For those of a particular musical persuasion, the bill for the debut Dimensions festival had been a talking point for much of the summer. The four-day event had been set-up as a sister festival to Outlook (now in its fifth year), tweaking its dub and soundsystem-rooted music policy to bring in the best of house, disco and techno. There was plenty of crossover, however. Several of those in the "bass music" sphere played both events, which took place on consecutive weekends at Outlook's longstanding home just outside Pula, Croatia. The nature of the program inevitably enticed a different audience to make the slightly arduous journey. Outlook has been (in)famous for its exuberant, young and overwhelmingly British crowd; Dimensions, while still attracting many from the UK, had more of an older and European feel. There was also a reduced capacity for Dimensions as well, with the numbers dropping from around 15k down to 5k.
Photo credit: Dan Medhurst
This was reflected in changes to the site's infrastructure. Another famed feature of Outlook has been its location, Fort Punta Christo, an abandoned 200 year-old fort nestled up on a hill on the sparkling Adriatic coast. (It's as impressive as it sounds.) The entire site—including the campsite—inhabits a vast sprawl of coastline, which was reined in a little for Dimensions, leaving the focus more on the fort and its immediate surroundings. The main stage, housed between two vast, sound-insulating brick walls, hosted headliners like Nicolas Jaar, Carl Craig, Little Dragon and Mount Kimbie. The latter were early Friday evening highlights. Dominic Maker and Kai Campos' debut, Crooks & Lovers, is a well-worn favourite at this point, ripe for bouts of nearly-karaoke as heard during "Before I Move Off." They also performed material that'll presumably feature on their upcoming album for Warp, sounding a touch more ethereal and shoegaze-y than what's come before. The techno-leaning sounds of Saturday felt a little less suited to the setting but worked nicely nonetheless—Levon Vincent and Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann's back-to-back session warmed the stage's capable soundsystem and were both enthusiastically received.
Photo credit: Dan Medhurst
On the subject of sound, I'll go as far as to say that Dimensions had some of the best I've heard at a festival. The Mungos Arena in particular was transmitting gratifying lows and glistening highs. Mala was one of those revelling in the set-up. His Deep Medi Muzik had a hyped crowd pogoing to some of the only "dubstep" of the weekend. Hessle Audio and Swamp 81's showcase in the same space on the Friday covered as much stylistic ground as we've come to expect from the trailblazing imprints, while Exit's Saturday takeover was a cauldron of modern drum & bass led by imprint head D-Bridge.
Day times at Dimensions were all about beaches and boat parties, with six voyages setting sail each day from the site's harbour. Beat Dimensions' trip on the Thursday should have been sub-headed "The Scuba show." The Hotflush boss loves to court controversy and did so that afternoon by playing an hour of chart hits—Bowie, Biggie, Prince, Madonna. (It of course worked.) The knock-on effect was a skewed sonic trajectory to the party, although Sigha and Untold did admirably with their respective techno-fuelled sets that sandwiched the cheese. RA's evening boat the next day had Boddika dropping plenty of his own tech beats alongside many a Shed banger; Blawan's "Why They Hide Their Bodies..."—an unofficial anthem of the weekend—provided an amusing sing-along moment. As the sun dropped, Ben UFO followed with yet another standout set. Garage was the jumping off point for much of his two hours—Sunship's "Cheque One-Two" and Crazy Bank's "Your Love" were highlights—but tracks like Joe's new grime number for Hemlock, "Studio Power On," and Underground Resistance's "Timeline" showed just how wide he'll go to move a party.
Photo credit: Dan Medhurst
An appetite for eclecticism among attendees was evidenced best by the bustle of the Outside the Fort stage. Floating Points successfully mashed soul, jazz, disco and funk, while the forefather of the style, Theo Parrish, had people queuing impatiently—and digging under the fence—to get in. Addison Groove took things to an extreme during Leisure System's stage takeover on Friday, nudging the tempo past 160 BPM via DJ Rashad remixes of "Battle for Middle You" and "Shiny Disco Balls" and dancing like a lunatic behind the controls. Viewing the Moat stage from a raised vantage point during Shackleton's set was like an ancient ritual. The kind of techno offered by Berlin's Sub:stance was a natural fit for the space, although the much lighter Scandinavian sounds on Saturday with Todd Terje and Axel Boman also seemed to gel with the site's most visually impressive feature. Overlooking the smaller arenas was an all too easy mistake. A tour on Friday found Lando Kal moving through his own advanced house tracks in the Courtyard, while tucked away amid the spherical brickwork of the Ballroom, current word-of-mouth favourite Juniper was emitting 303 lines.
Photo credit: Scott Salt
Sporadic queues for the main arenas, questionable food stalls and erroneous information on boat departure times were the only audible complaints I heard during the festival. The premise of Dimensions was to adapt an already wildly successful formula to a different demographic—in the absence of any massive organisational blunders, it's no surprise that it should go down as one of the better festivals of 2012. The unfortunate death of a young Irish reveller during Sunday morning was a sad coda to what was otherwise a superlative weekend of late summer dancing.