A familiar feeling begins to manifest on the approach to Crans Montana. It’s always the scenic route, whichever way you arrive and the anticipation for what’s coming serves all the more sweeter. Surrounded by the beauty of the Swiss alps, there is one particular mountain at the forefront of focus. The road is leading back to Caprices and this time, the celebration is twenty years in the game.
Most of us recognise that see-through, sun-lit stage they call Modernity. Only the finest names in the electronic scene keep coming back to play on the mountain. Fifteen minutes by cable car, a float away from the reality below. Precision programming and a knack for having it large only fuels the desire to retain the bar as high as is the altitude. And this year’s edition was to be no different.
The Modernity stage was born as part of an impromptu defiance back in 2009. A determination to continue the party that saw Luciano, Sonja Moonear, festival founder Maxime Leonard and a small bunch of friends, carrying speakers on their backs up to a friend’s mountain restaurant. A sanctuary, where shenanigans could continue and focus on the electronic aspect of the festival, that would develop into the core.
The idea to put a stage up on top came quite naturally after this point. Over a decade later, Modernity has and continues to be one of the most widely recognisable dance spots in Europe and beyond.
Spread over two weekends, you’ll usually find the second is the favourite for Trommelistas. A blend of electronic flavours settles on the more minimalistic, the underground. The lineup set for the first day couldn’t have been much more suited to that sound.
Perlon president Zip was already serving up a smooth session of the deep as we took our first steps from the cable car, immersing into the haven of sound. Punchy basslines laced with light house, soaking up the rays of sunlight that bounced down through the roof of the glass above. Comfort collided with excitement, a quick fire transition into the heat from the cold of the heights outside.
Friends gathered in a rapidly growing crowd, while family came together at the stacked setup behind. Zip elegantly flexed through own label classics, a welcome warmth before the live rendition set to follow from Cobblestone Jazz. Jamming together since the 90s, the trio bring with them an exquisite setup, a pattern of machines placed with Mathew Jonson and Tyger Dhula at the helm. Danuel Tate sat behind, armed with two mechanical keyboards and a mic that would bend live samples of speech into a distorted world of electronica.
A myriad of own artist specials followed, merging dark melodies with twisted synth and a full fusion of jazz. The creative minds of Cobblestone flexed through a bunch of their best productions, starting as far back as ‘India In Me’ – one of their earliest recordings. Improvisation met experimentation, turning new pages in the groove.
Anticipation was at its peak, ready for the first closing on the mountain that had been saved for a special back to back. Two Chilean masters of minimal, Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano. For the best part of a decade it had been a rarity to catch these two together on the blend. Thankfully, recent years have seen a resurgence and Caprices keep bringing them back on the regular.
From the first second, the pioneers of percussion slipped comfortably into a playful procession. Ricardo’s choppy drum patterns chugged tastefully between Luciano’s energy led house. Hands crossed between affectionate embrace, as a togetherness emanated from the masters in the booth that could be felt throughout the crowds around. For three hours we were at the mercy of the music, as the duo dug through rapturous melodies, patters of old school and killer basslines. If only we could have had three hours more.
Night time saw techno titans came together on the Moon stage, a golden opportunity to see two pioneers of sound, one after the other. Richie Hawtin followed on from Jeff Mills, pounding through the heavier side of techno.
Those more in tune with the deeper flavours had a choice to make – Forest or Dome. The latter was to receive Mike Shannon and Cesar Merveille, outstanding DJs and producers, both veterans in the game.
The Forest is the larger of the two stages and tonight it was Sunrise on hosting duties. Arapu and Gescu started off sparring through bubbly, Romanian grooves. Choppy vocals laced over swinging percussion, with an infectious rhythm that rolled prominently from one to the next. The place was packed as Sonja Moonear took position, before the fire bright banner that offered immersive visual from behind. With Raresh following in stride, it was another royal pairing to see out the night.
Unfortunately, due to poor weather conditions, the Saturday session wasn’t able to take place on the mountain as intended. As the town of Crans Montana glistened in the onslaught of snow, the intense mountain winds posed hazard to the safe usage of the cable cars above. In shield from the blizzard, the programme was moved down to the usual night village. This didn’t stop the ever ready attendees, with the Modernity crowd descending en masse to the Forest and the Dome.
Daytime antics were championed by Seth Troxler and Loco Dice, following on from Manda Moor. For four hours the pair slew it out back to back, keeping the heat in from the relent of the snow outside. The Forest was already at boiling point before the night had even started. When it came to the turn of Michel Cleis, who had been scheduled to open the night village, he graciously offered his opening hour so the previous pairing could continue. A modest move – one that made sense in the moment.
Heavy hitters took their positions over at the Moon stage. Dubfire was poised to premiere EVOLV, a new live set combining bespoke visuals and rapid rolling techno. But something else was brewing in the Dome. Tonight was Yoyaku’s turn and they brought their own A players to boot. The French label have become a regular fixture at the festival, with Janeret representing the platform another time round. Miroloja celebrated their Caprices debut with O.BEE and Tomas Station on closing duties, a pair you’ll catch playing here there and everywhere of late.
Sunday was saved for Sven Vath. A special extended edition, a proven recipe of closing that so wonderfully sees out the weekend. Previous years have seen the Papa play across both the mountain and the night village. But there really is nobody better placed for the Modernity finale. Thanks to East End Dubs and Archie Hamilton, the energetic grooves began long before the evening, a sure fire warm up before the Cocoon legend arrived.
Sven dished out his usual dosage of euphoric techno, digging through an ever impressive collection of wax. Armed with a crate of records either side, he effortlessly worked the magic of the music. Four hours of whomping basslines soon turned into six, an announcement which came scribed on a record sleeve, perfectly received by an already elated crowd.
Day turned to night, as the slick lighting rig above dished out those warm brights one last time. As Sven signed off with the sweet melodies of Bicep’s ‘Atlas’ and roll of paper into the crowd, we were left brimming with emotion. Time for one last journey, back down to the ground.
Following suit of previous years, the outpouring of love felt from the slopes of Crans Montana continues to gush across socials of artists and attendees alike. As the snow settles, we reminisce of another edition of a most serene pilgrimage, one that will stand tall at the forefront, time and time again. Caprices you beauty, here’s to the happiest of twenty years – and to another twenty more.
Caprices Morocco edition is taking place 12th – 14th May in Marrakech, featuring Archie Hamilton, ARPIAR, Dubfire, Mathew Jonson (live), Stephan Bodzin and more. Find more information and tickets here.