispute the friendly nature and approachability of the crowd. A few days on and after several washes on a high intensity cycle, I’ve finally managed to shake the dust from the clothes worn over four evenings in Pula’s Fort Punta Christo. While the ears eventually stopped ringing and my wardrobe has begun to to look somewhat presentable enough for the daily grind that is working life, I don’t think I’ll never truly loose the memories forged within the fort’s hallowed passages. Nor would I want to.
A reminder of the vast reach the Austro-Hungarian empire once enjoyed, the fort has undertaken a fascinating transformation since being part of a sprawling costal defence. Once a structure intended to keep invaders out, Fort Punta Christo has been given a new lease of life. Now it exists as a place of inclusion, togetherness and community, where likeminded souls from around the globe can come together in a celebration of the music they love. Combine this with picture-postcard settings of the beach and an abandoned Roman amphitheatre that houses the festival’s opening concert, and the various spaces Dimensions inhabits border on idyllic. Honestly, I struggle to think of a more appropriate setting to get down to some of Jeremy Underground’s rarer soul cuts than a sun-soaked beach full of smiling faces or the absorbing, heads-down productions of Four Tet than within the ancient walls of one of Croatia’s national treasures (the amphitheatre actually features on the 10-kuna note).
Dimensions may truly be a creature of the night, but it doesn’t rest while the sun is shining. You only had to wander a few meters inland from the beach to stumble across the CDR-run Knowledge Area, a space dedicated to creativity and education. Complete with a Native Instruments-powered workshop, it could have become a convenient refuge from the baking heat, but instead was a bustling hub of creativity. Even the novices among us could try their hand with assortment of toys the German technology developers had brought along and as the day wound down, it also hosted a series of lectures from an assortment of musical luminaries. Admittedly, my daytime activities mainly focused around nursing the wounds left from the night before and getting back in the mood for another onslaught. But between soaking up the sunshine, taking an occasional dip in the sparkling Adriatic Sea and getting down to a smörgåsbord of sun-soaked, sonic delights, the hours seemed to melt away. Friday saw bronzed bodies sway to the sounds of Mo Kolours, while those who managed to pull themselves away from their beach towels the following day were serenaded by sultry songstress, Nao. First Word Records boss DJ Gilla also deserves a mention for his efforts to coax the beach crowd out of their post-fort lethargy, but it was Canadian Jazz-fusion trio BadBadNotGood that blew me away with their boundless energy.
By the high standards set on previous years, the festival’s nighttime programming got off to a relatively slow start. That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty to catch. Ninja Tune stalwart Dorian Concept set the tone with a live set on the festival’s main stage [The Clearing], while the early birds were also treated to an eclectic selection courtesy of Italo and Balearic connoisseur, Telephones. The stuff of legend, if you’ve heard of Dimensions, you’ve probably heard of The Moat. It’s hardly surprising that it was between those lofty walls that things really got going. Fragmented, mutant strains of Techno provided by Bristolian man of the moment Hodge – who’s Dad deserves a special mention for driving him all the way to the festival – drew the crowd in (while simultaneously managing to scare a few off) before the Hessle Audio triumvirate of Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound took over for a four-hour workout. From murky, bass-heavy tech to 140 Jungle, few stones of the UK Bass diaspora were left unturned when the time came for Anthony Parasole to step up.
Like many in attendance, there was always half an eye on the Friday evening. I found myself back in The Clearing where Acid mischiefs Paranoid London delivered a visceral live performance of 808s, 303s and 202s, complete with hair-raising vocal accompaniment from frequent collaborator, Mutado Pintado. Then came a moment some had been waiting a whole year for. Rained off by a thunderstorm of monstrous proportions in 2014, Underground Resistance had been invited back for a second consecutive Dimensions. After last year’s unfortunate turn of events, it may have taken some convincing to persuade Mad Mike et al. to bring their live ‘Timeline’ show back to the Istrian peninsula (it was reported that a fair bit of gear had been damaged in the aforementioned storm). Even if that wasn’t the case, their booking felt like an achievement in itself. I can proudly say that I converted a handful of friends that evening to the Timeline, but it didn’t take much convincing. There are only so many times you can say “jazzy Detroit techno with live saxophone” before people have to come and check it out for themselves. As expected, we were all blown away by the musicianship and energy of the Detroit four-piece (as it is in its current incarnation). They didn’t even play my favourite UR track and it was still one of the best things I’ve ever seen, period (‘Hi-Tech Jazz’, in case you were wondering).
Come Saturday night and difficult decisions had to be made. Floating Points or DJ Nature? Juan Atkins or Legowelt? On the most part, I chose to check out artists that you rarely get to see if the UK, although I did find some to time to indulge my love for Dance Mania and the like via Loefah’s ‘History of Chicago Set’. Thankfully, many artists enjoyed lengthy sets. Combined with earlier starts for significant names this year, and you could always run about catching a bit of everything, should you desire – although I regrettably missed the Giegling crew bring their emotive brand of Techno to The Moat due to clashes. Special mentions for the Saturday have to go to Hunee and Antal’s globetrotting B2B and the commune-hosted 22a showcase in The Garden. When the likes of label owner Tenderlonious and Peckham beatsmith Henry Wu are captivating the audience with their funked-out, half-tempo productions, it isn’t to be missed.
Selection was on point throughout. While taking a wander there was always a chance you’d hear echoes of “one more tune!” bouncing around one of the cavernous spaces that became home to the festival’s various stages. But when you have so many revered DJs and their record collections in one place, it’s to be expected. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the penultimate evening, when Motor City Drum Ensemble (with a cameo from Jeremy Underground) and Moodymann both dug deep respectively, reaching for Brazilian Boogie, Detroit Hip Hop, sexually-charged House and practically everything in-between. In case you were wondering, I hadn’t forgotten about George Clinton. Without clearly defined headliners, like Roy Ayers last year, George’s booking was arguably the festival’s pièce de résistance. While demonstrating that there’s far more to Dimensions than just House and Techno, the Parliament and Funkadelic frontman left the crowd sweaty and elated after grooving for two straight hours to some of the finest the Funk ever recorded.
As eclectic as ever, those looking for a change of pace didn’t have to look too far afield. You only had to step into the famed Mungo’s Arena for your daily dose of bass weight and DMZ co-founder and Dimensions/Outlook staple Mala shook the Glaswegian rig on the Friday with a typically potent set. I do regret missing the boat parties, but as a veteran of several Dimensions Festivals, I can safely vouch for their potential to be a festival highlight. It would have been nice to dance away to Gerd Janson, Sadar Bahar or the Horse Meat Disco gang while cruising the Adriatic, but there’s always next year.
Every time I come back to the fort, it seems like a nip-tuck here, a little adjustment there and the site looked better than ever. Even so, the organisers don’t rely on flashy stage production or overly extravagant light shows. Sometimes a painstaking attention to detail when it comes to sound and carefully considered lineup curation is more than enough to create something special. The stunning environments you find yourself in are merely the icing on top of the cake that is Dimensions, and while you may feel like you’ve had your fill come the end, it’s incredibly more-ish.
Words: Matt Blair
Photography: Ross Silcocks for Dimensions Festival
Register for 2016 Dimensions Festival tickets HERE.