On the most northwestern point of Wales, on a forested site that you can walk across in two minutes, Gottwood hosts an annual festival that's refreshingly unfashionable. Despite a lineup that includes some of Britain's big labels and promoters, as well as a few standout acts—Ben UFO and Bicep both topped this year's bill—it has managed to remain unpretentious and inclusive. It isn't about being seen listening to the most achingly cool music—it's simply about having fun.
This is partly because the roster doesn't hew too closely to what's hot or current. On Friday night, Traum took over the stage that was most nestled in the forest. Their heyday was a few years ago now, but Extrawelt was an artist that Gottwood had been wanting to book for a while. And, current or not, their brand of almost-trance was spot on in a forest setting. The Wigflex collective did well too, playing tight electroid techno with equal amounts of funk, drive, and electronic polish. They had a full and very appreciative crowd locked in throughout.
Photo credit: Jim Stewart
Luke Vibert is a name you might associate with an even earlier period, but he's got an album coming up on Hypercolour and was representing the label as their headlining act. He tore out a typically screw-loose set that had people waxing nostalgic afterward. Marcus Intalex didn't sound as forward-thinking as I'd hoped, with fairly standard drum & bass interrupted by the occasional Autonomic-style track, and an MC who couldn't find the right balance.
Earlier on Hypercolour's Saturday night bill, Tom Demac played a live set that could have been based around pre-made drum grooves, judging by how solid and well-produced they were. It climaxed with "Critical Distance Pt. 2," with everyone doing the crouch-down-on-the-floor-and-jump-up-at-the-break thing. That Friday Futureboogie took over the same stage, a dome tent with 360 degree video projections. Their set was appropriately psychedelic—mostly house with a strong disco flavour, including a couple of long, heavily melodic tracks in the middle.
Photo credit: Hungry Visuals
Smaller promoters did very nicely as well, and the music was never less than exciting. E.T.A. on Saturday afternoon warmed up the Caravan stage with some tight, bassline driven tech house, branching off with the likes of Dr Dre's "House Calls." Ending the same stage that night, Move D played his classy, vintage deep house sound, but the volume levels had been turned down by that point and the tent was less than full.
Looking out the window on the train en route to Gottwood, you can see that Anglesey is really one of the most beautiful areas of Britain. The festival site had been decorated with lighting and wooden sculptures in a way that was halfway towards fantasy. Gottwood has a nearly perfect mix of ingredients, and long may it continue so.