After spending time in the sleepy Alpine town of Lausanne, you can appreciate the air of confidence and independent spirit that's generated by a low-key affair such as Electrosanne festival. To the average traveller, this quiet little hub could fool anyone into thinking there's no market for alternative music culture at all. But with a small, core following for fresh and challenging music Lausanne's taste for electronics is flaunted in its full glory, once a year, at this mini-Sonar style festival.
In comparison to the urban-based festivals that have conquered Europe over the past decade, Electrosanne is a tiny affair. A member of staff told me that the crowds have actually been reduced from previous years, keeping things at a more comfortable level of 15 to 20,000 rather than 50,000. Like many European festivals, though, the event is divided into day and night time programming. The daytime section of the festival was situated in a drained gorge, with street level Lausanne lining the edges of the bowl and connected by a high-rise bridge across the cavernous space. It acts as the nucleus of the city and is nestled around the Lausanne-Flon metro station.
With each DJ playing a set of around two hours, across just two stages within seconds of each other, the age-old conundrum of timetable clashes didn't apply, making for a manageable affair. Acts such as Sound Pellegrino Thermal Team played in the covered tent, while Prins Thomas kept the outside crowds at the Red Bull open-air stage bubbling with his selection of cosmic disco, funk classics and hard-edged tech house (when he wasn't grinning and waving at people, that is).
Todd Terje weaved his disco magic, happily meeting expectations and dropping his own huge hits "Ragysh" and "Inspector Norse" amongst some tough but cantering tunes. Claude VonStroke bubbled through a set packed full of recent Dirtybird entries and assorted curveballs. Jam City, Nguzunguzu and Club Cheval, meanwhile, all brought the noise to Place de l'Europe, starting with Jam City's meandering garage crossover before morphing into Club Cheval's anything-goes set, ripping through tracks such as Drums of Death's recent "Let No Shadow Fall Upon You" side-by-side with the likes of Flux Pavilion's trademark brostep wobbler "Bass Cannon." At the covered Place Centrale tent, Damian Lazarus offered a typically animated set to a heaving crowd.
The soundsystem was gradually capped toward the end of the daytime sessions but being aware of the scenic and idyllic surroundings, you could easily forgive them for not wanting to push the boundaries too far as the hum of Swiss life paced above you. Regardless, the crowd were letting loose, fully making the most of this special event. Summed up by the words of Dimitri Meirer, the communications manager for the event, "...the aim of Electrosanne is to propose artists that you can't find in Lausanne the rest of the year. We don't want to be the biggest festival of the region; we just want to be a good electronic festival."
After the small and compact day event, revellers were then presented with a selection of five clubs to navigate through at night, with all venues no more than a five minute walk from the central point and each showcasing a broad selection of music outside of the usual commercial big hitters that populate the city's mainstream clubs. Aside from D! Club (overhanging the basin in which Electrosanne's day event is held) and The Loft (Lausanne's very own, graffed-up home of bass-orientated dance music), the local's favourite haunt for underground tones came in the shape of La Rouche, a space reminiscent of legendary London club The End in its layout (exposed brick and pipework, narrow rooms and a sweaty underground atmosphere). It played host to Axel Boman, Dim and Jeremy P Caulfield across the three-day event.
Dub styles were even represented at Le Romandie club, where Mad Professor and Cultural Warriors offered a break from the beat-driven fare usually on offer. Buraka Som Sistema staked their claim as one of the most visceral live acts of the entire event, and Ame & Dixon's performance caused a near-riot to enter D! Club, with droves of fans hoping to catch an eyeful of the Innervisions heroes in person. The imaginary award for best club-based event of the weekend went to Loft Club, whose programming of DJ Q And Friends in room one sporting bassline-house madness, complemented room 2's warm, shape-shifting tones, emanating from the records selected by Benji B and xxxy. However, all of the clubs offered something unique in terms of ambience, setting and music—something that's worth applause considering the area's usually subdued creative pulse.
Geneva may be bigger—and to some, better—but Lausanne's slower pace is backed up an equally passionate and creative heart. And like most decent festivals—or, the ones who care about the land and environment that has given them the means to celebrate—the city was back to its usual pristine, regal standards; walking past Lausanne Flon station at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning, you wouldn't have known the festival had even happened.