Ponta Delgada, Portugal
20 - 24 March

A two-hour flight from Porto, Portugal, Tremor Festival is as much an ode to the landscape of the Azores Islands as it is a celebration of music from across the world. Located in Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores archipelago of Portugal, the festival promises a four-day “musical experience”. Certainly, Tremor is in tune with its natural surroundings, with many of the festival’s “secret gigs” taking place on mountaintops, by waterfalls or geothermal hot springs.

Organised by a small team that includes members of Portuguese label Lovers & Lollypops, the festival – now in its fifth year – hosts approximately 1,500 guests, adding to its sense of intimacy. On the first day, visitors are invited on a nature trail, armed with an audio track which, we are told, is made specifically for our particular path. In silence, we walk in single file through the fauna until we arrive at the foot of a waterfall. Here, Gnod’s Marlene Ribeiro and Paddy Shine deliver a performance as TÍR NA GNOD. It’s nothing short of a quasi-pagan call to nature. What follows is an evening of musical eclecticism; Portuguese duo To Trips & João Doce perform in a natural hot spring, and we catch a high-impact performance by Mykki Blanco at venue Solar de Garça. Turkish-Dutch band Altın Gün’s steady mix of traditional Turkish music and funk offers a refreshing end to the first night.

On Friday, it’s revealed that 30-odd festival-goers have been chosen to attend an exclusive day out – its location is, again, “secret”. At 4.30am we are driven to the airport to fly to the neighbouring island, Santa Maria, an excursion which involves a performance by Brazilian band Boogarins. Blending distant yet recognisable rhythms with catchy psych-pop riffs, the four-piece’s laid-back groove doodles in and out of songs, providing a fittingly carefree soundtrack.

Mallorca-based band Zulu Zulu begin Saturday’s proceedings, their African-influenced sound, immaculate singing and striking costumes combine to invigorating effect. Scandinavian synth-pop outfit Liima play tracks from last year’s album 1982, bringing their distorted keyboard riffs and reflective mullings to Ponta Delgada’s Ateneu Comercial. In a similar tone to bands like The National, Liima’s power comes in its combination of mid-30s melancholia with monotonous yet sketched-out beats. In track Life is Dangerous, lead singer Casper Clausen sings, “Nothing excites us“. Later in Jonathan, I Can’t Tell You, he admits an all-too-poignant phrase, “I never trained for this world/ I didn’t train for this“.

Portuguese punk band The Parkinsons follow, delivering a raging set to a packed-out crowd, while Dead Combo – a homegrown funk band – switch up the mood yet again with a set of music that calls to mind the Spaghetti Western scores of Ennio Morricone. Two very different acts, but the audience reaction serves to underscore the festival’s strengths. Tremor may not compete with the exhaustive line-ups found at bigger festivals, but dazzles instead with the quality of its curation.