- Published on Friday, 02 February 2018 09:33
Sometimes you go to a festival just to let off some steam. Be a bit hedonistic in a field with some cool people, have a nice time. But what ends up happening to you is so internally transformative you plot that place forever on your memories map as ‘somewhere special’, a place that induces a private wave of nostalgia every time you think about it. Things happen there. You changed in a very small but significant way there.
Meadows in the Mountains in the stunning heights of remote Bulgaria is a place with that kind of magic. This festival occupies such territory in my 2017 emotional landscape for a whole number of reasons, and I’m pretty sure the same is true for every person I partied with (our catchphrase for the weekend was "heart chakra - activate!!”, says it all really). Judging by the mountaintop atmosphere in June last summer, and the heartfelt sentiments you hear from every single person who has seen a life-changing sunrise in Polkovnik Serafimovo, we weren’t the only ones feeling the vibe.
Everyone’s impressions seem to be so wrapped up in the holistic experience of this strange and wonderful little festival, it’s kind to talk about it in terms of highlights and features. Scrambling up a mountain to explore stunning stages made of locally sourced wood, seeming to emerge from the forests themselves. Doing yoga on outcrop platforms perfectly placed for you to stare deep into a mountain valley and ground yourself after a night of partying hard. Eclectic electronic and live music bumping all day and all night, everyone congregating at the Sunrise Stage to bring in the day. Talks and treatments and therapies and expanding experiences of every kind to help you make the most out of being in a stimulating, spiritually refreshing environment.
It’s just one of those places where things come together - and it’s pretty much impossible not to be radically inspired by the high altitude beauty of The Rhodopes mountains. Everywhere you look dense forests, stunning valley views and green fields signal your departure from the world of contactless cards and daily underground travel spent silent and miserable. Bulgaria’s mountain towns have a rustic charm meaning that some conveniences aren’t quite so convenient, but the locals are ready for the festivalgoers every year. We stayed with a bad ass woman known to all as Mama Irena who seemed to have the undying respect of every dude in the village, and cooked for us in the morning while we lounged on inflatables in open-mouthed wonder at the mountains around us, enjoying a Budvar with our hot breakfast.
When you’re partying in another country it’s always nice to feel like a welcomed guest rather than a plague of hedonistic locusts wreaking havoc on the natural beauty you came to explore. It says it all that the fondness of Polkovnik Serafimovo residents towards the festival is about more than the yearly influx of tourist income. Meadows is committed to a ‘Leave No Trace’ policy on litter and the use of the land. The festival feels fully integrated with its natural place in the mountains, which means by extension that so do you during your time there.
It’s still kind of a place for those in the know - it’s definitely up a big old mountain, and you have to bring your own cup to the bar to buy your drink. No disposable plastics are allowed on site - one of the festival’s many innovations to battle waste and carbon emission. Fair weather punters who want to be led around an enclosure like a prized sheep and get a non-biodegradable plastic cup filled with booze in exchange for money might find those two conditions a bit much. But that’s OK, because the people who can get down get to revel in the sense of adventure that comes from taking a hike to find out what lies at the top of the mountain. Savvy travellers who had been to Meadows before had their tin cups dangling from their bum bag straps on carabiner clips, and this simple solution makes you feel like an outdoorsy disco adventurer prepped and ready for almost anything.
As well as hands-free cups this festival is definitely all about sturdy footwear, as you are hiking to the top of a Bulgarian mountain to dance in beautiful (but certainly uneven) meadows and hilltops. What your eyes take in whilst you’re dancing and socializing is so very much worth it. Worth the mission to Bulgaria (Meadows Eco Organiser Ash Brown highly encourages travellers to take the scenic train route through Europe to cut carbon emissions from flying – something to consider). Worth venturing into the woods with your buddy system in place because of your many previous tumbles down the mountain. And most definitely worth the ticket price. How many other opportunities will you get in your life to watch the sun rise up while you are quite literally above the clouds?
I can’t quite describe the effect watching the sun slowly rise through the blanket of mist below had on me. The whole sky was a vivid, purple, watercolour dreamscape, and it was so beautiful I completely lost the ability to speak for about two hours. So many places you go in the world you can experience a unique and special sunrise that makes you glad you stayed up (or got up) for it, but there’s a reason sunrise is such a big event at Meadows in the Mountains. It’s vital to be up that mountain for at least one. And then of course, when you have regained the power of speech, bounce straight to the Sunrise Stage to dance it off with pretty much the entire rest of the festival.
This truly is a place for horizon expanders, and I met many people there who made me feel empowered to further embrace certain ideas – ideas about protecting the environment, about exploring spirituality, about connecting with others through communal hedonism and celebration.
One of those people was Mike Matania, a new friend who was in our festival expedition team and who was also speaking at the Hara stage on the Sunday afternoon. A mental health professional and meditation teacher with the UK Psychedelic Society, it was quite fascinating to watch him party all weekend and then hold an audience rapt on a hazy Sunday afternoon. His packed out talk at the Hara stage meandered peacefully and provokingly through a wide range of existential ideas, bringing us all back into ourselves (and surprising the shit out of us) by ringing a huge sound bowl whilst we had our eyes closed in meditation.
Connection is a big thing people seem to take from Meadows. Connection to nature comes easy when you’re in such a remote place of whimsical natural beauty. At one point we were taking a wooded shortcut back from the festival site, finding our way by the torchlight of our phones. We heard the quiet sound of bells tinkling behind us, and a completely unattended horse trotted from the darkness and came up to me to nuzzle my hand for an extremely surreal five minutes.
Connection to nature also comes easier when you’re at an event so completely committed to limiting its impact on the environment, and gently educating its crowd and the world by setting a laudable example. Whether they’re crowdfunding to plant a forest in Jhapa, Nepal to offset the impact of the festival, creating natural cigarette butt recycling bins around the site, or dedicating a lot of energy to new composting toilets and food waste management, this is a festival that truly lives and breathes its ethics.
The feeling of community and being part of a tribe that people talk about when they come back from Meadows…. It’s hard to describe the beauty of it and also the painful longing for it when you’re back in civilisation, living a sometimes hard and confusing existence marked by disconnection, isolation, big questions looming over us at all times about the future of our species on this planet.
Being a part of something like Meadows reminds you - even if just for a weekend - that we are part of a collective. We can embrace the core humanity of everyone on this planet, we can empower and support people who are doing things to help this planet, and we can become more conscious beings by selectively exposing ourselves to positive experiences that make us rethink who we are when we’re away from it all, how we spend our time when we come back.
Maybe you’ll also get a tattoo within days of landing back in the UK to remind yourself of how you felt forever, or write a song about it like I did. I don’t know. That’s up to you. I just hope to see you there, smiling like a euphoric idiot at the Sunrise Stage, and celebrating something bigger than yourself.
You can buy tickets for Meadows in the Mountains 2018 on their website right here >> https://meadowsinthemountains2018.eventgeniustravel.co.uk/
Photo credits: findingneverbland
Words by Anna Herber
- Published on Thursday, 11 January 2018 09:55
With the current popularity of electro-, IDM-, 90s- and whatever else-influenced minimal music, it’s hard to keep ahead of the tide with all the new labels popping up — and harder yet to separate those truly worth keeping an eye on from those merely trying to cash in on a trend. Antam Records, though, seems to belong to the former category. Firstly because it’s the label arm of BinarySound who hosted DJ Koolt, Riccardo, Audri, Le Loup or Zendid and Distrikt, the Parisian promoters who brought to the French capital the likes of Barac, John Dimas, HardWorkSoftDrink or TC80 — on remix duty on this first EP — along many of the French scene’s rising stars.
That’s for the nascent label’s pedigree. But their first signee, Mag0, has some good credentials of his own — and is testament to the label’s will to dig deeper than most. Although until now off my (admittedly fallible) radar, the Italian producer appears to be a regular at Veniceberg, the Verona venue that supplies the Northern Italian city in all things minimal, and whose label arm has released a string of quality EPs over the past two years. As this record shows, the club and its residents offered Mag0 a good education. Mag0, has some good credentials of his own. Although until now off my (admittedly fallible) radar, the Italian producer appears to be a regular at Veniceberg, the Verona venue that supplies the Northern Italian city in all things minimal, and whose label arm has released a string of quality EPs over the past two years. As this record shows, the club and its residents offered mag0 a good education.
All the charm with this music lies in the balance between out-there oddness and dancefloor functionalism. Too many producers seem to add a few token bleeps and beeps to demonstrate their supposed quirkiness, or go full-on on a weird binge that ends up sounding forced. But as soon as the kick returns after the one-minute mark on “Ode to Venice”, you can tell that Mag0 has nailed this balance. The track is peppered with drops, and with each one elements come and go, keeping the general sense of oddness interesting — nagging synths here, bubbling burps there; it sounds like the digestive system of a robot in full action, with a hell of a lot of groove on top of it.
“Ode to 90’s” is just as playful, and the funkiest of the lot thanks to a sprightly 2-note pattern dancing around a synth gone awry and a stamping bassline, while “Ode to Dino” is meatier, but retains an improvisatory tinge in its mid-range. This is how mag0 manages to keep his tracks interesting. It seems like the producer is always about to lose control of his machines, but he’s only letting them go loose before reasserting his mastery with a well-timed drop. Synths suddenly detuning or going far into the high-end give the brain something to focus on, while the low-end does the rest of the job. And with patterns unexpectedly changing track or ad-libbing like in the second half of “to Dino”, these tunes sound, at their best, like jam sessions between virtuoso aliens — a bunch of scruffy, nerdy, stoner aliens, that is. Of course, we’ve paradoxically come to expect this supposed unexpectedness from producers dabbling in this genre; but once again, it’s his sense of balance that sets mag0 apart from the mass: his weirdness is not too much, and seems to come from a sincere place.
The pick of the bunch is TC80’s remix. The Berlin-based French producer and Sequalog boss, coming off a breakthrough year, lets his experience speak by opting for a less flamboyant approach. Whereas mag0’s tracks are bouncy, his is reduced — an invitation to the curious listener, rather than an interpellation. Ghostly synths gleam in the background, teasing you to follow them while keeping safely out of reach. When they disappear mid-section, you’ve already fallen down the rabbit hole at their pursuit, and find yourself in the midst of a gorgeous soundscape that retains the original’s lively atmosphere, but filtered through a haze. This time, the UFO that is Antam’s logo flew to a misty Jurassic-like planet with thick air and bubbling underwater volcanoes. By the end of the track, the ethereal synths return and gently guide you back to reality. Back to your starting point, slightly dazed, the stroll was worth it.
All in all, it’s a well-rounded EP that proves there is still much creativity within this scene; that even a tired lexicon — the science-fiction references that adorn the record, the throwbacks to electronic music’s past, and all the quirky sounds — can work magic in the right authors’ hands. The EP has ealry support from Voigtmann, Dj Koolt, Zendid, Yakine, Lamache and Niff. More importantly perhaps, it lets us expect the best both from Antam and Mag0, two welcome newcomers to the scene. Indeed, we’re already told that a second release from another Italian producer is in the works for the label. I for one am keeping my eyes peeled.
“Odes” will be out end of January.
- Published on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 22:29
Everyone knows that after the chaotic mess that is NYE, an unforgettable NYD is mandatory to conclude a year of excess by starting a new one right away. After all, no one wants to begin the year in bed with a hangover to boot. Out of all the alternatives for this 1st of January, LWE’s sounds particularly hot. As per the line-up, there’s something for everyone, from the casual clubbers to the seasoned heads.
Two very special guests top up their bill this year. Maceo Plex is the first one, under his Maetrik guise. Maetrik used to be the Spain-based Detroit son main outlet in the 00’s, and he returned it with new productions earlier this year. This is a grittier sound than what the man’s become famous for, but whatever alias he’s using, rest assured that years of touring the scene’s biggest venues mean he’ll know how to move the crowd — and more importantly perhaps, this is his first time playing live as Maetrik, so don’t miss it. The other is none other than Marcel Dettmann. The beloved Berghain resident will come straight from the club’s infamous Silvester party, bringing London some of that licentious Berlin techno flavour. There’s your New Year’s Day brunch!
But that’s just the icing on the cake as LWE has come up with a varied line-up that’s sure to appeal to anyone. On the one hand there’s the big room techno of Alan Fitzpatrick. An LWE regular, you know what to expect from the Drumcode stalwart. Nastia might pummel you with the bouncy techno she’s famous for, or she might opt to show off her lighter side like on this year’s CD mix she did for Cocoon — surprise. If that’s what you’re into, this balance of bumping house and tougher techno should also be reflected in Lauren Lo Sung’s set. And if you’re one of those techno freaks for whom the year needs to start with twisted transmissions, Ø [Phase] will provide the headier, trippier alternative.
The crowdpleasers are out in force as well: Robert Hood dons his Floorplan alias for this one. Now a family affair as his daughter is integral to the act, it promises booming kicks along gospel anthems. The maverick KiNK is of the party too with his playful live act — get close enough and who knows, maybe you’ll get to have a go at his keyboard too. And Italians Agents of Time provide the day’s other live act with their melodic brand of techno.
On the mellower side of things, Axel Boman will deliver the sort of Scandinavian free-spirited and playful weirdness his label Studio Barnhus specializes in, while Lord of the Isles will no doubt drench you with his soothing, synth-heavy excursions. We’re also more than excited to see LWE booked Frankfurt legend Roman Flügel. Few people can claim to have had such an impact on current house and techno as he had — put simply, half of this line-up would probably not exist without him — and you can always expect the unexpected with this veteran iconoclast.
Like last year, LWE invests Tobacco Dock in Wapping for the event, a gigantic awe-inducing, laser-filled venue with a sound-system worthy of its scale. So come along and book your ticket — you’ve got all the rest of the year to get some well-earned sleep.
- Published on Monday, 25 September 2017 12:09
For ten fantastic years UK based label Lick My Deck have been delivering touching and high quality sounds, staying true to themselves by abiding to their quality over quantity ethos. Over the years, they have seen releases from the likes of Thomas Melchior, Ion Ludwig, and Petre Inspirescu back in 2012. To celebrate the momentous milestone, and 20th release of the introspective electronic music label they welcome on board Romanian master of magical rhythms, Barac. ‘Pata Din Mijlocul Naturii’ is a three track EP, inspired and curated around the basis of Barac’s passion and love for natural surroundings and shamanism. This is something that is certainly evident via the sounds you are hearing but also the ever-unique artwork that accompanies each and every release on Lick My Deck.
The whole of the A side is taken up by ‘Asa E Omul’ sitting at 14 minutes long this record is a journey in itself, setting the overall mystical tone perfectly. Driven by infectious breaks grooves, and a sweeping bass line. The extended track is laced with fascinating strings and percussions, something we are familiar with when gifted with the rare opportunity of a release from Nicolae; A must listen.
Kicking off the B side is ‘Cursul Resparatie’ in English this translates to the “course of breathing”. The arrangement and layout is really something special, a stripped back mentality carried through with the sounds of a flute, and just when you are thinking it can’t become any smoother the lick of an Indian tabla drum strikes just before the drop, breathing more life in to the song. To round things off is ‘Sapte, Numarul Magic’ and this doesn’t distance itself from being an actual dream. If you close your eyes and allow the harmonies to take over, something special is bound to happen. A steady drum ticks away, leaving an open invitation for the mysterious pads and piano stabs to take control. So all in all a true exploration of a variety of creative territories.
For us, this is a personal encounter with Barac himself and we find it a more than fitting release to celebrate the years of hard work Lick My Deck put in to their label, all starting with founder Shaun Soomro. Nothing is left behind with so much care going in to every chapter of their story, from track selection, mastering, and as we mentioned before the hand designed artwork created personally every time. Here’s to many more years of Lick My Deck.
Vinyl Only - Release Date: 3rd of October 2017
Words by Zac Bidwell
- Published on Thursday, 07 September 2017 13:22
Unleash London does not need much of an introduction as being one of the leading underground party brands and bringing the most exciting names to date. It was just two weeks ago when Apollonia played during the day and the night in London as well as bossman Barac destroying the room in Studio Spaces, right after the 2-hour pure live-set by Ion Ludwig; What a weekend that was!
Even dust has not settled yet we were hit by the big news for their next event. On 23rd of September, this time hosted in Mangle8, beautiful, intimate venue bringing a Romanian minimal legend – Rhadoo. Being a one third of the [a;r:pia:r] soundsystem he will play one of his subtle extended sets. His numerous releases on his own imprint with Raresh and Petre Inpirescu, SIT’s Amphia label, Cadenza, Fabric records speak for themselves. His experience and eclectic taste in music shines through his sets and we definitely can’t wait for his Unleash debut.
He will be joined by Moritz Von Oswald who is known as one of the biggest pioneers and the most respected and experienced dj’s of dub techno since 1990s. Over the years he collaborated with artists such as Ricardo Villalobos, Juan Atkins, Carl Craig to name a few. Having been playing at the legendary Tresor club in Berlin for over two decades, he is definitely one of the top artists added to the bill.
And there is Matteo Manzini head of one of the top East London party’s – Damaged. We seen him around for a while now playing for Cartulis, Toi Toi, Half Baked and recently fabriclondon alongside Unleash headliner Rhadoo as well as Sonja Moonear and SIT. He always keeps surprising us with his wide variety of sounds presented during his parties and sets which we think will be a perfect round up for the night.
We are very excited for this line up and looking forward to the event, if you do not want to miss the chance to see those amazing talents, get your tickets now.
Words by Matas Balta