A new stage at Dekmantel Festival: UFO II
Now in its sixth year, the UFO stage at Dekmantel has become a behemoth. With a capacity of a few thousand, the neighbour to the striking main outdoor stage, UFO is a sweaty arena for techno devotees who rock up fresh to the gates at 1PM and rarely leave it until 11PM. Building on a foundation of powerful techno, the UFO programming tweaks the 4/4 formula to maintain a heightened energy across the weekend.
Words by Lauren Martin. We advise to click on 'read-mode' when opening on your mobile device.
The 2018 edition will see artists like DVS1, Randomer, Regis and Veronica Vasicka, and Rødhåd pack a steely punch, Dekmantel newcomers like Patrick Russell and old favourites DJ Bone represent the enduring magic of Detroit, and emerging underground names like Copenhagen’s Mama Snake and Solid Blake hold it down for the breakbeats. While jazz bands and offbeat hip-hop and disco DJs fog up the Greenhouse, and disco, funk and house rhythms float among the treetops of the Selectors stage, UFO anchors the near-universal appeal of techno that’s at the heart of Dekmantel.
As a new addition to the festival, Dekmantel will open UFO II – the smaller, sister stage to UFO. Dekmantel co-founder and head of programming Thomas Martojo explains that as the festival has grown, and 4/4 techno has come to dominate UFO’s programming, “there’s a lot of weird, less straightforward, darker music that we’d love to book, but doesn’t have a place in the Greenhouse or the Selectors stage,” he says. “Many people come to UFO for the 4/4 techno sound, and we didn’t necessarily want to change that - we want to broaden it, so the best solution is to create a new space next to it. With a smaller space for this more experimental music,” he continues, “we can more easily explain to people what our entire vision of Dekmantel is.”
Part of the magic of the weekend is that, across its relatively small site, each of the current six stages has an aesthetic and sound of its own. The design of the seventh stage, UFO II, is a volte-face from the outdoor stages that draw from their green and airy surroundings – a small, covered area with a walkway entrance, full of smoke and draped in simple, coloured lighting. “We want to let your senses guide you rather than being drawn to look at big LED walls,” says Martojo, “so that the décor really feeds you, tickles you. We want it to feel like a dark, sweaty basement club in the middle of the Amsterdam Bos.”
Running concurrently with the other six stages, UFO II will have a 50-50 split of live acts and DJ sets across the three days – with four live acts and four DJs per day, it’s the largest share of live acts of any stage. The programming also fulfils a long-time wish of the team to cater to more abstract strains of electronic music: downbeat ambient, 100-105BPM new wave and EBM-inspired beats, high-energy, super-fast electro and acid; strains that show a different side to the decade-long programming project, cultivating a loyal following of “floaty-yet-punchy” house music lovers, recently given new life with the Selectors compilation series, label and festival in Croatia.
These strains have “always played a part with Dekmantel,” says Martojo, “but in the past three to four years we’ve done a lot with Selectors and the DJs we book there tend to gravitate towards sounds such as disco, funk, house – the brighter and more melodic sounds within dance music. A lot of our attention has gone to that part of Dekmantel and I feel that side of it is established. Now, it’s refreshing for us to go the other way and see what we can do with UFO II, because for us it’s a whole new thing to dive into as programmers – and as DJs, who love and play this music ourselves.”
It’s also a chance to re-present foundational electronic sounds in a contemporary context. As a world premiere, early acid house studio engineer and R&S label affiliate Cisco Ferreira will perform a solo live set. Billed as and inspired by his work with Colin McBean AKA Mr. G as The Advent, Ferreira will draw on the ’90s electro of the duo’s production work during their time with Internal Recordings and Kombination Research, focusing on their B-sides of super-fast Drexciyan electro. “I was always fascinated by these records,” says Martojo, “and it had always been a wish of mine to see if he could play a live set based on this sound entirely.” He admits that he was unsure how Ferreira would respond – to revisit work that’s over 20 years old – but “much to our surprise, he was flattered, inspired and excited to work on the live set. It’ll be a first, a real exclusive.”
Joining The Advent is a stellar line-up of DJs and live performers. Moving from UFO to UFO II is DJ Stingray, who will be joined by electro brother in arms Detroit In Effect, Dekmantel label member Parrish Smith, Dutch acid newcomer Identified Patient. Also DJing inside UFO II will be post-punk freak Elena Colombi, US dark techno titan Silent Servant, Golden Pudel Club resident Phuong-Dan, co-founder of São Paulo-based techno party MAMBA NEGRA Cashu, Red Light Radio regular Job Sifre, and Mariel Ito, the electro and IDM alias of Maceo Plex.
Performing live are British EBM stomper Broken English Club, wonky techno producer Karen Gwyer, Nitzer Ebb front man Douglas McCarthy DJ Terrence Fixmer’s live duo Fixmer and McCarthy, industrial Ostgut Ton affiliate Phase Fatale, dub techno and noise artist Samuel Kerridge, Russian acid producer Gesloten Cirkel, Swedish member of Posh Isolations label-and-crew Varg, Salon des Amateurs regular Toulouse Low Trax, maximalist polymath Errorsmith and esoteric rave producer Xosar.
As the final stages of festival preparation take place, and UFO II is being constructed and styled, Martojo insists that the new stage is no brief experiment. “We’re doing this for the long run,” he insists, “and we’re going to grow it through the Dekmantel label, too - so really, this is just the beginning.”