Another year, same story: a wave of sweet stress in view of the imminent Sónar festivities. There are so many unmissable activities and artists, so many attractions concentrated into a frenzied three days and nights, that at some point you have to set some guidelines or drown in a sea of choice. That’s why, as we did last year, we’ll be drawing up a schedule over the next few days that includes some of the artists that, in PlayGround’s opinion, no-one attending Sónar this year should miss. We believe that, at the end of the day, there’s no better judge than the audience and no–can make your choices for you (we know from experience, though, that it’s good to let yourself be surprised sometimes), but if you’re a bit lost and not sure where to start, here are a few pointers.
Thursday morning: Depending on your arrival schedule, sooner or later you’ll get to Sónar de Día (you know, with activities located between CCCB and MACBA), but if we were you, by 13:00 hours you should be around the SonarDôme stage, where the Red Bull Music Academy will be, to check out the Galician Noaipre, who is one of the greatest hopes to come out of the local post-garage scene (where UK Garage, grime, dubstep and UK Funky converge). His first 10” through Arkestra Discos will be release after the festival, and everyone who’s had the chance to hear it (us included) agrees that Rohe Rodríguez is one to watch.
Those in search of new angles in the world of rhyming should check out Professor Green. His melodic tones and uninhibited rapping style flirts with pop and commercial rock to deliver, with humour, his particularly British hybrid of hip-hop, close to the new wonky pop with an urban background, like the no-frills chronicles from the streets that characterized the young Mike Skinner ( The Streets). His “ I Need You Tonight”, built around the INXS hit sample, has been around for a couple of months in the British Isles, and something tells us that this young man with a twisted sense of humour will entertain more than a few of us with his Sónar performance.On a more experimental tip, Alexandre Burton and Julien Roy will be at SonarComplex at 16:00 hours for the first outing of POWEr, half sound installation and half concert, which will see the pair modulating electrical discharges and electromagnetic disturbances from a high voltage generator (a Tesla coil) in real time, with musical intentions. From the images we’ve seen, we can tell it will be pretty special, and that it is a brave piece of programming that only Sónar would showcase.An hour later at SonarVillage, Londoner Speech Debelle will be delivering a live show based on her debut, “ Speech Therapy” (Big Dada, 2009), an album created with the help of Lotek ( Lotek Hi-Fi), Plutonic Lab, Roots Manuva, Mike Lindsay ( Tunng) and tiny Mika Levi (aka Micachu) which draws its influences from organic flavours in avant-pop, nu-soul, jazz and hip-hop. Young Debelle understands rhyming as a professional exercise but it still able to evoke emotions with sweet and sour undertones, which are skills that helped her become the Mercury Music Prize recipient last year. At 19:00 hours, at SonarDôme, there’s an unmissable date with Caribou, maker of one of the most enjoyable and colourful albums of the year so far. We’re all curious to see how Dan Snaith will bring the organic dance rhythms of the majestic “ Swim” (City Slang/Coop, 2010) to the live arena, though we have no doubts that he will rise to the challenge. Dancing to “ Odessa”, “ Jamelia” or “ Sun” in the bright daylight is something we look forwards to very much.
Almost overlapping, veterans Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius will be giving lessons in cosmic flotation and kraut electronica when they perform as Cluster. In 2009 they returned with “ Qua ”, their first studio album in fourteen years. Despite of their age, their shows remain suggestively experimental and highly relevant.
At 20:30 hours, we will all be heading to SonarHall to catch up Broadcast. Their signing to Warp near the end of the 90s created a bit of a stir. With their body of work as Broadcast, coming up like a narcotic and fascinating psych-pop cinemascope, Trish Keenan and the band are amongst the firm favourites on the Sheffield label. Their recent re-invention promises some surprises at Sónar. At night, the Barcelona sky will be flooded with the sparkle of “spectra [barcelona]”, a light installation by Japanese audio-artist Ryoji Ikeda who will be drilling a hole in the celestial sphere over the city using a beam of white light that you’ll be able to see from any point in the metropolis. If you enjoy “spectra” from the nearby Teatre Grec, in the gardens of the theatre Ikeda will be defying the senses with an audio-visual performance of his work “test pattern”.
Friday 18rh the first double session of Sónar de día and Sónar de Noche. Close to twenty hours of uninterrupted music, where the ceaseless succession of ideas and the never-ending stimuli of a Sónar double bill becomes something of an endurance test. It is impossible not to miss artists who are playing at the same time. We would go so far as a pact with the devil to be able to be multiply ourselves and avoid the dreaded overlapping of set times. Alas, mortals that we are, for another year we’re forced to be discriminating in our selections, as you will be too. Who knows, maybe the artists who don’t make it onto your agenda will be featured on these pages. And there we will be on your behalf: recording audio and video; reviewing; and taking pictures.
Our Friday daytime starts early at SonarDôme. At 14:00 hours, Galician BFlecha will be playing tracks from her celebrated first 10” for Arkestra, alongside new and unreleased tracks and her recent mixes for other people. Her set is not easy to pigeonhole: brilliant beatmaking, colourful dubstep, synthetic pop and G-Funk filtered by the “purple wow sound”. She has described it as “Three 6 Mafia playing 808s and flutes around the campfire.” If you want to check out Arkestra’s first lady, you can also do so on the podcast she did for PlayGround not so long ago. After lunch, you have a choice between Nedry (at SonarVillage) and Pursuit Grooves (at SonarDôme). Chris Amblin (aka Ekocam), Matt Parker (aka Earthkeptwarm) and Ayu Okaki, form the hybrid which is Nedry, a meeting point for urban pop, floating post-rock textures and vapourous dubstep. On the other side of this clashing schedule, New Yorker Vanese Smith, will be introducing her most recent work as Pursuit Grooves. A personal set of conscious lyrics and galactic beats, her neo-soul of hi-tech tendency has as much in common with bass loaded glitch-hop (think of Ras-G, even Flying Lotus), as with the cosmic classical Detroit sound. Around 17:00 hours, there’s a triple alternative: soulful songstress Fatima (collaborator of Shafiq Husayn, Floating Point s and Funkineven, and associated with Alexander Nut’s Eglo label) will be at SonarDôme; Aufgang bring their a conclave of rhythm and piano keys orchestrated by the six hands of Francesco Tristano, Rami Khalifé and Aymeric Westrich (check out our recent interview) to SonarHall, plus there is bRUNA (some of the best emotional electronica ever created in Spain) at SonarComplex. Whatever your decision, it’ll be a winner. Steve Braiden (aka Braiden) will be raising the rhythmic temperature at SonarDôme. He is one of the latest talents to begin emerging from the London underground and the constantly evolving bass music scene. He’ll be dishing out sumptuous House, post-dubstep, future garage and UK funky with an exceptional technique. Rhythms that will shake your body and your heart. At 19:00, you have an unmissable date at SonarHall with King Midas Sound, and the dubstep soul with Jamaican tones of poet and spoken word artist Kevin Martyn, Roger Robinson and Japanese singer Hitomi. Following, on the same stage, will be Nosaj Thing, which promises to be a spectacle of light and sound that builds on the suggestive beats we’re heard on recordings by Jason Cheung. Halfway through Cheung’s performance, we’re sure there will be some plenty who move across to SonarVillage, anticipating the brilliant Delorean on their home turf. Sónar de Noche will be even more packed with festival goers. You could base yourself at any of the three stages of the Fira Gran Via and be guaranteed an enjoyable time. Firstly, electronica lovers of the less purist type should head off to SonarClub, where the retro-futuristic pop of Air, the smooth disco and emotive electro pop of Aeroplane, LCD Soundsystem’s the post-punk disco, the exotic balearic House of John Talabot (his podcast is just delicious) and, last but not least, 2manydjs, will all land at Sónar with unrivalled visual shows.
In parallel, Mary Anne Hobbs’s contingent ( Joy Orbison, Flying Lotus and Roska) and Hudson Mohawke, will be sharing with us their beats and out of this world basslines. A third option for Friday night is an invitation to join Hot Chip and Richie Hawtin in his Plastikman guise (his live show promises to be legendary) at Sónar Pub before Claude VonStroke, Carte Blanche and Cora Novoa end the party later with an almighty bang.
Flying Lotus or LCD Soundsystem? Plastikman or John Talabot? They are not making anyone’s choice an easy one, and that’s one of the good things about Sónar.Saturday 19th: The last of three jammed packed dates. It promises to be a long and intense day loaded with enticement coming from all manner of different complementary angles to form a multifaceted new shape. From the latest trends in dance electronic music and radicalised conceptualism, to nostalgia and the experimental vanguard, peripheral escapism and a journey to and from original sources... There is a bit of everything to drink from at the Sónar oasis.
There is nothing better than floating along, surrounded by IDM in the afternoon in and out of the inventive, inspirational landscapes of Barcelona-based Albert Salinas, aka Wooky. Listen to his recent podcast for an idea of what his performance will be like. If you want to be struck down by unpredictable melodies, astral textures and repetitive beats, then head to SonarComplex around 13:00 where Narwhal will be playing music he defines as “ Les Aus, Terry Riley and Lucky Dragons dancing around the campfire to the sound of indigenous tracks played by Four Tet, covered by Gang Gang Dance and remixed by Brian Eno.” Very intriguing indeed.
14:00 hours at SonarVillage. The A Coruña-based David M will be sharing his love of low frequencies and the rhythmic variations of plastic dubstep, grime and UK garage, demonstrating that in the business of broken beats and basslines, he is one of the best local exponents, who can also level with any international DJ you could name.
After lunch, you can head to SonarDôme, where you’ll find Moodymann justifying his position as a defender of African-American heritage on the dancefloor by mixing deep house, dislocated tinged techno, disco and high octane soul. An hour later, if you are interested in Spanish beats and bass music (electronic hip-hop, wonky beats, elastic dubstep, 2step, skweee...), don’t miss the session by Valladolid act Funkforward, based on both locally-produced and international music, all of it released through Spanish labels.
At dusk, SonarDôme will be coloured by Lunice, American friend of the LuckyMe crew, and a man who entertains by collecting and playing out beats and broken electronica of ballooned low frequencies. His work with labels like Big Dada, Top Billin, Young Turks (and soon LuckyMe) should be enough to pull you towards his performance at Sónar.
Uffie’s electro pop maintains its charm and her presence alone will raise the sexual tension at SonarVillage. Meanwhile, addicts of multiple decks should head to SonarHall where Kid Koala and Dynomite D will demonstrate that vinyl scratching in the right hands and context can be consistently elevated to a new art form. The Slew will be creating hybrid rock, whilst those of you who avoid guitars should check Jackmaster at SonarDôme who will be closing Sónar de Día in true Numbers style.
After a quick shower and some rehydration, we will be off to the Fira to see Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay reunited, performing on the same stage and resurrecting classic tracks from the Roxy Music back catalogue. It is going to be a great pleasure. Almost at the same time, there is a unique show at SonarPub by the Icelandic angel, Jónsi, and his band, who’ll perform dramatic and strangely euphoric tracks from “ Go ” (XL/EMI, 2010) . We recently wrote about Jonsi’s association with Fifty Nine Productions, which reached fruition after months of planning an ambitious stage design -a hybrid of musical theatre, art installation and traditional concert- and aspires to transform the pop show format into a lyrical fantasy. Such an imaginative dream wrapped in visuals and lights will be a shining highlight of this year’s Sónar.
At 00:30, Dizzee Rascal will be defending his title at the forefront of British urban pop with a grime leaning. “Bonkers” and so many other songs from the Boy in da Corner are guaranteed to turn Sónar upside down. If you are searching for a denser sound, there is, at the same time, the great option of Fuck Buttons at SonarLab. These graduates of ecstatic and tribal noise psychedelia have in recent times become prophets of new cyberdelic trance.
Matthew Herbert live on stage is always an spectacle. The master of the sampler-concept, Herbert will be introducing his new project “One Club” at SonarPub. A celebration of dance music made of sounds recorded in and around the club Robert Johnson in Frankfurt, it includes dancing, mobile phone timbres, laughter, conversations and other ambient noise.
From 02:00 hours, SonarLab will be invaded by Lucky Me: American Men, Machine Drum, Mike Slott, The Blessings and LuckyMe DJs ( Eclair Fifi & John Computer) have promised to collectively take you on a sonic roller-coaster ride for three hours that will evolve from the synthetic post-rock to IDM beats, passing by astral hip-hop astral, new boogie, dark rap and house to climax in an almighty rave. Halfway through the Glaswegians’ fat party (who, by the way, have promised to bring along some special guests), there is the option of heading to SonarClub to enjoy the sonic and visual performance by The Chemical Brothers.
The end of the party comes in all shapes and sizes. Breaking the norm (something that is welcome as not everybody attending to Sónar de Noche is a techno lover), the Del Palo Soundsystem ( Griffi and DJ2D2, back to back) will transform SonarLab into a sanctuary of breaks and urban beats. At SonarPub, DJ Hell will honour his reputation as a luxury selector of dark house, electro, disco, techno, glam, neue deutsche welle and whatever he finds in his record box. At SonarClub, Function and Regis, seasoned activists of Birmingham techno, will disguise themselves as Sandwell District to offer a set halfway between a live show and a DJ set, which sets the standard high for rugged and strict techno.
After all this, your body will be craving for a week of rest. See you at Sónar.