If you're reading this, then hopefully you're at least considering heading to Houghton Festival come August. Yes, last year was an absolute dust pit, but as ever, Craig Richards has curated a class line-up of forward-thinking selectors at the forefront of dance music. Here are 5 of our faves that should be on everyone's itinerary.
In the run-up to Houghton 2022, there seemed a palpable tension around the festival. In 2019, when it was abruptly cancelled the morning it was supposed to open its gates, few would’ve expected the 3-year wait until it returned. After such a long hiatus it would be understandable if there were nerves, especially with a heatwave gripping the UK and hosepipe bans issued in Norfolk.
What resulted was a festival experience that felt like catharsis. The stifling heat and 24 hour music meant that days and nights blended together into a dreamlike haze, with meditative tech house blending seamlessly with feverish jungle and acid licks. 2022 only served to enhance the festivals burgeoning reputation as a mystical place, which is slowly establishing itself alongside heavyweights like Sonar and Dekmantel as one of Europe’s foremost festival destinations.
The design of the festival is tailor-made to enhance the trance-like feeling for it’s punters. Stages are nestled away with minimalistic design and only appear to reveal their full scale when you get close. The result is a festival which encourages dérive, festivalgoers my wish to let their intuition guide them according to the energies that surround them. In light of this it might seem a heresy to point out the ‘must-see’ sets of this years edition. But, to make the most of Houghton’s cutting-edge programming, here are our suggestions for what we think it would be worth breaking the spell of the woods to make sure you see.
In many ways, Steevio’s sets sound like how Houghton feels. The Welsh, Freerotation festival founder weaves analogue synths with low-key melodies to create truly meditative improvisations. Steevio’s live shows are unlike any other, with each show a complete improvisation, but their remarkable consistency gives the impression of a true master at work. Over the course of the two-or-so hours he is afforded, Steevio and his modular synths will create something entirely new. You don’t want to miss out.
Our second selection is another live show, although one that occupies the opposite end of the spectrum of what Houghton has to offer. The Tokyo-born, Chinese-raised Object Blue only began producing music in her early twenties. Perhaps, that is what has allowed her to consistently push the boundaries through her releases on Tobago Tracks and Nervous Horizon. Last year, the selector took over the Warehouse stage for two hours of controlled chaos. This year she returns with a live show ready for the stage’s beefed-up soundsystem and enhanced lighting rig.
Tottenham-hailing Josey Rebelle has been mastering the art of DJing since she was 13 years old. A former Plastic People, and now Rinse FM resident, the London native embraces invisibility but her monstrous selections are anything but so. Letting the music do the talking, she's dominated dancefloors and wreaked havoc on sound systems worldwide for decades.
Operating on the fringes, Nicolas Lutz’ selections are as mystical as his character lets off. Unearthing gemstones and playing tracks off his revered label ‘My Own Jupiter’, the Uruguayan guides audiences through cosmic sets, zapping ears with melodic acid and techno from South America and beyond.
Manchester music royalty armed with ritzy blends, Ruf Dug and his astral selections will be blessing Houghton Hall again in 2023. From street soul to balearic and acid house, few genres are left unattended in his sets, which have won him residencies on NTS and the undisputed status as ‘the original tropical cyberpunk’.