Parc del Fòrum, Barcelona
10 - 11 August
Out on the angular platforms of the Parc del Fòrum, DGTL is a futuristic extension of Barcelona’s industrial coastline.
It’s a small yet perfectly formed affair, carved into the landscape by steel pipework, shipping containers and concrete pillars. Comprised of four music stages which take their name from a modular synthesiser (AMP, Modular, Generator and Frequency) and a couple of audio-visual art installations, DGTL is quite the spectacle for the 30,000 or so punters who journey to the city’s outskirts in the thick August heat. Best imagined at night and from above, the site is a circuit board of pulsating and flashing colour, connected by the ceaseless electric fizz of crowds which move in and out of its attractions.
All this talk of circuits and synthesisers considered, that the line-up is situated firmly within the vast spectrum of electronic music comes as little surprise. House and, mainly, techno continue to be the anchors of DGTL’s musical programming. For every international big-room booking like Ben Klock, or tech house giant like Jamie Jones, you had local names championed like ISAbella and DJ Fra. And amongst some of the finest selectors like Rødhåd, DJ Koze and Honey Dijon were live sets from KiNK, Perel and Traumer to shake things up further. Those after something more experimental and bassline-heavy might be left wanting, but for this distinctly young and European crowd there was be something for every palate.
One highlight came in the form of the Parisian DJ Bambounou. Grinning widely and springing across the stage with the drop of every track, he teased acid lines and deconstructed vocals in and out of tough yet bouncy rhythms. At sunset, his last 20 minutes were the living and breathing embodiment of the Generator stage name itself – off-kilter bleeps and mechanised hisses pumped life into the festival as night drew in. By the time Amelie Lens had taken over with one of the most densely packed crowds of the weekend, her barrage of barrelling techno had the devoted thousands flinging their hands into the air at her every twist and turn.
For those looking for a respite from the 4/4 intensity, the Frequency stage was your leafy sanctuary. Antal b2b Palms Trax flittered between disco and grooving, steamy house tracks, with the screaming vocals of Loleatta Holloway’s Hit and Run a piercingly memorable moment. The inspired pairing of Ben UFO and Job Jobse followed. In a set that skipped across electro and acid and tracks like The R’s 2017 release Higher, Jobse pulled out Krystal Klear’s Neutron Dance – a track so impossibly cheery that it provoked a knee-jerk fist-bumping reaction in the crowd as soon as that synth line came in. Taking up the same closing slot the next night, Motor City Drum Ensemble transformed the stage into a temple of disco rare-cuts and smooth crowd-pleasers like Soichi Terada and Manabu Nagayama’s Low Tension, surrounded by strips of LEDs glowing like stained glass.
By stripping the festival experience to three harmonious tenets of sound, setting and sustainability (its revered ‘Revolution’ programme is paving the way for waste-free and environmentally-responsible festivals across the globe), there was little to hide behind. But DGTL’s success lies in this simplicity. With two blissed-out days of techno’s brightest stars there to explore on the Spanish coast, you needed nothing more.