Dekmantel: The Land of Endless Industry
There is a lake outside Amsterdam, close to Amstelveen. The silver surface mirrors the sky lapping at pristine shores – overlooked by the piercing pupil – the spire Church of St. Urban. The location is idyllic, but when we were there the sounds of dystopia were distorting the serenity and twisting the shores into a paranoid mist, there we found the presence of Barad-Dur and industry of Mordor.
J.R.R Tolkien imagery feels only appropriate when, opposite the mainstage, there is a palm tree-clad tower shrouded in eternal smoke with rotating/watching spotlights. Wherever you are in the festival ground you can see this structure, reminding you that beyond the stage you are standing at there are another four. All of these broadcasting grinding hi-hats and kicks abused by the frenzy of production. Dekmantel is a unique place where the music is inescapable, there is no area to take a few moments solace. The relentless 4×4 kicks are a constant; which might explain the unbelievable energy the crowd demonstrated. From the moment we arrived, until we were on the bus away from the outdoor factory of Dekmantel, every single soul was dancing.
Electronic genres are often criticised for their repetitiveness, to which I usually answer something along the lines of “that’s the point” or “how else are you going to dance?”. Instead, here, the level of skill and showmanship of these world-class DJs kept the crowds captivated. The usual shouts of approval were replaced, at Dekmantel and only here, with gasps of exasperation or of surprise. I assume because the listeners could not believe the abuse the sound system was handling and how anyone could dish it out. Robert Hood for example pleased the crowd with his infamous “Never Grow Old” only to disrupt it with “Chained to a dead camel” shutting down the proposed elation with an industrial mind-fuck. Around forty minutes later “Never Grow Old” made it’s reappearance mixed into a Motown classic; Robert Hood remains a cheeky youth.
Marcel Dettmann, on the other hand, is slow and precise. He begun with a stage exhausted by Ben Klock and a day stood in the sun; he started slowly to people moving around wondering where to go next. By the end of the set I was encased on all sides by people unable and unwilling to escape, like a tractor beam from a space age factory he locked us all in place. This was only the beginning of the weekend, after which I was concerned nothing would live up to it. While nothing surpassed it every act we were at met this high standard.
Of the five stages the UFO and the Main stage stand out in memory for being the biggest, but also having a constant stream of must-see head-liners – in fact it was quite difficult to leave this area of the festival. The other stages; Selectors, the Lab, and the Boiler Room offered the underground specials, the Panorama bar residents and the quirky bookings (I’m thinking of Madlib and Roy Ayers).
Each of these stages boasted perfect sound and a variety of mind-blowing visuals – there was one moment in the UFO stage when I was almost certain my eyes had begun to see space differently. A series of lasers cut through the ceaseless smoke jets that spiralled above the throngs of people; then from behind these plates of blue and green light an assortment of multi-coloured strobes polluted the visual field, until the over-stimulation gave way to nothing but white. It would be at this point when the clarity of a new 4×4 would shatter the confusion, leading you back to the comfort of production, the reassurance of techno. You have no worries at Dekmantel, no concerns of the outside world because the heavy-booted kicks put your mind at ease. Somewhere someone is getting things done, and for once it doesn’t have to be you.
After this weekend my music hunger has been sated, I’m comfortable to sit in silence and relive those blissful moments. I can’t find much wrong with Dekmantel, my only warnings to festival-goers is to wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of sun-cream. You will have a great day and wish it wasn’t over – especially when you’re faced with gruelling queuing for the 45 minute bus ride to the Melkweg after-party.
Photographs courtesy of Dekmantel