In 2008, Ben Klock played for a few hundred ravers deep in the Lithuanian woods at a small gathering called Sūpynės. Since then, the festival has grown considerably and moved to a location that can host its swelling numbers: Pakretuonė, a 5,000-capacity remote camping site and water mill in Eastern Lithuania near a beautiful lake often referred to as “Monolake.” Last week, Klock returned to the forest to perform at the event’s 10th edition. This time he arrived with several of other Berghain and Panorama Bar resident DJs for an Ostgut Ton showcase, which spoke to Sūpynės’ prosperity so far as well as its future potential (and perhaps that of the Lithuanian scene as a whole). Although it’s already a big festival by Lithuanian standards, Sūpynės remains a secret to most, and foreign visitors still see it as a boutique electronic music event. But it’s not just for minimal heads anymore.
Pakretuonė itself is truly spectacular, both for those seeing a real Lithuanian forest for a first time and for those who come every year, so it’s enchanting and surprising every time—especially during dusk and dawn. Having a car is a luxury, but the best, safest and swiftest means to reach the woods is the train from Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius. Think of the 20-minute walk down the forest from the train station as a bonus hike or warm-up exercise. Deciding where to pitch your tent might be tricky, as there’s no single camping field, just a few spots are scattered around and between the festival stages. Collective experience holds that more trees above your head means less killer sun in the early hours. Food and drinks are available around the site, so you don’t have to travel miles and miss your favorite artist because you’re hungry. The selection is huge and generous and the prices are fair, which is especially delightful because attendees don’t have any other options; the closest shops are very, very far away.
The organizational team behind the event, Minimal.lt, lives by the principle “less is more,” and they named the stages accordingly. MORE is situated in a big clearing and dedicated to big-room house and techno, as well as some of the more high-profile imports. LESS sits on a small hill in front of the lake and is specifically designed to augment the beauty of dusk and dawn, as the backdrop of the stage is transparent. Due to increased ticket sales, Sūpynės has introduced a few additional spots, like the afterhours HIGH area and LOW, the zone dedicated to slower beats. All four are pretty far apart, so it’s impossible to catch everything and everyone. But Sūpynės is as much about love, friendships and nature as it is about music, so missing a headliner or two doesn’t hurt.
The inaugural night, Wednesday June 24, showcased the talents of local DJs on a new camping site on the other side of the lake, reachable by boat. Thursday was much busier because many festivalgoers asked for a day off on Friday, and many artists also arrived to give themselves a day to settle in before their sets. That’s one of the great things about Sūpynės: many performers stay for the whole weekend and don’t just swing by for their gig. That’s especially handy on Sunday when the official line-up is over but people still want to dance. There’s always someone with a crate of records onhand.
On Friday, LOW hosted a showcase for Eternia Music, an aspiring Lithuanian drum’n’bass label. Meanwhile, dubby rhythms prevailed at the LESS stage. Friday dusk was adorned with skillful ambient and dub techno grooves from Sraunus, a local Sūpynės hero, and Profile, an emerging Estonian talent. Both laid perfect ground for the after-midnight madness at the MORE stage, where Ryan Elliott opened the Ostgut Ton showcase. Considering how out-there the rest of the festival was, physically and musically, Elliott’s choice of tracks felt a bit too safe.
Vessel delivered a brutal yet mesmerizing live act, shredding everything and waking everyone in the LESS area. But Ben Klock still owned the night back at MORE. His selection was absolutely warranted but, like Elliott, he could have been braver given the crowd at hand. Function, whose set time was was pushed till the early morning, kept everyone going till the sun came up with an unblemished live performance, and the HIGH stage promptly opened when he finished. There, local talent Manfredas kept it rolling past lunchtime.
Other highlights from abroad included hypnotic techno selections from Berlin-via-America Xosar, who performed at the same time as solo experimentalist Inga Copeland. The latter asked the technical support to make the LESS stage as dark as possible before answering a stream of emotional questions in a meditative voice and a reserved sonic palette.
Although the relatively high-profile imported artists on the lineup drew crowds, local acts made a strong impression. Many agreed that the Saturday evening set from Lithuanian indie-electronica band Without Letters was probably the most special concert-based set of the year. It took place after a day of performances from other local acts—mellow loops from Paulius Kilbauskas, synth anthems from Darbo Džiaugsmai and back-to-back sets from Lithuania’s Despotin Beat Club—and a series of daytime workshops. A rising Lithuanian talent who currently resides in Denmark, Darius Vaikas delivered one of the most memorable dance floor sets of the weekend. Although he had a difficult slot—9 PM, which is a time many choose for a nap, pint or snack—Darius managed to make the most of it, and quickly attracted a considerably big crowd around the MORE stage with his lush, live grooves.
Sūpynės’ 10th year was extremely polished, from the selection of music to the visuals, installations and stage designs—but it still felt raw and DIY. That’s the festival’s greatest and most beautiful asset: it provides the most basic means for human needs, but it also encourages you to immerse into the nature and remember how to live in peace with it. All this makes it very hard to come back to the real world, and after a mere two or three days in the forest, asphalt starts to feel weird under your feet. Thankfully, Sūpynės hosts a party back in Vilnius on the Monday following the blowout so that all the revellers and local artists can wind down together.
All images by Tautvydas Stukas.
The Supynes Festival has taken place in Lithuania for a decade, but hardly anyone knows about it outside of the Baltic nation.
According to communications manager Juliana Špundova, the festival has made an effort to entice foreign press outlets for the past two years, but few bit. This year, the lineup includes celebrity DJs like Ben Klock and Ryan Elliott as well as underground heroes like Xosar and Inga Copeland, and press is still rare. “It’s very hard for a little country without any marketing budgets and very limited music program budgets to get into the international media,” Špundova wrote via email. “Now Lithuania has received ugly attention, and I’m afraid that people will see my festival differently because of it.”
The “ugly press” she’s talking about is the news that Lithuania’s most famous DJ, Ten Walls, posted homophobic sentiments on Facebook last weekend. The story dominated the press and social media this week, especially in his home country, where national news outlets and the country’s president, Dalia Grybauskaité, addressed the furor. The shadow of the negative press looms large over the country’s reputation and that of its surprisingly large local underground music scene, which comprises more people than we could touch upon in this listicle highlighting a handful of constituents from the country’s electronic music scene. The lineup for Supynes 2015 alone includes over 50 Lithuanian musicians who will perform over the course of four days (June 25-28) and across four stages, like the minimal.lt crew that organizes the event, Partyzanai member Mantas T. and producer/slam poet duo Münpauzn and MC Mesijus. However, we did our best to round up some key names from the Baltic region below. As usual, it was hard to find female representatives.
Vidis is Vidmantas Cepkauskas, who used to work with Ten Walls under the moniker Mario & Vidis. He’s become a key player in Vilnius’s electronic music community, as he’s involved in several projects. He throws local live events and runs two record labels, Silence Music and its imprint Best Kept Secret. He also works as the art and communications director at Vilnius’s Opium Club, which hosts the Despotin Beat Club parties (see below) and Smala, the night run by local producer Manfredas. His own productions have appeared on Get Physical and belie a penchant for sultry vocals and velvety beats that fall like socked feet on a plush carpet.
Aside from Vidis, Biberkopf’s is the name I heard the most from those I approached for recommendations and insight into the Lithuanian scene. Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, birth name Gediminas Žygus, recently inaugurated Kuedo’s new label Knives with a brooding ambient record that fits well with the experimental heavyweights he’s performed with recently, Ben Frost and Laurel Halo. He currently hosts a monthly show on NTS from his rumored home base in Berlin.
“Even though Lithuanian cities are small in comparison to other European capitals, the ecosystem here is very dense. Our club scenes are close and intertwined, so everyone knows everyone,” explained Tomas Narkevičius. His own involvement in the musical community is a case in point: he plays with what he refers to as an “electronic guitar music” band called Without Letters and the Despotin Beat Club collective, which hosts parties and a weekly radio show on national station LRT Opus devoted to “post-rap, grime, future bass, world music, urban 4×4” and beyond. He also produces his own ethereal and skittering beats as Fingalick. “It’s a small ecosystem, but it’s also striving,” he said of Lithunia. “Our audience is always interested in new waves, and it’s the driving force behind the uniqueness of Lithuanian club and creative scene. And one last thing: Lithuania’s contemporary club scene is impossible without the worldwide gay community. We stand for unity and equality.”
PINK INDUSTRY by MANFREDAS
As the mastermind behind the aforementioned Smala nights at Opium, Manfredas has hosted performances by the likes of French icon Ivan Smagghe, the cult favorite outfit Paranoid London and Hivern Discs affiliate Marc Piñol. He also maintains a Smala podcast and releases his own tunes on Smagghe’s Les Disques De La Mort outpost.
Brokenchord has had his toe in international waters since he helmed a contribution to TKOL RMX 1234567, the compilation of remixes from Radiohead’s album The King of Limbs. His name appeared on the record alongside big-time contemporaries like Blawan, Mark Pritchard, Lone, Pearson Sound, Caribou, Four Tet, Shed, Jamie xx, SBTRKT, Objekt and Modeselektor, among others. His music, which often sounds like beats that stomp through fog or molasses toward an eternity of introspection, has also appeared on Bristol label Black Acre.
Mindaugas Lapinskis’ Gardens of God moniker has reached international audiences thanks to its exposure from BOSO, the label Ten Walls founded with Needwant and Sean Brosnan, and Maceo Plex’s Ellum Audio imprint. As the associations might suggest, Gardens of God (pictured in the cover photo above) has an ear for flat-footed house tinged with melancholy and saturated with seductive pop sensibility. He has also released records under the name Bradka.
The Downtown Party Network project was founded by Lapinskis and Algirdas Miescionaitis (aka Saulty), but judging from the outfit’s Facebook, Saulty seems to be operating the project on his own these days. In what appears to be a common thread among many Lithuanian musicians, DPN’s vibe contains generous doses of sultriness and moodiness, but its lounge-y tendencies are often offset by funky walking basslines and touches of disco. In addition to releases on Dirt Crew and Futureboogie, the Party Network has contributed to the Best Kept Secret label.
The self-described “interdisciplinary internet journal” Secret Thirteen was one of the only Lithuanian contributions to electronic music I knew of before researching for this piece. Founder Justinas Mikulskis’s platform has (IMHO) one of the absolute best and most compelling mix series currently running, with far-out contributions from Gábor Lázár and seriously obscure experimental musicians, many of whom are Eastern European, as well as a series of interviews. Some of the representatives from the site will perform at Supynes this year.
Partyzanai founders Gvidas B. and Mantas T. have been involved in the Lithuanian rave scene since the ’90s, when they started DJing and Kaunas. After stints in the US and the UK, both moved to Vilnius in 2004 and continued where they had left off. Mantas started a residency at what the nightclub Gravity, and in 2004 he and Gvidas launched a non-profit net label under the Partyzanai banner. The label is devoted to exposing Baltic artists, and you can peruse their list of local talents here. Mantas now co-runs the label from Cologne, and plans to offer vinyl releases.
Aleksander Martinkevic christened his Redscale label a few years ago. Since then, he’s released a stream of solid dub techno records there and on his CD imprint Greyscale, as well as on other outposts like Knowone and Echocord.