Match Report: Terraforma Festival, June 23-25, 2017

Donato Dozzy’s influence looms large over Terraforma. Festival director Ruggero Pietromarchi acknowledges his meeting with the Roman musician and DJ as a key catalyst for the launch of the experimental and sustainable music festival.

He closes the festival at 1.30am on Sunday with a “surprise” set on the Soundsystem stage in the woods, which he builds from Rhythm and Sound-style dub through to sledgehammer hardcore techno over the course of nearly three hours. He finishes his set and is whisked away by ambulance.

Rumours circulate the next day that he had been complaining about a bad back, that he had been walking like a robot…one hopes he recovers quickly. His two three-hour musical trips were a triumph and encapsulated the aesthetic that courses through this wonderful festival.

If Donato Dozzy is the godfather of Terraforma then this year, Laraaji and Suzanne Ciani are its grandparents. Laraaji’s beatific set with autoharp, voice, gong and electronics is a transmission of pure love from a humble and generous being, which is received with rapture. More than one delirious spectator describes his set as “beyond music” – an experience.

Terraforma is so well programmed that the whole festival evolves as one long musical trip with three stages transmitting different vibes but never playing music simultaneously.

Laraaji builds on the mood created by Dozzy on Saturday morning, who administers a three-hour ambient trip, taking the audience through all sorts of imaginary landscapes as they sip their coffee and spark the first spliff of the day.

Rawmance takes up the ambient baton with a few more beats and a slightly more old school feel encapsulated in the Global Communications classics in the climax. With Julia Kent’s rather sombre – bleak, even – cello and then Suzanne Ciani’s buchla ululations extending the mood, Saturday was almost beatless until Mala gave the Italians some distinctly UK flavour with his spaced out dubstep causing delirium.

 Evolving moods

The mood is so different to Friday night’s party, which climaxed with the pummelling techno of Aurora Halal and the mighty Objekt. Does techno, or music generally, get more bleeding edge than Objekt? His twisted beats and towering noise-scapes are awe-inspiringly unique. If techno’s initial brief was to make music for the future, Objekt continues this quest with genuinely jaw-dropping innovation.

After Saturday’s ambience, Sunday was all about celebration. An overnight thunderstorm cleared the air. Tropic Disco Sound System set the tone with some sunshine reggae before Paquita Gordon and Ece Duzgit send the hardcore dancers crazy with Indian beats, big band jazz and a massive array of eclectic bangers from all around the world.

The scene was set nicely for Andrew Weatherall on the main stage from 4pm ’til 7pm. His name meant nothing to many of the hip young Italian techno cognoscenti present. Screamadelica? No. Sabres of Paradise? Nope. A Love from Outer Space? Complete blank. We call him The Guvnor. You’ll like it, I promise. (I hope.) I had no idea what to expect in this slot. Would it be dub reggae? ALFOS beats? Rockabilly?

His set begins with what might be a berimbau, which quickly morphs into…what? Turkish psychefunk? The empty dancefloor begins to fill. A guitar-heavy set takes in sunny dub reggae, post-punk funk, psychedelic country blues, Northern dub poetry, some African funk, some…god, I should know this…Chapterhouse? Paris Angels? Emeralds?

The hip young things are soon dancing like fuckery with grins as wide as Lake Como – amused and amazed by the weird, wonderful and downright funky shit they are being carried away by.

Each track is epic in reach. The Guvnor seems quite entranced as he boogies away to the more epic beats and spacey tinkles. It feels like a distillation of purest Weatherall past, present and future. And he’s clearly enjoying it.

As he waves goodbye, there are hugs and WTFs and more huge smiles.

Later, an Australian guy asks me if I saw Andrew Weatherall earlier. My rabid enthusiasm is met with a more muted response. Ah well, music’s not for everyone.

Andrew Weatherall’s set climaxes with a slowed-down John Coltrane Stereo Blues

Closure

How to follow that? With the almost unlistenable force of power electronics dub techno that is Dreesvn, apparently.

Dreesvn’s more intense moments hit you in the face and the body like a lazer forcefield of sound. But their synth-generated techno also has a delicate side and after the initial punch, it settles down into an entrancing hour of acidic techno.

Then Kiki Hitomi hits the stage with her slamming Japanese take on dubstep, dub reggae and psychedelic techno. Kiki is a force of nature. She is the festival’s most obvious ‘performer’ among a couple of dozen synth boffins and bespectacled DJs. And she gives an incredible performance – chanting, singing and declaiming with righteous force over her psychedelic beats.

She plays at least three “last tunes” – even stopping to ask the promoter if she can play one more. She closes the mainstage on Sunday night before Dozzy returns to the Soundsystem stage to take us into the early hours.

Dozzy’s dramatic closure on the Soundsystem stage satisfies a beautiful narrative arc, which began with the enveloping forest techno of GAS on Friday night. It has been a wonderful trip.

 

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