Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Clean Family Fun

Never having been to Pontins or any similar UK holiday institution previously, I really had no idea what the whole Bloc experience was going to be like but the ridiculously good line-up was just far too enticing to miss and it was with great anticipation that I’d signed up several weeks beforehand. Following a fairly painless bus ride from London and a slightly long-winded check-in process upon arrival, The ill-ec-tro-nic and our band of merry ravers finally got the keys to our chalet and despite it reminding me of my old council flat; solid walls, comfy beds and hot water were clearly going to a be a much better idea than camping during a UK winter!

The Bloc advertising stated the presence of the mighty Funktion One and upon entering the TECBLOC arena, it soon became abundantly clear that this was merely the icing on the cake as the room had been transformed from it’s usual cabaret style set-up to a mecca for the disciples of bleep with full scale sound and lighting rigs that included the best lasers I’ve seen for a long time – this was going to be THE BOMB!

Not only had the organisers secured a plethora of high quality acts but they’d also devised a well-planned schedule that put complementary acts on after each other rather than at the same time as can often be the case at such events so once we’d put our rough agenda together it was time for us to dive in head first…

Our first night alone packed in more high-calibre acts than I usually see over several months and although both Various Production and Legowelt were both on at the same time, the proximity of the rooms enabled to check out a bit of both sets. Unfortunately neither quite lived up to previous performances in my book with Various’ DJ set in particular falling well short of the full live show we’d seen at Sonar last year – not that they didn’t have the place rockin’ though! Mr Velcro Fastener and Dymanix II provided a healthy dose of electro that is sadly lacking from most listings these days and Dave Clarke and our old mate Necta Selecta both dished up some quality platters in between.

However, the undoubted highlight of the first night was the live performance by the Interstellar Fugitives and I’m glad to say that the prospect of a full-on UR performance with Mike Banks in tow easily lived up to expectations especially as they chose to bless the crowd with live renditions of classics from across their artistic roster with both ‘Amazon’ and ‘Midnight Sunshine’ being present – it really doesn’t get much better than this!

Having failed to haul our sorry asses out of bed in time to see the Bleep43 showcase open day two’s proceedings, it was the electronic delights of Christ and Digitonal that eased us into our Saturday prior to us deciding on a hearty meal ahead of our planned 10 hour (!) stint in the BASSBLOC. Now, one of the things I typically like about festivals is just wandering around and letting my ears decide where I should park myself for a while but the listings for this arena were just ridiculously good…and thankfully did not disappoint!

As solo artists, both Claro Intelecto and Andy Stott are right at the top of their games so bettering this as a dual live pairing was always going to be a nigh on impossible task but their 60 minutes of dub tinged techno was a tasty treat and set the scene nicely for Convextion, one of the latest gems in Detroit’s crown. Sleeparchive was up next and what this man lacks in stage presence (does he get sprayed with glue before he performs?) he more than makes up for with his stripped down audiophile techno grooves.

I’m not sure whether Lory D had taken note of Sleeparchive’s somewhat static demeanour or whether his energy and showmanship were the norm but if it’s possible for one man and a machine to give a techno ‘performance’ then this guy was giving it a pretty good go! The crowd participation continued for Monolake's performance, in fact he chose to get closer to the party in more ways than one by planting himself and his Monodeck slap bang in the middle of the crowd and performing from the mixing booth where both audience and performer were clearly relishing the aural delights filling the air.

Halfway through our BASSBLOC marathon, we decided to take a breather for a while but 40 minutes later we hurriedly rushed back after one of our posse phoned to inform us that Karl Bartos “is playing classic Kraftwerk”. Now this is what we and the rest of the crowd were clearly hoping for but the much publicised control that Ralf and Florian exert over their ventures had led me to assume that he may sneak a couple of cheeky Kraftwerk numbers in at best but even after missing the first part of the set, I got to hear faultless versions of The Model, Computer Love, Robots and several other classics. He did of course play a number of his own compositions but while competent, these were sadly no real match for the Kraftwerk pearls although this is probably due in part to my unfamiliarity with the subject matter as tracks such as ‘I’m the Message’ sit easily with the group’s back catalogue.

Dubstep had a heavy presence at the festival and despite my ever-growing love of this genre, the sheer wealth of quality techno on offer prevented me from getting as much of this action as I’d hoped. We did however manage to check out some of Skream’s set and it was a suitably heavy affair and a lot more danceable than I was expecting (I’m only on beginner’s level dubstep lessons) with Langer reliably informing me that should I accompany him to the next DMZ then it’s likely to be more of the same – nice!

However, our long haul in the BASSBLOC was not over and it was time to head back and catch some Radioactive Man who treated the crowd to a never-ending rendition of Uranium followed by tasters from his forthcoming album interspersed with older treats. It was then back to the old school for the next two acts and as one of the founding fathers of both techno and electro, Juan Atkins could easily have sounded rooted in the past but thankfully this was not the case and he played a blinding set…this was unfortunately in contrast to Mr Beltram who seemed to be knocking out the same old tunes he has done for the last 15 years and soon caused us to leave the BASSBLOC behind.

The remainder of the night and in fact the rest of the festival was spent milling between rooms and shuffling along to whatever took our fancy – the final thing of real note (we were on the Sunday evening bus) being Ceefax’s Acid Bingo which unlike the messed up game we were expecting seemed to be yet another excuse for a rave-up, this time full of old school breakbeat classics, oh and a touch of Chas & Dave just to show that these things should never really be taken too seriously! A trip to the glorious white sands (ahem!) of Hemsby beach also provided an added bonus to the proceedings and rounded off what can only be described as one of my finest festival experiences ever. In fact, once the organisers have worked out how to make it warm and sunny in the UK during March then they’ll have finalised their formula for devising a truly world-class event.

Various Production - Go Beat //Various Production
Karl Bartos - I'm the Message //Home Records
The_Black_Ghosts_-_Some_Way_Through_This_(Plastician_&_Skream_Remix) //Southern Fried
Christ - Lazy Daisy Meadow // Benbecula

P.S. There's 10 free Bloc-related downloads at


I gotta admit i was more inclined to go this year than last to Bloc, but once again I am paying to go to Sonar and I know Sonar is like 3 months off but I really am starting to think i made a boobup and its really all about Bloc MUSICALLY this year.

Great review - so thanks. That Claro/Andy Stott stuff sounds fucking incredible everytime i hear it. Nice one.
I think musically, the two events are on a par with each other but for different reasons.

Bloc had a lineup to die for and what with everything being in a small geographic location and with specific set times it was a joy to work out what we wanted to see and then just stroll for 2 mins to get between the different rooms.

The 'official' lineups for Sonar always seem to have a balance between the premier league and a bunch of relatively unknown artists and labels. The sun and outdoor elements of Sonar by Day are perfect for just letting yourself drift between the best sounds and on both times I've gone, I've been introduced to a host of quality new music in this manner...although they are changing the venue this year so I hope they manage to maintain the same appeal with the new out of town location.

I found Sonar by Night to be slightly hard work due to the sheer size of the rooms and number of people present which is why we opted for unofficial night activities last year in the form of beach parties and club nights and by adding all of these extra options into the mix, Sonar's scale and quality increases dramatically.

I think whichever option you go for is an almost guaranteed winner.
I am, UR, we will, RESIST

yeah make it in august, in Cornwall and they would be on a winner, but the negative 15 temp made it all the more fun, hats of to the BLOC crew and all the artists and peeps who made it a very special weekend.
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