September 6-10th saw new kid on the festival block, Dimensions, hit Fort Punta Christo, the now legendary abandoned fortress near Pula, Croatia, that has been home to Outlook festival since 2010. Sun-soaked beach parties, boat parties on the Adriatic and all night raving in a maze of rocky courtyards and dark tunnels meant that Dimensions was set to follow Outlook’s highly successful blue-print. But this was where the similarities ended: the smaller capacity, more sophisticated programming and slick overall design had clearly been geared to attract a different clientele. A noticably older and more European crowd, obvious local contingent and significant lack of ‘wastemen’ proved this strategy successful, thankfully staving off the ‘Brits Abroad’ feel of Outlook in recent years.
With an audience of discerning music lovers in mind, sound quality was clearly high on the agenda. Massive systems were shipped in from far afield and tuned with expertise and love, consistently producing volume and clarity of a quality that is rarely heard at a festival, in a challenging venue that must be less than ideal in terms of acoustics. Such attention to sound was well deserving of a stellar line-up, and what a line-up it was, featuring the length and breadth of the contemporary electronic spectrum from the headlining synthpop of Little Dragon and big room sounds of Carl Craig, to the subgenres showcased by cult labels of the moment Hessle Audio, R & S, Eglo, and Swamp 81.
House and disco were heavily represented too – notable highlights included Morgan Geist’s set in the Outside arena, jam-packed with instant classics like the newest offering from his Storm Queen project ‘Let’s make mistakes’. Todd Terje’s saccharine nu-disco and edits provided light hearted relief as part of the Scandinavian showcase, with his most recognisable tune ‘Inspector Norse’ receiving rapturous reaction from the packed Moat. Detroit legends Theo parrish and Moodyman took the crowd on an extended and eclectic musical journey, but without question the freshest slice of house was served up by Glasgow’s Auntie Flo, whose tropical Afro-infused beats ensured that there were no stationary feet in the (crumbling) building.
And then there was techno. Not surprisingly, Blawan in the Moat went hard, delivering an onslaught of raw, driving rhythms and disjointed percussion that typified his progressive take on the genre. As track upon acid-dripping track were layered rapidly and with lethal intent, Blawan pushed the previously fatigued crowd into a fit of adrenaline-fuelled frenzy and proved that he can indeed live up to the hype.
Lowlight of the Sub:stance takeover was Scuba’s disappointing reliance on trance-like buildups and breakdowns, which followed by Prodigy’s love or hate anthem ‘Out of Space’ made for an uneasy transition into Shackleton’s other-wordly sound. A true storyteller, Shackleton’s intricate drum patterns, apocalyptic chants and surging basslines fitted the ominous setting of the Moat perfectly, enchanting the assembled congregation with recent material off the ‘Drawbar Organ EPs’ like the eerie mantras of ‘Powerplant’.
Hotly tipped producer Objekt blew the Leisure System showcase to pieces with dark brooding techno bombs, later performing with Nottingham’s Zleep crew on one of the infamous boat parties without which no self-respecting Croatian festival would be complete. As the sun dropped below the glistening horizon, Objekt took the ship on a genre-smashing voyage from italo to techno and back again, finally sending the deck mental with IF’s vocodered electro classic ‘Space Invaders are Smoking Grass’.
Berghain residents Ben Klock and Marcel Dettman closed proceedings on Saturday night with a masterclass in maintaining rhythm and flow in even the most raw, uncompromising techno, demonstrating effortlessly why they remain at the top of their game. Blistering 808 acid lines punctuated the relentless sound of Berlin, which combined dramatically with the flaming walls of the fortress to give Dimensions the send off it thoroughly deserved.
A few teething problems – such as queues for the most popular arenas and confusion over boat party times – should be mentioned, but with a few tweaks the festival will surely become an established and respected fixture on the international scene. There is little doubt that Dimensions truly achieved what they set out in the manifesto, delivering a world class underground electronic music festival in an unrivalled setting. Well, as close to underground as 5000 people in one place could ever be…
Words: Faye Clarke
Pictures: Juan Carlos Covelli