Horst Festival 2024 - A Decade of Dancing

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I first came to Horst two years ago, so I had a bit of an inkling of what I was in for. It is very much a dance music festival - there’s really not much music of the chillout variety, and punters are best off getting stuck in from the moment they step through the gates.

This perhaps has something to do with the incredible site, Asiat Park: an abandoned industrial and former military site north of Brussels, which was co-founded by the festival’s parent company and has been their home since 2019. Their multidisciplinary approach to art, music, and architecture in order to engender a culture of unity in a modern urban public space can undoubtedly be felt at Horst, and it's a real triumph.

A fair bit had changed in terms of the stages since I’d been. The area overlooking the two infamous cooling towers, which previously contained dancers moving beneath a Bodies In Alliance slogan, was now towered over by a giant red disc spanning 10 meters in diameter, Le Soleil Rouge, ‘a performance device that alters space and light’. Its adjoining warehouse, which previously bore the tapestry of a whale's insides, had become a circular, mesh-laden vortex, The Swirl. And in place of the second warehouse, we instead had The Ring, an open decagonal yellow metal framework, as fun to dance within as it is from its outer boundaries, enclosed still by graffitied walls of the smoke-filled courtyard. One that hadn’t really changed was the Moon Ra, and thank goodness, as it's a perfect little rave hut as is.

To be honest, I did not see a single set without merit, from local up-and-comers to the lineup’s heavy-hitters. Did I just get lucky? Everyone seemed to be on top form. I can’t say that the glorious weather didn’t have an impact on where our time was spent, the majority being at the two open stages, The Ring and Le Soleil Rouge. So I have decided against my initial intention of highlighting key sets from the festival, especially given that my experience was, of course, limited and couldn’t encompass the entirety of the performances.

Instead, here are my standout hands-in-the-air moments from the 2024 edition of this amazing festival. Guilty pleasures? Not quite. Maybe on a different day.

Aurora Halal - Renato Cohen - Pontape (Intec)

The noughties track that got reworked for Drumcode ten years on… Aurora played a grinding set that was unlike a lot of what you hear at Sun Ra, which normally is a breaks-heavy, gun-fingers enclave. Seeing her in an intimate space was a serious treat.

Jenny Cara & Bibi Seck - S-cape - In Control (Time 2 Move Recording)

An elite b2b closed out the Soleil Rouge on night one - the energy was palpable and at no point did the set dip. There were a lot of big moments. The unreleased Inafekt track that has been doing the rounds came close, but the familiar vocal sample from I’m Every Woman and the endless buildup in this one had everyone on the hook.

Anz - Armand Van Helden - I Want Your Soul (Southern Fried Records)

Anz was an ideal DJ for her late afternoon slot, playing a typically fun, varied, and upbeat set in the baking sunshine. The crowd went wild with this one - a pacey spin of the AVH crowdpleaser.

DJ SWISHA - Ron Mercy - Girls In The Club (Moveltrax)

Miami Bass made a comeback and we’re glad it did. Moon Ra was made for Swisha, and we’re glad we stepped in for it.

Skream & Benga - Barker - Look How Hard I Tried (Ostgut Ton)

I’m still not sure if I completely imagined this. I guess it’s close to 140 bpm in tempo. But amidst the absolute stonkers the dubstep legends were firing out (Benga & Coki’s "Night" went off), this Barker gem offered an unexpected moment of levitation.

Ben UFO - Trikk & Gabriel Massan - Mata Mata - Roman Flugel Remix (Innervisions)

One of 2023’s most infectious club tunes set the Ring alight, as the Roman Flügel and Trikk track began to hum through the D&B Audiotechnik stack in front of me. In typical fashion, his mixing in and out was a cross-genre blend so slick in a style the Hessle founder is truly a master of.

NIKS - C.J. Bolland - Camargue (Stroom)

The London DJ and B.A.D. co-founder’s penchant for classic house and techno marks her out as quality. Dropping this 90s classic that’s just been reissued on Nosedrip’s standout Belgian imprint and getting the crowd marching, demonstrates why she’s so effective.

Prosumer - My Mine - Hypnotic Tango (Dark Entries)

This might have been the best of the weekend: filled with groovy, sun-kissed tunes as the sun began to set, and the crowd simply couldn't help singing along to this Italo classic. God bless Dark Entries.

Adi & Unai Trott - THAT arpeggiator track they played near the end.

One of the last things we heard before the speakers went dead. ID anyone?

See you next year Brussels.

Photo Credits: Angelina Nikolayeva, Illia Steirlinck, Kar Imagee, Jente Waerzeggers, Maryan Sayd.

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