Caprices Festival 2018: Five key performances

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  • Ski resorts can be sleepy places in the final weeks of the snow season, and Crans-Montana was no different last weekend. Strangely, the streets were busiest at 6 AM, when Caprices Festival ended and droves of ravers begrudgingly headed home. Walking back from a party at first light, surrounded by an icy lake with snowy mountain peaks appearing from the gloom, was a serene and surreal experience. Caprices, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2018, has had many makeovers—before the music direction switched in 2015, previous headliners included Erykah Badu and Robert Plant. This year, the organisation was slick, and Modernity Events, the company responsible for the bookings, kept their brand especially visible: attendees wore transfer tattoos of their "M" and wolf logo. The wolf also appeared in the visuals at The Moon stage, while I had flyers shoved into my hand daily for Caprices's sister party, MDRNTY Cruise. The hard-sell felt excessive, as did the heavy sponsorship. I felt I was being sold a product, rather than being left to experience Caprices in my own way. That aside, Caprices had some breathtaking moments. The Moon, a huge marquee erected in the car park of the main ski lift, featured some of the best production I've ever experienced, while MDRNTY, a greenhouse-like space at the top of the lift, offered spectacular views across the Alps. A third venue, The Constellation, was in an intimate basement bar. Annoyingly, they hiked up the prices in there once the festival started. At 7 PM, you could buy a glass of wine for 4CHF (€3.40), though by 8 PM it had jumped to 10CHF (€8.40). These inflated prices were found across Caprices, where a single spirit and mixer cost double what you'd expect to pay at a UK festival. The attendees were mostly young and stylish—think slicked back hair and Hypebeast-approved trainers—though an older crowd, with a penchant for champagne and Sven Väth, was prominent on Sunday. Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
    Paul Kalkbrenner After a superstar welcome (fitting, as I heard he arrived by helicopter), Paul Kalkbrenner delivered a jubilant live show at The Moon on Thursday. With 360° sound and lighting, the venue was totally immersive. The lighting rig stretched the length of the room, as did the speaker stacks, and spotlights shone white and red from at least 15 locations. Ceiling LEDs flashed as Kalkbrenner was projected in monochrome onto a screen behind him. There was older (2012's "Der Buhold") and newer material (2018's "Part Eight"), but it was the Berlin Calling tracks that received the most rapturous responses. "Sky And Sand" had hands in the air. For "Aaron," the set's encore, he left the stage before returning triumphantly, in true superstar form.
    Cobblestone Jazz A friend and I mused that Cobblestone Jazz's breezy soundscapes may have been better suited to the daytime, but their performance at The Moon on Friday night was nevertheless a highlight. Expertly building layers, the trio showcased their knack for fusing improvised jazz with a stripped-back dance blueprint. The visuals, on a screen as wide as the building, displayed mesmerising vortexes, ripples of electricity and shuddering linear patterns. The dance floor was bathed in blues and reds as the group went deeper. Bright golden bulbs lined the front of the booth, glowing as bright as the warm synths and jazzy keys.
    Archie Hamilton Archie Hamilton played MDRNTY, a venue only accessible by cable car. It was scenic and novel, though I found the distance between the venues lent Caprices an inconsistent feel overall, making it feel like a series of individual parties rather than one cohesive event. That you could buy tickets to each party separately emphasised this feeling. Hamilton, playing under branded umbrellas, warmed the crowd up beautifully on Saturday afternoon. Taking on a subdued dance floor to start—lots of people were on the sun-drenched terrace, enjoying the views over the snowboard park—he had the floor bouncing by the second hour, with rolling house cuts like his own "Confusion" and Unknown Artists' "Something Else."
    Monika Kruse The pinnacle of my Caprices was Monika Kruse, who played The Moon at 11 PM on Saturday. Her set was a thrilling barrage of technicolour techno. From '90s rave drums and trancey synth breakdowns (Thomas Schumacher's "Wake Up"), to a singalong of Technotronic's "Pump Up The Jam," she served up the most multifaceted set of the weekend, deservedly drawing one of the largest crowds. Tracks like Bart Skils' "Retrodade" (which samples the vocal from "Everybody's Free" by Rozalla) was one of many high points. The visuals, too, were captivating: kinetic cameras generated a particle image of Kruse onscreen, which swivelled, duplicated and shattered into shards in time with the beat. Strobes flashed over the dance floor, and spotlights bathed the writhing masses in deep golds and reds.
    Adam Beyer back-to-back Ida Engberg The dance floor had thinned by the time Adam Beyer and Ida Engberg took the stage on Sunday morning, but the energy remained high. As they opened with a remix of Celeda's "The Underground," the kinetic cameras returned and the colours changed to bright greens and purples. A speaker blew 15 minutes in—a sign, perhaps, of how hard they were playing. At around 5:30 AM, Monika Kruse reappeared, laughing as she twirled an umbrella above the duo's heads. (By this point it was literally raining condensation from the ceiling.) As the set drew to a close with the warped acid of ANNA's "L'example" and Mark Reeve’s "Far Away," I left The Moon for the final time. Outside, a man on a bicycle rode in circles around the departing revellers, blasting hardcore from a boombox. Photo credit / Pedro Correia - Lead, Cobblestone Jazz, Archie Hamilton Adee - Monika Kruse, Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg