Dekmantel doesn’t mess around.
Over the course of three days, dance music selectors and connoisseurs from around the world congregate in the south of the city for wall to wall vibes and all-round music goodness. This year there was more drum n bass than ever before, but mainly vintage d n b (think V Recordings classic Warhead) rather than newer productions. On the Sunday, Goldie and Randall played a 90s Metalheadz set at The Greenhouse and before them, Source Direct went back to back with Paul Woolford on the same fierce jungle tip. But it wasn’t just a jungle: on the main stage on Saturday, Four Tet and Tom Trago delivered.
On the same stage on Sunday, this month’s cover star Helena Hauff destroyed the competition with an unrelenting sonic assault while Boiler Room in the evening rocked to both Danny Daze and Special Request, who, like Palms Trax and Trago, were given two sets over the course of the weekend. At Dekmantel, if you’re playing more than once, you’re definitely doing something right.
We've headed to every single edition since the start and there's one thing we always notice. It only ever gets better and for a festival to be able to say that six years on the bounce, well, that's rare. Here are tracks that rocked the Bos in 2018.
Shanti Celeste 'Give You' (Syndromad 1991 Mix) Djamin ft Crystal
Immediately after entering the festival, we were greeted with some 90’s house, laid down by Chilean-born, Bristol-grown Shanti Celeste. Dekmantel was officially locked into the groove, with a hearty crowd forming quickly. This piano-laced banger was the intro to what would surely be another rip-roaring edition of Amsterdam's, nay Europe's finest event.
John Talabot 'Escape from Enceladus' Tr One
You could spend the whole day in the Greenhouse with its tiered dancing platforms on both sides, plantscape to match the name, and an incredibly well-rounded line-up across the three days. One of our favourite sets of Day One (and the weekend overall) came from John Talabot and the crowd was transfixed with each of his faultless selection. When the Hivern Discs boss dropped 'Escape from Enceladus' from Irish techno duo Tr One, we heard a perfectly in-unison ‘wow’ from the crowd. We stayed until the very last note and we're glad we did.
Call Super 'Kinetic' (Frank De Wulf remix) Golden Girls
It’s safe to say that Call Super is an undeniable favourite of Dekmantel. For his Main Stage set, while he took risks, he remained fully connected and in command of the crowd. His selections satisfied the wealth of existing fans and no doubt put an urgent call out to a drove of new followers. We can still feel the euphoria from the crowd when he played the Frank De Wulf remix of Golden Girls’ ‘Kinetic’, a certified R&S classic. Trancey, soulful and with some pan flute sprinkled in, what more could you ask for on a sunny day in the Bos.
Objekt 'Monster VIP' The Maghreban
In the deep, dark and cavernous UFO tent, it was almost essential that we caught Objekt, an artist who has always captivated us with an effortless ability to move from techno to breakbeat to dubstep and everywhere in between. We caught him dropping an unreleased R&S record from The Maghreban called ‘Monster VIP’, which like its namesake, is a monster. It was perfectly incorporated into TJ Hertz's set, but you'll have to wait a little bit longer to check this one, it's released on September 14.
Dekmantel Soundsystem 'Feel The Drive' (Instrumental) Doctor’s Cat
Of course, there's no-one better to set the tone for day two of Dekmantel than the founders themselves, Dekmantel Soundsystem. While disco has always been a mainstay of the festival, the trio found the groove with a hefty amount of italo-disco and new wave, leaving the 70s in the dust. 'Feel The Drive' which was released in 1983 acted as a benchmark for a session that stood out from the rest. If hands-in-the-air moments are what you were searching for, you needn't have looked further than the people that set up the festival.
Skatebård 'Agfachrome Rsx II' Skatebård
Norwegian producer Skatebård played two sets on Saturday, one at the main stage opener and one for Boiler Room, where we were able to catch one of the best hours of music of the day. We discreetly shazammed our favourite from the set, only to find out it was a big one from the man himself. Pronunciation of ‘Agfachrome Rsx II’ might be difficult, but the sound is nothing but smooth all the way through.
Palms Trax 'Without Your Love' (DJ Spen & Thommy Davis Mix) Spencer Morales feat. Randy Roberts
With three sets across the weekend, if almost feels as if Palms Trax has become a bit of a celebrity at Dekmantel. While we couldn’t squeeze our way through the Palmsy superfans during his headline set in the Greenhouse on Friday, we made sure to secure a spot on the dancefloor for his Boiler Room throwdown. With an hour's worth of A+ tunes, it's pretty hard to narrow down the ones that hit hardest although DJ Spen and Thommy Davis' mix of 'Without Your Love' was pretty damn joyous. Try not to smile listening to this one, we dare you.
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Four Tet ‘Afraid’ (Four Tet Edit) Nelly Furtado
Pulling the biggest main stage crowd of Saturday night by far, Four Tet’s eclectic, soul-fuelled grooves veered from classic glacial techno (Mathew Jonson’s Circo Loco classic ‘Marionette’) to old school drum n bass in the form of Suburban Bass ‘95 anthem Dread Base and even a touch of ‘Long Division’ by Washington DC’s post-hardcore guitar heroes Fugazi. But the biggest cheer was saved for his natty edit of ‘Afraid’ by Nelly Furtado, which has been doing the rounds via a Ben UFO mix for a couple of months now. The clued-up Dekmantel crew knew it well - the question is, will this edit see the official light of day? In the mean time, here's that tasty YT rip, hope that's ok, Kieran.
Special Request 'Shari Vari' A Number Of Names
Fun fact: the original ‘81 vinyl release of this Miss Kittin vocal favourite will set you back £300 on Discogs but the less essential ‘02 remixes can be picked up on 12” for considerably less: good news for anyone hopping onto the electro train as the sound makes another comeback in clubland. This record folllowed us around all weekend at Dekmantel and popped up again in the middle of Special Request’s second Sunday set headlining Boiler Room in amongst a furious mix of Dance Mania, Kraftwerk and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ There’s a new approved edit of ‘Shari Vari’ by The Hacker and Vitalic on Lektroluv that’s worth checking out on Beatport too.
Jamie xx 'On Hold' (Jamie xx Remix) The xx
On the Sunday, Jamie xx pulled the biggest crowd of the weekend at The Selector stage. It's not hard to figure out why. He's a hugely popular and populist DJ who not only knows how to play a proper Sunday afternoon vinyl set (veering from Idris Muhammad (R.I.P.) to cool Joey Negro disco re-edits) but is also a producer who's also earned the respect of Floating Points, Daphni, Four Tet and his mum, who all watched J play. The biggest reaction by far was for his own extended Talabot-esque remix of 'On Hold', which is still doing the business a year after its original vinyl release. Also - crucially - this sun-flecked club mix bangs for six minutes straight and is clearly way better than the slightly anodyne original.
Ralph Moore is Mixmag's Editor at Large, follow him on Twitter
Carré Orenstein is Mixmag's US Partnerships Manager, follow her on Twitter