Reviewed: UNUM Festival 2019
The way the sun set into the mountains across the water form the UNUM festival site will stick long in the memory. It lit up the sky with all manner of deep reds and oranges that never failed to pause the conversation and take your breath away. That alone, of course, is not enough to make for a successful festival, but it sure helps.
UNUM went down a short bus ride away from the accommodation in Shëngjin on a long, sweeping, sandy beach. The Adriatic out in front and the views alone are enough to make it worthwhile coming here for a holiday. But UNUM was about pairing this with a world-class soundtrack.
It’s worth mentioning that for a first-year festival everything ran pretty smoothly — transfers, accommodation and so on — and the sound systems were exceptional. The local people are friendly and helpful and made up plenty of the crowd, as well as numerous other European countries.
Once we arrived at the beach, backed by lush forest, we explored the marketplace but soon found our way to the Into the Pines Stage; cosy and nestled away in the trees. A huge neon mushroom and further psychedelic adornments leant an almost psytrance aesthetic, though the music was far from it — here the likes of Romanian minimal masters like Raresh, Cap and Praslea served up deft, heady soundtracks that got people deep into the groove. Orli’s forthcoming release on LORI was a sure highlight here over the weekend.
The main stage also had its moments but they were much bigger, with names like Luciano and Joesph Capriati bringing their customary festival techno sound. The Beach Stage looked beautiful too, with slick tech from Butch and Adriatique the biggest draws.
Sonja Moonear was a highlight in the woods, playing a superbly paced set of minimal house and techno in the darkness; as was Margaret Dygas, her deployment of Tofiq’s ‘Incomings’ a real moment. The crowd lapped it up and it only got them more riled for a lengthy performance from Franco Cinelli and Ricardo Villalobos. Epic rain made the set suitably dramatic but also meant things had to wrap up a little earlier than expected on a Monday morning.
To make up for it, an extra party was organised on a Monday evening with Zip, Tobi Neumann, Sonja Moonear and more all bringing their a game for a super-intimate afterparty in a sweaty hotel basement. It was a thoughtful touch from the organisers who showed plenty of them throughout. Overall, it was an excellent first outing for UNUM, and most certainly one to watch.