Domaine de Gayfie, France
19 - 23 June

How do you feel about smoke machines? Personally, I feel like they’re instant vibe generators that smell amazing – a bit like Purple Violets and a bit like candy floss. Monticule Festival had some great smelling smoke machines. It had a lot of other great things too.

The location – Domaine de Gayfié – was in its past lives both a horse farm and a truffle plantation. Today it operates as a secluded getaway spot, its idyllic hilltop location overlooking the Lot valley and nearby town of Cajarc. Monticule began five years ago when the landowner’s son and some friends from Munich decided to throw a party. While the festival has grown in both size and ambition over the years, the original Munich connection remains strong, with Ilian Tape and Permanent Vacation (both labels based in the city) curating stages.

Things started gently on Wednesday afternoon. After setting up our tents, learning about the intricacies of champagne production and birdwatching with Jan Schulte, we headed to the Pool Stage, where Jan played live in Wolf Müller-mode alongside wildman drummer buddy Niklas Wandt. Fast-forward 24 hours or so, and Schulte showed up at the pool again to drop a heady blend of slow, 90s-style acid belters and breakbeat-y stompers, before polishing off his set in fine style with a dubstrumental-type version of Talk Talk’s Such A Shame.

Thursday night’s entertainment featured Curses in live mode and channeling a vibe somewhere between Nitzer Ebb and Joy Division. Luca Venezia took the lead with barked vocal mantras and writhing guitar lines as Dame Bonnet held down the rhythmic side of things. The set’s first half lacked a little direction, but things really clicked into place once Venezia started going in on his MPC and working out the clubbier, friskier side of their sound.

Sure as night follows day, so techno follows yoga (at Monticule anyway) and Friday night saw Ilian Tape taking charge of things over on the main stage. While Stenny and the brothers Zenker kept things on the broken and fruity sides of the genre respectively, Blawan, their invited guest, played what can only reasonably be described as absolute face melters. Whether made by his fair hand or not, pretty much every track featured the doolally riffs and singalong percussion he made his name with.

Saturday morning’s 11 am yoga class was soundtracked by the BFDM crew outta Marseille. Starting(!) their set by boshing out UK staples like Skeng (The Bug) and Man Don’t Care (JME & Giggs), Simo Cell, Low Jack and Judaah proceeded to rattle through pretty every soundsystem-related genre under the sun before settling into a soca(ish), house(ish) sound for the last hour, with classic cuts like Claptrap and Witchdoktor getting well-received airings.

Come evening-time, and things got weird and wild. It was a tops-off affair from the get-go from Tako and Gilb’r, but that vibe quickly vanished once Rabih Beani began doing his Morphosis thing. Wordly, confounding polyrhythmic wildness twisted plenty of melons and confused plenty of bodies. Have you ever seen a hench boxer in a tutu attempt to dance to jazz skronk? I have. Thanks, Rabih. One six-hour disco nap later, we catch Courtesy finishing up deep into Sunday morning, her patented techno-trance belters doing a number on the remaining bandy-legged dancers. Further evidence, as if it was needed, that in just five short years, Monticule has managed to nail those ineffable qualities that make people return again and again.