At the beginning of September, Monument was attending the fourth edition of Paral·lel, as a pilgrimage since the birth of the henceforth respected deep techno festival.
The weekend began for me and my fellow team of French friends on the Thursday evening, with the now usual road trip between my homeland of Provence and the Spanish Pyrenees. The way to get there is always a part of the experience, with its snaking mountain roads passing through picturesque villages and stunning landscapes. It is also a good moment to get into the mood for the next days to come. I took advantage of the 5-hours car ride by diving in the lineup’s discographies & mixes, and by giving a special listen to the acts I didn’t know by then, such as Huerco S’ ambient side, Vactrol Park or Amalgam. From what I’ve heard that day and what I knew already, I kind of had the feeling that the overall musical mood would be different than the previous years: with bigger techno names such as of Mike Parker, Rrose or Svreca, and the absence of ‘hypnotic tribalism’ oriented artists like Valentino Mora or Dorisburg – who were playing the previous editions. Well, I thought, ‘’change and unknown is always exciting’’! And not to be forgotten, il maestro Donato Dozzy would close the celebration! Thinking of that, my enthusiasm would just grow even more. But let’s get back to the car ride: we crossed the border around midnight and arrived soon after in Guardiola de Berguedà, the municipality where the festival is held from the very beginning. The night was dark as we planted the tent in a natural camping spot near the first year’s location, and we soon after fell asleep. The following day was a special one, and we needed to be in full power mode.
Waking up in these mountains is always something unique, with this beautiful mix of forest, fog and early sunbeams. As the sun was beating down the tent canvas and our freshly awakened minds, we would slowly realise that it was finally the D-day. A hearty breakfast and an invigorating river bath later, we were in the car again on our way to El Jou, the new location of the festival since 2018. In the last few hundred meters of the ascent, we met a group of friends on their bikes who rode all the way from Toulouse! Such a good example for us all. Even for partying, we should always try to reduce our footprint and choose the greenest transport mode. By the way: thumbs up to Paral·lel for their greentax that encourages carpooling and for their highly efficient bus shuttle system.
A few minutes later, we had parked the car, enjoyed the stunning view on the lake, valley and mountains for a bit, and went straight to the festival entrance. Despite the arrival of two successive shuttles and the fact that the guards were checking every bag to apply the strict no-external-alcohol policy, entrance was smooth. This in-depth check at the entrance did probably surprise more than one, but knowing that it took a couple of years to the festival to reach financial stability, it is understandable that organisers had to take actions to secure the bar incomes. Anyway, we were in! What a pleasure it was to be there again. We efficiently made our way through the festival area, dropped our stuff at the camping and were soon after heading to the stage. The view while walking towards the dancefloor is always impressive. If you have never attended or seen a picture from the festival, which I doubt, here is a little reminder about Paral-lel’s stage configuration – which is quite simple: it is composed of a geometric dome to host the DJ booth, surrounded by two white towers of powerful Lambda Labs QX-3 speakers, a functional bar on a side, a forest on the other, a deep valley in the background and at the center, a decent pack of passionate deep electronic music lovers. It is also important to mention that there is no other stage. And that the program is divided in three chapters, with enough time to rest in between. To make it simple, everything is made to enjoy each artists’ performances, and this is precisely what we did.
From the second we got into the festival area, we had met so many worldwide friends from the previous years. Seeing all these familiar faces and the number of smiles & hugs on that dancefloor was saying a lot about the annual meeting point that the festival became. There truly is a family feeling in this place; a family of a thousand caring and focused souls. But let’s get back to that dancefloor: a few moments after the first notes, people were sitting and chatting while slowly diving into Huerco S’ ambient set. I must say I had no idea that the man was producing and playing this kind of music before seeing his name on the lineup. In the meantime, I had of course been catching up and was pleasantly surprised (not to say impressed) by his works, such as his album For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have). Therefore, I was very curious to hear him on the opening duty of one of my favorite festivals. Verdict: The beginning of his set was a subtle mix of soft ambient tracks that, without going too deep, was allowing people to listen on one hear and to socialize on the other, enjoying their first beer and the quality of the moment. I can perfectly remember that track he played which was basically a cicada sound accompanied by a strong, repetitive bassline, as it reminded me of home and made me feel so good. Passed this great introduction, the artist then pursued on a rolling downtempo mood including some interesting tracks but with a lack of coherency to me. After some points, I was expecting something with more storytelling for an opening set, something deeper, more evolutive. But it’s just my opinion, and at the end I fully respect and understand the choice of offering something quite light for that slot.
Following then was Vactrol Park, a british duo I’ve also never heard of before seeing them on the lineup. It took me a bit of time to get into their live set. Some nice rolling sounds and organic, tribalistic broken beats made me get up, but it quickly got a bit repetitive. Again, I felt a lack of evolution, a lack of story to accompany the sun in its descent.
Once the nightfall had fully arrived, the mood quickly intensified as the second duo of the night was taking over. I had missed Crossing Avenue already once in the past and would not have made that mistake twice. With nothing but a strong discography, the releases of the Spazio Disponibile‘s affiliates simply never disappoint. The italians started their live set with interesting non-conventional rhythms, and transited to the 4/4 time signature with their killer Hiver rework. The mental and efficient deep techno vibe they developed got everyone in the rave mood instantly, the party was on! For the first (and certainly not the last) time of the weekend, I was turning my head towards the sky, and its clearness amazed me. The amount of stars above us was just mind blowing, and the space available (hehe) absolutely immense. The exploration was launched, intense. And instead of slowly coming down to earth, the two momentaneous pilots decided to propel us at 135 bpm into a new upbeat dimension. Boom!, to me, the first big set of the festival had just happen.
Three years after his first appearance at Paral·lel, Semantica’s boss and deep techno master Svreca then closed the night with a solid yet not very surprising dj-set. The proper mixing and unique Spanish techno vibe still caught the public, and it was a great ending to this opening session.
The weather in the southern part of the Pyrenees is often unpredictable and has the crazy habit of changing on a dime. It can be sunny, rainy, warm, windy, cold and hot again, all this within a couple of hours. On the Saturday morning, our closest star had decided to warm us up, and the morning river bath down in the valley was mandatory in order to fully enjoy the rest of the day. When we came back, we had missed Paral·lel’s resident Guillam, which was quite sad as I really digged his ambient selection from last year. Hopefully his 2019 set will be published sooner or later.
The first artist we had the chance to hear that day was thus a new face to me, but obviously not a new face to the Spanish scene. The gray haired deejay – named mouseDown – offered a very fine vinyl mix from ambient to deep, slow paced techno. Hearing very detailed tracks such as Conforce’s Zephyr played from wax on this soundsystem was one kind of an experience. This is something you have probably heard of too: these Lambda Labs speakers deliver one of the clearest sound you can hear on such a powerful system. To get back to mouseDown performance, the mood then evolved into space-infused techno sounds that got everyone dancing despite the early time of the afternoon. It was a proper set from the beginning until the end, and another one to remember if you ask me.
Following up after this surprisingly early party mood was surely not an easy task for the talented Dutch duo Wanderwelle, as they had obviously planned to start with calmer music. Kicking off their live set with ambient again, they operated a re-construction of the vibe, from organic ambient to deeper sounds, which was a good transition to Refracted’s music. But again, the weather is very unexpectable in the area, and soon after the festival’s artistic director had started, the rain joined the party and dragged itself into the set, spreading a playful vibe both among the dancefloor and behind the decks. Despite the great moment it was, the rain was falling hard and we needed some warmness for a while. This was the perfect timing to try out the new showers and well, I can only applaud the organizers for that. What a luxury it was to be able to take a warm and clean shower during a festival.
When we came back, Adiel had already started. The Roma’s Goa club resident was the artist I was the most curious to hear, as I’m a big adept of her releases on her label Danza Tribale and as I had heard quite a few nice things about her music and energy. Well, she has instantly confirmed the words. With a straight forward and communicative mixing style, she played a recital of fast, efficient driving techno. While the rave was in full swing, a huge comet crossed the sky. The crowd went crazy, and she just kept spinning her records as she would pilot a space shuttle, with confidence and fun. Mindblowing, impressive, consistent, solid… it’s hard for me even a month after to find the right words to describe her performance. Do I have to precise that it is one to remember as well?
I didn’t really caught neither Rrose’s nor Mike Parker’s sets after that. While the first one started with a long, very long drone sound followed by a not-very-exciting live set, the second basically was an incoherent and sharp mix of one powerful techno track superposed on the other. Quite disappointing for me, but a lot of people with which I talked the day after told me they enjoyed both of the sets, so I am wondering if I am just too focused on the selection and storytelling? Well, this was at least time for us to get some food. We had a nice and tasty pizza at the foodtrucks area, but in general the choice available was pretty unhealthy and relatively pricey, especially for Spain. We like to think that one needs proper food in order to rave well, so this is maybe a point that organizers can work on for next year.
The last day of the gathering arrived as usual faster than expected. This time, the sun was hiding behind the clouds and temperatures were much more bearable than the mornings before. The wakeup on Amalgam’s live set was not of the milder ones, with vocal ambient that was sometimes harsh for the early slot. But coming up next was an artist I was strongly waiting to hear: the Londonian producer and label head Jo Johnson. Jane Fitz invited her to play at her residency two years ago, and being a pick from Master Fitz is often, not to say always, a good sign. Johnson indeed offered an absolutely delicious slow, soft, meditative journey. The sun was back to accompany her electro-infused ambient set, and this was exactly what I needed to wake up properly.
We were then fully ready to enjoy the last hours of the 2019 edition when Garçon started to play. After having heard him once at Elysia in Basel (you can read my first experience in the club here) where he is resident, I knew he was perfectly aware on how to run a Lambda Labs soundsystem. Therefore, I was curious to hear him in this mountain setup. The swiss man kicked his set off with a highly cinematic introduction composed – I believe – of field recordings and film samples, turning then into suggestive dub music. He played for example one of my all time favorite, Deadbeat’s Sunday Morning, which couldn’t fit better with to moment. Again, it was a profound pleasure to listen to this kind of sophisticated sounds at this very place, on these speakers. Garçon pursued with slow, organic beats with some jazzy touch. The party vibe was slowly but surely turning on and everyone was seeming to thoroughly enjoy the moment: from the artist who was smiling and being very communicative with the public, to these funny people taking imaginary and ephemeral selfies with a mirror. The set ended to be simply the most interesting selection of the weekend to me, as it was perfectly curated, well thought-out and nicely controlled from the beginning until the end. I’m thus glad that we are able to share with you this beautiful 3-hours long piece of music on our Recordings series:
Closing the festival was the one and only Donato Dozzy, but it was to me a day out for him. We had heard rumors about the fact that his airline lost his vinyl bag and found it back at the very last moment, and I felt like he was stressed while starting to play. The unfortunate sound technician who bumped into one of his record while it was spinning surely did not help to smooth things over. I was expecting a more playful vibe from the italian deep techno pioneer, but he immediately started with quite hard music and kept playing in this register until the end. Even though I was personally disappointed by this closing set, a lot of people did enjoy it. It is again nice to note that even among such a devoted crowd, opinions can be that diverse.
That was it for the 2019 edition of Paral·lel. Although the vibe was once more beautifully unique, there were in my opinion maybe too many big names on the bill this year. It felt like we lost a bit this special vibe the festival had developed over the previous years – that could be affiliated to the sound of natural/electronic.system for example – which at some points led to less connection between some artists and the crowd. I’m of course being critical because this is one of my favorite event on this planet, and I feel like every feedback is important in order to always keep up the high quality. Without any doubt though, it was again an amazing weekend in the mountains.
See you soon again, Paral·lel friends.