If you went to a festival this summer you probably had a blast, but there’s little hiding the fact that this year wasn’t the kindest for organisers. Empty pockets, a bloated market and the ever escalating arms race over headline acts all combined to make 2011 a rocky year - and while we can all scoff at the Daily Mail’s self-satisfied proclamation that ‘Festivals are dead!’, it seems likely that a change is gonna come: fewer Carling-style events that need to pull in 70,000 punters just to break even, and more ‘boutique’ festivals catering towards a particular style or fanbase.

Semibreve - taking place for the first time this year in Braga from 10th-13th November - is one of the more intriguing examples of this new breed of festival, with the organisers promising a ‘universe of electronic music and digital art’. You won’t need your tent, and you won’t be consuming your body weight in tepid beer. For those of you who stopped reading right there, well, that’s a shame, because Semibreve has a lot to offer.

The Acts

The performances making up the festival will take place across three nights. On the Friday night, Taylor Deupree and Stephan Mathieu will be premiering their minimalist ambient Transcriptions collaboration. Additionally, Eno and Coldplay collaborator Jon Hopkins will be giving a performance (though we’ll go out on a limb here and say that the style will probably owe more to the former than the latter in this case). The highlight for us though is the inclusion of Qluster (AKA Hans-Joachim Roedelius with Onnen Bock); frankly, it’s hard to think of someone better to kick off a festival of experimental electronica than the man who helped to create the genre itself.

Saturday has probably the biggest ‘names’ of the festival in concert. The term may seem strange to use in light of Semibreve’s somewhat studious approach, but it’s through acts like Fennesz that the genre has become so much better known over the past few years, crisscrossing the borders between post-rock, modern classical, and ambient techno. Also featured will be Alva Noto, whose glitch-ambient masterpieces Xerrox Vol 1 & 2 have yet to be bettered.

Sunday, the final day of the festival, will feature a brace of audiovisual collaborations: the first between Mexican composer Murcof and Simon Geilfus of visual label Anti-VJ; the second by Filament, a project involving Vitor Joaquim and Hugo Olim which alleges to take the works of Jean-Paul Sartre as its starting point (so naturally we’ll be keeping an extra close eye on that).

The Locale

One of the festival’s biggest draws comes not from its content, but its setting. The city is gearing up for its role in the European Youth Capital 2012 programme, and is the oldest archdiocese in the country - the knock-on of which is that it can boast a number of highly impressive venues. The concerts will mostly be held in the city’s spectacular Theatro Circo, which has been set up as the heart of the event. A number of the accompanying lectures will be held in the Monastery of Tibães. Which is certainly something you wouldn’t get at Leeds (sorry Leeds).

The Rest

A festival of this nature does well to have a little something extra up its sleeve, and in Semibreve’s case the organisers have been keen to emphasise their commitment not just to music, but to digital art as well. Many of the performers featured will be collaborating with visual artists or similar - Fennesz, for example, will be joined on the Saturday night by Portuguese video artist p.ma - and we’ve also been promised installation art, and ‘performances’. Maybe its most intriguing feature, however, is the evening of lectures advertised for the Thursday immediately preceding the concert series, in which a select number of the acts (including Roedelius) will be speaking. This is a welcome nod to those whose interest in electronic music reaches beyond the immediate sensation of its passive experience, and it will be fascinating to see how it works within the context of the festival proper.

Semibreve takes place in the Portuguese city of Braga (closest airport Porto; flights currently £27-£47) between the 10th and 13th of November. For a full list of performers, as well as information on booking and accommodation, you can visit the festival website at http://www.festivalsemibreve.com/