Animaux | UK

Primavera Sound Festival 2016: In Its Prime

Jun
14

The photovoltaic cell, a sloping sculpture visible all year round from Barcelona’s man-made beach creation, pinpoints Parc del Forum, the concrete home of Primavera Sound Festival. There’s no camping, no glimmers, no gimmicks. Turn off your mind, flip a 180º on your sleep cycle and let the only worry of your days be choosing who to see from one the most fruitful line-ups of 2016.

After a month of Prima’s preparation across the city in daily events, Thursday was the first day in full festival swing. Electronic songwriter Jessy Lanza showed her skills on the decks with a seriously funked up sun-soaked afternoon set in the Bowers & Wilkins tent. B&W was a mental trek away from most of the festival, but with speakers coming from all angles, the stage was a humble abode to the best audio layout of the entire venue.

The well-anticipated BEAK>, made up of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Billy Fuller (Robert Plant), took to and tore up Primavera’s own stage, their darker, slightly bitter sound merging with Barrow’s own Bristolian-infused warming character. Later into the night, in the same grassy spot, my mind was metaphorically and unexpectedly blown by experimental noises of Suuns. Violent, raw, unapologizing and totally captivating, Suuns melted all transient limits of their 2013 album Images du Futur and whizzed music with cleverly thought-out light and visual effects and made nothing short of art to their audience’s every sense. Sam Shepherd, otherwise known as Floating Points, drifted through a jazz-drenched set that similarly combined light and an ageless sound, grounding a handful of us into the grass in a serene state of mind.

CREDIT: Adela Loconte/WireImage

Thursday wound up on the Heineken stage with LCD Soundsystem, playing a set of songs that will be cool for as long as the colour black is. James Murphy is, as always, effortless and unruffled without saying a lot except his thanks. The only thing that could have been more of the definitive mic-drop than the band’s selection of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” as an encore, would be an actual mic drop.

Friday’s line-up was the one that right until 9pm that night, people scoured the internet for and queued outside, just in case of the slightly unlikely chance anyone decided at the last minute that they didn’t want to go after all. From the H&M stage Beirut played a smooth set of wind and Balkan percussion in a sweet harmony to Zach Condon’s distinct vocals, personal favourites from their 2007 album The Flying Club Cup seizing the hour. Between the magic here and the setup of future magic on the Heineken stage directly opposite, this was probably the closest Primavera will ever be to the feeling of giddiness you get on Christmas Eve.

I’d be lying if there wasn’t one band every man and his dog wanted to see on Friday. Though perhaps reluctant to be accepted as the headlining act of a festival, Radiohead have inevitably through incidental popularity become just that. Not to mention that, where the audience might sometimes divert their attention from the performance, the entire crowd maintained silence throughout, right from the off, opening with ‘Burn The Witch’ and moving into ‘Daydreaming’ – where a portion of the crowd turns and hisses at the sound of an iMessage jingle. At times, Thom Yorke sings with such unrefined grace that the body reacts to the sound of his relief. In the composed simplicity of ‘Nude’, his vocal range reaches its height at the line “you’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking,” leaving the audience with goosebumps and without breath. Where other artists have used the screens bordering the stage to increase the visibility for the audience, the set is shown through obscure angles and filters, flitting through the band with cinematic sharpness. Considering all the ways Radiohead might have curated their set, spanning from the sombre, sumptuous and sometimes bleak album A Moon-Shaped Pool recently released there was something ‘final’ about their performance. Some festivalgoers even gambled that this might be the final chapter altogether, somewhat enforced with choosing ‘Creep’ as the last song, “I don’t belong here” left to hang in the air.

CREDIT: Xavi Torrent/Getty

Friday slowly unravelled into Saturday with Beach House showing a darker side than the floaty-hippie sounds we know and love them for on their studio albums. Victoria Legrand moved something witch-like under a synthetic set of stars, her voice occasionally but beautifully breaking. At the darkest point of night, Evian Christ thrashed out one of the most twisted fusions of grime, R&B, hip-hop and tech beats from the Pitchfork stage to a brilliant crowd of friendly faces in snapbacks and golden shorts. Daybreak began to the last of implausibly happy jingles from DJ Koze, teasing the last of Primavera’s crowd with a conclusive sound of summer.

CREDIT: Chris Graham

Closing Primavera Sound comes along Brian Wilson with a ten-piece band, making perfectly apt renditions of Beach Boys classics. Through the cheer and figurative sunshine songs like ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ make, there is something a little sad in Wilson’s performance on a personal level, that coincidentally matches the bittersweet tones of the festival’s finale soon upon us. Marching to the same stage later in the evening with band in tow, the ethereal PJ Harvey is nothing short of spellbinding. A true lady who has been making music longer than I’ve been alive, she delved into a playful, darker performance, bringing new life to old classics, mastered by slight theatrics and clear chemistry between the band and herself. Moving from the sinister tinge of uncertainty in ‘Let England Shake, Harvey becomes pure power in ‘To Bring You My Love’ – menacing, unchartered, unavoidable. Into the alien, Sigur Ros huddle closely together and open with debut Óveður, revealing themselves as evolving and progressing, revamping signature songs and delivering them with some incredibly impressive light work on stage. The neighbouring screens become heat-sensitive patterns, spouting geometric lines of Birgsson singing a strong falsetto. The only nag comes not from the trio’s deliverance, but the constant noise of the audience.

CREDIT: Chris Graham

German techno project Moderat moved us into the early hours of the morning. Having seen Moderat at Pitch festival (Amsterdam) in 2014, the group has transitioned from performing for a moderate-sized crowd in a small old industrial factory to a major act and highlight for many people at Primavera. Their performance mirrors the ambitions of the album III (2016), and is geared more to an audience who really digs the album. Back in Middle Earth on the Bowers & Wilkins stage, we found Dorisburg exploring old and new sounds of tangy minimal techno in a live set to a smaller but more interactive crowd. All finished in an expenditure with the growling force of Ty Segall and The Muggers, who’ve gone through the growing pains of angry drag in the past and into restless dynamics that ate up the last of our energy. Segall’s sign off made a physical ending to the Primavera Sound adventure and sent us into a two-day recovery from the previous three days. Until next year, Prima.

Dekmantel: Highlights – An Eye Witness Account

Aug
10

Day one at the much-anticipated Amsterdamse Bos site, is like entering a dystopian playground. This is going to be my haven for the next three days and I can’t wait to start exploring it. Some of my absolute favourite sets take place during that Friday. On my first visit to the famous Boiler Room stage I am greeted by an uplifting and feel-good set by Tripeo, who gave us an hour-long House set highly influenced by Disco beats. The bright sun instantly transports my thoughts to a chilled summer in  Majorca as I dance along to the sound of summer.

After the attending the start of Robert Hood‘s ruthless set in the UFO stage, my impatience grows as I am aware the time for Ben Klock to grace the Main Stage is fast approaching. Arriving before his set, I am happy to find that his predecessor Model 500 is closing his set with a hard punch. After a long anticipatory silence Ben Klock takes the stage. The sun behind us is setting to the perfect soundtrack and we are all on the same train to sundown as he transitions into darkness, seamlessly easing into a steady beat. The next set by Marcel Dettmann is perfectly complementary. His sound descends all God-like and you know that the darkness has finally taken over. The bright sun has set with Ben Klock and the dark moon is rising with Marcel Dettmann.

I leave the main stage half-heartedly to catch another set I am dying to see in the UFO stage. I arrive whilst Blawan is ending his set with a surrounding embryonic sound as a clash of machineguns blasts through the speakers. Squarepusher has signalled his presence. His signature mask, often slightly different with each appearance, is easy to make out in front of the geometric colourful visuals which appear behind him and his white fencing suit. The white iron mask completely hides his face. Feelings are intense, like stepping into a Matrix world of which he is the leader. The deck might as well be controlling us and not the beat. It’s something amazing to witness; his control of both the unpredictability of the beat and the crowd. He stops after every track to impose seconds of torturous silence before hyping the next one and backtracks the tempo just to test us before the track climactically ends.  If I had to use just one word to describe his set it would have to be ‘orgasm’. Pure orgasm. Mixing in Andy Stott’s ‘Damage’ was just the cherry on the top. Definitely my personal highlight.

As the second day kicked off, I move straight up to the tower between the Main Stage and the entrance. Aphrohead’s ‘Let’s Prance’ echoes from Mano Le Tough‘s set, who played before John Talbot took the Main Stage. I move to The Lab stage in time for Palms Trax. The vibe during his set reminds me of an exotic house party; chilled, light groovy house music with a nice selection of vocal samples and melodic synths. I notice the groovy track by Jack J, ’Thirsting’ come on and instantly everyone is whistling and swaying to the beat.

The glorious weather persuades me to leave The Lab and return to the tower. The vantage point towards the Main Stage and the crowds gives me no reason whatsoever to want to move. The long silence between John Talabot and Four Tet was agonising but the soaking sun and friendly vibe on the tower made up for it. When his set kicks off I know I’ve made the right choice. His musical choices such as ‘OAR003-B’ by Oni Ayhun are another perfect soundtrack to the perfect sunset. My only regret on that day is not witnessing what must have been an impressive 5 hour long set up to the end of the day by Antal RH, Hunee and Floating Points at the Selectors stage.

On the last day I decide to see a majority of female artists. Helena Hauff in The Lab is going to be my first lady. I see her standing behind the deck, nonchalantly smoking one cigarette after the next whilst she spins the crowd into motion. To my surprise the German techno artist shies away from her usual acid techno touch and brings in some hard-core bass lines into what can only turn into an extremely ruthless set.  Instead, she surprises us with some ‘on your feet Disco’ beats and RnB samples which put the pop and lock into her classic techno. It turns out to be a highly experimental and varied set impossible not to dance to.  One look at the stacked speakers in the lab and you can see them helplessly emerged into a continuous tremble. Each beat feels like a punch and the more she punches the more we yearn for. She is certainly giving us all she has.

The other lady I am dying to see is Nina Kraviz. Upon my entrance to the UFO stage the black widow of techno descends like a dark cloud. The vibe on the dance floor is animalistic and she is ruthless from start to finish, playing some of her favourite tracks such as the relentless ‘All Aboard The U.S.S. Severe EP’ by Barcode Population from 1996.To finish, she brings in some groove to calm us down with Cafe del mar song ‘Energy 52 (remix by DJ Kid Paul)’. And although the energy and undeniable talent bursts out of the stage, part of me leaves the stage with a desire to see her bring something new to her next sets.

I return swiftly to catch a bit of Clark‘s visually stunning dark set before setting off for the main stage to catch UK hit artist Carl Craig. His set brings the UK scene to Amsterdamse Bos with its groovy and vocally rich tracks. It is now only one set before the end of the last day and the crowds are going wild. A drone-like voice echoes around the main stage ‘You have been the best audience that we ever had’ and the words are being projected on the massive screens ahead. Germans Siriusmodeselektor (Modeselektor + Siriusmo) appear on stage. Hip Hop, RnB vibes and vocal samples blast from the speakers after a majestic intro. Their monkey logo appears playfully on the screen as the presenter stands on the control panel with a microphone reaching out to the audience. the hype is rising as he waves his hand in the air as if saying ‘Dance monkeys dance!’. He does the same throughout random moments of the set; a powerful figure on top of our world reminding us to dance as if it is our last chance …because for some it is. Some of their hit tracks featured in the set include ‘I’m not into twerk I’m into Kraftwerk’ and ‘Evil Twin’, which comes in towards the end to leave the Main Stage in a cloud of smoke and dust for the last time.

Special kudos have to go to  the techies for putting together a jaw dropping personalised Siriusmodeselektor visual show. I would also like at this point to congratulate all visual artists and lighting technicians as the level and quality of atmosphere was truly amazing to witness and added a serious bonus to the whole experience. Each stage both at Amsterdamse Bos and the Melkweg had its own personal atmosphere and the variety between stages was fascinating. Special mention has to go to Heleen Blanken, visual artist of my visually favourite UFO stage and to the lighting team of The Max in the Melkweg, who managed to add a colourful touch without compromising the underground and eerie set up of this main stage.

On the third and final night I am visiting the Melkweg, the after-party which runs till the early hours of the morning. I am pleased to find that it’s refreshingly different to the day site; a predominantly underground vibe with four stages and an indoor smoking area, each stage with its own unique character – its perfect for an after-party. There is one person I am lucky to be watching playing a live set tonight; Andy Stott. Well before the clock strikes 2am I abandon my roaming of the spanning three floored club and enter the Oude Zaal stage. I arrive just as the last set ends in a funky disco tune which I find odd as a prelude to Andy Stott. However, the short silence and the slow emergence of an intro as he takes his place beneath the smoke and swirling lights has me catching my breath. A hypnotic, angelic voice sounds from the speakers reminiscent of a combination of his two tracks ‘Leave’ and ‘Time Away’ I can’t shake the feeling that there is incredible pain in his intro and the same feeling remains throughout the entirety of his set. It is influenced by various genres such as Industrial, Noise and Dark Techno but he surprises us with some Gabber, which through his dark dexterity feels like repetitively and mercilessly being shot by a shotgun.  All in all, what I’m feeling is a disturbingly beautiful pain and strangely I do not want to let go of it. His final beat comes as a sigh of relief and a cry for more.

Dekmantel is certainly an event no one should miss. The selection, variety and dexterity of the artists is like no other; the team is devoted like no other; the site is breathtakingly beautiful like no other and the experience, well, it is like no other

Photographs courtesy of Dekmantel.