Sunwaves is a truly unique experience. Nowhere else in the world can you get over 120 hours of non-stop raving, sunrises and sunsets by the beach, and some of the best sounds in underground music. Starting on Thursday and going strong until Wednesday, the marathon event allows for a special vibe to develop as artists are allowed long sets which is not a common thing in today’s festival scene.
These longs sets are what creates happy mistakes and unexpected discoveries to occur. As many who have previously gone to the festival state, it’s easy to plan and organize which artists you will go and see, but you’ll find this plan quickly goes out the window as the days move forward. That is also why we shared with you our Sunwaves Survival Guide a few days before the event.
Four tents, a food area, and a rest area comprise the setting for the seaside event, with each tent equipped with a state-of-the-art Funktion One sound system, as well as lighting, screens and projectors for visual shows behind the stages.
Once the first track is played, the game is on and music will blast for a week straight on the beach and while we tried to fit in as many artists as humanly possible we cannot cover the whole festival and the other talented and most undeniably deserving artists.
All the 24 previous editions have seen a plethora of DJs step into those booths for memorable and one of a kind sets and the 25th edition was no exception. From the shapeshifting vocal-infused Perlon sound of Zip to the outstanding Romanian trademark from :[arpia:r] and elegant electro-biased techno of Craig Richards, from the berlin-esque minimal of DeWalta and Ion Ludwig to the electric vibes of Margaret Dygas and Alexandra, the highlights of this festival are extremely varied.
I could go for a traditional review depicting the moments I lived in the festival chronologically, but I wouldn’t be doing the experience true justice. After this week-long celebration and much reflection of what I just lived, I feel that everyone who loves minimal or at least electronic music should enjoy this festival at least once.
It allows you to experiment and live a sunrise so beautiful you wouldn’t believe it, only to turn around and feel the energy of thousands of people dancing and enjoying themselves to a genre that allows for an intense mental trip, not just a physical one.
Once you arrive at the beach and hours start to go by, you soon realize the sunrise you just experienced is about to become a sunset once again. Slowly but surely it becomes its own twilight zone of looping house and techno where dancers forget about their day to day troubles for a while to enjoy this never-ending mix of sounds.
As lovers of minimal you can tell that almost everyone you meet has the same musical taste, which really allows the festival to become part of your comfort zone really quickly, and traditionally, this is what electronic music is all about in the first place, giving those who usually feel out of place as comfortable space to express themselves through music.
It’s a festival which is based around minimalistic house and techno but still is able to be varied as artists present their own takes on the style, whether it be electric sounds, glitchy frequencies or breakbeat rhythms, all in the end will collaborate towards the same purpose: keep everyone in the loop. Alex Falconer – New Junk City, played by Kozo, is the perfect example.
From the many sets occurring in the week of the festival, there are several that deserve to be highlighted: they were, in fact, full of small and special moments which ultimately built up the good vibes around this beach-side experience.
Ricardo’s appearance in this edition was a very special one. Starting his closing set of the third stage at 5am on Saturday, he played a variety of acid house, minimal and techno records like no-one else is able for 5 hours, reminding us why almost everyone in the industry loves him to the moon and back. One of the highlights of the set was the old-fashioned System7 – Alpha Wave (Plastikman Acid House Remix), which resonated for 20 minutes from the massive speakers of Stage 3.
As 10am Sunday rolled in, Villalobos was joined on stage by his long dated friend and fabric’s own Craig Richards, for an additional 5-hour long b2b set of minimal, electro and breakbeat records which kept the audience going strong directly into Sunday afternoon.
On the other hand, out of the dozens of DJs that played in the festival, I was profoundly touched by Zip’s approach. Considered by many the precursor of minimal with together with Ricardo, his technique and track selection shown why even after so many years in the scene, countless of producers and selectors religiously and closely follow his work with Perlon. Coupled with the setting at Tent 4, his 4-hour set was out of this world with an ambivalent atmosphere. Needless to say, but 2001’s Scott Ferguson – Dump Days clearly showed the man’s digging skills and ability to throw out old and timeless records.
Romanians have an army of excellent producers and DJs which week after week, rave after rave, prove that the now famed “rominimal” can only get stronger and stronger as new generations pick up the sound and evolve their own variations. But if something is true about the best Romanian selectors, it is their ability to manipulate the crowd into a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions when they play.
This was beautifully conveyed by RPR Soundsystem who know just what to do when they play together as well as their own individual sets: Rhadoo, Petre Inspirescu and Raresh showed with their different performances all along the festival why they continue to push the boundaries of electronic music combining cuts of house, dub and minimal to create never-ending soundscapes where it’s impossible to discern where one track begins and the other ends. The vocal of the newly released Villalobos remix of Feater – Time Million ft. Vilja Larjosto, dropped by Raresh, came out smooth and suddenly in from the previous track, and absolutely made my day
Priku and his DJing style are another perfect example of how the different genres can work together seamlessly at any given point. Using a rotary mixer for his set, the artist dropped bomb after bomb with a finesse and quality that had everyone on the tent dancing non-stop.
Usually, in charge of closing duties for the festival, Midi Records owner, Mihigh, crafts deeper and darker sets which feel right at home with the crowd of this festival. Tune after tune, a flurry of glitchy and twisted tracks developed a gloomy ambiance as the week comes to a close.
On Monday night, Ion Ludwig demonstrated why he continues to be one of the most sought after artists in the world of minimal, his live act is the musical depiction of trippy darkness, and his music continues to resonate with me for a long time. Powerful low-ends coupled with eerie vocals and driving grooves set the tone of a performance that only keeps getting better with time.
DeWalta’s daytime set was another perfect example of how elegant and carefully crafted sounds deserve prime time slots in more events around the planet. The Meander boss always has a few weapons under his sleeve and for this edition, he took no prisoners knitting together track after track with his own style constantly bubbling under each deep and heavy groove.
This brings up another point of why Sunwaves is such a space like no other for music. Normally festival goers usually are treated to 1 hour or 45-minute sets from the headliners, different events cram as many artists into their timetables as they can, giving them no space to develop a story or craft a journey. Laurent Garnier and many other DJs have been vocal about this issue, and Sunrise understands that for this special vibe to be nurtured, each artist must feel comfortable to portray what they want with their music without being rushed into playing “bangers” which they know work.
So, after an experience like no other, I would recommend the electronic music scene to direct their attention to how this festival is organized, its ethos and attention to detail is what music all over the world should aim to be. We all know that as the scene develops into an industry, the business side of it becomes stronger, but it’s important to maintain the cultural aspects which drive creativity and friendship alive.
I’ve never felt more charged and happy and exhausted all at the same time, going to this festival allowed me to gather a very special perspective of music and what I aim to do as a collaborator of this beautiful scene.
Let’s take a step forward and continue to work together towards a community that holds in high regard musical values and talent over business and benefit.
Sunwaves 26th edition is fast approaching and will take place between Thursday, August 15th and Tuesday, August 20th.
You can keep up to speed by checking out this space, or alternatively their event page.
Lead image and words: Felipe Gallo