A quick guide to Sonar 20 2013
15 suggestions over 3 days and a definite miss
The 2013 festival season continues a pace, this week it’s time to get ready for the 20th anniversary of a festival that keeps bringing in the crowds after all these years: the International Festival of Advanced Music and Barcelona New Media Art, fondly known as Sonar to its friends. This year the line up is replete with super stars as well as a major change with the day time venue Sonar Day, abandoning the Raval and moving to the Fira Montjuic. The attractions of the city centre will be sacrificed in favour of greater comfort given that Sonar out grew the CCCB years ago and the new location is much closer to the night venue Fira 2 which if one has the time, energy and enough money to take in the entire three days of the festival is a definite advantage. Here is a quick and easy guide to the festival and its unmissable highlights (although it’s also fair to say that some of the greatest surprises are provided by lesser known acts), so let’s kick off:
As with previous years on Thursday the line up is confined to the day but is nevertheless impacting. The evening starts off at 16.30 with the Icelandic Gluteus Maximus at SonarVillage who obviously have a sense of humour (judging by their name) and who have the capacity to combine powerful and delicate sounds like the Aurora Boreal.
At 17.30 the Liars play SonarHall, a band who has been around for more than 10 years now and who for the last number of years have been the favoured muse of Daniel Miller of Mute Records to such an extent that they he’s almost become an invisible member of the group. Perhaps their take on post punk rock with disco influences is a bit too hard core for this festival but that’s precisely what makes them unmissable, although Liars is one of the few groups to be playing both Primavera Sound and Sonar.
Sebastien Tellier plays SonarVillage at 18.40 and it’s fair to say the French singer/song writer is one of this writer’s favourite artists after the crazy interview I managed to organise with him last year which still brings a smile to my face.
At 19.20 Metro Area will be at SonarDôme with their exquisite 80’s style disco created more than a decade ago by Morgan Geist and Darshin two key figures in the resurrection of that style of music combined with all today’s technical possibilities. Their hit ‘Miura’ and subsequent eponymous debut album still sound as good today as they did when first released back in 2002.
If Metro Area have advanced the cause of disco resurrection then Lindstrom & Todd Terje have brought it even further again. Authors of literally thousands of remixes and solitary works of all types they are here to present a joint session showcasing the excellence of Norwegian disco in 2013 a country which until these guys appeared on the scene was identified more with the pop genre of A-Ha or the dark sounds of the inexhaustible Death Metal scene. Their music eschews the gothic in favour of the more cheery and almost extra terrestrial, like boarding a multi-coloured space ship destined for planet disco mirror ball!
Lindstrom & Todd Terje
For all of us getting on a bit and too old to start the festival at 12 midday we recommend turning up at 19.30 to SonarVillage to listen to Jamie Lidell who has become a steady fixture at the festival presenting his beautiful voice and unique talent on his new eponymous album that has perhaps not received the recognition it deserves. Lovers of dub are in for a treat this festival, at 21.00 in the SonarHall with veteran Adrian Sherwood a mythical British dub star who has joined forces with the young Pinch who two years ago released an impressive dubstep album (or bass music for those who prefer that term) together with the equally spectacular Shacketon. An intergenerational collaboration featuring deep base and soaring ambitions.
We’ll be making a fast get away (as tactfully as possible) in order to reach Sonar Night to find a good spot to see Kraftwerk’s 3D show which kicks off at 22.45 in SonarClub. Don’t worry about the glasses they will be given out on arrival at the venue. An almost two hour career retrospective from one of the world’s most influential bands accompanied by breath taking visuals, genuinely unmissable. It’s a pity about Bat for Lashes who is a very interesting artist but is outclassed by the Teutonic masters.
After a quick pit stop and a tour of the other dance floors, careful to avoid the excruciating Baauer and his ubiquitous ‘Harlem shake’, at 2 am get back to the club to see the live show by Major Lazer the hip hop / dancehall project by Diplo (who will later play as DJ) and whose latest work includes many stellar collaborations with the likes of Bruno Mars, Santigold and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend fame.
The night finishes around 3 am at SonarPub with Ritchie Hawtin and his disciples Maya Jane Coles and Paco Osuna with a taster for their residency at Space Ibiza with the Enter parties. Guaranteed to deliver.
A definite miss
Despite the attempts by the organisers to convince us otherwise success and popularity in the music world are not necessarily synonymous with quality and despite the millions that they earn in the clubs and discotheques of Ibiza and Las Vegas the sound of Skrillex still sounds dreadful and represents the worst of musical clichés connected with commercial rave or dubstep, lacking any sense of humour or the kind of creative visual explosion that bands like Die Antwoord exhibit when they do this kind of thing. Avoid SonarClub like the plague at 4.15 on Friday.
There is undoubtedly no shortage of interesting artists performing at Sonar Day on Saturday afternoon but there is also something to be said for recharging the batteries, enjoying a long lie-in and going directly to the Fira de L’Hospitalet to get a good spot at 22.45 for the Pet Shop Boys. After releasing their laid back and mature ‘Elysium’ last year they have now have joined forces with the indefatigable Staurt Price and produced ‘Electric’ that sees them re-crowned as the Kings of the Dance floor and purveyors of intelligent Pop aimed at adults. Fans who have seen the show already in Russia and South America say that this is if anything better than the previous ‘Pandemonium’ tour so the bar has been obviously set very, very high.
Pet Shop Boys
Once the British duo are over it’s off to Sonar Pub to see the 10th anniversary of the Ed Banger label bringing together big name DJs like Justice (at 2.30) or the highly addictive disco of Breakbot (at 0.30) who prefigured the sound of Daft Punk on their latest album by a whole year.
Halfway through the night now (3:30) crossing the vast expanse of the trade pavilions again and back to SonarClub with the melodic techno sounds of the inimitable Paul Kalkbrenner, famous for his role in the film "Berlin calling" and one of the few relevant German DJs today operating on the margins of the Berghain nightclub / Panorama Bar loop.
Finishing on a high note, an artist who played at the first edition of the festival, the last act at SonarPub from 5.00 am, the always reliable Laurent Garnier, who sounds like a better bet that Luciano, who’ll be the last act performing at Club also at 5.00. It’s a matter of opinion though so we’ll leave that up to your discretion. Thanks and see you at the 21st edition next year.