Whilst waiting at a bus stop in East London at 1.30am on a Wednesday morning we couldn’t help but contemplate about what the next 18 hours would have in store. They would include a journey across the city in the dead of night, a 400-metre sprint to catch our flight after spending a little too much time in the Gatwick branch of J D Wetherspoon, a long wait in Venice airport and a four hour coach journey sat between a group of friends who must have taken elocution lessons from Danny Dyer’s character in Human Traffic.
As you may have already guessed we’re not the greatest of travelers, so anything other than being ushered in to the festival on horseback would have been described as an ‘effort’, but we couldn’t help but compare the journey to those made in the free party days of the late 80s and 90s. A collection of like-minded music heads travelling for miles to listen to repetitive beats in a unique location, that was Dimensions. This time however an abandoned fort was our field, and an EasyJet flight to Venice was our cramped Ford travelling up the M6.
As Croatia in recent years has become the place for the young people of Britain to go to for a weekend of mind altering debauchery, this was our first time visiting the country and we were naturally excited to see what the fuss was about. Many a time it has been heralded as ‘The New Ibiza’, which conjured up images of marbled staircases, sandy white beaches and Paris Hilton residencies…not our thing.
The sounds of Model 500 wouldn’t have suited a beach party as the sun goes down, nor would Dopplereffekt be appropriate soundtracking a swimming pool as shirtless males knock down their seventh Jägerbomb. To my relief this was the polar opposite of that vision of Ibiza, this was a fort. A concrete, rock filled, dusty fort. Put simply, it was perfect.
Our first experience of Dimensions came in the form of Ron Morelli in ‘The Moat’, a 30-metre high stone cage which was intensified throughout the night by Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound. If there was a visual interpretation of what the ex-military base had now been transformed into, this was it. A space that was created to keep people at bay is now being used to welcome them. After a Detroit masterclass from Model 500 playing through ‘No UFO’s’ and ‘Sound of Stereo’, we patiently waited for a visit from ‘The Baron of Techno’ himself, Dave Clarke.
Our previous experience has only involved seeing him play small, sweaty clubs, but as a seasoned veteran he succeeded in putting the main stages soundsystem through its paces. Karenn back in The Moat then brought the night to an end. While Blawan and Pariah contorted themselves around one another and twist knobs to produce sludgy kicks that rarely fall below 135bpm, 6am comes all too quickly.
While Saturday brings with it sore heads, comforting hugs and a beach soundtracked by Mr Scruff and Floating Points, as dusk falls the rave belly begins to rumble in anticipation for Dopplereffekt. It’s hard not to make comparisons with Kraftwerk as images of machines shine from the hexagonal screen behind the masked duo of Gerald Donald and his unnamed assistant.
We’ve always seen Dopplereffekt as a musical reimagining of Soviet Russian propaganda, a defunct nation’s vision of the future who thought we would possess nuclear powered flying cars by 1995. As each track builds over 10 minutes through a collaboration of computerised sounds they abruptly stop, dead in their tracks. Why? Who knows, it’s the mysterious Dopplereffekt, we don’t ask questions we just appreciate.
Dense & Pika then gave us the first of many ‘festival tunes’ by instructing us to ‘Throw Your Hands’ in the air, the crowd all too happy to oblige the command of Ignition Technician’s urgent hoover driven techno (listen above). Following a stomach churning performance from Surgeon, Daphni scored a close second on the festival tune front with Double 99’s ‘RIP Groove’ because well, who can’t resist that song? No matter how much you protest to listen exclusively to German Techno.
Day three and four came around all too quickly, yet it gave us a chance to explore the hidden depths of both the festival site and the surrounding areas. After deciding to take a walk into Pula, the nearest town, we found ourselves in the middle of an abandoned army barracks that were both exciting and nerve-racking in equal measures. The excitement came from venturing through the graffiti covered walls of a place that was formerly used for war. The fear came in the form of a family we found in one of the warehouses and the knowledge that if we were killed, nobody would hear us scream.
Back in the relative safety of The Fort Tom Trago played to a courtyard illuminated from floor to ceiling in multicoloured projections, while the sounds of Skudge tunneled down the walls of the Fort Arena stage like a stampede of hi-hats and kick drums.
As the festival drew to a close with a literal ‘tops off’ moment as the rain poured during 3 Chairs performance, we reflected on how exceptional this place was. In a market becoming increasingly over-saturated, there are few other festivals where you will you see music so perfectly suited to it’s surroundings, with so much emphasis placed on both the soundsystem and the setting.
Dimensions is not a place for the casual enjoyer of music. It’s not easily accessible. It’s not glamorous, and at 4 days long it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t have any ‘standard festival headliners’, nor does it require them. It welcomes those with a genuine knowledge and appreciation for music. At one point whilst talking to a friend during Omar S’ set, a girl very angrily insisted that “if you want to talk, do it outside”. That’s the kind of attitude Dimensions has, the ‘what are you doing, you’re interrupting my music’ ethos. And when the music is this good it’s worth shutting up for.