Review by Miro Sandev / Photography by Karma Images on 7/12/11
Dedicated to deep space electronic music, the Subsonic Music Festival 2011 brought together an amazing line-up of international and local artists in a picturesque setting. Pulse Radio reporter Miro Sandev went along to review the festival and it's huge electronic music line-up.
Nestled in the luscious rolling greens of the Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort in NSW’s gorgeous natural wilderness heritage area of Barrington Tops, the Subsonic venue is something to behold.
The Monkerai Valley space rests on the banks of the mountain river in the foothills of Barrington Tops, and on entering you would be forgiven for mistaking the electronic music Mecca for a natural yoga sanctuary, so peaceful are the surrounds. As you follow the dirt road in you pass a series of ponds littered with lily pads, friendly cows and even camels circling the water. Overhead the squawks of the cockatoos appear to be the only thing shattering the calm silence. That, and oh, the banging techno pulsating from beyond the hills.
While the heavens threatened to dampen spirits with rain on Saturday according to forecasts, the weather held together and the afternoon provided a sweltering heat to warm everyone’s dancing pants. With everyone warmed up for the evening, Cadenza’s Frivolous took to the decks with a furious intensity and a whole swag of home-made electronic gizmos that tweaked and stretched the tech-house sounds he was mixing. The famous ‘Frivolous Patented Electro-magnetic Knife’ got a showing, as did a red telephone receiver used as a microphone. Frivolous dabbled in and then transcended his background in Detroit house and techno, to deliver a set of imaginative, wobbley, four-four goodness. For more on Frivolous, check out our interview with him here on Pulse Radio.
Simon Caldwell was then given free reign, starting out with some more syncopation in the mix as he moved the crowd into breaks and dub before returning to glitchy techno numbers and house. The Mad Racket organiser, renowned for his eclectic prowess lived up to the reputation and had the Paradiso stage well and truly flying by the time he relinquished the turntables.
Meanwhile over at the main stage, hip hop heads were nodding along to the sounds of the Resin Dogs, Chali 2na and Hermitude, who all did well to pull a respectably sized crowd away from the comfort of Paradiso and onto the muddy flats of the stage. Take a look at the guide to Subsonic that Resin Dogs made for Pulse Radio here.
Back at Paradiso A Guy Called Gerald (aka Gerald Simpson) was developing his interpretation of the “True School” mantra, taking the crowd through a mixture of retrospective acid-house nostalgia and future-looking compositions.
With the ‘mad scientist’ Max Cooper (he actually had a day job as a scientist until recently) mixing up a chemical storm on the main stage, more and more punters began to brave the mud dance floor and shuffle along to the melancholy sounds. Cooper’s breakthrough releases ‘Serie’ on Traum Shallplatten were each inspired by a discrete mathematical or scientific concept and experiencing his precision mixing, it is easy to see his connection to patterns.
But as hinted by the title of his composition The End of Reason, he is equally drawn to the emotional power of haunting melodies, of which he had many to share during his two hour dream spell. By the end of the performance the crowd was enchanted by the sublime melancholy of the pieces. For more on Max Cooper, check out our Q&A with him here on Pulse Radio.
Cocoon-label stalwart Phil Kieran continued the mood and added an extra element of darkness to proceedings as he began laying down a range of minimal-tech sounds that verged on the evil at times. Slowing the pace down but increasing the brooding bass lines, Kieran painted an aural painting of purgatory, complete with flaming riffs and sharp, gleaming minimal beats. This writer thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful mix but some perhaps felt a little uncomfortable with the level of intensity.
Luckily for them, near the river Lisbon-born techno fiends The Bastards were unleashing a torrent of energy, tearing strips off the stage canopy, and literally blowing the decorative streamers off the roof. Their epic set oscillated between pounding techno and tech-house rhythms, and waves of lower-tempo melodies with elements of disco and house thrown in for good measure. It was hard not to be sucked in by the genuinely fun spirit these guys brought to the tables and almost everyone was wearing stupid grins by the end.
For the final set of the evening at the main stage, only one word can really summarise what the crowd was exposed to by Egbert: relentless. Just when you thought he would slow things down and provide much needed respite, he would launch another banging thumper. The fierce jacking-house and techno repertoire of the Dutch maestro had hearts and heads pounding for hours after the speakers were turned off. Check out our Q&A with Egbert as well as his latest DJ mix here on Pulse radio.
The music continued around the clock and Sydney’s David Cho provided a stellar early morning highlight at Paradiso, complementing the rising sun with a fine selection of uplifting tracks that had feet moving for hours. Even Egbert joined along for a boogie, with the end of the set offering up some lush disco-house numbers.
After a brief resting of weary heads, the blazing sunshine prompted camp-dwellers out from under the tarps and into the river for a dip in the delightfully ice-cold water. With the chance of sleep further diminishing the longer the day wore on, most headed back down into the stages after smashing the obligatory coffee.
Bumble and Heyoka provided some mid-afternoon madness at Paradiso, which was conveniently within range of the riverside bar. Across on the main stage a shirtless Alexkid was setting a course for minimal-tech that it was perhaps a little too early for as the floor was regretfully quite sparse, although the DJ would feature prominently later on in the eve.
Spoonbill brought to the riverside tent his trademark psychedelic, dubby chaos and had bodies bobbing and weaving in religious unison. A dubstep remix of Old Dirty Bastard’s “Baby I Got Your Money” sent spines twisting and human shrieks floated through the canopies. Melbourne’s Opiuo followed up with another beats bonanza, tending towards more hip hop and glitch-based sounds.
Sunday night saw the punters don all manner of tripped-out costumes to prepare for the festival’s fancy dress festivities. Sumo men stood next to giant waffles. Tron-inspired bodysuit and helmet-wearers carved up the dance-floor like programmed machine units and fluffy giant characters floated around bringing a mix of joy and fear.
With the weather turning cold and ominous clouds moving across the plains, Swedish duo Minilogue took to the stage. As joy-ride helicopters circled the grassy knolls and the minimal melodies grew darker, the set carried an air of post-apocalyptic chaos. The set blended the minimal beats the duo are famous for with complex, oriental melodies, a mixture of live sounds and layered loops. The epic three and a half hour odyssey carried the crowd through almost every mood imaginable, changing up pace, rhythm, and keys.
Producer-turned-post rocker Apparat followed up the emotional ride with his own beautiful four piece live band. The Gotye doppelganger showed off his smooth crooning and guitar skills as the band delivered a delicate post rock drone-fest at times approaching the sounds of bands like Sigur Ros and Mum. The melancholia of earlier Apparat work was on display in their rendition of Rusty Nails and the band set the scene for a vigorous after party, sending everyone off with a feisty tech-driven number.
And what an after-party was had by those that stuck around at the tiny Pizza Lab venue courtesy of the fun and friendly Franchi Brothers. AlexKid was offered up another chance to rock socks at a warmer venue and the man did not miss a beat. It was clear he was delighted to be there and was feeding off the crowd, mouthing the lyrics to most of the vocal house tracks he dropped.
Moving through tech and house into some camp disco numbers, AlexKid had everyone steaming in the lab and shouting for him to continue until sunrise. The desire was so strong it took the owner of the resort coming down and shutting the system off to finally get people out of there.
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