Dance music festival’s last hurrah showed why the peculiarly English delights of techno at a holiday park deserve to live on somehow

A sound of wonder, laced with a dram of self-hate: Thom Yorke at Bloc 2016.A sound of wonder, laced with a dram of self-hate: Thom Yorke at Bloc 2016. Photograph: Jake DavisBen Beaumont-Thomas

@ben_btSunday 13 March 2016 14.10 EDTLast modified on Sunday 13 March 201614.31 EDT

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24 Save for laterAfter years of eagerly shoehorning techno into an environment designed for middling family holidays, Bloc has shouted its last hurrah. The dance music festival, held at a Butlins holiday camp in Somerset, has finally flamed out and will now focus on its excellent club space in London. And as the ship went down, the orchestra played loud and long, gunfingers held in the air.

The lineup cleaved to techno’s grandmasters, and there was plenty of haughty austerity at the top of the bill. Carl Craig’s Modular Pursuits set was a study in civil engineering as he layered Martin Luther King over mature – and ever so slightly stiff – synth work. Jeff Mills’s peak-time set on Saturday night coasted on his star status – he has always skated a line between hypnotic and prescriptive, and here he slumped on to the wrong side, a trap Nina Kraviz also fell into. One punter gamely waved a prosthetic leg draped in fairy lights around but couldn’t conjure much energy.

But most artists here celebrated the porosity of today’s post-genre dance scene, where the eyelash-tickling bass of dubstep and grime, the eternal power of disco and the psychedelic grid of 4/4 beats combine to sketch out possible futures.

Evian Christ plays Bloc 2016 at Butlins Resort, Minehead.image:red bridesmaid dresses – sheindressaustralia.com

FacebookTwitterPinterest Evian Christ plays Bloc 2016 at Butlins Resort, Minehead. Photograph: Jake Davis

Jimmy Edgar shoved Friday into Saturday with a set of almost pure percussion, focusing particularly on the clap. Over in the main room, Floating Points blended Göttsching-style guitar work with driving and meaningful grooves. And the same stage hosted two more sensational live sets on Saturday, the first from Holly Herndon, the definitive essayist of our cultural moment. Over time-stretched vocals and exquisite pulses, as well as a study in fabulousness from punk dancer Colin Self, she hymned Chelsea Manning and digital cryptography. Thom Yorke, meanwhile, postponed that new Radiohead record with a loose and limber set of electronic soul, as Wes Montgomery-style guitar swings under his eternally arresting voice: a sound of wonder, laced with a dram of self-hate. In a masterful piece of counterprogramming, Evian Christ played at the same time downstairs, slinging Justin Bieber through a rose-tinted strobe and announcing trance as a radical European music.

Friday night was closed out by Ben UFO, playing a gorgeously rich set of positivist techno in what is usually the pool hall. All-vinyl sets are increasingly popular among pedants and fetishists eager to tap into a spurious kind of authenticity, but Ben UFO showed why it is a valid aesthetic decision: his tracks came with rounded corners rather than the planed lines of digital sound. The Jak bar next door, themed around the wild west, had a frontiersman energy throughout the weekend. Mr Mitch is particularly great, shedding his image as the sad boy of grime with a set that takes in cutesy Game Boy bangers, colossal trap, Usher, clownstep and the Star Wars theme – but still with the occasional Eeyorish melody.

Bloc 2016 at Butlins Resort, Minehead.image:red bridesmaid dresses

FacebookTwitterPinterest Bloc 2016 at Butlins Resort, Minehead. Photograph: Robbie Golec

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As for the absolute redlining peaks, Irish house duo Bicep raise expectation for their forthcoming live work to delirious heights with a set that bounces with perfect elasticity, while Motor City Drum Ensemble plays a sadistically pleasurable set of classic disco. Also of note is the smear of euphoria from Midland, Optimo and Andrew Weatherall, playing cuts from Syria and the western Sahara as the latter stalks the stage in a greatcoat, looking like a murderous mafioso.

As always at a Butlins weekender, the rest of the fun is to be had in dissonantly indulging in the holidaymaker vibe, be it sploshing in the pool to Detroit techno or playing Kung Fu Panda arcade machines while half cut. Only here could you find snooker champion Steve Davis DJing prog in a family pub. If this is the end for Bloc, the peculiarly English energy of a weekender – organised, genteel and yet utterly unhinged – will need to be vented somewhere new.

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