Fort Punta Christo, Croatia
29 August - 2 September
Fort Punta Christo is spellbinding. Located on the westernmost point of Croatia, the sunlit stretch of coastline – filled with rocky beaches and the skeletons of 19th-century architecture – is the last hurrah of summer for hundreds of festival-goers at its annual Dimensions festival.
Much like its sister festival Outlook, Dimensions attracts a crowd that’s hellbent on enjoying one core component of the event: partying. In its seventh year, Dimensions is firmly in the ranks of the underground mainstream; but unlike Outlook, which has – in recent years – seen a shift from dubstep to grime, Dimensions curates a more multifarious programme that features artists from a sprawling range of genres.
This is best felt at the opening concert: a line-up of Nubya Garcia, Nils Frahm, Kraftwerk and Moodymann isn’t your typical mash-up of artists, but they pull it off. All prolific in their individual fields, the first artist to kick things off is north London jazz musician Nubya Garcia. The Tomorrow’s Warriors alumnus is a stalwart in the UK’s jazz revival scene, and her music – a heady mix of neo-soul, electronic and gospel influences – lights up faces in the crowd. German pianist and Funkhaus resident Nils Frahm, whose performance switches from artful noodling on the grand piano to various synthesisers, follows on the evening. Hands fly across keys as he throws himself down a deep back catalogue of heavy-hitting tracks, including Toilet Brushes and Says, as well as newer songs from his 2018 album All Melody.
As night falls, a spaceship appears behind four podiums on stage – which can mean only one thing. The arrival of man-machines Kraftwerk was a highly anticipated affair, and they do not disappoint. Their post-human visuals are pulled directly from the 1970s: Space Odyssey-style graphics, computer read-outs, and waveforms jump out of the stage with the aid of 3D glasses. Kraftwerk’s vision of the future ended decades ago, but listening to core tracks like The Robots, Autobahn and Tour de France feels like a time warp. And given the location of the show, an ancient Roman amphitheatre, it is all the more enticing.
The days are spent on the beach. A highlight is London jazz group Ezra Collective whose performance centres around a single Fela Kuti-inspired refrain, which they tease throughout the entirety of the set. Tracks like The Philosopher are played between puffs of cigarettes with not a dud note in site. “Skank or bob, I just need your energy,” shouts tenor saxophonist James Mollison. Just a few years ago, it would be unheard of for a jazz group to play at a festival like Dimensions, let alone pack out an entire stage. This does not go unnoticed, however, and Mollison’s speech on jazz bringing young people together sends the crowd into a frenzy. “I’m trying to get a mortgage so the more you dance, the more we get paid next summer,” he jokes, before giving shout-outs to his fellow artists in the scene.
Direct from Dalston’s Ridley Road, Fatima’s set feels like a dreamscape. The artist, whose list of collaborators spans from JD Reid and Alex Nut to Floating Points, and Dâm-Funk, is a breath of fresh air amongst hungover festival-goers. And her acoustic set is soulful – a sultry blend of smoky vocals and R&B. Elsewhere, Bristol band MXMJOY play to a sparse but loyal crowd. Seminal to the funk-punk movement in the early 80s, with tracks like Stretch proving anthems of the New York underground, the group have been quiet for the most part, but their set packs a punch. Smooth basslines fall into dub delays and parping horn parts – all providing a strong soundtrack to a sea of skanking revellers.
For the late-night sets, women reign strong. Helena Hauff packs out the stage with her industrial brand of neo-gothic techno, while Peggy Gou delivers a staunch, heavy set with tracks like Model 500’s OFI at The Garden Stage. Unfortunately, the magic gets lost somewhere in a crowd of drunken chants, but a thriving party is recovered at the Moat Stage with Jlin, whose minimalist take on footwork takes on a new life between sparks of lightning from the thunderstorm above.
For a summer festival, Dimensions is everything a sun-seeking city dweller can ask for. With its excellent programme and dreamy location, it remains a tour de force of curation.