8 June, 2AM – you’re 6km away from the North Sea, you find yourself in a room called Bunker where a stroboscope flashes in your eyes straight from your feet, there is no sign of summer warmth hitting the place (some say summer is actually over, it lasted one day like a week ago), the crowd is moving to a ritual pulse and you have no idea who’s playing, what do you do?
A) you embrace the Dutch hospitality and let it loose
B) the above + with acid; choose your own adventure
GOED DAT JE ER BENT
Following its tradition along with the radio’s legacy and present operation, this year’s IFM Fest promised a four-day long electro/techno/whatnot frenzy (as one would suggest from the flyers), defined by ‘the united underground of The Hague and beyond’. The official FB event description was slightly more accurate, writing ‘3 days of West-Coast mayhem’ – and after all, if one checks that Thursday ends around 10PM, and Sunday is considered as some sort of italo-lounge afterparty, then I assume it’s safe to say that (at least in 2019) IFM focuses on its Friday-Saturday events. Still, bringing a massive and hectic lineup to 3 rooms and 2 outdoor sections of PIP (located like a 10min walk away from Den Haag Centraal), it delivers the raw and vibrating sound of Holland to locals and travellers alike, presenting one of the most exciting scenes of electronic dance music in Europe today.
GEEN CONTACT MEER
Even if you’re a first timer at IFM Fest, it doesn’t take much time to notice one cardinal feature missing you might expect at a regular dance event: that is, the lack of schedule of any kind. Like so many things in life, this one is only partly true as well: on the one hand, you truly cannot check online what your night’s gonna be like when you set off from home, but on the other hand, there was actually a blackboard depicting ‘a schedule of some sort’, with full of arrows, modifications and rearrangements, and for sure there were also the bits of information from friends, promoters and the popping-up updates in instagram stories. One could see the beauty of this in theory (community feeling, punk attitude, flexibility etc.), but one thing was also sure: loads of people were taking pictures of the (in fact unreliable) blackboard, and even after that, many of us had no idea what was going on and where, which could’ve been useful for an event review.
Don’t get me wrong: beside these practical issues, one could absolutely dive into the positive vibes of the place and the people. Many agree that the Dutch Sound is already a thing everyone can feel, yet it’s hard to put a finger on it. From my perspective, when I entered the PIP, I felt almost immediate connection to the hazy, foggy, faded tunes, space echoes, gently distorted bassdrums and cosmic arpeggios; the Randstad coastline does not need to slap you with hyper-speed hurricanes, but drives with a steady and solid pace with well-thought drum-programming and crunchy sound design, where a ghastly seagull can smash into your face at any time. Needless to say, you got all of these over this weekend.
DE DIEPE WERELD – VRIJDAG
Among the many classic names and respected DJs, I was mostly interested in the live sets of artists who emerged to the scene in recent years; so, for a Friday highlight, Betonkust sounded like an ideal choice. Starting his set not long after midnight (absolutely not relating to the schedule on the blackboard), he filled the Bar room rather quickly. Betonkust was not afraid to set up sinister tones and harsher drum patterns: his slow melodies (building up from only 3, sometimes maybe 5 notes) often sound like a scene from a B movie, where something definitely unpleasant is about to happen to those skinny dipping millenials. High pitched kicks and gritty bass is what you get along with that, which puts a delicate new touch to Holland’s already vibrant scene. There is certainly a gothic and eerie element to Betonkust’s sound, even though one could not quite spot this on the crowd – looking around in the club, it felt like there was a dresscode for any kind of waterproof jacket and white tees. Still, the young Dutchman does not present something strictly dark, as his beats still bring an uplifting, upbeat aspect to his tunes – it’s like lo-fi house putting on noir lipstick & shades for the night.
DROOMTOESTAND – ZATERDAG
Following my train of thought above, the most awaited act for me on Saturday was Animistic Beliefs, the duo of Linh Luu and Marvin Lalihatu from Rotterdam. They were playing in the same room as Betonkust, bringing their iconic big yellow case of modular gear, and most importantly, an Elektron drum machine. Without any particular intro (they were already at least 30min ‘late’), their set kicked off with some stressed drums and sharp-short noise driven structures. Still, the most notable hook of their set was probably its dreamy, atmospheric tone, setting one’s mind to a continuous trance-like state. It echoed both some earlier AFX feelings and soothing synth textures (Marvin actually started his electronic music career with ambient). The set managed to combine both traditional electro beats and lab-based, almost scientific modular experiments. But if you want a really personal point of view, I would stick to the dream-metaphor, as I was standing in the crowd at 3AM, (literally) like a wretched somnambulist. Probably it was not the best idea to spend my afternoon struggling in Scheveningen Beach in the Beaufort 7 weather ending up with shoes full of dunes and bags wet as a normal day in South Holland. Anyway: the hypnagogic set of Animistic Beliefs served as the perfect trigger for a mind crawling towards the altered consciousness of sleep, with a heavy head nodding to the beats until they last.
At the bar I overheared someone telling his mate: for mindless parties, people go to Amsterdam, but for quality stuff they aim The Hague area. Apart from an obvious nod to the event, one can believe that there is genuine truth to that: even though there are exciting options in the capital for electronic dance music enthusiasts (De School, Red Light Radio etc.), the roots are just so deep in The Hague (Viewlexx, Clone, Bunker etc.) that it indeed flourishes from year to year, not only as releases but in the form of Intergalactic FM Fest as well – even as a visitor one can see how The Hague scene both respects their history and manages to find fresh ways to move forward from that.
- additional pros: the option to buy emergency poncho from a vending machine
- also cons: Legowelt not playing in the PIP
Overall: 9/10, would go again 🇳🇱