Summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. It’s the first time in two years that, from the beginning of the season, everything’s been open and operating; we’ve been able to travel freely; and festivals have been back full force.
When June rolled around, we were itching to get back into fields and on to beaches to listen to some of our favourite artists doing their thing. Kala, set on the Albanian Riviera, was one of the first in the festival calendar for us. After having to postpone three times due to the pandemic, the seven-day long event went ahead in early June, spread across stages, coves and beachside clubs.
It felt great to be back in this little slice of Paradise, sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, rubbing shoulders with friends old and new. Though the heavens opened over the first few days, stopping the music at points (that said a few of our team were jammy and touched down just as the sun arrived), it didn’t stop Kala’s return from being a momentous one.
There were a ton of great sets, from the soul queen Jocelyn Brown proving she’s still got one of the best voices around, to Yu Su dropping Sopwith Camel’s ‘Fazon’ as the sun came up on Splendour, not to mention the impromptu five hour-long YouTube rave our friends started at Pirate Bar when the festival shut down…
It was no easy feat to whittle these down to five but here are some of our favourite sets from across the week including raw, tribalistic dances on Gjipe to dreamy euphoria at the Cove and high energy action over at The Yacht Club. Until next year…
Lauren Hansom & Jamie Tiller (Mia)
Gijpe is one of those places that if you know, you know. It’s hard to really convey what it’s like to spend the day on this stunning cove of the Albanian coast, tucked away beneath this breathtaking mountain ravine and spilling into the crystal blue waters lapping at the boat you arrive on. Just like it’s often hard to describe what it’s like to have been at some DJs sets. You don’t necessarily have any IDs to contextualise it, you can’t quite give a name to the genres that were played, but you felt it, you danced to it, you threw your hands up in the air to it. That’s how Saturday at Gijpe with Lauren Hansom and Jamie Tiller felt like for me.
It wasn’t about name dropping, stage times, who’s there, what’s that – it was about getting fully into the music and the scenery. When you are dancing in a throbbing crowd surrounded by the awe-inspiring setting of raw nature, you do go to a different place of primal being and movement. Lauren and Jamie’s selections had this tribal feeling, thanks to a noticeable bassier percussive line driving through their rhythmic set. It was that sort of body low to the ground vibe that happens when the music gets deep inside you. In short, and in less airy-fairy-Mia-come-back-down-to-earth terms: they smashed it.
Jessy Lanza (Mia)
Sunday was a bit of a rollercoaster day with the weather. It started off sunny and glorious and then just as our own Harri Pepper and Rosie Ama started spinning, the sky clouded over and it started pouring. All stages shut down as did our anticipation of a STW sun-drenched Cove takeover. But one pizza later, the sun came back and so did our tunes. I was lucky to take over the Cove for the afternoon and show our gratitude for the sun blessing us once more. Then after my set, I was even more blessed to jump in the sea by the stage and spend my time floating in the crystal water as the exquisite Jessy Lanza treated us to a stunning and dreamy live set.
Performing her distinct hypnotic electronic RnB sound, I couldn’t think of a better artist to soundtrack the sunset behind Kala’s laid back and splashing punters. Jessy’s sound is timeless, select tracks from her 2013 seminal album Pull My Hair Back sounding as magnificent as ever, woven around newer productions and her voice echoing off the cove’s rocks into our delighted ears. It was honestly all so dreamy and a Kala day at its finest, perfectly curated select live artists enhancing the stunning Albanian riverian coast.
The Yacht Club remains one of our favourite night time spots; it’s the perfect place for artists who are playing at the pacier, harder end of the electronic spectrum, which by the evening we’re all in need of. Beneath the low lights, Can You Feel The Sun co-founder Parris took to the stage around 10pm after the Feelings crew.
The crowd began to swell as people seeped in to start their night right. And start it right they did, Parris injected a well-needed shot of energy into the place with his dynamic mix of up-tempo rhythmic house and techno interspersed with some signature contemporary pop cuts. He teased the crowd with Barker’s edit of Ariana Grande and an instrumental version of Rhythm & Gash, that had us internally screaming “when are the bars coming in!?”, but that’s what he does best: keeps the crowd hanging on his every move until the last beat plays out.
After joining the festivities in the early hours of Sunday morning, post early morning nap this was the first full day at the festival for some of us at STW. After the aforementioned weather misery, the sun came out and the music soon followed, helping us to get suitably warmed up for the night ahead. One name at the top of my list was Paramida. The Berlin-based DJ and producer’s rise has been a joy to watch over the last few years and I couldn’t wait to see her in action for the first time in years.
As darkness took hold, she began her set at The Cove taking the reins from talented LA-based duo Heidi and Lovefingers who warmed up proceedings perfectly. Now it’s no secret that The Cove is not the easiest spot to dance at but no sandy beach was going to stop us from hearing what the Love On The Rocks boss had in store. From start to finish the stage was packed, she held every person’s attention with a seamless blend of progressive trance, dreamy 90s house and euphoric grooves. We didn’t expect any less mind you, after all, there’s a reason why she’s a resident at Panorama Bar.
Urmmm OK, so low key I wrote this poem whilst Mala was playing. Please bear in mind I had some super strong hash pulsing through me and Mala’s bassline is ridunculous, so make of it what you will…
mala’s music massaged me
dubstep fucks with your mind
that’s why not all can handle it
but if you can let yourself go
it’s one hell of a ride
So moving on from that, honestly Mala is just a legend. I’d been wandering around on Monday night from stage to stage not really finding my spot or quite feeling anything. I went down to the Cove as Mala, the festival’s special unannounced guest, was settling in to his zone and everything changed from there. The atmosphere amongst the crowd, as so often is the case with dubstep sets, was meditative. It was friendly, respectful, with each person giving one another space to move and meditate on dub.
Mala does something with music and frequencies that is unparalleled, every time I see him play I fall more in love with his music and artistry and look up to him as a phenomenal artist. He loosens you up, takes you inside and then out of body. At first you’re on an insane introspective journey and then he frees you into a new dimension of living with a blistering drop. Coming to, we whispered to one another over the music, asking how he does this to us every time. I never miss a Mala set at a festival and I never will. King.