The bulk of the Dekmantel festival took place in the Amsterdamse Bos forest over 3 days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday). With 8 simultaneous stages, some of which are a bit of a hike from each other, and some of the spaces filling up pretty quickly, one has to coordinate and prioritize which sets are worth venturing out and staying for. On all three days, I ended up getting to the forest a bit later than I wanted since I was spending time in the city hanging out with a friend during the early afternoon. Friday I arrived just in time to catch the last 12 minutes of Scorn’s set, which was one of the sets I was looking forward to the most. At least it was worth it, as Mick Harris pummeled the hangar-like UFO II stage with bass, and I was able to get as close up front as possible. Next I caught a bit of DJ Haram, who promised club bangers as long as it was ok if she threw in some weirdness, which meant Bad Brains-style hardcore and trap coexisted with Jersey club. Over at the main stage, Josey Rebelle was playing an uplifting, eclectic housey set, and Anz elevated the vibe further, playing a marvelous set which likely included a lot of her own productions, which are as likely to evoke freestyle/electro as ravey drum’n’bass. After catching some of Joy Orbison’s main stage set, I discovered the amazing Greenhouse stage, a roomy, open-air hut with lots of plants. I caught some of Ugandan/British ensemble Nihiloxica‘s set, an exhilarating mix of high-speed drumming and blown-out electronic feedback. I always appreciate it when electronic festivals showcase a few bands, particularly when they have amazing drummers, and this was an especially welcome change of pace. After that was Legowelt, a Dutch electro master and analog synth fiend who I’d been wanting to see for ages. Following that, I caught some of Aquarian and the Hessle Audio 15th anniversary showcase, but honestly I was really tired by that point and everything was blurring together, plus it was cold and I didn’t bring a jacket that day. I ended up buying a long-sleeve polo shirt at the merch table before I biked back to my hotel.
I showed up too late on Saturday for Dopplereffekt’s set, but I did catch some of Anthony Rother, who mostly played Kraftwerk tunes for the portion that I saw. Then electroclash heroes Kittin & the Hacker played, and though I still wasn’t quite close enough to see them, it sounded fine. After that I head over to the main stage to catch Jayda G, who played a very summery set of disco and house favorites, including her own excellent recent singles. Over at the Greenhouse, I caught some of Brazilian jazz-funk legends Azymuth, who were a last-minute addition to the lineup, and I immediately wished I’d gotten there earlier. Could not believe how tight they were, the synth player in particular is a wizard. Fortunately their set went on 15 minutes longer than scheduled, and pretty much everyone in the crowd was bouncing (and even singing) along by then. Uganda’s MC Yallah then did a powerful set backed by Debmaster, who blasted out heavy, angular beats and twisted effects using video game controllers. Another artist associated with Kampala’s Nyege Nyege collective, DJ Kampire, followed with an incredible mix of high-energy African electronic styles. Sully & Coco Bryce, two of the leading lights of the current jungle scene, absolutely crushed it, as expected. Over in the UFO I stage, which was exactly the same size as the main room at Bangface, VTSS was spinning booming, warehouse-ready techno. Finally, I had to end the night by catching Carlos Souffront, best known around these parts as a longtime host of Crush Collision. Now he’s a well-respected, internationally touring DJ still spinning the impeccable blend of techni and acid he was playing on this station for ages. His Dekmantel set can be heard here in its entirety.
By the time I got to the forest on Sunday, the final day, South Africa’s DJ Lag was in full effect, and just getting to the most hyped-up part of his set. One of the pioneers of the gqom scene, his set stayed true to the style, an intense, deep-stare type of music which is thoroughly intoxicating. Reinging Jersey club queen UNiiQU3 followed, with the type of unabashedly fun set that demanded the crowd’s full attention. After a while I snuck out to the surprisingly less-attended Lee Gamble set at UFO II, which collided smashed-up jungle with sound designy techno and dirty rap. AceMoMA’s set sounded good, but I had to head over to the main stage for LSDXOXO, a master of aggressive, unfiltered club music, whose set preceded Detroit’s Robert Hood. The Underground Resistance co-founder is acknowledged as one of the originators of minimal techno, but his music has expanded into more of a big-room sound, and it sounded massive on the main stage. After checking out Objekt and Call Super at the Boiler Room stage (apparently the last time they’re doing one of those at Dekmantel), I caught some of Batu’s main stage set, to make up for when I missed him at the Tangent Gallery in Detroit during Movement weekend because I was too tired. Finally, I had to close out the festival by seeing the unstoppable Sherelle, who set the stage called The Nest on fire, providing one of many moments during the festival that made the entire, costly trek out to Amsterdam entirely worth it.