By Clara Tehrani
The storyline goes like so many others in the house/techno realm: some friends start going to raves, love it, get obsessed with electronic music, start DJing, throw some parties so they and their friends can play, start a label, get big — eventually, potentially, too big.
But 10 years on Dekmantel, Amsterdam’s most exquisite electronic music ‘brand’ still feels so authentic, so loose, so impromptu, I cringed a bit calling it a brand — and only did it for the lack of a better word to define what Dekmantel is. Perhaps ‘concept’ would’ve been better: Dekmantel stands for good, unpretentious dance music.
Dekmantel’s most visible platforms are a record label, born a couple of years after the collective which makes its backbone, and a festival that has been taking over the triple-x city since 2013. As the latter heads to its 5th edition in 2017, year upon year selling its over 10,000 tickets in no time, other spins of the festival — Dekmantel Selectors Festival happening in Croatia and Dekmantel São Paulo — seem a natural extension of the concept. Unlike what happens with most festivals that expand beyond its initial borders, Dekmantel’s baby brothers don’t feel like a sell out.
As for the label, its main branch encompasses an eclectic collection of over 45 releases. At its core are resident producers Juju & Jordash, and as the circle widens we find names such as Sam Proper, Joey Anderson or Makam signing several released and others like Matrixxman, Palm Trax or Fatima Yamaha whose voice seems to fit so well this choir of unformatted artists.
Despite moving such big crowds, Dekmantel still feels like a makeshift project because it keeps at the core of everything it does an unquestionable competitive advantage: it is done by ravers for ravers. Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij, founders of the project, assume there is no master plan of growth, no objective to its existence besides bringing the music they believe in to people who are constantly looking for soulful beats regardless of their classification. In a day and age that leads us to believe there cannot be success without a defined objective which one should repeat to themselves every morning in the mirror — after all, how can you get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going? — it is refreshing and inspiring to see Dekmantel challenge that rigid formula with its approach.
Things have grown organically. Instead of forcing their love for music and the scene in one direction, they kept permeable to changes. A festival felt right — Dekmantel started a festival. Some of the music they wanted to release didn’t really fit the main branch of the label — Dekmantel Selectors was born, first as a podcast, then as a label, to give voice to artists like Andy Votel who dig music unconventional origins. Very much like a free-minded person, Dekmantel allows itself to expand and mutate throughout time, and that together with an unshakable trust in the quality of its output, keeps people constantly curious as to its next steps. It’s almost like Dekmantel is a barometer of the next best thing — its steps opening new off-beaten tracks that pioneers can tread safely with their crowds of followers. And they don’t resent leaving those paths for someone else’s profit — why sit there in defense of their territories when there is so much to explore, so many new routes to carve on the dance-music map?
To celebrate its 10th anniversary Dekmantel is releasing a ten Various Artists’ EPs (one per month, from March to December 2017) featuring tracks by producers “who are close to their hearts, have been with them since day one or made a big musical impact on the crew. Amongst these are longtime friends like Juju & Jordash, Palms Trax, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Joy Orbison and Young Marco. Apart from these seasoned names, it’s with great pleasure to have welcome newcomers including Huerco S, Ectomorph, Shanti Celeste, Syracuse and Levon Vincent onboard. Last but certainly not least; a couple of stone cold geniuses will be responsible for a track on the series as well. Amongst them are Burnt Friedman, Donato Dozzy, Tony Allen, The Egyptian Lover and Ricardo Villallobos,” as stated by the label regarding the release.
All three records are already available to either purchase or preview online (have a listen on Dekmantel’s Soundcloud where you also find the links for further action) and are as fantastic as the project which they were made to celebrate. A truly intuitive, generous, humble project. Happy anniversary Dekmantel! May you live long and prosper.