Our picks for the best festivals taking place before the end of the year.
Festival Novas Frequências
Oi Futuro Ipanema, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
December 3 - December 8
European experimental music festivals like Unsound or CTM riff on the importance of rethinking geography. Imagining different ways of organising space and culture is also key to Brazil's Festival Novas Frequências, an event that capitalises on the diversity of Rio De Janeiro. The festival positions itself firmly within a global framework, cross-pollinating continents and artists to suggest new ways of thinking. At the time of writing the lineup is just starting to take shape, but Novas Frequências routinely celebrates the fertile underbelly of Brazil's experimental scene, bringing it into contact with leading lights from across the globe, like William Basinski.
RA Pick: Turntablist and guitarist Otomo Yoshihide teaming up with Felipe Zenícola and Renato Godoy.
November 9 - November 12
The name Positive Education seems like a meaningful choice. The festival takes place in Saint-Etienne, a small city outside Lyon, to which it brings a blend of electronic music and digital art more adventurous than you'd get at similar events in major cities. Armed with acts like Regis, Ancient Methods, Vladimir Ivkovic and Tolouse Low Trax, this year's programme will thoroughly probe the outer reaches of club music. In his review of last year's festival, Benjamin Carde wrote that, beyond its exceptional music and atmosphere, Positive Education "shone a light on the blossoming underground scenes in this part of France, revealing a deep-rooted sense of community and camaraderie." This year it looks even better poised to succeed in its self-proclaimed aim: to "make Sainté shine."
RA Pick: At an event like this, expect recent RA podcaster Zaltan to pull no punches.
Polaris Festival 2017
Le Mouton Noir, Verbier, Switzerland
December 7 - December 10
Winter music festivals are hard to pull off, but few do it better than Polaris, a six-stage blow-out at Le Mouton Noir, a ski resort in Verbier, Switzerland. Over three days in early December, a few dozen house and techno DJs descend on dance floors more than 2,000 meters up in the Alps. In 2017, these include a strong cast of old-school legends from Chicago and Detroit, from Derrick May and Derrick Carter to Virgo Four and Larry Heard. They're balanced out by contemporary heavyweights like Seth Troxler, Nina Kraviz and Praslesh, AKA Raresh and Praslea. Like any festival worth its salt, Polaris also shines a light on its homegrown talent, this time including acts like Andre Rozzo, Kalabrese, Mirko Loco and, naturally, Luciano.
RA Pick: Detroit badboy Omar-S making his Polaris debut.
Le Guess Who?
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands
November 9 - November 12
People have enjoyed plenty of memorable moments at Utrecht's Le Guess Who? over the years, but one in particular stands out: "Discarding my timetable on Saturday, and just seeing where I would end up." The four-day festival is a hotbed of musical discovery, presenting more than 150 stylistically diverse acts across 20 venues. Central to this is the event's unique format, in which a handful of artists are brought on as co-curators. Love James Holden? Then don't miss the acts he's personally invited, including Hieroglyphic Being, Moroccan Gnawa star Maâlem Houssam Guinia and accordion maestro Mario Batkovic. The same goes for the rest of this year's curators, which run the gamut from Grouper and Shabazz Palaces to Dutch percussionist Han Bennink.
RA Pick: John Maus, whose performance will be his only stop in The Netherlands on his current world tour.
Fabra I Coats, Barcelona, Spain
November 9 - November 11
Seven years in, Mira is no longer a fledgling event, but part of a venerable global tradition: adventurous festivals that mix avant-garde music with bold club sounds and the range of audio-visual work that falls under the umbrella term of "digital arts." Taking place at Fabra I Coats, an industrial space made into a multi-purpose cultural centre, the programme mines the rich middle ground between challenging art and dance floor abandon, offsetting club acts like Vril and James Holden with Emptyset, Visible Cloaks and the apocalyptic sounds of The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson. The non-musical side of the programme only promises to make the weekend more mind-bending, beginning with a 360º screening from [ADULT SWIM] called "Six minutes of your life that you will never get back." Intrigued? So are we.
RA Pick: Gotta be the opening concert with Wolfgang Voigt playing live as GAS.
Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort, Monkerai, Australia
December 1 - December 3
With its idyllic setting and inspired bookings, Subsonic is a jewel of Australia's festival scene. The venue is Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort, a pastoral landscape along a riverbank a few hours north of Sydney. The music is a refined variety of dance floor sounds, this year ranging from the sleek minimalism of Barac and Maayan Nidam to the low-slung eclecticism of A Love From Outer Space, AKA Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston. Throw in a friendly crowd and laid-back atmosphere—impressively maintained as attendance over the years ballooned from 500 to 5000—and it's obvious why this one has a special place in so many punters' hearts.
RA Pick: Andrew Weatherall tends to connect with Australian crowds—be sure to catch him in his solo set.
Club To Club
TBA, Torino, Italy
November 1 - November 7
The word festival doesn't do Club To Club justice. More like a citywide musical fair, the annual event brings dozens of cutting-edge acts to a spread of unique inner-city locations in Turin. This year they include the freshly renovated OGR Torino, an industrial complex turned art space adjacent to a former prison. Then there's the Palace Of Venaria, a 17th-century space once home to the royal family, plus Lingotto, a massive warehouse that's been Club To Club's headquarters for the past few years. With one of its best lineups in recent memory—it's hard to beat Kraftwerk's eight dates—and some exciting new locations, Club To Club should be on your list for November.
RA Pick: With all the attention on big names, we recommend soaking up the high-definition sounds of the up-and-coming Scottish artist Lanark Artefax.
The Wildlands, Tocumwal, Australia
November 16 - November 19
This year, Strawberry Fields did something fairly radical: it offered cheaper tickets to low-income earners, nearly half-price in some cases, on the understanding that "attending camping festivals can be an expensive exercise." This move might explain, in part, why "the original Aussie bush doof" means so much to its audience. More than just a well-booked dance music festival, Strawberry Fields is a conscientious member of its community, something that's all the more important in a scene as beleaguered as Australia's has been these past few years. Having said all that, the experience itself would be more than enough to make this is a classic festival. The four-day camp-out consistently boats some of the best electronic music in Australia all year, this year featuring the likes of Aurora Halal, DJ Bone and Optimo, as well as Australian acts like Mall Grab, CC:DISCO! and Francis Inferno Orchestra.
RA Pick: Hunee sharing the stage with Soichi Terada.
Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan, India
December 15 - December 17
There are impressive festival destinations and then there's Alsisar Mahal, a centuries-old palace, now an elegant hotel, located deep in rural Rajasthan. This majestic location is home to Magnetic Fields, an event that in five years has become a key focal point for India's burgeoning electronic music scene. And while this year's lineup is the boldest yet, with international acts like Ben UFO, Four Tet, Actress and Jayda G performing alongside leading Indian artists like Sandunes, the true star of the show is Alsisar Mahal.
RA Pick: Jayda G's feel-good selections will have the Alsisar Mahal bumping.
Cumuruxatiba Beach, Bahia, Brazil
December 26 - January 2
Disco by the beach in Brazil in the days surrounding New Year's Eve—it's a titillating proposition even before you get to the details. That might explain Mareh's meteoric rise over the last few years, from a multi-day New Year's party little known outside Brazil to a globally respected music festival. Gracing this year's sandy dance floors are a typically exceptional cast of selectors, none of whom could be described as big name headliners. Along with festival favourites like Eric Duncan and Tim Sweeney, the short and sweet lineup features Metro Area member Darshan Jesrani, José Padilla of International Feel and esteemed Zürich digger Lexx. Whichever hemisphere you're in, this has to be one of the best ways to ring in the New Year.
RA Pick: UK legends Idjut Boys.
See our full festival listings for November and December.