Heard in the Cove: 120 track IDs and six standout sets from Kala 2018

Every year it feels like the festival market is reaching saturation point, yet every year a few more plucky candidates make themselves known. Once of the most ambitious summer holiday contenders this year was Kala, breaking new territory as Albania’s first international festival. A prime lineup an postcard-perfect location was accompanied by an online campaign that was so effective it became a topic of small-talk in pubs leading up to the summer.

Stretched out over a full week and an equally spacious holiday resort on the coast, Kala’s first edition afforded a type of holiday living that isn’t often achieved at festivals. Beaches could actually be used as beaches during the day, while the holiday resort it was part of provided an infrastructure that helped retain the comforts of a week abroad. The real jewel in the crown came round the coast at Gijpe. A satellite stage only accessible by boat and in the shadow of a canyon it played host to residents Bjorn Torske, John Gomez, Nick The Record, Brian Not Brian and Jenifa Mayanja across the extended weekend. That alone was enough to warrant a return visit next year.

Inevitably there was some teething issues working out how to maximise the programme and crowd movements across a new site, and some acclimatisation between locals and visitors, but it’s nothing that can’t be smoothed over for next year. Kala was well organised, intimate and easy-going. To achieve that on a first year is a mightily impressive achievement.

Alongside our six standout sets, listen below to some favourite tracks heard throughout the weekend, separated into day and night playlists for a refined listening experience. 


Brian Not Brian

Following on Moodymann (above) is one of those sets you dream about but as the minutes draw closer on the night, the thrill turns to apprehension. The aura that Kenny Dixon Jr has built around him is no accident – from the all-female entourage who see to his every need, to obscuring his face and the pillow talk mic technique – and, while he did well to appear composed in the wings, you could see the Kenny affect taking hold when Brian Not Brian approached the decks. As soon as the first track was played, Brian’s whole demeanour relaxed and he judged the following two hours perfectly: enough groove not to alienate the Moodymann fans, peaking with Black Science Orchestra – New Jersey Deep, then gradually transitioning into sunrise territory for the stamina crew testing out their limits on the first night.
Words: Aaron Levitt

Eris Drew
It was a thrill to catch Eris Drew on the main stage, bringing a highly danceable blend of hardcore breaks and bass driven tracks that jolted much of the Peggy Gou contingent still left from her early evening set at Empire. Chicago born and bred, her innate sense of how to kick up a crowd and make us move like we have nothing to lose, was undeniable. As a trans artist there are certainly lot of challenges and bravery involved in playing so far away from home and one’s diasporic trans communities, but behind the decks Eris was in her element. Salute.
Words: Mia Zur-Szpiro
John Gomez and Nick The Record
A short boat trip (above) away, Gjipe cove revealed itself as a masterstroke by the organisers. Our communal pool of vocabulary was reduced to very little we as approached a stunning cliff-faced back drop complimenting a sun weathered beach expanse. We were led to a small stage within a short walk towards the middle of the cove partially shrouded by greenery, where residents John Gomez and Nick The Record captured the runic atmosphere. Tom Moulton’s edit of Lou Rawl’s classic , ‘You’ll Never Find‘ and Mandoza’s ‘Nkalakatha (dub)’ featured as dancers revelled in the Albanian sun between the towering jagged canyon faces, providing moments of intense hedonism in the Jurassic-like milieu.
Words: Andrew Mensah
Jan Schulte

You never really know what to expect from the Dusseldorf native’s sets, particularly in this case  soundtracking dusk til dawn against a backdrop of mountains that overlooked the sea. Throughout a mere hour and a half there were multiple twists and turns. He moved from heavier selections like the acid-tinged electro of Interviews into dreamy territories of Smith & Hack’s ‘Falling Stars’ as the sun rose on the pebbled beach of the Empire stage. A special moment came when he launched into Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ to a chorus of cheers before working it into Photek’s ‘Ni Ten Ichi Ryu’ – a record he picked up as a teen – leaving faces both amazed and bewildered. Peppered with percussive textures, he meandered through genres and tempos proving exactly why he’s been a mainstay at Salon Des Amateurs for so many years.
Words: Rosie Cain

Jenifa Mayanja

One of the godmother’s of the kind of Deep House you gotta put in capitals, Jenifa Mayanja has a prowess in the booth and studio that goes back decades. For whatever reason, most festival crowds and bookers haven’t got the message yet, so it was great that Kala put her front and centre on Saturday night, bridging Hot Chip’s hit parade – used in the best sense of the phrase – and Jan Schulte’s esoteric emporium, with deep, soulful and percussive purpose.
Words: Aaron Levitt


Stamp The Wax’s Thursday night stage was originally billed at The Cove but – as was an understandable feature of the week – responsive programming changes meant we were changed to the main stage before Moodymann’s takeover. Following Mister Saturday Night’s introduction of dubby house, Or:la took over for an early evening set her recent rise doesn’t often bestow her. There was no hiding Moodymann as the big draw on the programme, and so Or:la kept the tempo more restrained, retaining that familiar mercurial style but over more protracted selections like Christopher Rau’s – ‘Weird Alps’.
Words: Aaron Levitt

And one more for luck…

The Pilotwings

Six days into the festival, Monday was the first properly affected by the weather. For most stages this spelt trouble but not at the Yacht Club, a covered dance floor jutting out over the Adriatic. That afternoon had seen Ross From Friends (and friends) go banger2banger then, after a brief interlude at Empire for Roy Ayers, the soggy crowds descended to The Yacht Club for the final Stamp The Wax stage of the week where The Pilotwings were limbering up. Not ones to shy away from the trance revival during club sets, they glided their wings into a more leftfield disco slipstream that evening as the rain cascaded around us. Catching the sweet spot between cheesy and insatiably groovy it made you feel like every unknown pick was a longstanding favourite.
Words: Aaron Levitt

Kala by Day

Kala by Night

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