26 March - 2 April
Tucked beyond the initial wall of Pyrenees mountains to the north of Barcelona, Horizon Festival’s new setting at Arinsal, Andorra is visually stunning.
On approach, the landscape grows more dramatic by the minute as rugged cliffs give way to crystalline lakes and glimpses of snowy peaks beyond. The village ski resort where most of the venues are located sits astride the Riu Pollós river, with a cable car line leading into slopes.
Arriving on Thursday for the festival’s second half, we headed straight up the gondola to take in the sublime view and to catch Craig Charles charismatically spinning funk and soul classics. If that felt like a party in full swing, then it was a different story down the mountain: the Secret Hotel, which was adorned in tattered steampunk motherboards, stayed frustratingly empty, despite Wayward’s Italo-tinged set of gems like Mr Beatnick’s Stutter. The crowd was similarly scattered across other venues.
Only the Warehouse – the town hall where most headliners were billed – guaranteed a sizable crowd at any one time. Thursday saw Oneman smashing through grime bangers like Spiro’s Toppa Top. Mumdance’s set was a contender for the best of the festival, delivering weighty curveballs that made the most of the solid soundsystem.
On Friday, we stayed at the Mountain Terrace until the sun sank behind the peaks. Rain and hailstones threatened to dampen the mood, but though their stage stayed bizarrely pitch-black, Riot Jazz brought the light with upbeat brassy movers and 80s covers. Back at The Derby Irish bar, Blue Wave DJs Ackroyd, Coe & Trell packed it out for an onslaught of dubstep and drum‘n’bass before KiNK’s unique live set of vocal-cutting house and techno brought euphoria to the cavernous Warehouse.
Saturday was the last day of the full music programme. Barcelona DnB dons Jungle Jungle hosted the Secret Hotel with sets from residents before Bristol’s Om Unit took over. Blending bass and jungle with fast, clean mixes, the room finally grew as full as it deserved to be. The Warehouse was closed by Motor City Drum Ensemble, showing flourishes in mixing and selection that few others can match and satisfyingly tying the week together.
Horizon Festival wasn’t without its problems. AJ Tracey was billed for Thursday but cancelled at short notice, while the highly-anticipated Avalon Emerson b2b Courtesy set was cut short due to a damaged mixer at Surf Bar. The main issue really was how thin a lot of the venues felt. With the line-up it had, good conditions for skiing and the natural beauty of the location, Horizon could have nailed it on all fronts. With a year in Andorra under their belts, and more tickets sold, Horizon 2018 has every chance to become the party this year should have been.