Dekmantel as a brand exists within its own framework. Seemingly unconstrained by outside influences, Dekmantel has established an almost unrivalled credibility through its sister festivals, labels and commitment to the homegrown talent it voraciously champions throughout The Netherlands and beyond. This festival remains the vital coming together of its distinctive ethos.
Less austere than in previous years, the black-on-black techno uniform was ditched in favour of a more colourful outlook to match the weather – a vibe that was also reflected in the music. The outright rejection of the po-faced technorati brought a sense of life to proceedings that, while never quite missing from previous editions, gave it a certain warmth and friendliness.
From the tougher abstractions and jungle (including Ed Rush’s What’s Up) championed by Objekt to the low-key brilliance of David Vunk and Carista in the Boiler Room, to the electric flow of Miss Red and The Bug in The Greenhouse, finding fresh sounds from old and new names was never tough. Ultimately the weekend was rounded off by Helena Hauff’s killer Main Stage headline performance that saw her fully cross over into the A-League – another example of Dekmantel supporting those who have earned their stripes. Proof that they’ve become experts at picking out low-key heroes alongside established names and giving richly deserved exposure to those who’ve worked hard for their moment in the spotlight.
The Thursday’s wonderfully curated series of live performances – set around the quite majestic Muziekgebouw complex, Shelter and Tolhuistuin – paved the way for the kind of juxtapositions you rarely find at other festivals. The brutal sonics and vocals of Aïsha Devi were a particular highlight and Actress’ musical complexities made for a talking point all weekend. The minimalism of Terry Riley performing with his son Gyan, by contrast, provided a moment of nostalgia from a true originator.
Shanti Celeste’s Main Stage performance justified her unstoppable rise; the lighter touch to her set reflected the weather perfectly, finishing on Cassandra by Donato Dozzy, the perfect segue into two hours of Ricardo Villalobos. His playful set included an unbelievable edit of Justify My Love by Madonna at one end and a totally pointless drop of Floorplan’s Never Grow Old on the other – a tune that’ll allow me to die happy if I never hear it again. But, taken as a whole, the Chilean’s now regular two hours on the Main Stage is a wildly entertaining Dekmantel staple.
Other standouts included Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, whose powerful percussion offered a much-needed dose of live energy, Samuel Kerridge’s unrelenting bleakness in the excellent new UFO II stage and DJ Stingray’s now predictable but consistently blistering two-hour electro workout. The latter took place in what may be the hottest dancing environment I’ve ever encountered.
One of the other noticeable characteristics to Dekmantel this year was the lack of snobbery when it came to the booking. While Mr Scruff, Orbital and a full Selectors Stage line-up boasting Jamie xx, Floating Points and Daphni might not represent the kind of esoteric bookings that some crave, Dekmantel’s ability to traverse the spectrum guilt-free is representative of the kind of inclusiveness keeping the electronic music world in extremely rude health. For every Four Tet there is a Phase Fatale, DVS1 or a Lena Willikens to keep the disparate tribes happy. This year was testament to sun, colour and curation across an event that is still at the very top of its game.