Sónar, 2010: In-depth

Sónar A year has gone by, and once again we’re stepping across the artificial grass at Sonar by Day. Once more, electronic dreams have been dyed green in warm Barcelona, where yesterday the dawn was cloudy and breezy, and the mild temperatures made it easy for us to enjoy the Sonar experience even more. The large crowds of people made it difficult for us to get down to the front at every concerts we saw, but we slipped our way through as best we could, so that we could return and tell you what it was like.

Red Bull Music Academy (SónarDome)The extra euro they make you pay in clubs for the drink that “gives you wings” is worth it if you think that it is being invested in the most prolific corporate sponsorship of contemporary music we have seen. Red Bull Music Academy showcases are usually a nest of unknown proposals that we will spent the rest of the season investigating. This year has been no exception, beginning with Noaipre and ending with Robot Koch. The Galician musician took the stage with force, maybe a bit much for the time it was, and the audience themselves were a little under-prepared (the person dancing the most was the musician himself). The eccentric note of the afternoon was provided by Teri Gender Bender and her crew of bloody mummies; the Mexicans were the most rock and roll prospect on the menu, and it was not at all predictable how their sound would go down with the public. But the audience loved it, entertained by Teri’s crazy outbursts; she came down without a mic to sing and bug people a little at the “foot of the field.” In the middle of the day, Kool Clap had two hours to delight us with a session chock full of groove, electro, and funky music, with an eye on the 80s. The Frenchman’s mixes went down well with the audience, who after a few hours were ready for some frenetic dancing. And then came the home stretch, Ango leading us by the hand with his unfailing aim when it comes to choosing and mixing songs; from dubstep to r&b, from crunk to minimalist dub, Ango finished with Douster’s “ King Of Africa”, a standing ovation, and (undoubtedly) some new fans. MF Pete Tong ( SónarVillage)There’s nothing better for your digestion than a good dose of the type of house music that gives you the urge to sweat like a pig and put on your new and very trendy sunglasses because you suddenly think you’re in an Ibiza club. Pete Tong –a.k.a. Lord of the Dance (who is looking physically more like Paul Oakenfold by the day, something very mysterious is going on there) – is an old hand at livening up parties, so it was logical that his slot at Sónar Village would be a site of pilgrimage for faithful hooligans. He took the easy route (let’s tell it like it is) and there were few surprises in his two-hour set. It seemed like a hodgepodge of that radio formula house we enjoy so much on really long road trips. To demonstrate my point, a few tracks that featured were Duex’s “Sun Raising Up” (lacking only the podium for Rebeka Brown to sing), a remix of Hell’s “U Can Dance”–we’ll have to wait until Saturday to see Bryan Ferry– and even Shakira’s “Waka Waka”. But it seems like the linear quality of his set didn’t matter to anybody. We’ve seldom seen Sónar Village so hedonistic and so crowded at this hour. SdA Speech Debelle (SónarVillage)After Pete Tong’s wave of coconut oil and easy summer house with an Ibiza core, Speech Debelle stood ready perform her debut, “ Speech Therapy”. The change was hard for the majority of the public to digest, having come from jumping around like teletubbies for two hours of pounding drums. The Londoner’s set calmed the mood gave people a chance to sit down. Nevertheless, this coldness wasn’t all the BBC Radio 1 presenter’s fault; the drum, double bass, acoustic guitar combo is a big leap in quality for the rapper’s music, but it was received by an audience that was mentally prepared to dance. Everything was too jazzy for a big, open-air stage in broad daylight. Nevertheless, Debelle didn’t let her guard down for a moment. She took advantage of all the gaps between songs to engage the audience, and she performed her verses with much more strength and virulence than on the album, with a certain Jamaican accent, and with the same nerve. “ The Key” or “ Go Then, Bye” sounded a tad naked without the details that gave them shimmer on the album, but they had a much stronger drive. Speech Debelle in her more hardcore rap form. All in all, a good concert in a bad location. MF Caribou (SonarDome / Red Bull Music Academy) A nightmare for claustrophobics, but a delight for the ears. To get into the Red Bull Music Academy tent you needed to take a machete and cut off all the arms that blocked your path in order to make a way through. But once you were inside, you forgot all about the hellish crowds, and concentrated on one of the most fascinating pop happenings of recent times. Yes, Dan Snaith has copied Arthur Russell’s vocal style and also struggles to bring together the popular and the vanguard in music, but he does it with a candour and a way of nailing the melodies that makes you fall in love with the album ( “Swim”) and with the live performance. It was worth being there, even though it seemed like we were in an overcrowded lift. Caribou started with “Leave House”, an antidote to bad days, and with the help of the other three musicians, managed to make some of us forget there was a world beyond that space. Whoever gave in to the crowds and left early, well, all the worse for them: sometimes you have to fight for special moments, you have to deserve them. RF Sounds of Switzerland presented by and SSR [Round Table Knights / Tim and Puma Mimi / Larytta] (Sónar Village)Switzerland is not a very well-loved country of late (blame it on Spain’s defeat at their hands in South Africa). Nevertheless, all our repressed anger at chocolate and cuckoo clocks vanished upon seeing the duo Round Table Knights in action: with house, refined dub, funk and calypso rhythms –they put out an EP recently where they abused Afro-Caribbean melodies– they confirmed that their thing is mixes without highs to hold on to. Tim and Puma Mimis set was very different. The Japanese Puma Mimi, famous for performing via skype, decided to delight us for the occasion of her performance at Sónar, appearing as a pocket sized (and more exotic) version of Yelle. Naive electronic pop—or was it globalised hip hop?–with an electric apple, a megaphone (lacking a vocoder), and a good dose of fun is what this trio offered us, as they practically screamed for DFA to knock on their door. Larytta was no less, who came to present “Difficult Fun”: Africanism, hip hop, pounding beats and a rhapsodic pose that left a good taste in your mouth. For now, we’ll let Gelson Fernandes live. SdA Cluster (SónarComplex)Despite their reputation and status as pioneering icons of krautrock, the German duo didn’t stimulate too many expectations with their visit: they barely managed to half fill the space in SonarComplex, which usually turns out to be too small for a big name with impact. And of those who were there at the start of the show, few remained until the end of the set. The problem with Cluster live is that the couple take their idea of ambient to a mono-chord territory that is cold, clinical, and mechanised, and which barely has an effect on the listener—at no time can you distinguish it from the live experience. The sound is technical, it oscillates with harmony and coherence, and floats decisively over the public, but there is nothing in its manner of progressing and expressing itself that generates emotion, empathy, or even rejection. For my taste, their proposal seems a little moth-eaten, out-of-touch, and predictable—it has become old-hat. Politically-correct ambient. JP Broadcast (SónarHall) The current Broadcast live show confirms the suspicions raised by their last recording: these Brits base their show directly and firmly on hauntology, as we understand this sound-visual concept nowadays. Projections of forests, moonlit dusks, visual effects with a 70s air, a retro aesthetic, and absolute submission to black and white. The sound is liturgical, ceremonial, spiralling, misty and deliberately less poppy than it has been. The hidden, veiled presence of Trish Keenan in the current show renounces even more of the centre stage to camouflage herself in the fog of sound. Twenty minutes into the show, the vast majority of the spectators who had crowded into the Hall had started to file towards the exit, perhaps in search of a climate more in tune with the joyful, festive spirit of the Barcelona afternoon. Mysterious, perverse, and fascinating, a bit like the black smoke in “Lost”. JP Robot Koch (SónarDome / Red Bull Music Academy) The German producer and head of the Robots Don’t Sleep label had prepared a multifaceted show, divided into two parts. The first part was softer, accompanied by the Mexican vocalist Grace, his habitual collaborator, who contributed vocals, sensuality, and a human touch to the marvel of machinery that is the Berliner’s music. Magical atmospheres –so close in form and texture to that of the vocalists on good garage music– and those little Jamaican touches that slide in between Robot Koch’s dry beats, helped to overcome the tiredness of the last concert of the day session. “ Blind” or “ Brujeria” heated up surroundings that were already torrid after Ango’s performance, but also a little emptier because this set clashed with both Broadcast and Elektro Guzzi. Nevertheless, we didn’t know what we were in for when the German DJ took to the stage, at first without his singer. That’s when everything got more metallic, robotic, and impetuous, in a set that went overtime by a couple of songs, and with good reason. With ostentatious use of low notes and a lot of wobble, Robot Koch offered a set where dirty, cutting dubstep and crunchy, galactic glitch-hop ended up filling SónarDome with bass addicts. MF Elektro Guzzi ( SónarComplex)

If Kratftwerk hadn’t been robots, we would have found ourselves siding with Austrian Elektro Guzzi. The concept is simple: a classic rock band –bass, guitar, and drum– without the need for loops or pre-recordings, capable of weaving a shooting, atmospheric minimal techno of the kind that makes the heaviest crowd levitate without the need for psychotropic drugs or other dubious aids. The theory is suggestive at the very least, but it was of vital importance to see them in action, to tell if on-stage they loose any part of the essence they display on their debut album. And, thank God, that didn’t happen. What we saw at SónarComplex could be considered huge, at the very least. For the unbelieving, a camera was always on drummer Bernhard Breuer, who was beating the drums and carrying the beat for his buddies, hanging onto to his pedals to forge the sound effects. As if they had come from another galaxy, Elektro Guzzi showed us that techno with a soul does exist, it’s not just a legend. The audience vibrated to their technical mastery, and, logically, the overwhelming applause received by the trio only reaffirms the band as one of Sónar’s greatest surprises (for now). SdA Ryoji Ikeda presents Spectra (SónarGrec-Teatre Grec de Barcelona)While I was heading for Teatre Grec, I was thinking: “meh, it’s just a ray of light.” I had to see the light from up close to appreciate the beauty of Ryoji Ikeda’s Spectra installation. It’s not only that the music accompanying the towers of light is pure and hypnotic. The towers also amplify the spiritually uplifting feeling you get when you stroll among the spotlights and feel yourself covered with rays of light: like water and air, the simple feeling of light around you relaxes and elevates, helping you to reflect on abstract issues with an unexpected depth. Maybe this is all mystical nonsense, I don’t know. But I can assure you that “Test Patterns”, the concert that Ikeda gave to accompany the Spectra tower of light, is as aggressive as “Dataplex”: geometrical projections, glitches that rain down like arrows, electronic music that hits you like you’re a punching bag and Ikeda is a furious boxer. It was worth climbing the mountain for. RF Sonar 2010 is on the brink of insanity! You’ll already know what we are talking about if you’re there. Waves of people fill every space, day and night. The energy force is overwhelming. We don’t yet know if it is a success in terms of attendance, but what we do know is that the Sonar by Night stages have taken the whole experience to a new dimension. For now, our task is to review a day that could be remembered as the day that LCD Soundsystem took the main stage at Sonar by Night and absolutely killed it, driving thousands of people wild in the process, or as the day that Mary Anne Hobbs programmed an (almost) perfect showcase. This is how it happened. RBMA: The ladies evening (SónarDome)If one thing has always characterised the electronic scene, it’s the scarce presence of women. Nevertheless, it’s true that this is becoming less notable every year (as more girls get involved). Proof of this was the programming on Friday at SonarDome. The first lady to appear was the Galician BFlecha, who offered us a spectacular live show. Receiving an ovation before the end of every song, the woman from Arkestra showed us that she is not lacking in fans (the tent was noticeably full for the time of day) and that she comes across really well live, simultaneously singing and playing synthesisers and other instruments at the same time. Lucrecia Dalt was the next to take the stage. Armed with the pedal made by her father, a guitar, and a laptop, she hypnotised a large, attentive audience. Two big names on the beatmaker scene were still to come. Up first was Pursuit Grooves, with an electrifying live show, full of dark bass seasoned with soulful samples (among them Sade’s “ Cherish The Day”). However, the peak was experiencing the rhythms of TOKiMONSTA. She was really into it, connecting with the audience, and it was much darker than her recordings. The Los Angeles performer did an anthological session of her own material and other people's, as well as having a few totally “commercialoid” moments—including 50 Cent’s “Ayo Technology.” GoldieLocks, the last lady of the afternoon, called more on soul than bass, and was sadly a little outshone by the whirlwind performance from TOKi. MF Nedry (SónarVillage)Of the material circulating in cyberspace by Nedry, their “ Huw Stephens introducing…” live session is legendary. In reality, it was this performance that gave them a starring role on the musical scene, and it was our only reference point for judging the trio’s live style. You can see the experience that they have acquired these last months touring the UK. At SonarVillage, we witnessed a vibrant, dynamic and empathetic show. Much more space was given over to improvisation than on the BBC Radio 1 recording, and the English and Japanese musicians garnished the songs from “ Condors” with moments of foggy ambient, deep atmospheres, and even dirty, cutting broken beats. Ayu’s voice, which reminds one so much of Björk, doesn’t match her attitude on the stage at all: although she had to pay attention to her voice and generate the loops with a pedal, the Japanese woman danced, jumped, shouted, laughed… She was giving it and living it up one hundred percent, and transmitting that spirit to a very full SonarVillage, the upper deck occupied by many fans who sang along to the band’s catchiest songs. “ A42” stood out, but without a doubt the moment of ecstasy was “ Condors” itself, the end overflowing with noise based on the friction of guitars. MF Aufgang (SónarHall)You want to hate Francesco Tristano and Rami Khalifé, really. They play the piano so well, with so much elegance, with so much imagination, that it is impossible not to feel eat-your-heart-out envy when you listen to their hands flutter over the keyboard and build scales that that command your spirits as though you were a puppet. You also want to hate Aymerich Westrich because he has mastered the ins and outs of the drum, but his work in Aufgang is darker, and resides more in the background than the two shining pianists with the golden hands. Nevertheless, there is no Aufgang without Aymerich: the whole structure of the concert rests on him, and he does his work humbly, rhythmically holding together pieces like “Barock” or “Sonar”, so that Francesco and Rhami can show off. Concerts like this one reconcile you with music understood as a mixture of passion and brains: we’ll never know what the great geniuses of classical music would have done if techno had been invented in their day, but the complexity of Aufgang, the incredible level of abstraction implied by mixing old music and that of Detroit, invites you to dream that it would have been something like this. I’m still blown away. RF bRUNA + Bradien (SónarComplex)It killed me that this show clashed with Aufgang, but I manage to juggle things around to see a good part of the concert by bRUNA, the very special Barcelona-based producer of electronic music. He played at home, in the familiar setting of the SonarComplex, to an audience who had come to see him. I totally get it now: the music is beautiful, concise and moving. The melodies emanate with energy that re-charges the batteries of your heart, and I am drawn by the simple, honest way that this young man shifts from bubbly ambient to Boards Of Canada-style IDM. At times the drums start to get away from him, but he always keeps them under control. And the sound is clear, ideal for submerging oneself in something so lovely. A pleasant surprise was Bradien, a lateral pop group who are very good at putting post-rock textures on the same level as the microscopic sounds of experimental currents. If this is what Barcelona electronic music sounds like, I’ll admit that I’ve become a fan. RF King Midas Sound (SonarHall)One thing was made clear yesterday at the CCCB: King Midas Sound’s live show sacrifices the subtlety, detail and sound perfectionism of the studio to set up a Jamaican wall of sound that turned the hall of the Barcelona setting upside down. Much of the blame for this evident change between the album and the live show goes to Kevin Martin, who, in the heat of the battle on stage, shows his more forceful, protuberant, and radical side, leaving his lab coat hanging up (another time, maybe). The producer, impeccably aided by his tandem of vocalists, poured out a mixture of dense rhythms, vigorous bass and incessant, hammering echoes; he gave you the feeling of being closed up in a smoking basement in a building from a futuristic megalopolis in your brain. In the artistic balance of Sonar, King Midas Sound is a serious contender as one of the main festival concerts. JP New Young Pony Club ( SonarVillage)The staging of the New Young Pony Club brought up several questions: Does Tahita Bulmer, the band’s leader and singer, have what it takes to be a front woman? Is there life and group beyond the hype and the two or three inevitable singles? Can the group subsist now that nu rave fever is a thing of the past? The British vocalist, as well as those accompanying her (especially drummer Sarah Jones), answered some of those questions. For example, Bulmer’s ability to keep up the intensity and hold the audience’s attention is one of the combo’s strengths. Although NYPC are still lacking songs and experience, the truth is that she takes on the weight of her discourse, and this bet pays off relatively well, with an attitude somewhere between challenging and so sure of herself that leaves no one indifferent, beyond the successes and failures (which there are) of her musical discourse. The group has an efficient, suitable live show, which is still a little unpolished and amateur, but in the context of Sonar the village was most obliging to her proposal, and they kept up appearances with ease. JP Delorean (SónarVillage)It is impossible not to find them at festivals, and considering how they sound on the acclaimed “Subiza”, it was clear that Delorean would be called to perform and indeed to triumph at Sonar, even more so if you take into account that they are now surfing the whole Balearic thing, and have abandoned the post-punk reminiscences of their beginning with BCore. SonarVillage wasn’t too big for them. At this rate, it shouldn’t surprise us that in the future, on their own merits, they will be on the lineup of the festival’s night programme, in a spot assigned to big names, with a longer history and greater status, and the headliners. Obviously, the compositions on their latest LP, along with the acclaimed EP “Ayrton Senna” were the exclusive basis of their live repertoire. Neither “Real Love” nor “Stay Close” went unnoticed. Onstage, they are like well-oiled machinery, a band whose sound is not too far away from their work in the studio –with the exception of “Deli”, in which Ekhi Lopetegui’s mic was noticeably set too low. To top it all off, John Talabot joined the band on stage for that bonbon of a song, “Sunshine”. Even after their “animalcollectivization”, Delorean can look the great names of electronic pop in the eye. SdA Nosaj Thing (SónarHall)

At first sight, Jason Chung looks like he might work in a shop or a restaurant somewhere in your neighbourhood. Charisma, glamour, and an artistic aura? Not so much. So how is it possible that someone apparently so grey and nerdy can manage to pull off a musical and visual show that is so contagious, powerful, exciting and surprising? The answer to this question came yesterday in the Hall of the CCCB. A table, a gadget, and a shiny set of lights are more than enough for Nosaj Thing to certify that his proposal goes much further than the post-Dilla nostalgic fever that we largely associate with the media fervour that the Los Angeles beat scene has aroused. Chung contradicts the horizontal spirit of the subgenre and knows how to arm himself live with a group of beats, melodies and effects that have a lot of punch, nerve, and muscle. No complaints. He combines the sound scaffolding with a vibrant play of lights and visual effects, with an exquisite aesthetic taste, giving the contents rhythm and dynamism. JP

AIR (SónarClub)No matter how much make-up AIR apply to their show -dressing it up with colourful, ambitious, affected staging which is very spectacular in its aesthetic conception and presentation, with neon lights, multifaceted visuals and epic arrangements- their current live show continues, in a strictly musical sense, to suffer from the same problem it always has done. The stigma that has accompanied them throughout their career, however brilliant and inspirational their studio albums are, is that on stage AIR are profoundly and utterly tedious, monotonous and irritating. It’s as if they had come on to put people to sleep on purpose; yesterday they didn’t stray from that script, and incorporate some blood and muscle—not even when faced with the massive presence of filling the public space of SonarClub. Once more, and this makes several times over the course of the last ten years, the French band’s performance ended in indiscriminate yawns, spontaneous chats, and the audience gradually leaving. Someone had to come out of this fiasco smelling of roses though, and last night the great beneficiaries were the British group Hot Chip, who were collapsing SonarPub as the same time that people were drifting away from AIR’s performance. JP

Hot Chip (SónarPub)People who have accused Hot Chip of having substantially lost their electronic essence are going to have to eat their words. Alexis Taylor and company, with an album like “One Life Stand”, certainly showed up with their homework done. They started with “And I Was a Boy From School” (a safe bet, you could say) and drew on pounding bass and amplified drum, like in “Over And Over”, where their legendary guitar riff magically disappeared, to please us sardines all packed into SonarPub. There was no trace of the ballads that litter their latest LP, or of their cover of Shakira’s “She Wolf”, which they have dared to perform in some other shows. Although they were approved in the midst of the alcoholic maelstrom of many of those in attendance –if not, it is impossible to explain why they got one of the biggest ovations with “I Feel Better”— Taylor and the band’s charisma onstage is light years away from what their albums transmit. And there is no comparison at all with the savoir faire of the capo of DFA. SdA Mary Anne Hobbs presents Joy Orbison + Flying Lotus + Roska (SónarLab)There were moments when I was feeling bad, thinking about the floor. I was afraid that any moment it would split open and swallow us all up, celebrating dubstep’s incredible capacity for mutation. Man, those basses hit hard: when she’s the DJ, Mary Anne Hobbs takes no pity on our stomachs, and she fires off cannonballs of wobble that bowl us over. With the last song in her set – track I.D., please!, just prior to Kavrave’s “PClart”– she left more than one person with their mouths hanging open, combining epic superhero film soundtracks with wild dubstep. Joy Orbison took over among applause and cheers, and didn’t miss a beat: he leaned more toward house than toward liquid dubstep, although he couldn’t resist quoting himself with “The Shrew Would Have Cushioned the Blow” and in the end, of course, “Hyph Mngo” as a sort of signature to top it off. Flying Lotus had a problem, if I may say so: that of take their production too seriously and abusing jazz, so their avant-hip hop strays dangerously close to ill-advised territories for such a festive occasion as this weekend. Anyway, Roska came to make up for it with the best funky house that I have heard in my whole fucking life. Hobbs’ showcase should have lasted two days—this dose wasn’t enough for me to get off on. RF LCD Soundsystem (SónarClub)James Murphy has never let us down, but Friday at SonarClub can only be classified as cum laude. For many of those present, there was an air of farewell –that’s the only negative thing I can say about it– so it was absolutely necessary to render homage to the great LCD Soundsystem. For an hour they showed us how they have come by their hard-earned position as one of the generational cult bands of the last decade. Murphy, behind that image of anti-idol that he may give off at first, is charisma personified. They could have stuck with a repertoire focused on the excellent “This Is Happening”, but the band rewarded their fans with that arsenal of hits that they’ve been handing out on a silver platter for the last five years. From “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House”, to a more-than-celebrated “Tribulations”, they put on the final touches with an anarchic “Yeah” that was a pure dose of intravenous ecstasy. It had been a long time (too long), since I had so much fun at a concert that I felt like a little kid. So the only thing that I can say to Mr. Murphy –on behalf of the thousands of people present there– is to thank him for existing. SdA Plastikman (SónarPub)A glare of white light, and it seems like a flying saucer has landed. It is the invasion of the senses by Plastikman, who seeks the perfect techno show with all his might: aggressive lighting and technical effects, numbers on the screens, a curtain of LED’s protecting his machines, and a skeletal, basic sound that ends up getting smoke to come out of your feet. The floor is full: Richie Hawtin has done it again—once again he has shown that he is infallible when it comes to getting people to dance. Plastikman’s execution of the material –acid, techno, drumrolls, and minimalism, the old formula of “Sheet One” and “Musik”–is faithful on one hand to its original postulation– that is to say, 808 laying out the rhythms in a cascade of beats and cymbals, 303 sowing sporadic acid seeds. But on the other hand, he updates them again with more compression, clarity, and bombastic effect. It doesn’t sound as basic and essential as when we discovered techno, and Plastikman’s show is something of a collection of effects to stimulate the senses quickly and easily (the final part, pure out-of-control percussion—it was crazy), but I’ll tell you the truth: it got me dancing and gave me goose pimples. One of two things: either I’m impressionable, or Hawtin is God. I’m inclined to think the latter. RF The Sugarhill Gang (SónarLab)The makers of “ Rappers Delight” need no introduction, the pioneers of hip hop, the first group to triumph commercially with a genre that at the end of the 70’s was restricted to the New York underground. And although they have made a comeback recently with Bob Sinclar, we were all expecting a genuine session of vintage rap with the classic formula, before the sampler appeared: someone on the microphone and a funk band. Many of us expected this, and the curiosity to see living legends of rap led to a total sell-out at SonarLab. What was not expected was that the most old-school proposal of the night would have more energy than many of the newest faces in the line-up. The Gang is aware of the wide spectrum of their audience. They obliged the masses and added a string of hits from yesterday, today, and always. We heard Michael Jackson, House Of Pain, and they even dared to do a salsa song that left us with our tongues hanging out. Although they called on other people’s material to get the audience going, the trio didn’t forget the songs that make them great. The end with “ Rappers Delight” was predictable; nevertheless, the first beats of “ Apache” drove the crowd wild, culminating a spectacle that was entertaining every moment. MF

Booka Shade (SónarPub)They leapt to fame with a very well-received debut album, right when minimal was making its way into DJs’ toolboxes. Nevertheless, the duo of Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier has taken up their essence again to manufacture “ More!”, an album faithful to their artistic principles. But this faithfulness has a down side: it extends to their live show, and was responsible for making the duo’s performance “ another Booka Shade live show.” They came onstage after veteran Dixon, who had imposed the monotone drum and obscurantism (in the good sense of the word). So the first beats of electro-house scared off some of the public, leaving just the right number (if the dances are frenetic, you have to respect people’s personal space). Merzinger and Kammermeier used their more commercial material. It’s true that the Germans make very electronic house music, with an attention to detail and of above-average quality and using the electronic drum has always helped them achieve these nuances of superiority. But using the same drum structure for sixty long minutes of performance and a lack of risk–taking when it came to choosing the repertoire both detracted from making the show a winner. Of course people danced, but at five o’clock in the morning, if you tied people to a chair, they still couldn’t sit still. MF 2 Many DJ’s / Carte Blanche (DJ Mehdi & Riton) (SónarClub / SónarPub)Not much can be said about 2 Many DJ’s at this stage of the game that hasn’t been said before. The Belgians were guilty of feeding into that hodgepodge in which any musical style, however mainstream it might be, had a place in the booth. For this year’s Sonar they gave us a show where they projected animated covers of the albums that they were mixing on location. How many times have we been a little irritated on the dance floor, without knowing exactly what we were dancing to? No sooner said than done. The enormous crowd of people danced to MGMT’s “Kids,” a hymn like John Paul Young’s “Love Is In the Air” and “Hey Boy Hey Girl” from our beloved Chemical Brothers. They are pure entertainment for the masses and they know it. The arrival of Carte Blanche was very different; under the auspices of Ed Banger, they turned SonarPub upside down with that Chicago-style house and four turntables. People were really starting to yawn by then. So the best thing that they could do was to retreat in time, taking into account that the machinery of Sonar was already starting up again. SdA It’s official: this year’s Sónar has broken all the records. The Barcelona festival has not only confirmed its pole position in the global league of large-scale electronic music events, this year it has also received more visitors than ever before: around 100,000 across the three days during which our senses have been working overtime. Sónar 2010’s closing ledger is over-balanced with talent, emotion, fiesta and memorable performances. So without another moment’s delay, this is how we experienced the third and final day. Moodymann (SónarDome-Red Bull Music Academy)He made us sweat, but that comes as part of the Moody package. A Moodymann set without sweat, without the blackness and soulful accuracy wouldn’t be a Moodymann set. The man from Detroit did not fail us. He manned the turntables to give us every bit of class that he had in him. He is not one of the greats by coincidence. Nor is he one of the most veteran Motor City producer by accident. Moodymann stays true to what he does –soul loops set in a frame of lo-fi techno– and he takes it to the very end. His exhibition of technique and taste on the stage hosted by Red Bull Music Academy felt complete, mixing in his own productions with those of other artists, and winning us over with a string of hidden soul gems, smooth funk classics and a lot of the luxurious disco tunes he has been sampling throughout his extensive career. It was a tribute to his roots and his philosophy, from an artist who deserves every prop he’s ever gotten. RF

Bomba Estéreo (SónarVillage)Duty called and I had to cut short my much-needed siesta to see Columbian outfit Bomba Estéreo. By the third day of the festival the need for sleep becomes considerable; you don’t get up so easily and even if the artist performing shows bounds of energy and life force, it isn’t always enough to get you in a dancing mood. Despite my black karma, I have to admit that Li Saumet did lift the people’s spirits with vigour and the rest is BS. Those who did dance frantically were the punters in the overcrowded SónarVillage –and it was even clearer on the Saturday that the venue is becoming too small– and not because everybody had such high expectations beforehand. Saumet’s rhymes and cumbia were infectious; he even got a couple of girls on stage for a demonstration a champeta dancing, which has one of those rhythms that shape the sound of the band along with some reggae, pop and cumbia as a the connecting thread. It’s a fun, fresh and light-hearted concept, but not more interesting than other things being created in today’s Latin America. Bomba Estéreo keeps on trying for the title of inheritor to Carlos Vives’s mantle for the 21st Century. It’s music to dance to, as you party and get drunk. MF Necro Deathmort (SónarHall)A bit hidden, and almost slipping by unnoticed in a programme lacking in post-metal and noisy avant-gardism, Necro Deathmort didn’t leave those who approached the SónarHall in a terrible, scary cave. Their musical concept doesn’t hold a lot of secrets. It’s a pretty predictable and accepted revision of doom-metal with one variation -the use of electronic beats as rhythmic support- but the way they do it draws more attention and curiosity. With the help of just a laptop, some effects and a guitar, in a totally unorthodox stage set up the British duo created a cloud of black noise drones and spiralling breaks which was complemented by a set of well-chosen visuals with clear expressionist influences, which helped to accentuate the feeling of fear and terror. And all this in the dark, claustrophobic and terrifying – definitely the darkest moment of the festival. JP Uffie (SónarVillage)The Ed Banger favourite who took four years to make Sex Dreams And Denim Jeans, yesterday took to the SónarVillage with a diva-like air, as a woman who loves herself to bits. Those who have been following her since the infamous “Pop The Glock” –which ended her show, as we expected– still remember how she gave it her all when she, preggers and all, was in the habit of displaying an almost unhealthy fascination for rolling around on the floor. In those days, she was a proud alcoholic creature of the night. What we witnessed last night however was something completely different. Uffie showed there’s more to her than that –with a little help on stage from a DJ and a keyboard player– but unfortunately only a few of those who were there were familiar with her new repertoire. The people wanted the hard stuff, the dirty electro, and you could almost taste the indifference in the air, up until she played “Robot Oeuf”. Which was a pity, because thanks in great part to the huge arsenal of producers who helped create the album, the twenty-something’s repertoire is more than worthy. Had this concert taken place four years earlier, the reactions would have been quite different. SdA The Slew festuring Kid Koala (SónarHall)Here we go again with the crowd, the saturation, the elbowing and the general all-round bad humour. Kid Koala’s and Dynomite D’s display of their new project was yet more proof that the festival site in the heart of Barcelona is steadily becoming too small for the masses of people it attracts year after year, especially on the peak day of Saturday. Not to mention the queues; not even years of Kegel exercises would have given me the pelvic muscle tone I gained standing in line at Sónar. It was clear from the start that the SónarHall would be rammed – after all, it’s not too often that you get to see six turntables, a guitar and a drumkit on one stage. In fact, it was the pair’s first and only gig of this kind in Europe. Kid Koala and company displayed those soundtrack themes to an unreleased documentary by Jay Rowlands, all built on DMC virtuosity, crazy scratches, seventies-like guitar licks –Myles Heskett didn’t have to change a whole lot to achieve stylistic comparisons with his band, Wolfmother– and the freshness a live drummer brings to a live set to build the frame for the tracks. The overcrowded SónarHall paid more attention to the hand movements of the two DJs than to the physical discomfort of standing in the crowd, but none of it mattered, because both DJs were highly enjoyable. Which brings us to the one point of critique: a couple of cameras pointed on the turntables and a few big screens wouldn’t have done any harm, because the real show here was the technique. MF Roxy Music (SónarClub)Many in number were my doubts in the hours prior to Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay took the stage. The last time Roxy Music played in Barcelona yours truly hadn’t even been born. Which is why I didn’t think twice when presented with the possibility of witnessing the rebirth of one of the most important bands in “art-rock”. Sadly, not everyone thought the same: the room wasn’t completely full. In spite of everything, the biggest question that remained was whether the band could live up to the expectations, because they’re not exactly a bunch of young Turks. Fortunately, starting with “Re-make/Re-model” –with Ferry on piano during the first minute– Roxy Music showed they haven’t lost their touch. Dressed in a black suit and white shirt (he left the tie at home), Ferry was his old dandy self: class, in the flesh. Even so, the festival format did them no justice. Their show was supposed to last two hours and twenty minutes but was cut to a bit over one hour, and key tunes like “More Than This” and “Avalon” weren’t played. However, the final part of the concert, which included “Jealous Guy”, “Virginia Plain”, “Love Is The Drug” and “Do The Strand”, was worth its weight in gold. Backed up by a band that included a sax player, a violinist and two black divas on backing vocals, Roxy Music taught us a brilliant lesson of how to handle oneself. SdA Jónsi (SónarPub)As if it were a film script, the presentation of Jónsi’s solo debut drew a sonic and emotional crescendo so huge that it achieved something really important - to set aside the memories of Sigur Rós for a while and put forth some new goals for his musical career. Faint, atmospheric and slow, the first minutes saw the show start from the bottom up, stealthily and with moderate melancholy, at a slow and contemplative pace. Bit by bit, following a brilliant pattern and perfectly paced, the Icelandic and his band, backed by a beautiful stage set, started to speed things up, shed a lot of light and uncovered the pop essences within “Go” which on stage sounds even more consistent and magnificent. The performance ended with an instrumental, emotional and visual climax that will be talked about for years to come, boosting our overall impression of the festival and while we’re at it, helping to put this up there with the top ten of concerts of the year. JP Dizzee Rascal + Caspa featuring MC Rod Azlan (SónarClub)Running late, with his usual carefree, defiant stance, and an image of his face all over the screens at the SónarClub, Dizzee Rascal -backed by DJ Semtex, who moments before had been tweeting of his Barcelona fatigue and complaining a bit- got on stage with the intention of giving it his all for a little over an hour. Relentlessly. The leitmotiv of this concert was of course his latest album “Tongue N Cheek”, which is why we got to see the most frantic, danceable and gymnastic side of Dizzee Rascal, which feels even more like you’re getting a lyrical shower every time the British MC grabs the mic. The SónarClub stage might have been a little bit too big for such an austere, minimalist set up. One got the feeling there either weren’t enough people or there too much space up there, but that didn’t stop the extremely motivated and brutal Rascal from coming out like a bullet. Literally. To complement his excess saliva, Caspa came on after him to confirm that the popular and media success of dubstep is no passing phase, as he succeeded at SónarClub with his repertoire of wobbly basslines, upsetting sub-bass and heavy beats. JP Fuck Buttons (SónarLab) Right from the start, I had an orgasm as they played “Surf Solar”. Live, they sounded as they do on the album – at first the space sounds bubble and then the trance beat steps in, ripping your muscles, but much louder, to the point where you can actually feel them in your stomach. Believe me when I tell you that I experienced physical sensations I never thought were possible. Fuck Buttons tickle one’s intelligence, and those first minutes were a crescendo like when a dog marks its territory, they showed who was boss. Later, the swelling between my legs receded a bit, after a few minutes of digression and spacial waves with distorted effects, but the short-circuit in my brain remained. When they started playing “Olympians”, I was rolling on the floor with pleasure. If this wasn’t the best concert I have seen at Sónar 2010, then I don’t know what was. RF Matthew Herbert’s One Club (SónarPub) Matthew Herbert is set to release three records this year – like Robyn, he’s attempting a triple– and one of them is “One Club”, which is constructed with sounds recorded in the cavernous Robert Johnson, in Frankfurt. I haven’t heard the album yet so I don’t know if it sounds anything like what the man brought us at the SónarPub, but if it does then we’d all better get ready for a weird and oblique experiment in the vein of his other alias, Radioboy. I’m not sure if I fully understood what Herbert was doing: he put up a tent on stage, got behind his sampler and started to play dance music with an inaccurate groove, not a lot of feeling and without any populist intentions. I would even say it was the most colourful show I have ever seen, because after coming out of the tent a pushing buttons, we saw him high up on top of a ladder. Following this login, the best album of the set could be called “One Pig”, made entirely out of pig sounds. I believe he has lost his mind, or maybe, I’m just getting too old for these kind of eccentricities. RF Lucky Me Showcase ( American Men, Machinedrum, Lunice , The Blessing, Eclair Fifi & John Computer) (SónarLab)Before we talk about this gig, where the hell was Zomby? It didn’t seem probable that it was the mysterious fourth member of American Men (the trio had invited a guest for the occasion), and so it was: Zomby didn’t appear. The fourth member turned out to be drummer Robbie Cooper and the result of his contribution was a kind of post-rock mixed with fluorescent synths, a LuckyMe trademark. It was quite interesting, but the audience didn’t really take it that well, and they moved on to other stages. The breakdown of the atmosphere was immediately eradicated by Machinedrum’s set, which was short but intense. The man is great at both producing and spinning; and whether it be glitch-hop, dubstep or fidget house coming out of his machine, it all breathes the essence of Detroit, Chicago and Baltimore. We were warned about Mike Stott having cancelled his show but it was his substitute Lunice who turned out to be a real surprise. DJ producer, dancer, MC and troublemaker – Lunice was all that and more, not only during the hour of his set but also throughout the rest of the showcase. He wreaked havoc at the SónarLab playing mega-hits (Beyonce, Rihanna, Brandy, Cassie, Soulja Boy, Lil’ Wayne...) anchored to a steamroller of bass. The Blessings started off on the wrong foot because of sound problems, but all in good spirits. That lovely version of Ciara’s “Go Girl!” was to blame. And to close off the Glaswegian showcase, the label’s girl Eclair Fifi, joined by John Computer Hudson Mohawke in a dinosaur mask– for a four-deck set that moved from fat beats to nineties acid house seemingly without effort. Glasgow brats, thank you for existing. MF Chemical Brothers (SónarClub)“Attend a Chemical Brothers show,” should be the advice dished out by diet consultants the world over. Basically, it’s impossible not to lose at least two kilos in one session when confronted with such monsters of electronic music. The excuse for their visit was the presentation of their latest effort “Further”, an album on which the two-some play it safe by giving their parishioners new exercises in techno and climaxes that never end, and that we all long for. Supported by excellent visuals designed by regulars Adam Smith and Marcua Lyall –video art that has nothing to envy in the stuff you can see at the MOMA– the SónarClub was rammed all the way to the toilets. The deserted look of the other stages spoke for itself. Although the first part of the show focussed on the tracks of “Further”, after they played “Hey Boy Hey Girl” they started churning out hits like “Out Of Control” or “Believe”. Despite the ever-present shadow of play/stop in their live shows, the Chems are a living legend. The times they have disappointed us are few, and this was not one of them. This was their most overwhelming show ever and they left it indelibly marked on our retinas. That’s why they are and always will be a sure-fire hit. SdA


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